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:

Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.