Asus Transformer Prime TF201 Mobile Docking Station: Slimmer, Lighter, Better
By Michelle Mastin
At a Glance
Has SD Card slot and full-size USB port
Adds 6 hours of battery life
Adds 1.2 pounds to the weight
Lots of flex in the keyboard deck
The Transformer Prime’s keyboard dock improves on that of the original Transformer by packing the same ports and extra battery life into an even slimmer and lighter package. Unfortunately, the keys remain cramped.
Like its predecessor, the Transformer TF101, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 tablet is named for its ability to plug into a keyboard dock accessory and become a laptop-like device. Since the Transformer Prime TF201 Mobile Docking Station ($150 as of March 7, 2012) is similar to the original Transformer TF101 dock in many ways, my impressions of the two docks are similar.
Just as with the original Transformer dock, the TF201 fits into this dock’s rotating hinge, connecting through a 40-pin dock connector. You slide a release latch to secure the slate. Here, however, I encountered the same problem as I did with the original dock: Despite the various pieces holding the tablet in place, it still had room to wobble, most notably when I folded it down over the keyboard.
This keyboard dock adds 1.2 pounds and just 0.4 inch to the Transformer Prime. Unlike the original Transformer–which bulks up to the size of an average netbook with its dock–the Transformer Prime remains under an inch thick at only 0.75 inch with its dock attached. And you can still take it off when you don’t need it, leaving you with a very slim and sleek tablet. When it’s time to return to your business reports, you simply plug the keyboard back in. The whole thing folds together neatly, too, a design advantage for when you’re transporting the keyboard/tablet combo or pulling it out of your bag for your journey through airport security, for instance.
Another major advantage of the laptop-like hinge: Since it holds the tablet up, you don’t need to invest in separate stands or folding cases. And the hinge rotates down as you lift the tablet “open,” which raises the keyboard to a nice angle for typing, and produces a surprisingly well-balanced result. Usually a setup like this, with all the “guts” in the screen, becomes top-heavy and easy to tip over, but the Transformer Prime stayed firmly in place, even as I pushed it back a good ways.
Regrettably, as on the original Transformer dock, typing on the Transformer Prime dock is a mixed bag. Just like the keys on the TF101 dock, as well as on Asus netbooks, the island-style keys here are small and cramped. They’re functional, but they aren’t as comfortable to type on next to those of the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Keyboard Folio Case; I had to do a lot more shifting of my hands to accommodate the spacing. You could get accustomed to the feel over time, but it isn’t comfortable from the start. (I have to note, though, that a colleague with similarly small hands had fewer issues adapting, so your experience may vary.) I also found an alarming amount of flex in the keyboard deck, something I didn’t expect judging from the solid metal build of the rest of the device.
On the positive side, the feedback is good, neither too mushy nor too springy. Once you get used to the spacing, typing on this dock could be described as workable. When you consider the good-enough typing along with all the other benefits of this keyboard dock, you can see that it’s a valuable add-on for the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201.