Which Transformer tablet is right for you?

With three Asus Transformer tablets now on the market, choosing the one that's right for you may have just gotten more difficult. This is my attempt to make that choice easier in handy chart form.

Super IPS mode in effect! It's not that the TF300 's (left) screen isn't bright (it is, reaching 331 cd/m2 at max luminence), it's just that the Prime (right, with Super IPS enabled) gets so much brighter. Josh Miller/CNET

Yesterday Asus launched its third tablet in a year with the name "Transformer" in it: the Asus Transformer Pad TF300. In April 2011, the Transformer TF101 was released and was followed by the much more powerful Transformer Prime TF201 last December.

With three tablets with the Transformer name out there in the wild, this is a great opportunity to illustrate their differences in a concise manner. Tables help with that, but if you're not a table person and prefer wordy prose, I've got that too.

According to Asus, the new $380 (for 16GB) Transformer Pad TF300 now replaces the TF101 as Asus' "low-end" full-size tablet. The TF101 will officially be available through the second quarter of 2012, and Asus claims it will continue to offer software updates and tech support.

TF300 vs. TF101
Currently, the TF101 "e-tails" starting at $345 for 16GB. That's only about $35 less than the faster and better designed TF300. In this case, I'd recommend spending the extra money to get the clearly better device.

The TF101 is still a good tablet, though, and if money is a real issue and you don't mind refurbished units, it can be found for as low as $300.

TF300 vs. Prime
For those with a bit fatter pockets, the Transformer Prime starts at $500 for 32GB, and its key advantages over the TF300 are an LED flash on the camera, a thinner metal design, slightly faster operating speed, and its Super IPS mode, which allows the tablet's screen to get really bright. It's great for outdoor use.

However, the TF300's camera takes better pictures and, unlike the Prime, its GPS feature works well enough to be listed on its spec sheets (although Asus has released a free GPS dongle to Prime owners to address the issue). Not to mention slightly better Wi-Fi performance.

The near future
It won't end here, though. Still scheduled for a second-quarter release is the Transformer Prime TF700t . The TF700t will sport improved GPS performance and a higher resolution, 1,920x1,200-pixel screen. It's also expected to be more expensive than the Prime.

For now, take a look at this handy table I've prepared (just for you) on what's currently available in the Transformer family.


Transformer Pad TF300 Transformer Prime TF201 Transformer TF101
Processor Quad-core 1.2GHz Tegra 3 processor Quad-core 1.3GHz Tegra 3 processor Dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor
Operating system Android 4.0.3 Android 3.2 (upgradable to Android 4.0.3) Android 3.2 (upgradable to Android 4.0.3)
Dimensions 7.1 inches tall by 10.4 inches wide by 0.38 inch thick; 1.4 pounds 7.1 inches tall by 10.4 inches wide by 0.32 inch thick; 1.32 pounds 6.9 inches tall by 10.7 inches wide by 0.51 inch thick; 1.52 pounds
Display 10.1-inch, 1,280x800-pixel touch screen (no Super-IPS mode) 10.1-inch, 1,280x800-pixel touch screen (with Super-IPS mode) 10.1-inch, 1,280x800-pixel touch screen (no Super-IPS mode)
Max brightness 331 cd/m2 570 cd/m2 (Super IPS mode) 320 cd/m2
Camera 8-megapixel camera, F2.4 aperture, autofocus, 1080p HD video recording, backside-illuminated sensor; front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, F2.4 aperture, autofocus, 1080p HD video recording, backside-illuminated sensor; front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera 5-megapixel camera, autofocus, 720p HD video recording; front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera
Storage 16GB, 32GB 32GB, 64GB 16GB, 32GB
Expansion slot microSD microSD microSD
Connectivity Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), Micro HDMI Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), Micro HDMI Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), Mini HDMI
Battery life 10 hours (Asus' claim; CNET score coming soon) 9.6 hours (CNET's score) 7.3 hours (CNET's score)
Cellular options None None None
GPS Yes Yes (not an official spec however, do to widespread performance problems ) Yes
Keyboard Yes ($150) Yes ($150) Yes ($115-$150)
Pricing $379 for 16GB, $399 for 32GB $499 for 32GB, $599 for 64GB $345-$399 for 16GB ($300 for refurbished unit), $499 for 32GB
 

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