David Zax

A View from David Zax

The Fastest Tablet Ever (for Now)

The quad-core tablets are coming. First up: the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime.

  • November 29, 2011

The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime—let’s call it the Transformer Prime, for short—can now be pre-ordered online, report several sources. It may not be the most eagerly awaited gadget of all time, and it may not be the most elegantly named, but it marks a new era: the Transformer Prime is the first tablet that comes with a quad-core processor built in.

For the spec-hungry: The tablet ships with the Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system, though it can be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). It has a 10.1-inch screen, in 1280 x 800 resolution, protected by Gorilla Glass. RAM’s one GB, and the device packs two cameras, an eight-megapixel affair in the rear, a 1.2-megapixel affair in the front. A fully charged battery should get you 12 hours, and the whole thing will set you back either $500 or $600, depending on whether you want 32 GB or 64 GB of flash storage.

But again, the main event here is the processor: the Tegra 3 quad-core CPU, heretofore only available in desktops and the occasional high-end laptop. The chip, codenamed Kal-El, debuted in February. Per the Verge, Tegra 3 supposedly quintuples the performance of Tegra 2. By juggling processing demands among its four cores, as well as a fifth “companion core,” the device can handle heavy-duty assignments while still keeping a reasonable battery life. It’s mostly been hailed for the fantastic graphical renderings it enables, and the possibilities this brings for gaming. Here’s a prime example:

Jordan Crook over at TechCrunch cautions that we not get too too excited over quad-core. Crook offers some information that would seem to run against the Verge’s claim that Kal-El quintuples the abilities of Tegra 2. “According to Qualcomm vice president of product management Alex Katouzian, upgrading from a single-core CPU to a dual-core processor yields 50 percent better performance, while upgrading from dual-core to quad-core increases performance by just 25 percent,” writes Crook. “Performance,” of course, is a loose term and can be measured variably; it’s probably best to under-promise and over-deliver, though, so do take Katouzian’s warning to heart.

Crook’s post is a good summary of why the quad-core era is nonetheless worth celebrating. Quad-core processing should greatly improve web browsing, and multi-tasking more generally. Battery life should improve overall, because of the core-juggling feats mentioned above—albeit not dramatically. Nvidia has taken the lead in quad-core processing; Qualcomm will be close behind, while Texas Instruments is taking a while longer, maintaining that its dual-core Cortex A15 processor is actually better in some respects, handling instructions more efficiently, for instance.

In any event, expect “quad-core” to become the new buzzword, something practically mandatory in all those fireball- and lightning-laden advertisements. Acer and Lenovo are reportedly among the many manufacturers aiming to launch quad-core tablets in the first quarter of 2012.

It remains to be seen whether the devices will live up to the hype. They surely show promise. I leave you with a video comparing Tegra 3 performance against unnamed “competition.”

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.