Asus Eee Transformer Runs Honeycomb with Expandable Keyboard

Asus is launching the Eee Pad Transformer convertible Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet to rival Motorola Mobility's Xoom and Samsung's Galaxy Tab slates. The Transformer features dock.

Asus March 25 unveiled the Eee Pad Transformer, a convertible tablet and the computer maker's first slate based on Google's Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system.

The Eee Pad Transformer will compete with Motorola Mobility's Xoom and other Honeycomb tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, which will launch in June.

Like the Xoom, the Transformer is powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and has a 10.1-inch touch-screen with a 1280 by 800 resolution, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

However, Asus is touting the expandable QWERTY keyboard docking station, in which the tablet can be situated to allow consumers to access it as if it were a laptop.

The optional dock includes Android function buttons, but also boosts the Transformer's average 9.5 hours of battery life up to 16 hours. The idea is that users will be able to use the Eee Pad for work.

In concept if not in form factor, the Eee Pad and it's dock resemble the pairing of the Motorola Atrix 4G smartphone and Motorola Laptop Dock. When connected to the Laptop Dock, the Atrix 4G's content is ported to a larger computer display, and rendered accessible via a Webtop application and Mozilla Firefox browser.

The idea is that an Atrix 4G user can hook up to the dock to do work. The Eee Pad more or less does the same, but with a tablet latching on to a keyboard.

Asus also stresses the Eee Pad's qualifications as a machine for media consumption, including support for Adobe Flash Player 10.2.

The gadget's display is an IPS (in-plane switching) panel made from Corning Gorilla Glass and can be seen at up to 178-degree angles to allow viewing of photos, videos, Web pages and other content. The display also sports LED backlighting to enhance colors when viewing high-definition movies and other media content.

The Eee Pad also boasts SRS Sound technology integrated within the chassis, which is 0.51-inch thick and weighs 1.49 pounds, less than the Xoom and first Apple iPad, but more than the iPad 2 or forthcoming Galaxy Tabs.

The slate also has rear (5 megapixel) and front (1.2MP) cameras for video conferencing. The rear camera also shoots and records HD video, which can be ported to HDTVs via a mini HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output port. Other specs include a touchpad, 3.5mm audio jack, two USB ports and a built-in SD Card reader.

The Transformer is available for pre-order in Taiwan now and will go on sale in the U.K. on March 30, with a likely April launch in the U.S. Pricing is rumored to be between $499 and $699.

The device could be a hit if it gets in line with the $499 to $699 bar set by the iPad. Unfortunately, the inclusion of a dock may boost the cost well above those price points.

Going back to the prior comparison, the Atrix 4G is $199.99 with an AT&T contract, but $499 paired with the Motorola Laptop Dock. Separately, the dock costs $499. If Asus follows the same model, the dock and Transformer could cost $799 or more.