Asus Transformer Prime Is the First Quad-Core Android Tablet

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Android tablets are old news, I know, but Asus’ Eee Pad Transformer Prime hopes to get your attention again with its quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chip.

The Transformer Prime, which got a quick tease last month, now has a December launch window—Asus still isn’t committing to an actual release date—and a price of $499 with 32 GB of storage, or $599 with 64 GB.

(MORE: Eight New Tablets and Ultrabooks You Should Know About)

As you’d expect, the Transformer Prime is a spec-boosted sequel to the original Eee Pad Transformer, which launched last spring. It’s thinner and lighter than its predecessor at 0.33 inches thick and 1.29 pounds, and it has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, compared to 5 megapixels on the old model.

But the star of the show is that quad-core Tegra 3 chip, which boasts better power consumption—Asus says the Transformer Prime lasts 12 hours on a charge—and hopefully better performance with its 12-core graphics processor. Some app developers are already working to optimize their software for the Tegra 3, including Rockstar Games, which is porting Grand Theft Auto III to Android tablets and the iPad.

Like Asus’ original Eee Pad Transformer, the Prime has an optional $149 keyboard and trackpad that docks with the tablet to form a laptop—hence the name. The Transformer Prime’s dock adds another six hours of battery life, and includes a full-sized USB port and an SD card slot.

For software, the Transformer Prime runs Android 3.2, but not for long; Asus promises to upgrade the tablet to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) later in December. The upgrade will bring new features like built-in photo editing, better speech-to-text and a system-wide spell checker.

No other hardware makers have indicated that they’re working on quad-core tablets for this holiday season, so the Transformer Prime could be your best choice if you’ve got $500 in tablet money to burn and are intent on not buying an iPad.

One more thing: my editor Doug wants me to tell you that the Transformer Prime is “more than meets the i(Pad).” Terrible, Doug. Ed’s note: That was off the record! Off! The! Record! That being said, I’ll let it stand.

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