Asus has officially unveiled the next-generation Transformer Prime. This slimmed-down successor measures just 1/3" thick, almost exactly matching the slender profile of the iPad 2. At 1.29lbs, the Prime is actually a little bit lighter than Apple's latest.
The Transformer Prime powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-chip. Otherwise known as Kal El, this quad-core chip doubles the number of CPU cores in the Tegra 2 SoC found inside the original Transformer. The Tegra 3 also has an additional companion core designed to extend battery life when the system isn't being taxed. Asus calls the chip's graphics component a "12-core GeForce GPU."
Transformer Prime features a 10.1" IPS panel with a 1280x800 display resolution. The Prime also boasts a "Super IPS+" mode that's claimed to deliver a brightness level of about 600 nits. Asus says this mode offers better color reproduction and should make the screen easier to read in outdoor environments. The panel's scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass has been skinned with a "hydro-oleophobic" coating that's said to resist smudging. The same coating has been applied to the Prime's textured metal exterior.
The dock is thinner now, but it still packs a touchpad in addition to the chiclet keyboard. There's also an auxiliary battery in the dock that purportedly extends the Prime's 12-hour run time to an impressive 18 hours.
The dock host a full-sized USB port and an SD card slot, while the tablet has a Micro HDMI port, a Micro SD slot, and a 3.5-mm audio jack. Amazingly, the built-in speakers are actually slightly larger than the ones in the original Transformer—and Asus says they sound better, too. The cameras have also been upgraded to 8MP rear and 1.2MP front units, which can record 1080p videos.
The Prime will start at $500. Asus is going to keep selling both models (Transformer original & Prime), so it makes sense to price the Prime at a premium. Besides, it's still a better deal than the iPad 2. The base iPad model only gives you 16GB of built-in memory for $500, while the Prime offers 32GB. A 64GB model will be available at $600, the same price as the 32GB iPad 2.
Asus Transformer Prime is slated to launch in December. It will arrive with Android 3.2, a.k.a. Honeycomb, and receive an over-the-air upgrade to Android 4.0, otherwise known as Ice Cream Sandwich, when the new OS code has been "optimized, tested and approved."