Asus’s Transformer Prime Laptop Built for Speed

Asus Prime LaptopThe Asus Transformer Prime is certainly a laptop that packs plenty of punch. 

You’ll recall from past columns that I’m a real speed freak. I like drag racing, fast 4-stroke dirt bikes, and absolutely the fastest computer hardware I can get my hands on. It should be no surprise that I would opt for the new Asus with the latest Tegra 3 quad-core chip. The not-yet-released Lenovo would have worked fine and actually had full-sized USB and HDMI connectors. Plus the New iPad is due out this week. I’m more of an Android kind of guy and just couldn’t wait. The Transformer definitely satisfies my need for speed.

After using a Samsung Captivate smart phone with Android version 2.2 for about a year, I thought transitioning over to the tablet would be pretty straightforward…and it turned out  it was.

The Samsung is rooted and I’ve installed a number of network sniffing, remote access, and system utilities so I can keep tabs on my network and write Android and Linux review articles.

As soon as the Transformer connected to my local network, it downloaded Ice Cream Sandwich, which was a little unexpected. Nevertheless, the installation worked without any problems and I’m now on Android version 4.0.3.

Naturally, the first thing on the to-do list for the new tablet was to root the thing. Transformerprimeroot.com has a zip file for downloading to your Linux or Mac laptop, that does the job without a hitch. Be sure to enable USB debugging under the Developer Options, on the Prime, before running the scripts. It only took about 10 seconds to execute everything.

Next up was installation of System Tuner, so I could manage tasks and tweak things like CPU performance and memory usage. I use it on my phone to run the clock speed up to 1 GHz on the duo-core chip. The app ran fine on the Prime as well. It turned out the Prime is now running the Linux kernel version 2.6.39-4 and uses about 440 MB of RAM, with a little over 540 MB to spare. After some exploration I discovered that the standard Android time/date tray tab (on the lower right corner of the Prime screen) can set the CPU speed along with the screen brightness and access point status. The two-leaf icon means conservative, the dial icon indicates balanced mode, and the flame means wide-open. While I might not use System Tuner for CPU switching, it still has plenty of graphs and settings to tweak.

One of the apps I use quite a bit is video Skype. The program works just fine on my smart phone, but isn’t optimum because it doesn’t have a user facing camera. I’ve made video calls, over 3G service, without any problems. The audio and video quality is great even on 3G.

Video Skype installed beautifully on the Transformer. The front camera is a little wimpy at 1.2 mega-pixel, but works well. Switch to the back (8 mega-pixel) camera and the video quality definitely goes up. The sound seemed a little touchy and probably needs some tweaking to optimize the experience. I had no trouble making a call over WiFi and connecting to the Skype cloud was pretty fast. 3 and 4G are not an option on the Prime.

Firefox and the Droid VNC server (find it in the Google Play Store) didn’t work on the Transformer very well. Firefox, while fast, would frequently just freeze, never to return. I tried re-installing, but that didn’t seem to help. The stock browser bundled on the main screen seemed to work reliably, so I’ll be using that until I can sort out the problem with Firefox. We’ve used FF on our Linux notebooks at home, for years.

Droid VNC server also proved problematic on the Transformer. There’s no problem running it on my Captivate smart phone. I do presentations and use it to display my phone’s screen, in a window on my Linux notebook. It works great when I want to demo an application on the phone and put it up for an audience to see, using a projector.

While the program loaded on the Prime, I couldn’t connect to it because it insisted on providing an IPv6 Internet address. I needed a normal local 192.168.1.xxxx address for my notebook viewer program. In spite of extensive searching, on the Web, I was unable to locate a solution. There must be major differences in the Samsung Captivate and Prime architectures, because I was using the same version 0.991 on each device. There doesn’t seem to be any other VNC servers out there for Android, so hopefully the author will be able to sort things out in the future.

One other great little piece of information I found was the The Ultimate Transformer Prime Accessory Guide. This Web page has all kinds of cool things you should get for your Transformer.

I’m very happy with my purchase of the Transformer Prime. Make sure to check sales prices and look for store coupons. My 32GB version of the TF201 was listed in-store at CompUSA for a little over $600. I hit a sale over the weekend and purchased it (in-store) for $499. Best Buy listed them in the store for $499, but for the last month I’ve found they don’t seem to have any in stock.

The Transformer is very fast with a nice smooth user interface, and great ergonomics. Right now, it will run for about 8 hours or so. HD YouTube, videos, and graphics are top-notch.

If you are looking for a very fast, full-featured tablet, I can certainly recommend the Asus Transformer Prime.

Image: PCMag

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