Asus Eee Pad Prime: The First Quad-Core Android Tablet

One of the shining lights in the Honeycomb tablet market has been the Asus Eee Pad and the Taiwanese computer manufacturer has officially unveiled its follow-up the Eee Pad Transformer Prime.

The Prime is an important tablet as it’s the first-ever Android tablet that will use the new Tegra 3 quad-core processor, which should mean a serious increase in graphics capability and power efficiency.

Chip manufacturer Nvidia officially unveiled the Tegra 3 chip this week, which had previously gone under the codename of the ‘Kal-el’. The new chip see’s the number of cores jumps from 2 to 4, and Nvidia says the jump in performance will upwards of five times compared to the old chipset.

The makeup of the new chip is drastically different to the previous versions and now consists of four Cortex A9 cores, each clocked at 1.3 GHz and comes with 12 cores of graphics processing, which according to Nvidia will triple the quality of graphics when compared to the current generation of top-tier Android tablets which utilise the Tegra 2 chipset.

One notable change to the chipset architecture is the inclusion of a fifth processor. Called the “companion core” it will be tasked to handle smaller background processes. For example, it could be use to play music, or used to keep the Tablet in standby mode, and is expected to significantly improve the battery life and might even see the Prime being able to compete with Apple’s class leading 1 month standby time – which the original Asus Eee pad struggled with.

The new chipset is so fast that it will be able to handle full 1080p video playback as well as 7.1 surround sound encoding. They’re also promising the new chip will significantly improve image capturing by taking pictures twice as fast than before and will improve storage speeds and file transfers.

Asus is obviously looking to take advantage of the new power and take the fight to the iPad 2, Kindle Fire and top-tier Android tablets like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and Xoom.

Like its predecessor the Transformer Prime will also come with its clever docking station, which makes it into a fully working laptop and adds a full querty keyboard, touchpad mouse compatibility, substantially increased battery life and a extra USB 2.0 port and a further SD card slot. It will initially run Android 3.2 Honeycomb, although Asus says more news on an upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will be unveiled in December.

The 10-inch tab will continue to use the same 1280×800 IPS panel and will now come with Gorilla glass for extra durability. The disappointing sound on the old Eee pad seems to have been remedied as it will now comes with ASUS SonicMaster Technology which provides substantially better sound. Also, the company says that with the introduction of the new low power consumption NVIDIA processor, the Tablet will provide a mind boggling 12 hours of battery life without the dock and when it is connected to the mobile dock , this number further increases to an impressive 18 hours.

The tech specs for the cameras are very impressive as well – it will come rear facing 8-megapixel camera, autofocus and LED Flash. The front facing camera will remain as the same 1.3-megapixel from the the old tablet.

The tablet will use a hyrdo-oleophobic coating (we have no idea), which apparently will mean the screen and metal case will be better protected from fingerprints, water marks and oil smudges. You’ll be able to use a variety of input methods allowing users to choose between the a proper querty keyboard, the on-screen virtual keepboard or simple us your hands. The Tablet will also compatible with Microsoft Office (1997-2007) and can be used to work on presentations, spreadsheets and word files.

Connectivity-wise, the tablet comes with the now standard Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and A-GPS support – for added storage there will be a microSD card reader and microHDMI port. If you buy the dock you will gain a proper USB 2.0 port and a extra SD card reader. The size of the tablet remains very similar to the original Eee pad with dimensions of 263mm x 180.8mm x 8.3mm and its weight is a respectable 586 grams.

There will be two versions of the tablet – Amethyst grey (gun metal grey) and Champagne Gold (silver). There’ll be 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The 32GB model will set you back $499 while the 64GB will cost $599. The additional keyboard dock will be priced at $149.

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