The Transformer Pad 300 is distinctly similar to the Transformer Prime (do a quick spec comparison if you don't believe us), and the design and build quality of the two tablets have quite a bit in common, as well.
Our Transformer Pad 300 has a Royal Blue finish (other soon-to-be available options include Torch Red and Iceberg White) with the same circular-patterned brushed aluminum finish on the back as the Prime. ASUS deserves credit for coming up with a back-side design that resists showing fingerprints so well, although of course, the glossy screen almost highlights greasy smudges. For its part, the face of the keyboard dock does a fairly good job of hiding fingerprints too; even after hours of use, the touchpad and keys still look as clean as the moment we pulled the device out of the box. One spot you’ll have to keep after is the shiny silver mouse button on the dock; if you even look at it the wrong way, fingerprints will show.
The Transformer Pad 300 is definitely a slim device at 9.7mm thick, but the Transformer Prime has it beat--the older brother comes in at just 8.3mm.
Like the Transformer Prime, the Transformer Pad 300’s viewing angle is billed as 178 degrees; although we’d argue that 178 degrees is a bit generous for this tablet, in practical use the screen has superb viewing angles. If you can see the screen at all, you’ll get a clear view of what’s happening on it.
If we had to carp at all about the display, we'd note that we didn’t love the brightness. Our Transformer Pad 300’s IPS display is billed as offering 350nits, which isn’t bad, but we found ourselves instinctively reaching for the button to increase the brightness too often. The levels are fine when conducting typical computing tasks such as email, Web browsing, fiddling with the settings, and the like, but while watching video there was definitely something to be desired. The Transformer Prime’s 600nit Super IPS+ display, it seems, has spooiled us.
Although the tablet and dock can be purchased separately, they’re really designed to go together. For example, the Transformer Pad 300 has a two-in-one mic in/headphone jack, micro HDMI 1.4a port, and a microSD card reader on board, while the dock adds a USB 2.0 port and SD card slot. If you really want the whole spate of ports, you can only get them with both devices. The port distribution is, of course, also a design consideration, as putting the bulkier ones on the dock serves to help keep the tablet itself slimmer.
Another interesting design choice is that the stereo speakers are on the tablet, not the dock; if nothing else, one would think that the dock would at least boast a subwoofer to complement the tablet’s speakers. As it is, despite the stereo speakers, the sound emanates from just the top of the tablet (the right side when rotated to landscape orientation), where the speakers are located together in one unit. This doesn’t make any sense for watching video, gaming, or typing, which you’ll primarily be doing in landscape format, and it’s obvious that the sound is directional, coming from the right side of the device when the tablet is docked.
The keyboard dock itself is an excellent device, sturdy as you could possibly want and equipped with reasonably large chiclet keys; large-enough Enter, Backspace, and (left-side) Shift keys; and a slew of handy Android function keys along the top of the unit. The function keys include the familiar Android back key, as well as WiFi and Bluetooth on/off buttons, touchpad on/off button, brightness controls, screenshot key, Web browser launch button, settings button, audio playback controls, volume controls, and a device lock button. Other buttons on the keyboard include the Android home button, dedicated search button, and directional keys.
The keyboard is certainly small by dint of being married to a 10.1-inch device, but for its size, it’s fairly comfortable to use over longer periods of time. For as well-designed as the keyboard dock itself is, the whole unit is a bit top/back-heavy when the tablet is docked. It’s also worth noting that the dock isn’t fully compatible with the Transformer and Transformer Prime.