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Asus Transformer Prime (with Dock) is Awesome, But…

My four-year-old Sony laptop is on its last legs, so I’ve been in the hunt for a new notebook computer. I travel a lot and could never understand the road warriors who lugged around huge and heavy laptops. I go for small and light; my Sony has an 11.6″ screen and weighs under 3 lbs, and I am really productive with it. My immediate reaction, not surprisingly, was to look at the new generation of ultrabooks that are small, lightweight, and high powered (and sometimes referred to as MacBook Air clones).

Then I heard about the Asus Transformer Prime (ATP) and its accompanying dock, and thought it was a match made in heaven. It appeared to fit my productivity needs like an ultrabook would; I could write on airplanes, airport lounges, and hotels. I also figured it was time for me to join the ranks of tablet users for easy surfing, emailing, and reading.

The specs are impressive, with the latest hardware that exceeds the industry-leading iPad2. Plus, it is actually thinner than the iPad2 (though just a bit heavier). And it runs Android’s latest OS, Ice Cream Sandwich (I’m an Android guy!). It was also beautifully crafted and eye catching (not that looks matter!).

So, I ordered the ATP and dock from an online retailer (no tax, free shipping) and waited…and waited…and waited. Asus screwed up big time, causing who knows how many hopeful customers from getting their hands on the goods. I finally gave in and ordered the ATP  from Office Depot (one of the few places that had them in stock, but, of course, I had to pay sales tax). When it arrived, it was love at first sight. It is beautiful and light and, being an Android guy, I was all over the apps. The keyboard dock instantly turned the tablet into what I had hoped would be my traveling laptop. All looked great with the keyboard actually being the same size as my old Sony and having the touchscreen made using the ATP as a laptop even easier.

Unfortunately, this story doesn’t end happily. I ran into two deal-killing snags. First, I couldn’t for the life of me get the ATP to sync with the SkyDrive/Live Mesh that I use to keep my three computers (San Francisco and Denver offices and my laptop) connected. Even with my fellow contributor, Ramon Trotman’s, expertise, I just couldn’t solve the syncing problem. Second, I had been led to believe from online reviews that some of the MS Office alternatives available on Android would work for me. But they were wrong. I tried Polaris Office, Documents to Go, and QuickOffice, and none were up to my rigorous standards of word processing.

Sadly, I boxed up the ATP and its dock and returned them. I thought of waiting for a reported ATP running Windows 8 which would, presumably, allow syncing to LiveMesh and using MS Office. But the word is that it wouldn’t be available until late 2012 and I just can’t wait that long. I also thought about keeping the ATP just as a tablet, but couldn’t justify the extra $500 outlay, plus I don’t want to be carrying around excess weight in my shoulder bag.

Where am I at now? I just ordered an Asus Zenbook UX21, a beautiful (not that looks matter!) and very capable ultrabook. It will certainly meet my productivity needs, but I’m still left without a tablet. I’ll revisit this absence later in the year if that Windows-driven ATP becomes a reality. In the meantime, I’ll just have to accept that I’m going to be a tablet-less guy for a while longer. But I can live with that; work is more important to me than play.