Asus Eee Pad Transformer: $399, April 26 Launch

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If it wasn’t official before, it’s officially official now: Asus’ Eee Pad Transformer tablet launches on April 26, with a starting price of $399.

Asus announced the news on Thursday. The $399 price tag is for a 16 GB model, and there’s a 32 GB model available for $499. An optional laptop dock, which provides a keyboard, trackpad, two USB ports and a 4-in-1 card reader, sells for $149.

The Eee Pad Transformer is an Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet with a 10-inch IPS display, which provides wider viewing angles than a standard LCD. It has an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, a 5-megapixel camera in back, a 1.2-megapixel camera up front, a microSD card slot, a mini HDMI port and up to 9.5 hours of battery life. The laptop dock expands battery life to a maximum 16 hours. If you can deal with a bit of propaganda, there’s a nice overview of the hardware on Asus’ Campus Life website.

I haven’t seen the Eee Pad Transformer myself, but the price alone — $100 less than a comparable iPad 2 — makes it a serious contender in the tablet game. It’s part of what I expect will be a wave of cheap Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets.

The tablet is a bit chunky at 0.51 inches thick and 1.49 pounds heavy, so if thin and light is your thing, and you’re not digging the iPad 2, you may want to hold out for Samsung’s svelte Galaxy Tab 10.1. Otherwise, you’ll find a list of retailers on Asus’ Facebook page. Pre-orders, it seems, aren’t happening.