Asus Transformer TF101 Mobile Docking Station: Great Battery Life, Tiny Keys
At a Glance
Asus Transformer TF101 Docking Station
The docking station for the Transformer TF101 tablet adds more than just a keyboard. You get more ports, more battery life, and more bulk.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 tablet gets its name from the keyboard dock add-on that transforms the tablet into a laptop-like device. The Transformer TF101 Mobile Docking Station ($150 of March 7, 2012) is a must-have accessory for your Transformer, and not just because it gives you the ability to type on a physical keyboard.
The tablet slots into a rotating hinge at the back, and connects via a 40-pin dock connector. A release latch slides into place to secure it. Despite the large connecting port, the latch, and the wide hinge, however, the tablet still has a lot of room to wobble back and forth. I found this issue most noticeable when I folded the tablet down over the keyboard for transport: Whereas you would expect a laptop to fold solidly in half, with the screen edges sitting flush with the edges of the bottom portion, the Transformer didn't line up as nicely with its keyboard.
The keyboard also adds a lot of bulk to an already heavy tablet--a full 1.4 pounds and 1.1 inches, to be exact. That makes the whole kit similar in size, weight, and thickness to your average netbook. But this keyboard can do one neat thing a netbook keyboard can't: It comes off. So for those times you just want to put your feet up and swipe your way through the Internet, you can leave the keyboard behind. When you want to do some work on your novel, you just plug it back in. And having the whole thing fold together is a design advantage for when you’re pulling the keyboard/tablet combo out of your bag for going through airport security, for example.
Another major advantage of the laptop-like hinge that connects the Transformer to its dock is the fact that it holds the tablet up. You won't need any extra stands or folding cases. The hinge also rotates down as you raise the tablet into the "open" position, which lifts the keyboard to a nice angle for typing. It's surprisingly well balanced. Usually, a device combination like this--with all the "guts" in the screen--ends up being top-heavy and easy to tip backward, but in my tests the Transformer stayed firmly in place, even when I tilted the screen back a good ways.
I found typing on the Transformer dock to be mixed, unfortunately. The island-style keys are small and cramped, practically the same as what you’d find on an Asus netbook. They worked, but were not as comfortable to type on compared with the keys on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Keyboard Folio Case; I had to adjust my hands a lot more to accommodate the spacing. It's the kind of spacing you could get used to over time, but it didn't feel natural from the get-go.
Luckily, the feedback was good--not too mushy, not too springy. Once you get accustomed to the spacing, typing on this keyboard could be described as workable. When you combine passable typing with all the other benefits of the keyboard dock, you get a valuable add-on for the Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 tablet.