Asus Updates Eee Pad Transformer with Android 3.2, HH Fires It Up
This Android release offers a few small but key enhancements to the OS including performance optimizations for tablets from all walks of life, not just Tegra 2 platforms like the Eee Pad Transformer. Here's what the Android Developers release notes have to say about this release...
This update offers a much-needed feature that Apple initially grappled with for the original iPad. What to do with all of these applications that were built for smartphones with smaller, lower resolution screens? Android's new "Compatibility Zoom" mode allows the end user to utilize additional screen real estate on their tablet, though a legacy app may not support it natively.
New user features:
- Optimizations for a wider range of tablets
Android 3.2 includes a variety of optimizations across the system to ensure a great user experience on a wider range of tablet devices.
- Compatibility zoom for fixed-sized apps
Android 3.2 introduces a new compatibility zoom mode that gives users a new way to view fixed-sized apps on larger devices. The new mode provides a pixel-scaled alternative to the standard UI stretching for apps that are not designed to run on larger screen sizes, such as on tablets. The new mode is accessible to users from a menu icon in the system bar, for apps that need compatibility support.
- Media sync from SD card
On devices that support an SD card, users can now load media files directly from the SD card to apps that use them. A system facility makes the files accessible to apps from the system media store.
New developer features:
- Extended API for managing screens support
Android 3.2 introduces extensions to the platform's screen support API to give developers additional ways to manage application UI across the range of Android-powered devices. The API includes new resource qualifiers and new manifest attributes that give you more precise control over how your apps are displayed on different sizes, rather than relying on generalized size categories.
To ensure the best possible display for fixed-sized apps and apps with limited support for various screen sizes, the platform also provides a new zoom compatibility mode that renders the UI on a smaller screen area, then scales it up to fill the space available on the display. For more information about the screen support API and the controls it provides, see the sections below.
The effect is actually not half bad, though obviously a bit grainy and aliased in spots, depending on the application you're running. Since it's an interpolated higher resolution rendering of the image, there really isn't much you can do to maintain the fidelity of the original smaller image. Here we fired up An3DBench, and though the current "XL" version of the app supports tablets and larger screen sizes, this older version of the app was designed for handsets. Compatibility Zoom kicked in automatically after the first run, though we were prompted with a control screen the first time we started the app.
Performance-wise, the 3.2 update is a bit of a mixed bag, from what we've seen so far. Graphics performance in some areas has improved but overall performance has mostly remained flat or even dropped off a little in others.
Other Asus Refinements -
Asus also rolled out an update to the Transformer's keyboard dock and trackpad functionality that enables multitouch and multi-gesture capabilities as well. Essentially all gestures that are available on the display in Android Honeycomb, now work on the touch pad of of the Transformer's keyboard. Pinch and zoom capability is there but, as we've seen with multitouch trackpad implementations in the past, it's nowhere near as responsive as gestures are on the screen. Still, it's a nice addition to better equip the keyboard dock with functionality that was previously only available when operating the tablet disconnected from the dock.
It's good to see Asus quickly rolling out new iterations of Google's tablet OS. We're hopeful to see other manufacturers follow suit with the same vigor. Samsung has already given us a preview of what they have in store with Android 3.2 as well, though they have yet to release it as an OTA update. Regardless, it appears that, as a tablet OS, Android is continuing to evolve nicely.