REVIEW: Asus Transformer TF300
The following is a review for the ASUS Transformer TF300 from our former reviewer turned editor, Dr. Sarah Frantz.
In my new capacity as a freelance editor, I’ve discovered that I do three types of reading. One is just…reading like a reader. I prefer to do this in paper or on my phone. I have a Samsung Galaxy S2 phone, which replaced a second generation iPhone. I read on both phones, using Mantano for ePub, BlueFire for PDFs, and Kindle for books I buy from Amazon. I love reading on my phone, honestly, but I very much do it AS a reader. The other two types of reading I do grow from the two types (so far) of edits I do: Developmental Edits and Line Edits. Line Edits require Microsoft Track Changes and Commenting functions, which require my big-ass Acer Aspire laptop with the 17″ screen that I love so much. Developmental Edits, however, require a slightly more active reading than reading-as-a-reader, but do not require notes or track changes (so far). So, sitting down and reading on my computer is no fun because it’s actually too big to get comfortable with. But I was finding that my phone was too small, somehow, for that. So, I finally had the excuse I was looking for to buy a tablet. I’ve wanted a tablet since the first iPad came out, but I’ve never needed one, nor have I had the money for one. Now I have a legitimate reason for getting one and so far I love it.
I was not interested in a Kindle, a Nook, or an iPad. I think I’m in a very small minority in that I do not like e-Ink. I don’t like the way it looks, I don’t like the that devices are single-function, I don’t like the delay, in page turning, even if it’s getting shorter and shorter. I just knew I wasn’t interested in e-Ink. The Kindle Fire or Nook color are (a). too small — I’ve played around with my mother-in-law’s Nook and it’s just…not quite a phone, not quite a tablet, and anyway, B&N’s customer service *sucks*; and (b). proprietary and I really don’t want to be beholden to Amazon or B&N that much (see above re: B&N’s CS sucking). I haven’t figured out Calibre, or side-loading, or god help me, rooting, so I didn’t want a proprietary system that would fight with the documents I needed to get on it.
The same, therefore, is true for the iPad. When I made the break from an iPhone to my Samsung, I did so because I would NEVER buy an Apple computer (have NEVER liked any of the iOS), was uninterested in an iPad, so why would I want an iPhone. I do not like Apple as my Overlord. And yes, the iPad is beautiful, but I prefer Google as my Overlord, honestly.
So…I wanted an Android device. After looking at CNet, the choices seemed to be the new Samsung Galaxy tablet (as opposed to phone), and the Asus Transformer TF300. When I went to Best Buy, the CSA I spoke with said that the Asus Transformer Prime (next level up) wasn’t worth it because it’s basically the same as the TF300 but slightly more clunky and $100 more. That seemed to agree with the reviews I’d read.
I’ll admit, the Samsung had some great features: an OS and UI I was already comfortable with, having used it for a year on my phone, and two front-facing speakers, a third of the way down the smaller side, so it’s perfect for non-headphone movie watching. But when push came to shove, I bought the Asus Transformer because of the keyboard function. Rather than a Bluetooth keyboard, the Asus actually snaps together with a proprietary keyboard with mousepad in the same place the power-charging cord attaches, basically turning the Transformer into a touchscreen netbook.
Honestly, the Asus UI isn’t (yet) as instinctive to me as the Samsung interface (assuming the Galaxy tablet and phone have the same OS/UI). “Settings” on each app is much more difficult to find for me on the Asus. And I really miss the possibilities of those speakers. Music and YouTube videos just sound weird coming from the side of the Asus.
And although it will come in red, apparently, Best Buy only carried the blue (not even the Asus website has the red yet–I think it’s all just a fever dream), so I got the blue.
I bought the keyboard about a month after I bought the tablet itself and I can’t say enough good things about it. It snaps in easily but securely (and unsnaps well too). The keyboard charges separately from the tablet, but then prioritizes the tablet’s battery over its own, feeding the tablet power when they’re snapped together. The keys are small, but not as small or as close together as some tablets I’ve used before. The only issue is that I accidentally hit the mousepad with my thumb but the “Turn Off Mousepad” button is very simple to find and use.
Because the keyboard is proprietary to the tablet, the navigation buttons from the tablet are also available on the keyboard, so when they’re snapped together, it’s possible to navigate from the screen or from the keyboard, if you know the keys well.
I find I’m reading on the tablet using Mantano for ePub and native Adobe Reader for PDF (no longer BlueFire). The comment function in Adobe is actually very simple to use on the tablet, and the keyboard makes commenting on a document a breeze. Honestly, I wouldn’t comment if it weren’t for the keyboard, because I cannot yet easily use the on-screen keyboard. I can then upload the PDF with comments back to Dropbox and I’ve got the comments on my laptop and can send it to clients. I wouldn’t use this for line edits, but its perfect for global developmental edits and I imagine would work well with team-edited documents in business settings.
I still wish there were two front-facing speakers, but the keyboard totally justifies my decision to go with the Asus, not the Samsung.
Associate Professor of Literature, Fayetteville State University
President, The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance