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Asus unveils quad-core Tegra 3 Android tablet

Nov 9, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Asus announced the first quad-core Android tablet, featuring the newly shipping Nvidia Tegra 3 clocked to 1.3GHz. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is slimmer (0.33 inches) and lighter (1.29 pounds) than the original Transformer, and offers a 10.1-inch display,an eight-megapixel camera, and up to 12 hours of claimed battery life — or 18 hours when plugged into the optional keyboard dock.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime was tipped by Asus in mid-October as the heir to its Eee Pad Transformer Android 3.x ("Honeycomb" tablet. At the time Asus provided few details except for the big one: the Transformer Prime would adopt Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 system on chip (SoC).

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, detaching from keyboard dock

(Click to enlarge)

Coolly code-named "Kal El," the Tegra 3 was formally released today, making it the first shipping quad-core ARM SoC. It not only features four ARM Cortex-A9 cores each clocked at 1GHz to 1.3GHz — the speed offered in the Transformer Prime — but offers a fifth Cortex-A9 "companion" core to handle background processing.

Clocked to up to 500MHz, the fifth core was built using a low-power silicon process, enabling it to execute tasks at low frequency. This is said to enable low power leakage for active standby mode, music playback, and even video playback.

In addition, the Tegra 3 features Nvidia's 12-core GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU), enabling 1440p (2560 x 1440 pixel) resolution, and it offers stereo 3D capabilities. The SoC also provids vSMP (variable symmetric multiprocessing) technology for intelligent workload management, according to Nvidia.

Nvidia has already fully unveiled the Tegra 3, but has now supplied performance claims, as well as a video demonstrating the effect of the fifth core on game play and video (see farther below). The SoC is five times faster than Tegra 2 in overall benchmarks, as well as four times faster for web browsing and three times faster for graphics, claims Nvidia.

Luma Arcade's Bladeslinger 3D game running on Nvidia Tegra 3

Source: Nvidia

As Asus claims, the Transformer Prime is indeed the first tablet to be announced with a Tegra 3 processor. However, in the coming weeks, ZTE is expected to announce a seven-inch T98 Android 3.2 tablet equipped with the Tegra 3.

Presumably, the Transformer Prime will hit first. Asus did not publicly disclose the expected ship date for the tablet, but according to several sources, including an AndroidPolice report, the Transformer Prime will ship in early December with Android 3.2, and will be updated to Android 4.0 as soon as possible.

According to Asus, the Transformer Prime will sell for $499 with 32GB of storage or $599 for 64GB. This does not count the $149 mobile keyboard dock, which, as with the original Transformer, can be snapped together with the tablet to create a convertible touchscreen netbook.

Transformer Prime, back and front

(Click to enlarge)

The Tegra 2-based Transformer has received more favorable reviews than many Honeycomb tablets, but was dinged for many of the same problems found with its brethren. In other words, the weight, thickness, and battery life were all found to be wanting.

Asus has addressed all three of these concerns. The Eee Pad Transformer Prime features a thin, 0.33-inch (8.3mm) profile, and weighs 1.29 pounds (586 grams) without its keyboard dock. By comparison, the industry leading Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 measures 0.34 inches (8.6mm) and weighs 1.26 pounds (595 grams), leading to a close split decision.

Both tablets are just slightly leaner than the newly announced Motorola Xoom 2, which measures 0.346 inches (8.8mm) thick and weighs 1.32 pounds (599 grams). According to the AndroidPolice story — not to mention Asus' photos — the Prime's keyboard dock has also been slimmed down.

Battery said to last 12 to 18 hours

The Tegra 3's power management techniques have helped Asus expand battery life to up to 12 hours, claims Asus. When plugged into the keyboard dock, which has its own battery, the tablet can last up to 18 hours, which the company claims is the longest lifespan of any shipping tablet.

Available in Amethyst Gray and Champagne Gold, the aluminum-clad device is equipped with a 10.1-inch display with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, a 178-degree viewing angle, and Corning Gorilla Glass. The display is built using SuperIPS+ technology, a variation on in-plane switching that is said to enhance the brightness of the screen for better outdoor reading.

The Transformer Prime is further equipped with 1GB of RAM, as well as 32GB or 64GB internal storage, says Asus. Loading up the microSD slot would supply a maximum of 96GB storage.

Ports are said to include a micro-HDMI port and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. The keyboard dock adds a USB port and SD card slot, says the company, although it's unclear whether these are full-sized ports. According to CNET, the Transformer Prime also supplies 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, a gyroscope, and GPS.

Transformer Prime with keyboard dock

The Transformer Prime is further equipped with both a 1.2-megapixel front-facing webcam and an eight-megapixel rear camera — an upgrade from the five-megapixel model on the original Transformer. The eight-megapixel, auto-focus camera offers 1080p video recording LED flash, and a large F2.4 aperture, says Asus.

Other camera features are said to include a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, touch-to-focus depth of field, and low-light noise reduction. Asus also provides its SonicMaster audio technology, which it touts for "crystal clear sound with a wide sound stage, increased audio fidelity, and distinct vocal enhancements."

Pre-installed software includes the SuperNote app for drawing or recording notes, as well as Polaris Office for office productivity, says Asus. Android Market is also part of the package.

In September, Asus began shipping the original Transformer's close cousin — the Eee Pad Slider — which instead of offering the keyboard as an optional dock, integrates a slide-out keyboard. The Slider runs Android 3.2 tablet on a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, and is equipped with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of flash, a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 display, and dual cameras. It was launched in the U.S. for $479 with 16GB storage and $579 with 32GB.

Nvidia Tegra 3 demo on YouTube, showing impact of fifth companion core
Source: Nvidia
(Click to play)


The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime will sell for $499 with 32GB of storage or $599 for 64GB, says Asus. The mobile keyboard dock option sells for $149. There's no word on shipment, but it's expected to arrive in December in time for the holidays.

More information should eventually appear on Asus' Eee Pad page. More information on the Tegra 3 launch today may be found at this Nvidia Tegra blog post, as well as this Engadget story on the Tegra 3 launch.

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