Nov. 10, 2011 at 11:59 AM ET
With the exception of the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, the Android tablet race is starting to look like the PC race of the early 2000s: SPEEDS AND FEEDS ... and not a lot else. Case in point is Asus' Eee Pad Transformer Prime, the first quad-core tablet to hit the market. That's right, people, four whole cores!
It sounds like an impressive piece of hardware. In addition to having that Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, it's got a 12-core GPU, and of course supports 1080p video and no doubt some stellar gaming graphics to boot. Despite the power, it still manages 12 hours of battery life — 18 with the sold-separately keyboard dock — and remains just a third of an inch thick, weighing just over a pound.
For $499, the price of a 16GB iPad, you get 32GB, and can get up to 64GB for just $100 more. It will ship with Android 3.2 Honeycomb, but Asus promises that it will get an over-the-air update to the eagerly anticipated Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich "at a later date." Great, terrific, you know?
But shoppers aren't buying on specs these days. In fact, they're a bit turned off by them. Shoppers are buying on price — part of the reason we loved the original Asus Eee Pad Transformer — but most of all they're buying on ecosystem. The iPad doesn't lead on specs, but it has a massive share of the market, because Apple focuses on what you can do, from iTunes media to the best lineup of tablet apps.
Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet may be cheaper, but they're going to sell like hotcakes mainly because they come with their purpose built in. Buy this, suggests the pitch, and movies, games and books will simply appear.
As much as we laud Asus for pushing the envelope, it's not likely to get the attention of the masses. In fact, by not making a compelling use case for a quad-core tablet they only serve to devalue quad-core tablets. Why pay extra when we don't know what on Earth it's for?
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