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ASUS Transformer Tablet: Better Than the IPad?

You may be hearing a lot about Transformers this summer, and that's not just because of the Michael Bay movie. ASUS Computers recently released a tablet PC known as the Transformer that some critics think might provide a real rival to Apple's iPad, currently sitting firmly on top of the tablet market. What's the Transformer all about?

tablet computer ASUS PC iPad

Transformer vs. iPad

If any tablet computer wants to bite into Apple's market share, they're going to have to create a product that exploits some of the iPad's weaknesses. That's what ASUS thinks they've done with their Transformer, a tablet PC that purports to better fill the needs of those who want to create content, not just consume it. Though already modestly priced at $399 ($100 less than the cheapest iPad), for another $149 Transformer users can purchase a lightweight keyboard dock that allows the tablet to emulate the netbook PC experience.

Along the lines of content creation, the Transformer comes pre-loaded with Polaris Office software, which allows users to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations compatible with their home PCs right on their tablet. ASUS also gives their users a year of free unlimited storage space to facilitate wireless cloud computing. iPad users have several document creation options open to them, but all require an additional purchase and may not interface with home computers as easily.

Additionally, the Transformer supports several types of media connectivity not native to the iPad. The keyboard contains two USB 2.0 ports as well as an SD reader. At present, the iPad requires an adapter for SD or USB functionality. Furthermore, the Transformer tablet supports Flash, a trait Apple's products have famously lacked.

tablet PC netbook ASUS iPad

Is It Really That Much Better?

Some early Transformer press aside, ASUS' tablet doesn't do much that the iPad can't - at least not with a little extra accessorizing. Many iPad users are well-acquainted with their tablet's ability to connect to Bluetooth keyboards; it's not as though ASUS is the first company to think of that innovation. It would be different if the Transformer came bundled with the keyboard, but when you consider the fact that it's an additional $149 for that connectivity, it seems you're not getting anything special (besides, Apple's official iPad keyboard is less than half that price).

Speaking of pricing, the Transformer does beat the iPad in that battle. Even with a keyboard module, the Transformer costs $548, while with a keyboard the least expensive iPad weighs in at $568. To give your iPad SD or limited USB functionality, you'd need to pay another $29. And, as mentioned above, no matter how hard you try you're never going to get Flash on your Apple device.

On the other hand, the iPad also offers a couple of benefits currently unavailable on the Transformer. For instance, Apple sells iPad models with built-in 3g connectivity, thus allowing the user to access the Internet from almost anywhere. Granted, this costs more ($130 per model) but one might imagine that many iPad users are drawn to the notion of owning a portable computer that can always access the web. Currently ASUS offers no 3g version of their Transformer, although one is reportedly coming later.

Overall the Transformer offers a slight pricing edge over Apple's iPad and packs a few nice bonuses for its users. However, outside of Flash it seems there's not much it can do that an iPad won't, at least with a little work. ASUS seems to have produced a convenient, user-friendly and useful tablet PC, but it doesn't look like the iPad's going anywhere any time soon.

The iPad can do a lot of stuff, but how does it rate as an educational tool?