Transformer Prime bites into Ice Cream Sandwich

The Transformer Prime tablet has been upgraded to Android 4.0 a bit earlier than scheduled.

Manufacturer Asus had previously confirmed that it would roll out the upgrade to the new Android platform, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, on Thursday.

But in the typical spirit of Consumer Electronics Show surprises, it decided to push out the update early. It’s certainly a nice change after other manufacturers have experienced ICS upgrade problems and been forced to delay their plans.

The Asus Transformer Prime is not your momma’s tablet. With a massive quad-core processor clocking in at 1.3 GHz, 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, and a 10.1-inch display, the Prime is chock full of iPad competition.

The device also packs in an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.2-megapixel front camera along with the standard inputs/outputs like HDMI and SD.

The addition of Ice Cream Sandwich, making it one of the first devices to offer the newest and coolest Android OS, make it that much more attractive.

The device is available in 32 GB and 64 GB models, priced at a respectable $500 and $600. Color choices are “amethyst gray” and “champagne gold.” The tablet is up for pre-order at outlets like Best Buy, Amazon, and Tiger Direct.

What Asus really wants, though, is for you to buy the extra docking station, which acts as both a secondary battery and a keyboard, turning the tablet into a fully functional laptop with up to 18 hours of battery life, according to the company.

That will cost you an extra $150, but even with the two together, you’re getting a ton of computing power. So there’s no doubt that on a price-per-performance scale, the Transformer Prime can stack up quite nicely. But the real question is whether or not it will make a splash in the mainstream.

Asus does not have the appeal – or the marketing budget – of companies like Amazon or Samsung, and if people don’t know about the Transformer Prime it won’t be a serious competitor.

On the flip side, if it manages to generate a lot of media impressions, it could very well gain huge mass market attention and potentially even shake up the current dynamic of the tablet-PC market.

So there are two possible extremes here. We’ll have to wait and see which one the Prime ends up taking.