All eyes on the display
Take away the Transformer's keyboard dock, and the device looks like any other slate-style tablet. The business side of the unit is dominated by a 10.1" touchscreen ringed by a beefy black bezel. The whole thing is covered by a single sheet of Gorilla Glass that is both a blessing and a curse. The material's scratch-resistant properties are much appreciated, and they've kept my first-gen Transformer's screen free of permanent blemishes through a year of regular use. However, the glossy finish quickly accumulates fingerprints; it's difficult to avoid touching a touchscreen. Heck, even holding the tablet leaves a thumbprint on the bezel.
The mess of smudges is always visible on the border. Whether you see them on the screen depends largely on what else is being displayed. If the tablet is turned off or the screen is otherwise dark, streaks and fingerprints really jump out. When the screen has something to show, the backlight overpowers the smudges, making them difficult to detect. Glossy screens are a hallmark of modern tablets, so the issue is hardly unique to the Transformer.
Apart from its propensity to gather fingerprints, the screen is pretty good. Our colorimeter tells us the backlight offers 324 cd/m² of brightness at its maximum setting, which is comparable to the 341 cd/m² we measured on the original Transformer. Neither screen comes close to the turbo-charged backlight of the Transformer Prime's SuperIPS+ display, though. That display pushes over 640 cd/m² and is much easier to read in direct sunlight. Like typical tablet displays, the Transformer Pad 300's screen works best when it doesn't have to compete with the sun's rays.
Typical is probably the best way to describe the display. The IPS panel serves up 1280x800 pixels, just like the original Transformer and numerous other Android tablets—sorry, no high-DPI love here. Some prefer the 4:3 aspect ratio of Apple's iPads, but the Transformer's widescreen format is definitely more conducive to watching movies. I also prefer it for reading and web browsing in portrait mode, where the wider screen turns into a longer page.
When we reviewed the Transformer Prime, we immediately noticed the screen's yellow tinge, a byproduct of its warmer color temperature. Asus says that tablet's warmer profile was intentional, but cooler tones have prevailed in the Transformer Pad 300. We tested the screen with our colorimeter to get an objective reading, and the data are pretty clear. Below is the color gamut for the screen at a brightness of 120 cd/m². The original Transformer has been included as a frame of reference. The color gamut graph will switch between the two tablets when your mouse cursor moves over the image. It takes a few seconds for the second image to load, so be patient.
The shift in the color gamut is much less pronounced than what we saw with the Transformer Prime. Ideally, the intersection point in the middle of the inner triangle should hit the D65 marker, which corresponds to the color temperature of typical daylight. That marker sits at the intersection of the dashed horizontal and vertical lines that start just above 0.3 on each axis. As you can see, both Transformers come pretty close to the daylight ideal. The Transformer Pad 300 is biased toward the warmer end of the spectrum, but only just.
We can also look at the actual color temperature of the display across multiple gray levels. The graph below has the same mouseover magic as the one above. Here, we're looking for a color temperature of 6500K, which is equivalent to the D65 daylight illuminant from the gamut graph.
The Transformer Pad 300 has a slightly warmer color temperature across the full range of gray levels. However, this temperature is more consistent—and closer to our 6500K target—than the cooler colors of the old model.