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Asus EePad "Transformer" Tablet PC

With the exception of the Apple iPad, few new computers of any description have caused so much comment, so much anticipation and so much demand as the just-released ASUS EeePad Transformer. We just had to get our hands on one for a few days - not easy! - to find out what the excitement was/is all about.

Review by Ross Tester

By and large, we’ve resisted the temptation to jump on the iPad bandwagon.

When it was released, the iPad was described (in the Wall Street Journal, no less) as the “laptop killer”. Now we’ve seen the Asus EeePad Transformer described as “the iPad killer”. That might be pretty optimistic given the iPad’s huge base.

But if there is one thing the iPad has done it’s to change the way people think about computers.

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That’s not a reduction – that’s an actual size edge-on view of the Asus EeePad Transformer, albeit without the dock/keyboard which would roughly double the thickness. When docked, the whole thing becomes a powerful netbook.

Going back a decade or more, computers were those big boxes that sat on or under desks with large monitors occupying valuable real estate. Then along came laptops and (later) notebooks and netbooks which, while maybe not offering quite the performance of the boxes, were more than adequate for the needs of most users.

Gone were the big boxes and large monitors – everything you needed was self-contained. And they were portable – you could take your PC with you and effectively work anywhere.

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It’s the familiar Android logo, in this case overlaid with Honeycomb (Android V3.0/3.1), the operating system used in the Asus Transformer.

Whether that was a positive or not is arguable: just ask those who now spend hours at home working on their notebooks when they might have stayed back at work . . .

Now computers have taken the next quantum leap with the burgeoning “tablet” market – and while the iPad might not have been the first, it was the first which made huge inroads into that market.

But there are quite a few things about the iPad that users and reviewers have questioned – such as why it doesn’t handle Flash, the near universal website utility. Or why it doesn’t have USB? Or why it is so expensive? Or why Apple has seen fit to try to force users into proprietary Apple applications? Or why Apple are “locking out” content providers unless they are part of Apple’s own supply channel (with, of course, large royalties back to Apple)? And so on.

Despite the quite unbelievable success of the iPad and to a lesser extent, several other tablet computers on the market, it has to be acknowledged that a tablet will (in most circumstances) not take the place of a fully-fledged computer (desktop or notebook) simply because it is not designed to do so.

Tablets are convenience devices. They’re small, lightweight and for the most part offer good or exceptional graphics capability.

But the one thing they don’t have is a “normal” keyboard. And if you ask anyone who has to punch out an email or text document using the “glass keyboard” which they all offer, it is a pain.

It’s slow, it makes errors much more likely and because of its inconvenience, it perpetuates that awful practice of “txt splng”.

Indeed, one popular after-market accessory purchased for most Tablet PCs is a USB or wireless keyboard! This might limit their portability somewhat but it certainly increases their useability!

Incidentally, the iPad is the obvious exception because, as mentioned above, it doesn’t offer USB expansion. Apple apparently want everything kept either “in house” or at least Apple-controlled.

But even without a keyboard, depending on the tablet itself, its installed programs and their capabilities, tablet PCs are fantastic for handling any visual-oriented task, whether that is watching movies, sharing pictures, reading ebooks, using social networking sites such as Facebook and youtube and much, much more.

In fact, most of the major manufacturers believe that this is the direction which all computers are heading; so much so that they are putting most of their eggs firmly into the Tablet basket (eg, Apple!).

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