updated 11:30 am EST, Thu December 1, 2011
Transformer Prime benches show Tegra 3 too slow
ASUS' Transformer Prime has arrived to good reviews but has shown that the iPad 2 is still well in front in performance. Early tests run at AnandTech show that, despite having two extra main cores and a third companion core, the Tegra 3 processor in the Prime is only just as fast in browsing as the two-core, nine months old iPad 2. In graphics, normally NVIDIA's strong suit, the iPad 2's PowerVR graphics were unambiguously faster, in one case nearly doubling the performance.
The video tests might also have underreported Apple's relative performance, since BaseMark tests had to run on a less complex 16-bit floating point precision on the Transformer Prime where the iPad 2 was using more advanced 24-bit precision.
Battery life was good for the very first quad-core mobile tablet but was also trailing significantly behind Apple, at about four hours behind in a 720p movie playback test and almost two and a half hours back for general use. The signature Transformer notebook dock should give ASUS' slate several hours more, however, for those willing to pay the $150 premium.
It's unclear how much of the blame can sit on software. Android 3.2 is at least aware of dual-core processors but might not be aware of four or more cores in certain areas. ASUS has promised that Android 4.0 will come soon, but until then may be limited by pre-4.0 code. The Tegra 3 is, however, now fast enough to fully drive the tablet display and has eliminated most, although not all, of Android 3 tablets' distinctive interface lag.
The performance, if it holds, could nonetheless heavily favor Apple's third-generation iPad expected to launch early next year. Repeated rumors have pointed to an upcoming A6 processor that will either be a significantly faster dual-core processor similar to the Exynos 5250 or a full quad-core processor. As a result, even without an expected graphics upgrade, the next iPad could be objectively faster.
Until then, the Transformer Prime will mostly rely on its much improved build and slimmer profile. ASUS has moved the release back slightly from what was expected and will ship to the US on December 19 at $500 for a 32GB model.