Can tablets really replace notebooks?By Raquel P. Gomez |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Google’s Android OS, which now practically sits in every smartphone and tablet, has gone far in its development.
At present, Google has several versions of the popular OS. The Android for-tablet-use variant is called the Honeycomb. It has enabled tablet makers to add more functions to their devices, such as allowing for the attachment of a keyboard dock and recognizing peripherals such as an external storage.
Among the Honeycomb-run tablets, Asus’ new Eee Pad Transformer is now the closest thing in function to a real PC notebook.
With the optional keyboard dock, the multitouch capable tablet features a comfortably sized keyboard, two USB ports, a full sized SD card slot, and a touchpad that has clickable keys and supports multigestures.
Docking the Eee Pad through a pin slot onto the keyboard dock literally transforms the tablet into an instant notebook.
But can the Eee Pad Transformer fully measure up to a notebook?
Tablets became popular because the products were intended to be PC devices that offered a great touch-user interface for entertainment, multimedia, social and Internet functions. But a touch UI has limitations. For one, you cannot depend on a tablet’s virtual keyboard to type long documents.
Beyond a wonderful user interface, the Eee Pad Transformer extends its functions by offering the Windows PC experience consumers are used to, such as a real keyboard for typing.
When attached to the keyboard dock, the Eee Pad Transformer can recognize peripherals such as external storage (flash-based USB storage and hard drive) and mouse (both wired and wireless). So it’s easy to access photos, music, documents and other Windows-based files.
The keyboard has been redesigned to incorporate components of the Android system such as the Back key, Home key, Menu key, Search key and Lock key. From the keyboard, the user can also control the brightness of the tablet’s display, launch the camera function, disable and enable wireless connections, play media and manage volume.
The Eee Pad Transformer also features a nice music player. The UI is almost similar to iTunes’, where album covers flash on the screen and you can do album selection by taps and swipes. The volume, though, needs work and you will need to connect it to an external speaker to enjoy good sound rendition.
Connecting the tablet to a Bluetooth speaker is a breeze. Other connectivity such as Wi-Fi is also simple. The device remembers Wi-Fi connections and may connect without the wait.
Other great features include fast boot-up and fast shut-down times, intuitive and easy to navigate UI, fast access of browser, support of several Web e-mails, access to an online market, and easy to install and uninstall downloaded apps.
Though it may seem to be a good “transformation” of a tablet into a notebook, the Eee Pad Transformer has its shortcomings. Since the Honeycomb is just new, some of the apps often crash.
Skype can be installed to allow a user to contact iPhone or iPad users, but video isn’t present. The alternative is the Tango application, which works well with Honeycomb OS.
Asus still has a lot of tinkering to do before the Eee Pad Transformer becomes a real notebook. But it has done a good job at telling consumers that there are better alternatives to the traditional PC.
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