The high end Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime vs. the affordable powerhouse Asus Transformer Pad TF300: this has to be one of the oddest smackdowns we've done yet. Why? Because the classy, metal-clad and more expensive tablet might not be the best. In one corner we have top of the line specs and materials, and in the other corner: a product whose features all work.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime came out at the very end of December 2011, but it's still hard to find in stock to this day. It sells for $499 for the 32 gig and $599 for the 64 gig model.
The Asus Transformer Pad TF300 is just now launching and seems to be in reasonable supply in stores. It sells for $379 for the 16 gig and $399 for the 32 gig.
Yes, both models work with an optional $149 Keyboard Dock that turns the tablet into a netbook form factor clamshell computing device. Other than color and materials, the docks have identical features: keyboard, trackpad, full size USB port and an SD card slot. The slot on the TF201's dock is too skinny for the TF300, and thus Asus says the docks aren't interchangeable between models. The TF300 dock gains an actual button on the trackpad, vs. the buttonless design on the TF201 dock. Both have batteries that charge the battery in the tablet.
The Transformer Prime runs on a quad core Tegra 3 T30 CPU clocked at 1.3GHz (the clock speed actually depends on how many cores are in use with Tegra 3 CPUs). The Transformer Pad TF300 runs on the Tegra 3 T30L, that's clocked 100MHz slower, with slower GPU clock speeds. In actual use, they feel equally responsive. In synthetic benchmarks, the Prime and Acer Iconia Tab A510 that run on the T30, score 75 to 100 points faster, which is a small difference.
Winner: By sheer specs the Asus Transformer Prime wins for the faster clocked CPU, though experientially they feel the same.
Design and Ergonomics
Asus clearly listened to user complaints about the flimsy exposed ports on the Transformer Prime, so the new Transformer Pad TF300 has more support around the port area (less curve at the edges where the ports live). The power button is madness on the Prime and is easier to operate on the TF300.
The downside to these improvements is that you lose the ultrathin design of the Transformer Prime. The TF300 is still quite thin, but it's 0.38" vs. 0.32" in thickness.
For classy materials, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime wins. It has a lovely metal back that competes well with the various iPad models for looks. The drawback? The metal back is slippery and the tablet is so thin at the edges that it's not as comfortable to hold. And metal reduces wireless reception.
Winner: Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime for looks and quality materials, Asus Transformer Pad TF300 for better ergonomics and port protection (though I'd love to see further improvement to the port design).
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has an IPS+ display that can reach 600 nits brightness in + mode for outdoor use. In standard IPS mode it reaches 350 nits. The display is clad in Gorilla Glass.
The Asus Transformer Pad TF300T has a standard IPS display that manages 320 nits brightness. It's plenty bright enough for indoor use and outdoor use in the shade. The TF300 does not have Gorilla Glass, instead it relies on standard glass that's been hardened, according to Asus.
Color balance is similar between the two and is fairly neutral (the TF300 is just a hair cooler). Both suffer light bleed (white light showing at the edges of the display when content is black or near black). Both have lots of glare. Both have high contrast, though the TF300's is a bit higher.
Winner: Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime for it's IPS+ display and Gorilla Glass.
Both tablets run Android OS 4.03 Ice Cream Sandwich with identical software bundles and drivers for USB Ethernet adapters and NTFS hard drives. Strangely, the Prime still suffers "wait/force close" error messages where the tablet thinks something it taking too long and assumes (incorrectly) that an app has hung. This happens mostly in the web browsers and when downloading several apps at once in Google Play Market. In general apps do force close and crash more often than on the TF300 and Acer Iconia Tab A510 Tegra 3 tablets. It's not the end of the world: just launch the app again and it works, but it slows down work flow and doesn't inspire confidence. The Transformer Pad TF300 has been more stable with no wait/force close errors in the Android web browser or Chrome, and fewer app crashes.
Winner: Asus Transformer Pad TF300
WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth
You probably know what's coming here: the Prime has had its troubles with WiFi range and throughput and the GPS is pretty much useless. It is the metal back or design flaws or both? Who knows. Asus will send Prime owners in the US an external GPS to make amends. This is free until July 31, and it takes about 2 weeks to get the GPS.
The Asus Transformer Pad TF300? Wireless of all kinds works perfectly. We're impressed with WiFi reception and throughput and the GPS can get a fix indoors near a window with WiFi turned off. Bluetooth does not interfere with WiFi reception.
Winner: Asus Transformer Pad TF300
Here's our Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime vs. Asus Transformer Pad TF300 Comparison Smackdown Video: