Asus Transformer Prime: To buy or not to buy?

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Whenever I review a new phone or tablet, there's one question I know I can count on hearing:

"So, should I buy it?"

The question seems simple -- the product is either good or bad, right? -- but sometimes, it isn't quite so easy to answer.

Asus Transformer Prime

Such is the case with the Asus Transformer Prime, which I just spent several days testing and using (my full review is now online, if you haven't yet seen it). The Prime is hands-down the best Android tablet you could buy right now, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right purchase for everyone.

The reason: Top-of-the-line technology can be expensive. With the Transformer Prime, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. But you're also handing over a lot of buck.

To be clear, the Transformer Prime is no raw deal: The Prime is the world's first quad-core tablet, and it offers an unprecedented level of power. On top of that, the tablet is light, thin, and rockin' a sexy little body that just begs to be held. And -- oh yeah -- it has that killer feature: the keyboard dock, which effectively turns your tablet into a single-piece swinging-lid laptop.

Asus Transformer Prime Keyboard Dock

All considered, it's no surprise the Prime has premium-level pricing. The tablet itself -- which is set to go on sale the week of December 19 in the U.S. -- costs $499 for a 32GB model and $599 for a 64GB model. The keyboard dock is sold separately for an extra $149. So for the full Prime experience, you're looking at a minimum of 650 bucks.

Is it worth it? I'd say so -- provided, of course, that you're able to justify dropping that kind of dough. The Prime trumps pretty much every other tablet on the market today in terms of performance and potential. And it's sleek and gorgeous, to boot.

Plus, while $650 (or even $500 for the tablet itself) is no small sum, it's actually not that unreasonable, relatively speaking. In my review, I make the following comparison:

You can get a 32GB Prime tablet for $499 -- just $50 more than you'd pay for a 16GB Galaxy Tab 10.1. For that extra 50 bucks, you're getting twice the processing power, twice the internal storage, and significantly better battery life. You're also getting native support for microSD and micro-HDMI connections -- and you aren't even sacrificing a thin and sexy form. 

(As for the iPad vs. Android question, only you can decide which platform you prefer -- but the 16GB iPad 2 is $500, the same price as the 32GB Transformer Prime. The 64GB iPad 2 is $700, which is a hundred dollars more than the Prime's 64GB model and just 50 dollars less than you'd pay for a 64GB Prime-and-keyboard combo. Yeah -- Apple premium pricing and rest-of-the-world premium pricing don't always match up.)

So ultimately, my buying advice is this: If you want an Android tablet and can justify the price, go for the Transformer Prime. You'll probably want the dock to reap the product's full potential, but if that's pushing your budget, you'd still do well to snag the tablet by itself; for that, you'd pay only a hair more than you would for a high-end dual-core option like the Galaxy Tab, and you'd get a heck of a lot more value.

Android Power Twitter

If the pricing is just too high for your comfort, grab a dual-core tablet and don't look back. (You can find some decent dual-core models in the ballpark of $400 these days.) While that tier of device is a solid step below the Prime's level, it's by no means antiquated; in fact, I'd argue that dual-core is still perfectly fine for the majority of consumers, especially those outside the gamer and power-user crowds. It all just comes down to what you want and what you're willing to spend.

Pricing perspective aside, there's plenty to say about the Transformer Prime -- both good and bad. For my full take on the tablet and where it shines and falls short, click over to my in-depth review:

Asus Transformer Prime: The Rolls-Royce of Android tablets

[SEE ALSO: Transformer Prime Wi-Fi performance: A hands-on test] 

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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