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Update on Transformer Prime from MTR and Asus: ICS, GPS and More
      01/03/12 08:00 PM

If you've watched our 30 minute in-depth Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime video review, you know that we think the shipping version of this Android tablet is fast and attractive. There's a lot of geek appeal in the first quad core Tegra 3 tablet, but in some ways the Prime isn't ready for prime time. We could tell some issues were fixable via firmware updates, and indeed when we first opened our retail Transformer Prime box and booted the tablet, it downloaded a firmware update to improve stability. Now just 2 days ago, our tablet got another update that addresses the GPS (it simply turns WiFi on when accessing the GPS to try to speed up location fix times), the touch screen (our touch screen was well-behaved anyway) and focusing improvements for the camera (actually a separate update).

After applying the updates, our camera still takes crappy shots 9 times out of 10. It's more than just a focus issue, and we may just have a defective rear camera module. Most photos are very grainy and the camera software excessively compensates for high contrast situations.

The GPS still can't get a fix indoors, even near a window. Our other Honeycomb tablets can, but we can live without indoor fixes. Outdoors under a clear blue sky with no obstructions, it got a location fix much faster after the update. But it still flunked our driving tests. We put it in the car, took short trips driving mostly 30mph with the tablet sitting directly under an open sun roof (brrr it's January!). It lost the fix in 3,000 feet, found it at a stop light 1 mile later then lost it again. We took a few more trips and it's a rinse and repeat story. Honestly, it doesn't look like something that can be fixed with software. And Asus today announced via their Facebook page that it is a design problem relating to the unibody aluminum construction. They said they intentionally removed the GPS feature from the specs list on the US website because of this (we had hoped it was a webmaster error but they really did this intentionally *sigh*).

WiFi continues to work fine for us. We've tested at various distances with a few routers and we get proper download and upload speeds and a generally stable connection within reasonable distance of our router. We do not have to aim the glass side at the router either .

We've tested with 2 cables, 2 HD TVs and a fairly new Sony AV receiver and we only get left channel sound out from HDMI on the Prime. If the clip has 5.1 audio, we get left front and the subwoofer only.

The locked bootloader (important to those who want to load custom ROMs with different kernels) got enthusiasts up in arms this weekend. Asus stated they will release a boot loader unlocker, and it will void your warranty. We can understand why they lock the boot loader: it helps over-ambitious novices not brick their tablet and some DRM depends on it. But we're glad it will be unlockable for you merry hackers.

And now the really great news: Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will be available for download starting January 12. Yes!

Here's the link to Asus Facebook statement about the GPS and locked boot loader:

And here's our Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime in-depth video review.


Lisa Gade
Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview

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