Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Asus is promising to release a tool that will allow customers unlock the bootloaders on their Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablets. That will make it easier for users to modify the tablet by installing custom ROMs or other software.

While this isn’t something that most Android phone or tablet users are interested in doing, there’s a vocal community of modders — and these people tend to be early adopters of products like the Transformer Prime. The first tablet with an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor has proven popular with this group… but the discovery that the bootloader is locked led to a bit of an outcry this weekend.

Asus says the bootloader is locked for a few reasons. First, video content providers insist on a locked bootloader before making some content available. To comply with Google DRM, Asus locked the bootloader.

The company also suggests that “users who choose to root their devices risk breaking the system completely.” That’s technically true, but all Asus or any other company has to do is make it clear to customers that any damage incurred after rooting a device or installing custom firmware is not covered by warranty.

The statement also ignores the fact that you can root a tablet that has a locked bootloader. What we’re talking about is wiping the Asus software and replacing it with something else entirely.

Anyway, the good news is that Asus has responded to criticism of the locked bootloader by promising to develop a utility that can be used to unlock the bootloader. Doing so will void your warranty and disable support for video rentals from the Android Market, but at least users will have the choice soon.

Asus has also responded to complaints about poor GPS performance… by admitting that the GPS may not work all that well. The company blames the metallic unibody design of the tablet which can interfere with the signal and says the Transformer Prime isn’t meant to be a “professional GPS device.”

Instead of offering any sort of fix for GPS performance, Asus is simply removing GPS functionality form all future marketing materials for the tablet. From here on out the Tranformer Prime isn’t a tablet with GPS… it’s a tablet which also happens to be able to use GPS features sometimes depending on where and when you try to use it.

In other words, you might not want to count on the Transformer Prime to guide you through your next cross-country trip.

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10 replies on “Asus is preparing a Transformer Prime bootloader unlocking tool”

  1. “First, video content providers insist on a locked bootloader before making some content available.”

    Can anyone point me to information on the reason behind this?

    1. I haven’t seen a good reason per se, but this isn’t the first time this has come up. The NOOK Tablet also has a locked bootloader in order to support HD video playback from Netflix — which is why Netflix video looks better on the NOOK Tablet than the Kindle Fire even though they have virtually identical displays and processors. 

      1. TI OMAP got the Netflix HD certification because it supports M-Shield security, which imposes the boot lock, that’s intended to fight piracy.

        So it’s a DRM issue…  Whether this is overkill is debatable but basically the content providers are worried about copyright protection on mobile devices and this the solution they are comfortable with for now.

        Now that more and more mobile devices are using higher resolution screens this will become increasingly standard as the demand for HD content increases.

        Though they may allow unlocking but it will cause the video streaming apps to disable HD and default to SD.  So just having the HD app will not be enough as they’re tying it to the security measures they’re implementing.

        1. Sure… but *why* does it impose the locked bootloader? 

          I don’t really see what restricting the ability to install custom firmware has to do with preventing people from saving Netflix streams as video files. 

          But maybe I’m just missing something obvious.

          1. Because locking the boot loader doesn’t only prevent loading custom firmware but also prevents changing the devices core settings.

            This is similar to the security feature they plan on implementing with Windows 8 for the UEFI secure boot feature and essentially for the same reasons.

            They basically lock the certification and authentication tables in the BIOS to prevent it being tampered with and/or easily bypassed.

  2. “Google has also responded to complaints about poor GPS performance…”
    Did you mean Asus has also responded?

    Good to see Asus is going to offer the tool. Andoid Market rentals are week anyway, and being able to load custom roms will extend the life of the tablet. Assuming ICS works out I don’t see a reason to install a custom rom before the warranty runs out.

  3. Good to see ASUS on the side of the angels. I’ve always considered them to be “Chaotic Good”. 

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