Last week, in the midst of the HP Touchpad frenzy (which I could not get in on, by the way), I decided to pull the trigger on an ASUS Transformer (TF101). After having played with it sufficiently, I am really happy and excited about my purchase!
If Apple has taught us anything, it is that the hardware and software go hand in hand towards a great user experience, and Asus definitely followed this. Out of the box, people want to surf the web, listen to music, watch movies, play games, buy apps, and read books – The transformer really excels in ALL these areas as an extremely user-friendly tablet.
If you are on the fence about buying a TF101, hopefully, this blog should help you make up your mind!
Android 3.0/Honeycomb is a glorious OS, and the Transformer has the right hardware to make everything extremely fluid and fast. Asus has also paid close attention to customizing the software for the Transformer. Oh.. and the screen on the Transformer is gorgeous! 10.1 inch, 1280*800 pixels of super-responsive real estate.
Most software that you require to be productive has already been included on the Transformer(or available as a free download). The Android market is literally littered with apps. Writing “good” software that plays well with the available hardware is hard.. So, I am extremely cautious about downloading stuff off the market. I always prefer apps that have been tried and tested.
Connecting the Transformer to a computer to transfer data is also a cinch.. Just use the USB cord shipped along with the unit. The transformer shows up as a drive (Windows 7 automatically recognizes and installs the required drivers).
Here’s what my home screen looks like – with my most commonly used apps lined up at the bottom:
Here is a list of apps that I use regularly (and I strongly recommend each one of them):
1. Browser : A version of Chrome. Very snappy and full featured (You will be prompted to download Flash on first use). There is really no reason to download another browser.
2. YouTube : Great app customized for tablets. Makes flipping through videos a joy!
3. File Manager : Folder manager app created by ASUS. I actually prefer this to the highly acclaimed “Astro” file manager.
4. Polaris Office: Included by Asus. Lets users easily read and edit various office document formats (.docx, .xlsx, .pdf etc). I prefer this to “Documents to go”. (Although this reads pdf files, the Adobe reader does a much better job of rendering pages)
5. Amazon Kindle: Enough said!
6. 2X Client : This is a free remote desktop client. 2X actually designs and develops load balancing servers (which we use for our terminal services at work).. So, I have absolutely no qualms in recommending their RDP client. Works flawlessly with minimal resources.
7. Repligo PDF Reader: The most feature rich PDF reader available for android (The feature that I absolutely love about Repligo is that it remembers the last page read. The Day/Night mode is also very helpful). The official PDF reader by Adobe is not yet there in terms of required features.. but is a close 2nd choice.
8. MX Video Player : An awesome media player for Android.. It uses custom codecs to take advantage of processor specific features(H/W acceleration). It allows me to play a wide variety of video files on my android (The full-featured free version displays ads only when you pause.. not at all obtrusive).
9. Due Today : A full featured task management/reminder system with a very good UI. It also syncs with ToodleDo when online.. so you have your tasks securely backed up. There is another highly acclaimed app named “Beautiful Notes” that competes in the same category. I personally chose “Due Today” because 1. it is more structured and captures data in numerous fields 2. It is much more light weight (500KB) vs Beautiful Notes (8.5 MB)
10. Windows 8 Notepad: A very functional notepad replacement. I love its clean and minimalistic design. Available for free from the Android market.
Configuring the Keyboard (Setting->Language & input)
The ASUS keyboard is vastly superior to the stock android keyboard.. But it can be further enhanced using the configuration options available:
I checked ALL available options on mine.. Note that the Swype style functionality is built into the ASUS keyboard app. This is really handy and works great (not to mention the ‘cool’ factor!).
Setting up VPN (Settings->Wireless & networks)
Honeycomb also has built in support for VPN – Click on the “VPN Settings” option:
Next, select the type of VPN (L2TP is the easiest to set up)
Enter your values for VPN Name, Server, and pre-shared key.. Yes.. its that easy!
And for those of you curious about how I did these awesome screen captures – No.. it is not an app! The feature is built right into the Honeycomb OS (Settings->Screen->Screenshot). This takes a screenshot if you keep the “Recent apps” key pressed for about 3 seconds (this is the icon next to the “Home” icon at the bottom of the screen. The pictures are saved in the “Screenshot” folder of your main SD card (you can get there using the File Manager app)