Spec Comparison: New iPad vs. Asus Transformer Prime

Our first spec comparison for Apple’s new iPad was between the front runners (such as they are), the soon-to-be-replaced Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Amazon’s popular Kindle Fire. In today’s comparison, we’re going to look at a device that was hailed as an iPad killer when it shipped in December of 2011, the Asus Transformer Prime.

While the Asus Transformer Prime hasn’t set cash registers on fire, it is beloved amongst Android fans as the most capable Android device that offers the most bang for the buck. Asus deserves a pat on the back for being able to match Apple’s iPad pricing and offer as much as it does on the device.

In fact, we’ll go so far as to say that if you want a full-sized Android tablet, the Transformer Prime is the best choice of all Android devices for sale today, and it should be enough to hold its own against Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 device when it ships later this year. It even exceeds Apple’s new iPad in a couple of areas.

Below the chart, we offer our assessment.

The Specs
(Product images are intended to be close to scale, but may be off by a pixel or two)

  Apple new iPad Asus Transformer Prime
Product The New iPad Asus Transformer Prime
OS (current) iOS 5.1 Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Dimensions (in.) 9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37 10.35 x 7.1 x 0.33
Weight (lbs) 1.4 (Wi-Fi) 1.46 (4G) 1.3
Display size (in., diag) 9.7 10.1
Display Resolution 2048 x 1536 (IPS, LED bklight) 1280 x 800
Pixels per inch 264 145
RAM (MB) 1024 (1GB) 1024 (1GB)
Processor A5X (dual core) 1 GHz;
quad core GPU
NVIDIA 1.4 GHz Tegra 3 Quad-core CPU
User Storage (GB) 16/32/64 32/64
Cloud Storage iCloud 8GB of Asus Webstorage
Expanded Storage x microSD (up to 32GB)
Front Camera “VGA” 1.2MB
Rear Camera 5 MP (1080p) stabilization 8MB
Camera Flash x
Microphone
Audio/speaker mono spkr, stereo headphone stereo spkrs, stereo headphone
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n
Radio (GSM) UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/4G-LTE x
Radio (CDMA) CDMA, EV-DO/UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/GSM x
Bluetooth 4.0 2.1 + EDR
GPS w/4G x
Battery Life, hours 10 (9 w/ 4G) (42.5 watt-hr) 12* (25 watt-hr)
Accelerometer
Magnetometer/Compass
Gyroscope
Video out HDMI (w/ accessory) + AirPlay micro HDMI
USB x x
Sensors Ambient Light Ambient Light
Colors Black or White Champagne or Amethyst Gray
Price US$ (Wi-Fi) 499/599/699 499/599
Price US$ (3G/4G) 629/729/829 x

* Third party reviews have pegged the battery life at 7-10 hours.

Operating System

The most important aspect of the Asus Transformer Prime is that it runs Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). ICS is a big improvement for Android tablets, but many Android devices run earlier versions of Android, and worse, many of those can’t be upgraded. With the Transformer Prime, users can get the latest that Google’s ecosystem has to offer.

With mobile devices, the world is largely divided into those who like Apple’s whole-widget, walled garden ecosystem and those who don’t, with a smattering of people who don’t know or care. If you fall in the camp that doesn’t like Apple devices, ICS is a must-have and puts the Transformer Prime above any Android tablet that doesn’t feature it.

We at The Mac Observer favor Apple’s iOS, however, believe that the App Store’s 200,000-plus dedicated iPad apps offer far more options than you’ll find on any Android tablet, and we believe that Apple’s ecosystem allows for a better user experience.

Your mileage will likely vary.

Processor

The Transformer Prime uses Nvidia’s 1.4GHz Tegra 3 Quad-core CPU, a very powerful mobile processor. Apple’s A5X is a 1 GHz dual-core processor with a quad-core graphics processor. The Transformer Prime has done very well in third party testing, while the new iPad hasn’t yet been tested.

Our educated guess is that the Transformer Prime has the edge when it comes to processors, while Apple’s integrated design will result in the new iPad having the better graphics performance when it does get tested.

If raw horsepower is what you want, however, the Transformer Prime has the edge. It has a higher clock speed and twice the number of cores—in short, it’s a speed demon for a tablet.

Display

For the foreseeable future, there is simply no contest on displays. Apple’s Retina Display has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 compared to the 1200 x 800 resolution of the Transformer Prime. The new iPad has more than three times the number of pixels, and at 264 pixels per inch (PPI) compared to the 145 PPI of the Transformer Prime, the new iPad will look gorgeous and then some.

We don’t expect to see any competing device be able to match Apple’s display resolution any time soon, and certainly not at the price point these two devices share (starting at $499).

In short, the new iPad has the better display between the two devices, and we are comfortable saying so before the device actually ships.

Battery Life

Asus wowed the geek community with its claim of 12 hours of battery life for the Transformer Prime. It turns out, however, that third party reviews have pegged that battery life at 7.5 hours, nine hours, or ten hours. That’s less than the 12 hours claimed by the company, but it’s close to (or equal to) the ten hours of battery life that Apple claims its device will get (the new iPad hasn’t been independently tested yet).

Asus included a 25 watt-hour battery in the device, so it’s not really surprising that it can’t hit the full 12 hours specified by the company. On the other hand, the Transformer Prime weighs 0.1 pounds less than the new iPad, even though it’s a larger device. At least some of that weight difference is the 42 watt-hours of battery life Apple had to include to power that gorgeous Retina Display we mentioned and still offer ten hours of battery life on the device. There’s always a trade-off when it comes to such things.

Storage

Apple’s iPad is offered with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of storage starting at $499. The Transformer Prime, however, offers 32GB of storage starting at the same $499, while $599 will get you 64GB. That gives the nod to the Asus device. In addition to the internal storage, Asus also included a microSD card slot that supports up to 32GB of additional storage for more music, video, or other content.

Apple’s new iPad can access microSD memory cards, too, but only as a reader and only with the optional Apple Camera Connection Kit. You have to actually transfer the data to the new iPad to make use of it.

For some users, the ability to have the additional storage matters. At the same time, Apple’s iPad product line has never offered a memory card slot, and yet the iPad has dominated this market since the release of the original iPad that created said market in the first place. That suggests that most people don’t care about this feature, but if you do, the Transformer Prime is your device.

The Dock

There are a variety of third party docking solutions, speaker docks, Bluetooth and dock-connected keyboards, and all manner of other accessories for Apple’s iPad product line. Asus’s Transformer line, however, offers a more integrated solution in the form of a dedicated dock that includes another battery (with up to 18 hours of claimed battery life), a keyboard, and a trackpad.

On the one hand, there will simply never be as many accessories available for any given Android device as there are for Apple’s iOS devices. Apple’s simple product line, proprietary Dock port, Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) licensing program, and huge sales numbers ensure that accessory makers will line up for days to make accessories for those devices.

On the other hand, Asus’s mobile Dock means that the Transformer Prime can be used just like a laptop (hence the name), for those interested in using a touch-screen media tablet like a laptop. Some will see this as a solution in search of a problem, but some people think this is the bee’s knees.

We will also note that despite Apple’s insistence that fingers rock, there are a lot of external keyboards sold for the iPad. There is clearly demand for external input devices for tablets from both camps.

The reality is that Asus’s integrated solution is a great way for the company to differentiate its product, and if you’re interested in this approach, you should consider the Transformer Prime.

Conclusion

We haven’t seen the new iPad at the time of this writing, but we did see the difference in display quality on the iPhone 4’s Retina Display compared to earlier iPhone models. Accordingly, we think it safe to say that the new iPad’s display is going to be the best looking display on the market, and we certainly favor Apple’s walled garden business model.

Several analysts have said that Apple’s competition will have a hard time matching Apple’s specs and price, but Asus has taken the best stab at accomplishing this so far. At the same time, the device was intended to compete against Apple’s iPad 2, and it was a closer match to that device than anything else on the market.

The new iPad reset that bar, however, and when you consider the app ecosystem, Apple’s iCloud integration, and the display that we’ve gone on so much about, it beats the Transformer Prime without breaking a sweat.

As we noted above, however, if you hate Apple’s walled garden or simply prefer Android, the Transformer Prime is a great device, probably the best Android tablet on the market until the next generation—starting with with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1—hits the market.

The only other thing we’ll add is that we think Amazon’s content ecosystem for the Kindle Fire is second only to Apple’s iOS/iTunes ecosystem. It’s a distant second, but it handily beats what’s available for the rest of the Android world. If you want a cheap, small device consider the Kindle Fire. If you want a full-sized, high-quality Android media tablet competing at the high end of the market, consider the Asus Transformer Prime.

Everyone else should consider the new iPad.

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17 Comments Leave Your Own

Joe Macha

Here is the specs for the Transformer Prime Infinity

1920 x 1200 pixel at 224 ppi

Not much difference in comparison.

geoduck

A very interesting couple of reviews. They would be better though if you had an iPad to compare them to. We know all too well that hardware specs aren’t an accurate measurement of how well a system works in hand. That said I understand that you don’t have an iPad to compare these other devices with, and won’t until this weekend. That makes this a bit of a unfair quibble. Still I’d like to see you revisit these comparisons when you have an iPad in hand and can do some actual side by side comparisons.

ctopher

That a “1920 x 1200 Full HD Super IPS+ 178-degree wide view display rated at 600 nits.” according to tomsguide.com

Apparently that Transformer Prime Infinity also has “a 2MP front-facing camera for HD video conferencing and a rear-facing 8MP with a large F2.2 aperture, 5-element lens and LED flash, back illuminated CMOS sensor, touch-to-focus depth of field and low light noise reduction.”

Wait a minute, why didn’t we compare the new iPad to this thing? Oh, because as of Feb 27, 2012 “there’s no word on actual pricing and availability for all three tablet lines, so stay tuned.”

You know what, forget it, don’t buy anything until you see the “Google Play” it’s like Asus says “it got style”

Will

Apple will shortly be introducing its iPlug, a varitible plug that serves to fit the orifice into which it is place to stop utterances that fail to make sense. The opposition, particularly the Google Android brand are purported to be slavishly styling their own iPlug called the bHole (2nd gen). It is still a little rough around the edges but makes utterances sound sincere and poignant even to the trained ear.

dianne

Just a note, the Prime’s sizes are 32 ($499) and 64 GB ($599), they do not make a 16 GB model.

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks for catching that, dianne. The write up had the right storage numbers for the Transformer Prime, while the chart erroneously listed 16 and 32GB configurations.

I’ve corrected the chart and further clarified the “Storage” section of the write up to mention the 64GB option.

Foo

It really comes down to what you need and what you want.  Apple products aren’t the be-all-end-all for everyone and to claim so would be silly.  Same goes for Android devices.  Lets face it, Apple is a master of marketing just as Bill Clinton was a master of politics.  That doesn’t mean they’re the best.

In some respects, Apple is playing catch up with Android.  Their displays, cameras, and multitasking capabilities have been substandard compared to Android and they’ve just now been improving upon that.

With that being said, the new iPad is going to be a great device and my wife will be getting one when it comes out (I knew she wasn’t perfect when I married her, but I love her anyway).  While I may poke the screen while she’s not looking, I still prefer my Android devices.  :o)

Doug Petrosky

1920 x 1200 pixel at 224 ppi

Not much difference in comparison

Yea! missing 1 out of every 4 pixels should hardly be noticeable!

We will be able to see in a few months when it actually ships.

Achen8122

Id just like to mention that the only reason why cash registers aren’t burning up for the Asus is because it’s almost impossible to get your hands on one because of the crazy demand and I am an Apple fan but I have to say the new iPad just doesn’t seem that great. It would be better to get the ASus with it’s extra features and FLASH!!! or just get the iPad 2 for only $399.

Chris

Interesting read. I am typing this from my transformer prime. Coming from an Android lover your article was actually pretty well done. You laid it out front that you favor the iPad, but have almost complete accurate information on the prime. Most days it’s always tailored to the favored system of the author. You even gave praise where’s it’s due. I will agree Apple did good on the screen. They do have accessories for everything. They are integrated into everything. Personally.. Rather have my prime. Only out done on a screen I personally can’t tell the difference. More power to the author though. Beauty of both sides is what works for you and makes you happy is all that matters. Hope you enjoy the new iPad.

websaint

The prime has super IPS+ with gorilla glass screen. Also has DLNA to air media to TV. The 7 hours battery figure was based on a specific test like looping HD movies otherwise it’s 10+ hours general use or 18 hours with dock. should I also mention the 1080p video recording too..It’s not surprising that you have left out quite a few key features of the prime that will thump the iPad. Dont get me wrong, like many idiots I also have an iPad mainly for media consumption and fart apps for the kids. Recently I’ve bought the Prime as a laptop replacement. Even though it’s not perfect to replace a laptop, I get the best of both worlds especially I get to travel and work globally. Just being humble..

Casual Observer

Just had to comment on one thing. How do you think that the Apple quad-core graphics chip will out perform a GeForce 12-core graphics processor that is in the Prime? Drink the Kool-aid much?

Prime owner

I have the Prime with dock. I am getting 35 - 38 hours out of mine every week. I listen to Pandora most of the day at work. Watch a video or two each week. Use it as an e reader for 3 - 4 hours per week. Surf the web in the evening 30 - 90 minutes each day. Battery life can be great if you manage your power settings. The first 24 hours I had it and did nothing but install apps, play games and watch videos it lasted a little over 16.5 hours. When you compare specs and throw in the cost between the two, why would anyone buy an I-pad if you have not bought one before. If you have an I-pad2, why would you buy this an apple product? I no longer drag my laptop from work anymore. Took vacation and did not take my work laptop with me. The Prime did everything I needed to do, including logging into my network at work to deal with and fix problems.

Ban Lawsuits - No innovation

Until the richest company in the country [Apple] stops trying to sue any competition out of existence, I will never buy an Apple product. I’ve used Macs and would consider Apple products - Loved it when they were the underdog - but now if they have their way legally you wouldn’t have a choice. I vote Android with my purchases. Apple should consider ‘winning’ on making the best most innovative products and stay out of court trying to block other similar products. Let’s face it Job, Gates, and all the others steal ideas from each other all the time.  Settle it in the marketplace.

Truth

Wrong, wrong wrong…

Infinity has Bluetooth 3.0
It also has GPS
you also “forgot” to write the ASUS has stereo microphones, and it also has a USB port just like the New iPad has an HDMI port- via accesory

A truly unbiased comparison *cough*sarcasm*cough*

Get your facts straight people, you want to be a credible page one day, don’t you?

Bryan Chaffin

Truth, this isn’t a comparison of the Transformer Infinity, which hadn’t been announced when we put this together in March. It’s a comparison of the Transformer Prime.

Jay

Just to correct you as I definately have just a Transformer Prime and NOT an Infinate.
The Transformer Prime comes with the tablet and the Keyboard docking station, When joined together it looks like a small Netbook, But with loads more battery power. The Dock has a standard sized USB port at the upper right corner, and futher along a standard sized SD card slot supporting up to 32GB, The tablet has a Micro USB AND a Micro SD Card slot which again supports up to 32GB cards. My Prime is the 32GB base model, But with the addition of my Micro and SD Cards which I use for other devices for movie, Music and Data transfers I can infact have up to 96Gb of data accessible on my Prime WITHOUT any network connection. Compared to paying a similar price for the 16GB New Ipad and having cloud…Which requires a connection of some sort to access your other data from an external source of greater expense than an SD Card… So On data and connectivity you cannot compare the Ipad and the Asus, Add on all the products to the Ipad that would give it Memory card access, A USB Port and A Laptop sized Keyboard THEN Compare it to the Asus Prime please, It is the ONLY fair way to compare the performance, I am sure the Asus Battery life comparison alone will outstrip the Ipad once its got to use some more of its power to power the external Keyboard and USB and Memory card additions. The operating systems are not comparable either because they cannot share apps properly, Its clearly a personal preference, Apple and their Pad and Apps or Android and their pad and Apps, If your shopping by cost and features then the Asus wins hands down.

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