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BW Businessworld

A Transformed Space

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Is it a tablet? Or a ultraslim notebook? Or both? Depending on when you chance upon the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 (man, that's a mouthful!), really! In a world of me-too Android tablets, the Asus Transformer series is a breath of fresh air — tablets for when you need the portability, and sleek notebooks for when you need the keyboard, extra battery and additional ports. And that's really the promise of the TF201. But does it deliver?

Purely viewed as a tablet, there's a lot going for the TF201. Featuring an aluminum chassis with tapered edges, it feels sturdy to hold and carry, with or without the keyboard dock. The 10.1-inch SuperIPS+ LCD screen packs in a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, and the results are way brighter and richer than most of the Android tablets on offer. There's an 8-megapixel camera on offer as well. Specs under the hood are no less capable, and a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 gives you that buttery smooth effect when navigating through the Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) interface. Speaking of which, I for one am so glad Asus has only lightly modified the look-and-feel of stock ICS – no extra bloatware, no fancy overlays – helps the tablet get Android updates from Google that much faster! However, as with all quad-core Androids, it will take some time before developers really push the device's quad-core guts to produce something that truly blows us away.

Sit the tablet down on the dock, which "transforms" it into a clamshell-design notebook, and you get a full keyboard, replete with some Android-specific keys, though sadly the keys are not backlit. Plus you get a USB port (handy for connecting flash drives or hard drives), an SR card reader and a goodly 4-hour increase in battery life, all in a form factor that is supremely thin. No two ways about it – the docking station makes it a superb choice for productivity-obsessed power users.

In the end, the Transformer Prime is a device that makes a strong statement, and is probably let down only by average sound and the lack of 3G on a device at this price point (a 3G version is in the works though).

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 49,999

Small Screen 'Halo'
If there's ever been a game that's replicated the legendary Halo experience on mobile devices, it's been Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance, better known as N.O.V.A. Now in its third installment, you play longtime series hero Kal Wardin who's been called back to a long-abandoned Earth to fight off an alien menace. You liaise with other soldiers to complete basic mission objectives, killing lots of alien bad guys along the way.
Now while gameplay is fast paced and the action unrelenting, the user interface disappoints occasionally courtesy a bottom right screen corner crowded with action buttons. This means you often end up hitting the jump button when you want to shoot – very fatal when you're trying to be stealthy about your kill. Fortunately, there's a lot more of pure run-and-gun action in this game than acts of finesse. Add to it the brilliant multiplayer mode, and you simply won't find a better shooter on Android or iOS devices. Games like these are what truly blur the line between tablets and consoles.
Price: $6.99 on the App Store/Play

A New Calling
Airtime, in case you haven't heard of it yet, is a new video chat service that allows friends, and more crucially strangers, to video-chat with each either. Created by Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning (the folks behind Napster), Airtime lets you connect on video chats with Facebook friends, but the focus of the service is a large "talk to someone" button which, when pressed, connects you to someone new in a video chat box. You're matched with someone in the same city, or someone who shares the same interests. If Facebook was meant to connect you virtually with your real social network, Airtime tries to bring an element of serendipity to the whole equation, where just about anybody could end up talking to anybody. It's the digital equivalent of picking up the phone and calling a random phone number, and continuing the conversation! Go give it a try now, wont you?
Price: free

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