Is the GPS Extension kit for the Transformer Prime adequate?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: April 16, 2012

It almost seems as if no high profile device comes without one issue or another these days. The iPhone 4 came with the infamous death grip problem. Before an update that was pushed this weekend, the Nokia Lumia 900 had data connectivity issues, and the camera still suffers from unsightly pink spots. The new iPad suffered from long charge times, running noticeably hotter than its predecessor, poor Wi-Fi reception, among other things. And these are only a few of the more memorable post-launch issues in recent years.

This is the price we pay for manufacturers being adamant on releasing new devices with new and improved technology at such a rapid pace. Instead of releasing a well-refined product once it's finished (read: once all the bugs are and kinks are ironed out), manufacturers are in a never-ending race against the clock to catch competing companies on their heels and gobble up all the market share they can possibly get. Needless to say, quality, in many ways, has been placed on the back burner.

Demand is high for a steady flow of new devices. And the quality we once knew is sacrificed for more frequent iterations. It's a trade-off – one that few are happy with.

One of the more notable instances of this is with the ASUS Transformer Prime TF201, which launched in December. At the time of its launch and even to this day, it is regarded as one of the best Android tablets to date by many. ASUS claims the Prime is "the most popular Android tablet since its launch in December 2011." However, even the Transformer Prime has suffered from its fair share of problems.

Immediately after its release, users began complaining of poor Wi-Fi signal and connections constantly dropping. The GPS radio also had problems location satellites and maintaining a steady connection, if at all. In January, ASUS acknowledged the issues and explained that the device's metal body can hinder the performance of both GPS and Wi-Fi. They also said the Transformer Prime "is not a professional GPS device" and announced they would not include GPS capabilities in the Prime's spec sheets or marketing moving forward.

This, obviously, was not met with all smiles. ASUS shipped a device that was listed with GPS capabilities and took the time to acknowledge some of the issues users were having with the device. However, instead of offering comfort, they just said support for GPS would no longer be officially listed on spec sheets. That did little to confide owners or to solve the issues at hand.

Later, after speculation and a couple rumors, ASUS confirmed they would be issuing a GPS fix for the Prime in the form of a removable attachment, a dongle. Earlier today, ASUS announced the Transformer Prime GPS Extension kit (pictured above) and are offering to send it, for free, to existing owners who apply for the kit on or before July 31.

Good on you, ASUS. Kudos … sort of.

It's good to know ASUS is listening. I can think of several companies who would deny this problem exists and would instead suggest the problem is simply user error.

But I feel I must add that if this were a fix for anything but the GPS radio, the solution would be laughable, at best. Imagine if this was ASUS' idea of a fix for Wi-Fi. The one, major flaw of the GPS Extension kit is that it cannot be used in conjunction with the Transformer Prime's keyboard dock. The attachment fits on the same port as the keyboard dock, meaning you will have to undock the tablet to use GPS.

More importantly thant that, however, is the fact that – from what I can see, at least – you will not be able to charge the device while the GPS Extension kit is being used. It makes one wonder why ASUS didn't make it a pass-through device like the dock.

Personally, the GPS issue has not affected me in the least. I do not use GPS from my tablet. And I can't imagine why anyone would actually use GPS on a tablet over, say, a smartphone, especially a tablet without 3G/4G connectivity. I digress, though. I have experienced some Wi-Fi reception issues, and still do from time to time. Range is terrible. While the most recent update has certainly helped, it's not totally resolved. It's a hardware issue – specifically, the metal casing. Rather than the unsightly GPS Extension kit, which creates as many problems as it fixes, I would prefer to see ASUS offer a trade-in towards a Transformer Pad 300 or Infinity (plus some cash, of course).

I can't really complain too much. This solution is entirely free to owners. But it doesn't fix the problems I've been having and instead fixes an issue that I'm sure few will ever care about. In light of Nokia's efforts to smooth over the rough Lumia 900 launch on AT&T, in which they issued a $100 bill credit to all Lumia 900 owners and future buyers until April 21, ASUS' fix certainly seems less … impressive.

How do you feel about how ASUS has responded here, folks? They've done more than some companies already would. But is it enough? Is the GPS Extension kit (which does nothing for the remaining Wi-Fi problems) sufficient? Or should ASUS offer an exchange program to Transformer Prime TF201 owners for their upcoming tablets?

Products mentioned