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Asus Eee Pad Transformer teardown: Convoluted, but 3G-ready internal design

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101's internal design leaves room for a 3G card, but also makes the 10-inch Android tablet difficult to work on.

The Eee Pad Transformer TF101 is Asus' first 10-inch Android tablet. The device a 1GHz NVidia Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, a 10.1-inch touchscreen display (1280x800), a 1.2-megapixel front camera, and a 5.0-megapixel rear camera. The device also has a microSD card slot, mini HDMI output, and can be attached to keyboard dock with trackpad (sold separately). It runs Android Honeycomb.

The Transformer weighs 1.52 lbs. and measures 10.7" (W) x 6.9" (H) x 0.51" (D). It weighs slightly less than the Motorola XOOM and Acer Iconia Tab A500, but more than the Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

When released in April, 2011, it was one of the least expensive 10-inch tablets. As of this writing, the Transformer is available in 16GB ($399.99) and 32GB ($499.99) versions.

The current versions only support Wi-Fi connectivity, but Asus has said that it will launch a 3G version in the future. There's already a spot on the motherboard and inside the case for a 3G card. Unfortunately, the rest of the internal hardware layout is convoluted and makes the device difficult to work on.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101

Cracking Open observations

  1. Tricky-to-open case: Like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Transformer has two external screws. Unlike the Galaxy Tab, the screws hold the Transformer's front bezel in place--not the back cover. Once you remove the bezel, there are several more screws holding the back cover in place. Opening the Transformer's case is not difficult, but Asus could have made the process more intuitive.
  2. Standard screws: Asus did not use any tamper-resistant screws on the Transformer. The unit two external screws have Torx T5 heads and all the external screws have Phillips #000 heads.
  3. Battery can be replaced (but not easily): The 3300 mAh, 24Wh Li-Polymer battery can be replaced, and you don't need to remove the motherboard to do so. You will however, need to disconnect several cables, remove a few pieces of tape, and pry the battery loose from the internal frame. Asus could have made the process more complicated, but not much.
  4. Single front panel/display assembly: The front panel (digitizer) and LCD screen are held together with strong adhesive. Separating the two components could result in damage to either or both.
  5. 3G-ready motherboard and case: Asus left open spots on the motherboard and inside the case for a separate 3G card and antenna. The internal frame even has screw holes for the card.
  6. Convoluted internal hardware layout: Unfortunately, Asus built the Transformer like the HTC Flyer, and not like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The Transformer's interior is a cluttered maze of circuit boards, wires, and ribbon cables. The system battery seems to be stuck where there was a hole, instead of being placed in a specific spot. And, yellow sticky tape is used to keep things in place.

Internal hardware

Our Transformer TF101 test unit had the following hardware components:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

9 comments
techguy000
techguy000

You didn't list, but it is in the spec.

TMGDJ
TMGDJ

Does anyone know which 3G module is used in the 3G version of TF101. I'd like to try to upgrade my Tablet by myself.

GEOD998
GEOD998

Why oh why wouldn't an otherwise progressive company like Asus go 4G(as well as 3G) on this wouldn't this unit benefit from 4G? I'm not as familiar with these "little toys" as I am with PCs and larger tech,but, I do know that tethering the Asus P6T7supercomputer based PC I built a couple years back to 4G makes a world of difference over the 3G(I'm talking cable cutting kinda difference).4G is ubiquitous,It comes in 5x5 out here in my valley in the sticks,so its gotta be. Just curious about this-is there something I'm missing about these smaller devices and their capabilities that rules out the need for... or the use of 4G?. LOVE the teardowns -keep it up, and thanks for any light you can shed on this 3G/4G thing for me(I'm gonna have to breakdown and buy something more mobile than my laptops,and smartPHONES don't fit the bill,one wouldn't last 15 minutes in my world ; ). Thanks again-good stuff

PuterPro
PuterPro

It's my understanding that they went with USB 3 standards for power on the Transformer. If you hook up to USB 2 port or car charger you won't get sufficient current to charge it in a reasonable time ... think "if hours were like days ..." (Spock quote for you Trekkies). As USB 3 is still in it's infancy, there aren't many chargers out there. This will change. On some of the Android / Transformer forums there are those who have tried USB 3 ports on their new motherboards / PC's and found it charged fast. I think the bigger issue is the proprietary CABLE, it's not really very long and I haven't found a source for a second one. Some people report that Monoprice has USB 3 extensions that work. Others may work but it MUST support the USB 3 power standard, and of course, be hooked to a USB 3 port.. All this said, I LOVE my Transformer. It's fast, has tons of free software, and even a built in Remote Control software called Splashtop Remote which works quite well (as long as you're savvy on Router ports ... LOL!) Streams TV shows and movies in full HDMI 1080p to my plasma. Plenty more. I have to say Asus made a nice fit and finish product and that this is probably is the BEST "toy" I've bought in many, many years. It's become my constant companion. My Wife keeps threatening to steal it, and she's not much of a Tech person. Now if I can only get Angry Birds out of her hands I might get to use it. She says I can get the 3G version when it releases (so she can get this one! LOL!)

johnmckay
johnmckay

I bought mine with the dock and find that I use the keyboard and trackpad all the time. The kids remove it...... Two solutions and a myriad of connections/uses. My company ipad sits at work whilst I use this at home all the time. Just need the F5 Client and I'll be rocking !

Cynyster
Cynyster

I am a newbie to tablets and this one is my first. I did not buy the docking station. While the inside looks like a complete disorganized mess, The light weight and solid feel of it more than make up for it. It "feels" solid when I hold it (not like a kindle which feels flexible) and the space on both sides makes it easier to hold without accidentally touching the screen. Unlike a lot of users I did not come to this tablet with preconceptions. I purchased it based solely on the price point vs. features. (mine has WiFi, blue tooth, GPS, HDMI, and micro SD slot, headset jack and with "Companion Link" (software I already had for my cell phone) it allows me to sync my outlook. I have to say over all I am most pleased with this tablet. There is one negative I should mention. I have not been able to find a replacement charger cord anywhere. I hope they become available soon as I like to keep charger cords both at home, work, and in my car. Oh and like I mentioned in another thread, this tablet is a replacement for my Smart phone. not a PC or Laptop. and so far it has exceeded all my expectations.. including doing things I never though practical. (such as RDP).

Evert Meulie
Evert Meulie

Am I understanding this correctly? Will I be able to charge the Transformer if I connect it to a USB3 port? And if yes: should this be the ASUS cable, or a direct USB-port-on-TransformerUSB3-port-on-desktop cable?

netspec.inc
netspec.inc

I too have the "ePad" as I call it. After comparing the Samsung and the ASUS, I decided on the ASUS due to price, microSD, HDMI, the solid feel, and the add-on keyboard dock that more than doubles the battery life. I got the ASUS for fathers day and plan to buy the dock soon. Cynyster, I have seen a wall charger at Office Depot (actually on the shelf in a store) this past week. They even had a cover made for it. There are definately less accessories than other devices have. I was also told by Tiger Direct / CompUSA that they could order a charger. My only issue is that even though the charger cord is a USB on one end, I have not been able to get my USB car charger to charge the unit. So I only have the 110V wall charger. I just have to use my 12V to 110V car converter with the wall charger to charge it on the road. A car charger would be nice, but I hope the next version has a standard mini/mirco USB port that can charge the unit!

wrogg.frank
wrogg.frank

I agree with the above comments, ASUS is the best i have used with frequent upgrades. To add to the RDP, It would be perfect if I could get VPN support like the ipad that works with our company VPN requirements.