Asus unveils the Transformer Prime Tegra 3 tablet

As predicted, Asus has formerly unveiled the Transformer Prime tablet, along with the confirmation that it will be the first device to market featuring Nvidia's latest Tegra 3 'Kal-El' five-core processor.

Designed to replace the existing Transformer, the Transformer Prime has shed some weight along the way: taking its cue from the ZenBook series, the Prime is just 8.3mm thick and weighs a tiny 586g without its keyboard docking base.

The ZenBook influence continues with the materials: the plastic of the original Transformer is now replaced with an aluminium unibody, which will be available in either Champagne Gold or Amethyst Grey.

The front of the device is dominated by a 10.1in LED backlit Super IPS+ 1280x800 display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass and featuring ten-point multi-touch, along with a 1.2-megapixel camera for videoconferencing. The rear includes an impressive eight-megapixel camera with f/2.4 lens and LED flash. The tablet's speakers also get an upgrade, with a claimed six per cent increase in size over the original Transformer.

Internally, the changes are mixed: the tablet includes the usual 1GB of LPDDR2 memory and a choice of 32GB or 64GB of flash storage along with 802.11b/g/n connectivity and the somewhat outdated Bluetooth 2.1+EDR standard. Connectivity-wise, the tablet includes a 3.5mm audio jack, a micro HDMI port, a microSD card reader for memory expansion, and the usual proprietary connector for data transfer and charging.

It's the processor that needs to impress, however: as the first device to hit the market featuring Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip, the Transformer Prime has a lot to prove. As well as the four main processing cores, which run at 1.3GHz, the Tegra 3 system-on-chip design features a fifth 'companion core' designed to allow background tasks to run without the main processing cores activating.

It's a clever system - albeit one that isn't original to Nvidia - and judging by the Transformer Prime's battery life one that seems to work nicely: despite the same size battery as its predecessor, the Prime manages to get 12 hours from a single battery charge in standalone mode or 18 hours with the keyboard dock attached.

That latter includes the usual features seen in the original Transformer, albeit in a lighter, sleeker package: an island-style keyboard replaces the on-screen version, while a multi-touch capable touchpad allows for pointer-based control. The side of the dock includes a USB 2.0 port for additional hardware, and a slot for a full-size SD card.

On the software side, the news isn't quite so good: in the interests of being first to market with Tegra 3, Asus has opted to ship the Transformer Prime with Android 'Honeycomb' 3.2 - although it promises that a free update to Android 'Ice Cream Sandwich' 4.0 will be available as soon as Google lets it loose.

UK pricing has yet to be confirmed for the device, but Asus has indicated that it will be aiming at the higher end of the tablet market by matching Apple's iPad 2 while pushing users towards its own product by offering twice the storage for the price.