I have had my Asus Transformer TF101 Android tablet, with dockable keyboard for a few months now and this article is primarily my findings with regards to trying to using it as my day to day computing device. I specifically bought this machine to try and replace a much larger 17-inch laptop and an older Asus eeePC netbook.
From day one, it was pretty clear that my dream of using just this device was unlikely to happen. There are some things that Android does not do well. I have rooted the device and installed Prime 2.1.1 , an Android 2.3 Gingerbread based ROM, which has resulted in a number of performance gains. However, my crucial reason for doing this was so that I could install the 3GToggler application, which would allow me to access a Huawei 3G Internet dongle.
Android Gingerbread doesn’t do office productivity. Editing word processor documents or spreadsheets is laborious and time consuming with the supplied Polaris Office. It’s just really clunky. Don’t even think about trying to create a presentation. I then also tried the Google Documents App from the Android Market, which is so clearly focused at mobile phone devices, again the user experience was terrible on a tablet. Lastly, I attempted to use Google Docs online to edit documents. Sadly this was also less than a compelling experience, but I believe this was down to the web browser itself, which neatly brings me to my next point.
Many of the Android Market applications are targeted squarely at the mobile phone user. That is usually someone with limited screen real estate, using their device in portrait mode. Trying to use these application on a docked tablet is a lesson in disappointment. Hootesuite for example, lacks the consolidated view across messages and requires many taps to navigate around. Other applications lack the key functionality that is usually available via the normal website. For example, if using the Google+ application, I found it impossible to access a Company Page I had created. This is simple enough from a drop down box on the Google+ website when viewed through a browser.
Just so this piece is not all doom and gloom, it is certainly worth mentioning what an Android tablet does well. Email for a start. The Gmail application is a joy, and I find it much more user friendly than the recently redesigned Gmail website. The other default mail client also does a great job of unifying a number of other accounts I have, including an Outlook Exchange Inbox. This is a much better experience than trying to use Thunderbird for this. There are also a few other email clients in the Android Market that are worth looking at, such as the Open Source K-9.
I’m sure Android tablets would be great for consuming media, if I did much of that. The only thing I have really tried is to watch a film through the LoveFilm website, but this was done via Flash in a web browser so was acceptable without being wonderful. The UK’s Sky Broadcasting has a catch-up TV player, which requires Silverlight, so again not happening on an Android tablet.
I love the battery life! A battery in the keyboard dock and one in the tablet itself provides for around 15-16 hours of cable free use. This is brilliant.
I have also quite successfully used the tablet to present PDF documents in one-on-one meetings. It’s quite a bit better than remembering to print out reams of paper. If I connected the device to a larger screen using the mini-HDMI connector, I’m sure this same process would work for larger group presentations.
Overall, without the docked keyboard of the Asus Transformer TF101, I would find the device practically useless. My main use of the tablet is to write emails, fortunately this is something Android does very well, and the keyboard enhances that experience. I would probably be much more productive with the Transformer if I didn’t want to stick needles in my eyes every time I tried to edit a spreadsheet or create a new document.