When it comes to Android tablets it seems like Samsung gets most of the attention, with the Galaxy Tab & Tab 2, and the Galaxy Note family. And that isn’t necessarily undeserved, Samsung is certainly the leading vendor in the Android space overall, largely on the backs of their leading Galaxy line of phones. And their long running, multi-country feud with Apple over design patents involving the iPad and Galaxy tab certainly contributes to the press they receive.
However, in tablets specifically my personal feeling is that, while Samsung is one of the leaders, the most exciting vendor using Android is ASUS. ASUS doesn’t have the recognition and attention of Samsung, but they’ve been doing some great work in tablets – and it looks like Google took notice as they took ASUS’s planned $249 Eee Pad MeMO 7-inch tablet and reworked it to become the $199 Nexus 7, Google’s first branded tablet. The first quad-core 7-inch tablet and the first device to launch with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
In the first generation of real Android tablets, those launched with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the Galaxy Tab was well known for its sleek design. But the ASUS Transformer, and later Transformer Prime, we nearly as slim and light while keeping functionality like a microSD slot, which the Galaxy Tab did without. And, of course, they had the unique capability of effectively becoming a netbook with a purpose designed keyboard dock. They’re tablets have been competitively priced and have had a series of firsts. The first Android tablets designed with a keyboard dock, the first ‘slider’ tablet with the Eee Pad Slider SL101, the first quad-core Android tablet with the NVIDIA Tegra 3 powered Transformer Prime, the first HD Android tablet with the 1920×1200 10.1″ Transformer Pad Infinity, and more.
The the Transformer Pad Infinity’s display is 224ppi, effectively making it the Android market’s answer to the iPad’s 264ppi retina display. Though I personally feel the 10.1″ 1920×1200 16:10 aspect ratio display on the Infinity is preferable to the iPad’s 9.7″ 2048×1536 4:3 aspect ratio display when it comes to consuming content, especially HD video.
Of course, ASUS also has the Padfone which is a truly revolutionary design that I’ve been waiting for someone to build for years. I hope it finds its way to the US in an LTE model. ASUS also has a good track record for updating their devices to newer Android versions. It hasn’t been painless, but they’ve done a better job that a lot of the bigger names. And we’ve just heard that even the original Transformer and Slider will be receiving Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, along with the newer models.
All of these, IMHO, have been sleek, well designed products. I myself own the Transformer Prime (though I’m starting to feel the lust pangs for the Transformer Pad Infinity since I don’t see Verizon picking up the Padfone soon) and I couldn’t be happier with it. My wife & I gave our nephew the Transformer last xmas and he’s still using it regularly. He hasn’t lost interest or broken it – not bad considering he’s 13. I’ve recommended the ASUS Transformer line to many people, as I think they’re truly the best Android tablets out there.
The keyboard dock, or just the capability of using one, is a major advantage over other tablets for anyone looking to use a tablet for productivity. A keyboard case or Bluetooth keyboard just isn’t the same. The keyboard dock makes an effective case for the tablet in one solid, easy to carry, solid package. And the extra battery life is most welcome. I love the way ASUS designed it to keep the tablet battery charged, charging it from the keyboard battery when connected. That way the tablet is always topped up if you want to use it solo, and the keyboard provides a kind of portable charger if the tablet gets drained.
Performance is top notch and inclusion of memory card slots and ports makes the ASUS tablet more flexible than some of the competition. Personally I think the Galaxy Tab 2 line was something of a disappointment. It is really more of a refresh of the original Galaxy Tab than a next-generation tablet. Similarly the Motorola Xoom 2/Xyboard wasn’t a big jump from the original Xoom. With the ‘flagship’ vendors kind of dropping the ball it really left the market open to ASUS, and other vendors like Acer and Lenovo, to produce some of the best tablet values considering performance and price.
I think there is a strong argument to be made that ASUS is really the leading Android tablet maker when it comes to innovation, value, and functionality. I think they deserve more attention from consumers and the press covering the tablet market. Whether they get it or not, I hope they continue down the same road and continue to provide innovative products. If you’re considering an Android tablet purchase I think you’d be well served to carefully consider ASUS’s offerings. The second generation ‘low-end’ model Transformer Pad TF300T is a close match to my first generation ‘high-end’ Transformer Prime TF201, and the model I think most buyers will be looking at.
ASUS recently released a series of videos which gives us a peak into the design process and philosophy that shaped the Transformer products, especially the new Transformer Pad and Pad Infinity. I think they’re a nice look behind the scenes and not overly full marketing spin.
So what do you think? Do you agree that ASUS is really the flagship Android tablet maker? Do you think someone else is? If so, why do you feel that way? Leave a comment!