Asus Eee Pad Transformer

These days I'm testing an Asus Transformer (the first version, not the new "Prime") in order to check the viability to use it as a kiosk display.

Currently it's much simpler and cheaper to provide the clients or visitors a touch screen so they can query information or perform some basic tasks thanks to all these new tablets, but the fact is that it could be even cheaper and more powerful. I'll write a separate post about that with all the things that I have in my mind.

I'm gonna try to focus this little review on the things that I've found so far, at least as a serie of notes to myself so I can remember these details some months from now.

The client wanted basically a touch screen that could be used to access a single site by the customers so things like GPS, bluetooth or the cameras didn't really matter, but it's usualy better to get a brand name instead of an unknown mix  of components that you can't be sure if they will survive 6 months and the quality of those components. And of course, having such a table available means that they could take it home at night and use it for other means if they want to :-)

I've also thought about buying one such tablet for myself, and I was unsure about how I might use it instead of my Nexus One (N1), so this is a good way to test it.

First impressions

I was expecting/hoping for something lighter. I don't mean in any way that it's heavy; not at all, but for myself I was hoping to get a very light tablet and this one doesn't fit that expectation. I wanted something as light as my phone but with a bigger screen, hey, we're free to have high hopes for the future :-) maybe a 7" tablet might be better for my expectations in this regard.

It has a relatively wide bevel around the screen, in a way it can prevent that grabbing the borders will activate the touch sensors like happens in the N1, but I think that other smart touch controlers don't have the same problems as the one in the N1 and even then I bet that you can cut that border in half and still keep always the fingers out of the screen.

It uses a propietary connector instead of mini or micro USB, I don't like that; we all know that in such situations the outcome is that if for whatever reason the cable gets damaged or lost I have to buy it from them instead of being able to use any other one that I have available at home. Other simple reason is that the cable itself it isn't very large so if I connect it to the computer I can't move too much the tablet because it's almost at the full length of the cable.

It seems that trying to charge it by connecting it to a computer it's too slow according to other reviews. I've just connected it to check that but I can't be sure if it's charging or not, I don't see any indication like it happens in the N1 where an orange LED signals that it's charging and when it turns green then it's over 80%. But here there's no feedback about the charging, the only way to know that it has been charging is to wait a while and then look at the battery stats to verify that they have gone up.

I can understand that a power outlet is a better energy source than the USB connector of a computer, but if I buy a tablet I would expect to be able to connect it with a standard USB cable to a computer and then get it to charge at a reasonable speed instead of being forced to carry that special connector and wall plug.

Currently I can't use the tablet because it's charging from the wall and as I said the cable isn't very long so I would have to stay in an awkward position in order to use it while charging. BTW: when charging from the power outlet the Lock screen stated that it was charging, but after the screen goes off there's no LED, the only way to know if it has finished charging is to wake it up and look at the text in the lock screen.

Shortly after booting it up and connecting it to the wifi it downloaded two firmare updates automatically and the next day I performed a check while looking at the settings and another one was ready to install. I think that according to other comments Asus seems to be providing constant updates and that's a very good thing for me as a consumer, I don't want to buy anything from a company that sells a product and the only update that they offer is to spend the money with their new device. If I buy something I expect it to work and being supported for a very long time, I don't like that programmed obsolescence situation created by the big corporations to keep us buying new things.

Back to updates, the Market app notified that there were 4 updates available, although they show the Install button insted of update. I've managed to install/update one of those apps, the other three just open the existing app instead of installing a new version. One of those apps is Google Maps, it has the version 5.10.1 and the latest found with the N1 is 6.0.3. No matter how many times I click on the install button, it always open the current one instead of trying to upgrade it.

Talking about maps, it's quite broken in this version: while using only the maps view it seems to work fine, but after adding the satellite layer it hangs up in a very short time, the map gets frozen and although the buttons seem to accept clicks, there's no dialog, dropdown or anything. The only solution at that moment is to go to the Applications settings and kill the Google Maps process. But the funny thing is that once I launched the maps while in Airplane mode and then I was able to use the satellite view with the cached photos perfectly, zooming in and out, moving, rotating, ... really nice but it's not practical to go into airplane mode in order to use the app :-D

The YouTube application doesn't show the subtitles, although it's able to dim the controls (and clock) in the notification bar so they are a single gray dot . So far I've found that only the Gallery is able to perform this same trick, so using other video players not optimized for HoneyComb might be a little annoying with thosee controls always visible while trying to watch a movie.

The Browser uses the following User Agent:

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 3.2.1; es-es; Transformer TF101 Build/HTK75) AppleWebKit/534.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Safari/534.13

It looks more like a Chrome thanks to the full url bar with tabs, and the first thing that it prompted upon launch was to install the Flash Player from the market (I didn't because I don't need it for this project), besides tabs, the browser also supports incognito mode.

contentEditable and CKEditor

I performed a quick test and looked OK, so I used my local copy of CKEditor these are my tests (the tablet is running Android 3.2.1 HoneyComb, the browser doesn't seem to be a version modified by Asus but I can't be sure about that), you can use the official CKEditor demo as well:

The keyboard pops up automatically and the blinking caret is visible. It's easy to write (using always the virtual keyboard, I'm using the default Asus keyboard for these tests), but it's hard to move the caret exactly, there are no cursor keys and you have to rely on touching with your finger in the right point.  When I tested in the simple contentEditable test, each time I pressed Enter the keyboard went away, but in CKEditor this doesn't happen, I guess that this is an unexpected benefit of the enter key handler in CKEditor. Another difference is that in the basic test the browser follows the link but in the full CKEditor nothing happens, so I wonder what can be going on here.

It's possible to perform a long press and select the text in the content as well as copy it, but the text can't be pasted back in the document directly. If I press the "Paste as Text" then I can use the dialog to paste in that textarea and insert it back in the document (but of course as plain text). So: No pasting in contentEditable.

Those selection handles don't seem to really work at the DOM level, if I try to select some text and then apply any formatting then nothing changes: the handles go away and the text remain in its previous formatting. It's not possible to format existing content. The problem seems to be that those handles are overlayed on the document, but they don't modify the DOM selection: It's possible to select all the contents with the "Select All" command and the selected text gets a green background, then performing a long touch shows the selection handles that allow to perform a new selection over the existing content that it's already selected. Then clicking the Bold button the first time makes the handles disappear and the second one made all the contents bold as the previous "Select all" was still in effect.

Clicking a format button like bold and then typing works correctly, the text uses the format so it can be used to format new content; but of course you have to be careful to click/touch the right button, the current toolbar isn't designed for a touch screen.

Dialogs can't be dragged around (like iOS), of course the dialogs can't be resized and the tableresize plugin doesn't work. When all those elements are fixed to handle touch events for iOS they should also work in Android. Another point in common is the lack of context menus, this is all part of adjusting the UI of CKEditor to make it touch friendly. Trying to use the divreplace sample also fails, the sample might need to use the proper listener instead of the current doubleclick as that just zooms in-out

The maximize button makes the toolbar disappear making this a very dangerous button.

Some differences with the iOS tickets: I didn't notice any problem typing after enabling SCAYT, the editor doesn't grow, it remains at the initial size,  overflow auto seems to work, it's possible to scroll the contents of the editor as well as the toolbar combos

The toolbar combos can be closed , but they don't work perfectly; selecting an option from font size or family works, but it also performs a click on the point where you touch the screen to select the option, so usually the caret moves and you don't get the expected result. The Styles combo is much more buggier, although the contents scroll but dragging them, it seems that somehow the clicks always go to the first items, I always ended with "var" and "kbd" instead of any other style further down.

When a dialog is opened, it puts the caret in the first field, but the keyboard disappears and you have to touch that input to show again the keyboard.

When typing at the end of the editor and pressing enter the caret jumps to the next line, but the content doesn't scroll up automatically so you can't see what you're typing, and when I tried to write something long, it scrolled the first line, but it didn't scroll again after that. When I tested the Google Voice keyboard to talk instead of typing it only inserted the first letter of my sentences.

Using the editor with the default sample pages isn't nice because the editor is placed almost at the bottom of the screen, when you touch the content the keyboard pops up over the current content so you have to scroll now that up (previously it wasn't possible) to see the caret. and whenever the keyboard goes away the document is scrolled back to its original position and a loop begins of keyboard on, scroll manually, keyboard off, auto scroll. And when a dialog opens up you might not be able to use it correctly in landscape mode because the dialog is centered on the screen, it's not possible to scroll it and the keyboard is covering most of the dialog

CKFinder doesn't recognize the browser as a mobile device so it doesn't show automatically the little adjustments introduced in 2.1 and that means that it's not possible to insert images or links to files.

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