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First look: Android 4.0 on the ASUS Transformer Prime

We’ve already seen Android 4.0(s goog), also known as the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Google’s mobile platform, on a mobile phone, but not on tablets. On Tuesday, Google’s revamp of the Android platform was finally shown off, albeit briefly, in a video. The ASUS Transformer Prime tablet, powered by Nvidia’s(s nvda) quad-core Tegra 3 chip, seems to be running silky-smooth in this first look.

Although I welcome faster, more capable processors in any mobile device, I shared some skepticism when Nvidia debuted the Tegra 3 chip last month. Why? Because hardware isn’t the core reason Apple’s iPad is outselling all other Android tablets combined by several magnitudes. Some Android tablets have faster chips, more memory, or expansion options than the iPad(s aapl). It doesn’t matter though; the user experience and ecosystem are just as important as specs, if not more so.

Having said that, I like what I see in Android 4.0 so far, especially when it’s running on a chip with four processing cores and a dozen graphics cores. The Tegra 3 chip appears to be a screamer, which doesn’t hurt. Combine that with the user interface improvements in Android 4.0, and the Transformer Prime — not to mention other Tegra 3 tablets I expect to see at January’s Consumer Electronics Show — should give Android tablet sales a needed boost.

The battle between those slates and the iPad is far from over, but Tegra 3 paired with Android 4.0 gives Google tablets a better chance to put up a fight.

10 Responses to “First look: Android 4.0 on the ASUS Transformer Prime”

  1. Lets talk about user experience. I own an iPad2, an Android with Tegra2 and a Windows 7 Tablet (in fact, I purchased four Windows 7 tablets). Od all od them, the only one that has an unusable interface is the iPad.

    It is surprising just how few iPad owners have tried Android. Fewer own an Android. Not one that I have met own, or have even tried a Windows 7 tablet. Yet every single one of them scream from the mountaintops, internet forums and their shitty blogs that the iPad has the best ever interface.

    I can not bribe my intellectually disabled sone to use the iPads shitty interface now. My other children refused to use it hours after purchasing it. When given options, not even children will opt for the iPad.

    Just how much does one have to lie to become an official Apple fanatic? Obviously mac fanatic journalists need to be able to lie more often than politicians.

    Android is far from perfect. Windows 7 is far from perfect. But iOS has dug a fetid cess pit of a hole so deep that no light ever reaches it.

    • It’s a mystery to me why people believe they spent their time on a tablet in the operating system environment unless they (like me unfortunately) configure devices to do something, connect to something, send a call or receive one to exchange data, or are browsing through the APPLICATIONS. People like iOS because it’s easy to get to stuff you actually bought the device for….augmenting your day to day. Android is great, it does that too…and you can waste half the day re arranging application icons and ‘configuring your home screens’. That’s even fun…..the first time. After that it’s stupid. Who cares what the springboard and wallpaper look like? The applications run on top of it anyway. If you want to rant about how iOS applications don’t measure up to android applications that’s valid. But spare me the ‘when my device isn’t doing anything it looks better than your device when it isn’t doing anything because when I don’t have anything to do I move my icons around.

  2. Kevin. In the podcast you talked about the disconnected and choppy user experience of Honeycomb (and how it was verified by a colleague of yours who was not a tablet user). Have to reach here to do something. Somewhere else to do something else. It was just not a good user experience. I only had Honeycomb on a hacked Nook Color but I hated everything about it so I was not going to go near a Honeycomb tablet. Trying friends’ tablet I had the same complaints. (Using a Touchpad now which is a better user experience but is laggy and does not provide sufficient software options. So I am in the market come iPad 3/ICS time.)

    Would you be willing to elaborate why you think, based on the video, ICS managed to overcome the issues you had with it?

  3. Specs are definately not the whole problem with Android tables in comparison to the iPad. BUT, it is 1/2 the problem. You CAN NOT ignore that fact. Tegra 3 solves the first 1/2. I’m no nVidia fan, but Tegra is a very good move, not just for Android either. With any luck for Google, Ice Cream will solve the other 1/2.

  4. “Some Android tablets have faster chips, more memory, or expansion options than the iPad. It doesn’t matter though; the user experience and ecosystem are just as important as specs, if not more so.”

    Bingo.

    This silly focus on specs is just giving us devices that are more expensive, only impressive on paper, but do little or nothing to make Android more compelling as a tablet platform.

    Custom ROM creators have demonstrated that even the most basic Android devices can provide the fluid experience that much better hardware appears to struggle with while running stock.

    It’s a shame that after two and half generations of tablets we still can’t seem to match the impression of buttery smooth transitions and intuitive momentum that dated iOS devices all get so right.

    • Actually, Tegra 2 struggles with the tablet screens. If you look at its memory bandwidth, at 60fps you can only draw each pixel anout 2.5 times. With the various layers on the home screen (parallax background, app labels and icons, and then transitioning to the all apps screen) you are already beyond your pixel budget. HC and ICS have a number of tricks to improve the situation, in particular they can put all of your windows into overlays so the final compositing of them to the screen doesn’t need to be done on the GPU. Unfortunately there are cases where this can’t be done — if there are too many windows then they can’t be put in overlays, or probably more obviously if the screen is rotated then the overlays can’t be used. And the latter is the reason why you usually see 60fps rendering on these tegra 2 tablets while in landscape, but only get 30fps if you rotate to portrait.