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Wednesday November 9, 2011 12:27 pm

Asus Transformer Prime: Tegra 3 tablet, $499

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Accessories, Google, Handhelds

Asus Transformer Prime Device Map

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is ready for its close-up and under the hood it sports Nvidia's next-generation Tegra 3 mobile processor. That makes the Transformer Prime the first tablet to feature the quad-core System-on-a-Chip (SoC), which Nvida says provides three times the graphics performance of its current Tegra 2 chip while soaking up 61 percent less power.

The 10.1-inch Transformer Prime is nice and thin at 0.33 inches and weighs in at 1.29 pounds, Asus said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. Thanks to the Tegra 3's improved power consumption, the tablet's battery life is rated for up to 18 hours, although that's when you combine it with the optional mobile dock and keyboard which Asus is also offering, naturally, as part of the Transformer Prime package.

Without the accessory, you're still getting up to 12 hours of battery life, which Asus was happy to point out is enough for "a trans-ocean flight, all-night game session, viewing several movies on a long road trip, or even video recording, editing, and then playing back your child's school play."

The Tegra 3 chip, the first quad-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU, significantly boosts 3D gaming and Internet browsing on tablets like the Transformer Prime, thanks to a 12-core GeForce GPU that's also part of the next-gen SoC, according to Nvidia.

Asus is releasing the Transformer Prime running Google's Android 3.2 Honeycomb mobile operating system before the end of 2011, the company said. The computer maker also said an upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich would be made available later, in "early December," so that could offer a clue as to the timing of initial release.

The new tablet is not a value play, however. Asus said recommended U.S. retail prices will start at $499 for a 32GB version and a 64GB model will start at $599. The docking accessory that gives the tablet its name is priced at $149—so for the full Transformer Prime effect, you'll be parting with between $648 and $748. For the mainstream crowd, the computer maker has its original Eee Pad Transformer, priced at $399 (16GB) and $449 (32GB), though again, the keyboard accessory brings those prices up considerably.

Asus is playing up the tablet's HD 8-megapixel rear auto-focus camera, which leverages a large F2.4 aperture and continuous LED flash to enable full 1080 video recording at night. The company's SonicMaster audio technology is another differentiator, according to Asus, which is clearly positioning the Transformer Prime as a media machine capable of taking on Apple's best-selling iPad 2.

More specs and a device map are posted below. The Transformer Prime comes pre-loaded with SuperNote, a touch-enabled note-taking program, Polaris Office for productivity, and other applications, Asus said.

Asus Transformer Prime Specs

And of course, there's the Transformer's signature feature, the attachable keyboard that turns the tablet into a laptop. In addition to the extra battery life the accessory affords, it provides expansion options with a USB port and SD card slot.

We haven't got our hands on this tablet yet, but from afar the Transformer Prime looks to be a pretty little number. The case sports a "metallic spun finish" available in either "amethyst gray" or "champagne gold." Asus has employed something called hydro-oleophobic coating on the touch screen panel and the metallic surfaces to cut down on smudging from fingerprints. 

This article, written by Damon Poeter, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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