I owned an ASUS Eee Pad Transformer tablet with keyboard dock, I had just reviewed the Motorola ATRIX with lapdock. Both attempts to offer a netbook experience on an Android OS. How do they compare?

Note that comparison below pertains specifically to Transformer + dock and ATRIX + lapdock, and not solely on the standalone devices without docks.

Transformer is seamless. I can easily fold it and transport the tablet and the dock. ATRIX lapdock is bulky. I have to remove the ATRIX phone before I can move it around.

But ATRIX lapdock is very slim, and overall is lighter than Transformer.

ATRIX is so much thinner.

Transformer runs faster because the dock runs on native Android interface. ATRIX runs its lapdock mode inside a Webtop app, which is basically a virtual OS. Therefore, there is noticeable lag when trying to open an app or toggle between windows.

Once loaded, however, the ATRIX performs without lag with the keyboard. Transformer, on the other hand, experiences some keystrokes lag depending on the app or browser page.

Transformer starts up instantly when I flip open the screen. ATRIX takes a few seconds to start the Webtop app everytime I flip open the screen, because the app closes automatically whenever I close the screen.

Apps on ATRIX run within a Phone View window, which you can expand to full screen.

ATRIX lapdock feels like a netbook. Its apps run on resizable windows, its Firefox browser responds to the usual mouse buttons and Windows shortcut keys.

Transformer is still an Android tablet, so it doesn’t offer multiple windows view, nor can I “ALT-Tab” to switch apps. It’s more natural to navigate with touch gestures. The keyboard is only useful for typing and the mouse is only useful for moving the cursor around. Right-click is “Back” command and you cannot left-click and drag to highlight text.

On the ATRIX lapdock, you could run Android apps stored in your ATRIX but they are designed for touch gesture, so interacting with a trackpad that doesn’t support multi-touch is cumbersome.

ATRIX lapdock is mainly useful for consuming online content. You cannot install any Webtop-specific apps to make use of the virtual interface.

Transformer dock acts like a stand when I engage in apps that do not use the keyboard. The top row of shortcuts are useful to invoke the apps when I needed them.

Transformer sounds crisp. ATRIX sounds muffled. But iPad sounds better than Transformer.

Battery Life
Transformer dock keeps the tablet fully charged at all times, so even when the dock runs out of battery, the keyboard still works.

ATRIX lapdock keeps the phone fully charged at all times, but when the dock runs out of battery, the lapdock shuts down and the ATRIX battery cannot be used to power up the lapdock.

If only life is perfect. I love the ATRIX lapdock’s Webtop interface that allows me to interact it like a computer netbook. I love the Transformer dock’s seamless experience of a tablet over a detachable netbook form factor. The ATRIX lapdock adds more value to the ATRIX whereas the Transformer dock experience is easily replaced (albeit clumsily) with bluetooth keyboard.

When you get the ATRIX and lapdock, you get an Android mobile phone that can be used just like a netbook. When you purchase the Transformer, you get an Android tablet with a keyboard dock that looks like a netbook but doesn’t entirely work like one.

These devices are a glimpse of what the future can hold. Convergence of laptop computing flexibility with phone and tablet experience. I can imagine a MacBook Air with detachable screen that can be used like an iPad. And perhaps throw in an iPhone dock port integrated to the laptop, like ATRIX. But if that perfect product materialises, I’m sure Apple will be at the receiving end of lawsuits from Motorola and ASUS.

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