Sexier than Arcee
Although Nvidia hasn't released specifics on the Tegra 3's power consumption, it argues that the chip's quad-plus-one-core approach is more power-efficient than dual-core ARM processors. The chip runs cool enough that Asus has been able to put the Transformer's chassis on a crash diet. While the original TF101 model matched the 13-mm thickness of the first iPad, the new TF201 variant measures just 8.3 mm at its thickest point. The slimmed-down iPad 2 is actually half a millimeter thicker than the Transformer Prime.
An old MP3 player is the only iDevice in the Benchmarking Sweatshop, so I've posed the Prime with my original Transformer for reference. As you can see, the new design's thickness—or lack thereof—is the most notable size difference between the two. This is especially apparent with the dock attached, which balloons the TF101 to about an inch thick. The Prime measures less than 19 mm thick when paired with its optional keyboard, making the complete system thin enough to be an ultrabook.
The Transformer Prime is slightly taller (when held in landscape mode) than the original, and the original is a little bit wider. Those dimensional differences largely cancel each other out, leaving the two with similar footprints.
As one might expect given its thinner chassis, the Prime is the lighter Transformer. The tablet component tips the scales at 1.3 lbs, while the dock adds another 1.2 lbs. Compare that to the old model, whose tablet and dock weigh about 1.5 lbs each, and you're looking at a half-pound delta between the two complete systems. That's enough to notice, although perhaps not enough to be a meaningful burden to able-bodied adults.
I've gotta admit, the differences in thickness and weight between even just the tablet sections of the two Transformers are instantly apparent when you pick them up. The Prime is slightly easier to stuff into my messenger bag when squeezed in alongside my ultraportable notebook and DSLR, too. I find the thinner tablet to be a little less comfortable to hold, though. Turns out the thicker curve at the back of the old Transformer better fits the natural curve of my hand, which admittedly requires XL-sized gloves.
Pulling off a tablet with runway model proportions is an impressive feat of engineering, especially with the Tegra 3 processor putting plenty of muscle on the Transformer's slender new frame. Even more attractive than the Prime's lean figure is her beautiful skin. I'm assuming our sample is a lady because she came dressed in a gorgeous shade of not-quite-purple dubbed amethyst gray. Behold the hotness:
It must be difficult for PC makers to come up slick-looking designs when anything clad in brushed aluminum is so quickly written off as an Apple knock-off. Despite relying on the same material, Asus has created a truly distinctive look for the Transformer Prime. The aluminum back panel borrows the "spun" finish introduced by the company's Zenbook ultrabook. Instead of sticking with that system's natural metal hues, Asus has chosen two tinting options: the amethyst gray tone of our press sample and a sandy shade called champagne gold.
The keyboard dock comes clad in similar materials with matching colors. Alas, the brush strokes across the dock's aluminum panels follow a horizontal rather than circular path. The anodized panels still look unique, though, and they nicely blend in with the matte plastic pieces that line the edges of the tablet and dock.
Catch the Prime at the wrong angle, and you'll see that the metal finish isn't impervious to fingerprints and smudges. To be fair, any blemishes on the Transformer's skin are much less obvious than they would be on the glossy plastic surfaces typical of all too many notebooks. Buffing the exterior back to its factory-fresh sheen is ridiculously easy. Just wiping the aluminum down with a bare hand is usually enough to clean up any ugliness that has accumulated. A simple cloth—or the inside of a shirt—easily eradicates stubborn streaks.