If you haven’t already, read Part 3: Usage Video
Here is where things get interesting. The Tegra 2 SoC has long been known for having plenty of out-of-box performance and it doesn’t dissapoint. Webpage loading is zippy, application switching is quick and transitions are smooth with the odd (and rare) amount of stuttering between applications (see video in Part 3 above), though various improvements in version 3.2 have reduced these instances. Overall performance is good, though lacking the buttery smoothness of a completely GPU accelerated experience such as the iPad.
Hence, without these GPU optimisations, performance can suffer at times. Fortunately, since the Tegra 2 is the defacto standard amongst 10” Android tablets at the moment, there have been an increasing number of Tegra 2 optimised applications. Note that many of the standard apps, such as the Honeycomb Launcher, Browser, GMail and others, appear to be GPU accelerated already. Stability was overall admirable, though there were some applications (mostly games which were optimised for other devices, and Read It Later Pro) which FC’ed on bootup. The latter has indicated they are hard at work at a Tablet compatible/optimised version.
Battery life is a crucial consideration for tablets, since they are often used on the run and especially since they generally use proprietary chargers which are difficult to find (limiting the charging to home, unless you carry the charger around). The TF under normal usage with an above-average brightness averaged around 7-8 hours of use for me, dropping to 5-6 under heavy games usage or video playback. Some sites such as Anandtech with standardised power tests have seen better performance. Power usage in standby mode is next to nil, meaning that you will probably go 2-3 days between charges on average usage. The ‘auto’ brightness setting is tuned quite low from factory, which adds a noticeable amount of battery life, if your personal preferences allow it. Bluetooth is also disabled by default, though this is easily switched on.
At this point, I would say that the vast majority of the population would be more than satisfied with the performance of the TF, it functions well out of the box and there aren’t any features lacking. However, we want to know how far it can be pushed and to do so requires overclocking the 1Ghz CPU. Rooting via BRK’s Windows batch script was painless (done by booting the device into Tegra recovery mode – holding the volume up button while booting up), after which point a custom ROM and kernel can be loaded. After experimenting with the standard Asus 3.2 ROM and the two most popular third-party ROM’s: Revolver 2.1.1 and Prime 1.7 (cue reference to Optimus), I chose the latter due to the higher stability and performance I experienced. After loading Clemsyn’s Kernel, SetCPU was the tool used to adjust CPU frequency, up to a maximum of 1.5ghz. The device would boot and run at 1.6ghz but occasionally throw a random FC. All voltages were left as default.
The tests used were:
Note that with Sunspider scores, lower is better.
From a 50% overclock, we can see floating point operations and graphics intensive tests gain substantially (Quadrant). However, the gains in Sunspider and Vellamo (both of which are web-browser based) were less. By eye, in it’s overclocked state, only CPU bound applications experience noticeable gains, such as PDF reading and games, with web-browsing heavy sites to a lesser degree, which reflects the numbers.
What Asus has produced is a solid contender in the 10″ tablet segment, one that even though it doesn’t outright beat Apple’s iPad2, it presents a viable alternatively for the masses. Tablets are a product which transverse the gap between a necessity (such as a phone) and a luxury, which means people are generally much fussier in their purchasing choice. The Transformer presses many of the right buttons, is very affordable (currently selling for < $399 on Amazon or less, including an international warranty) and presents undeniable bang for buck.
There are still a few minor software-related issues which need ironing out, though these don’t detract from the overall experience too greatly. If you’ve been jaded by the flood of cheap low-end no-name tablets, but are not willing to stretch to a Tab 10.1 or an iPad for one reason or another, but still want something which offers substantial performance and a beautiful hardware package, then look no further. The Transformer truly is more than meets the eye.
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