Hands-On: Transformer Prime Has No Facial Recognition, Slower Browser with Android 4.0

As promised, ASUS updated the OS on the Eee Pad Transformer Prime from Android 3.0 (known colloquially as Honeycomb) to Android 4.0 (with the even-more-delicious moniker of Ice Cream Sandwich). The upgrade promised to bring faster browsing speeds, new features, and improved performance in general to the top Android tablet currently on the market. We went hands-on with with the Transformer Prime to see if ICS for tablets lives up to its promises.

Unfortunately, we found that some of the “gee-whiz” Android 4.0 features from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone didn’t make it over to the tablet version of the operating system. Even worse, the web browser actually performed worse on some benchmarks than it did before the upgrade.

User Interface

Most of the features found on smartphones using Ice Cream Sandwich have been ported to the Transformer Prime. Starting with the lock screen — from which users can now access the camera directly — the changes are obvious. The systems bar, which includes buttons for Back, Home, and Recent Apps, can be found on the lower left of the screen. The addition of the Recent Apps menu is an especially welcome change, as it allows users to easily jump between applications by clicking on the thumbnail images. Notifications and recent apps can be dismissed by simply swiping them off the screen. Adjustable widgets and the People App are also present.

Sadly, a number of Android 4.0’s features are missing on the Transformer Prime. Most conspicuous is the absence of one of Ice Cream Sandwich’s cooler features, Face Unlock — Prime users will have to settle for old-fashioned slide, pattern, PIN, or password locks. Also missing is Google’s NFC-based sharing feature, Android Beam. Although it would have been neat to share YouTube videos and apps with other phones or tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich by simply tapping them together, most users probably wouldn’t use a tablet for NFC-sharing anyway.

Other missing features include the favorites tray, which allows users to see their most-used apps and folders from any home screen, and the ability to dismiss browser tabs with a swipe of the finger. Also absent, for obvious reasons, are the Quick Response options for phone calls found on Android 4.0-powered smartphones.

Slower Browser Benchmarks

Unfortunately, out tests demonstrated that browsing on the Transformer Prime is slower with Ice Cream Sandwich than it was with Honeycomb. The Prime completed the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark in an average of 2231.9 milliseconds; this is slower than the tablet’s previous time of 1,779.5 milliseconds with Honeycomb. Similarly, the Prime scored a 329 on the Peacekeeper browser benchmark with Ice Cream Sandwich, far below the original benchmark score of 492 on Android 3.0.

Nevertheless, we doubt that users will discern slower browser speeds using Android 4.0, and despite the lack of some neat features like Face Unlock that can be found on Ice Cream Sandwich-powered smartphones, the new OS looks and feels great on the Transformer Prime. Owners should strongly consider upgrading.

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  1. Anna Says:

    I have to say I find it rather odd that this article focusses on the minute negatives of the prime rather than the vast array of positives. Face recognition:gimmick. Android beam:wasn’t even aware of it. I’ve had mine for about a week and find it robust, useable, beautiful, fast and ergonomic. Honestly haven’t used anything else since. Most pads have a very limited interest but because of the detachable keyboard I can use it as I would a laptop. Two for the price of one, which in these times, is surely the most positive thing.

  2. CJT Says:

    Agree with Anna. Since when has ‘no facial recognition’ been such a disaster?

    I’ve had mine for a week now; fast, responsive, and most importantly great for media consumption (lovely high res screen) AND production – just clip on the keyboard and you’re tpying 10x faster than on an iPad. Very happy with mine.

  3. Chris Says:

    Since NFC is dependent on hardware, why even bring this up as something missing from the tablet. Hard to list that as a missing software feature if the hardware isn’t included in the first place. Plus even mentioning phone features in the article does nothing. How many phone features on the iPhone are available on the iPad?

  4. Nathan Buth Says:

    ^I agree with them. I dont have the prim but my dad has the original transformer (picked it out for him) and it was amazing. I can find it hard to believe that the successor to that machine is not just as great if not way better. Not even mentioning the added speed and functionality the keyboard can give you, how about the addded battery life. I’d love to see somebody using a tablet other than the transformer or the prime with keyboard even approach that battery life. (my dad gets 16 hours+ on his constant use when using the keyboard)

  5. Trent Says:

    I have a tip and I ran support on chrome and I got in the 1600 ms range so there is an advantage in browsing on 4.0

  6. talita Says:

    please, what is this clock and calender widget on the homescreen?? I have an ice cream sandwich tablet but can’t find those. i liked it a lot!!

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