Asus Transformer Pad Infinity £599.99
1st Aug 2012 | 15:44
The Transformer range is back to take on the iPad
15 best Android tablets in the world
The Transformer range of Android tablets has become the jewel of Asus's crown and the best alternative to Apple's new iPad.
Along with the Asus Transformer Prime and the Asus Transformer Pad 300, the most recent tablet – the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity – keeps the excellent keyboard docking station that made the range famous and adds (among other things) a much improved high resolution screen.
Outwardly, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is almost identical to its predecessor, the Transformer Prime. The tablet - highly priced at £600 in the UK and $600 in the US for the 64GB version - has the same brushed metal and concentric circle design.
The chassis is crafted from aluminium and you'll find a 10.1-inch Gorilla Glass display staring up at you when you lift the tablet out of the box.
There are subtle differences, however. The Transformer Pad Infinity is a hair thicker, with 0.2mm of added girth, although weight-wise it stays at the same 635g as the Prime – lighter than the new iPad.
The real difference lies in the beefed up resolution of the screen. As with Apple's new iPad, Asus has taken its original model and crammed more pixels onto the display.
You're given a 1920 x 1200 resolution in place of the Prime's 1280 x 800, although the brightness has been kept at 600nits.
Elsewhere, the similarities continue. The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. We haven't heard yet whether an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update is inbound, although it's sensible to assume we will see one before the year is out.
Power is provided courtesy of the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core CPU - which has become de rigueur for top-tier Android tablets. Special mention goes to the Infinity Pad's gaming prowess, since the fantastic screen and beefy processor will combine to run any game you'd care to download from the Google Play store.
Any Android fan should undoubtedly have this at the top of their next-purchase list, but for those who still aren't too certain, there's plenty here that sets this aside from the glut of other tablets on the shelves. Read on to find exactly what makes this so special.
The 10.1-inch form factor from the original Asus Transformer Prime continues with the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, and among the new crop of 7-inch tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 and the rumoured iPad Mini, there's still a lot to be said for having a larger device.
Portability might be compromised, but if you want to browse Flipboard or play a game on the sofa at the end of the day, that larger display will come in handy.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is 8.5mm thin by itself, and a chunkier 17mm when you connect it to the keyboard dock. The aluminium frame is very attractive, and the concentric circle design will throw off the light like spokes on a bicycle wheel.
The only downside to this design, as far as we can tell, is that the grip isn't as firm as when the rear of the tablet is given a slight rubberised coating, à la the BlackBerry PlayBook or Fujitsu Stylistic M532.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is heavier than other tablets – such as the Fujitsu – but it won't cripple your biceps after 30 minutes reading an ebook.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is also a well-built device. The aforementioned Gorilla Glass display will stand a real pounding, and the rest of the chassis feels like it can take the inevitable knocks that occur out on the road.
You won't find any physical buttons on the front of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich's soft key arrangement, and even the sides of the tablet are relatively free from clutter. On the left-hand side is a micro HDMI port, next to the 3.5mm headphone jack.
There's also a slot-loading microSD port that enables you to ramp up the storage space by 32GB. Without the microSD, you get 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, depending on which model you opt for.
The volume rocker and power button are both located on the top of the tablet, while the bottom is reserved for the Asus proprietary port that connects the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity to either a charger or the keyboard dock.
Like previous Asus Transformers, the keyboard dock is the ace-in-the-hole with this tablet, enabling you to turn it into a Tegra 3-powered netbook. The dock locks into place firmly, and to release it you simply flick the switch at the base of the hinge.
Beyond an extra input method, the dock also gives you a full-sized SD port, a USB port and a second Asus port for charging both the dock and tablet together.
The keyboard boasts its own battery that extends the battery life of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity to around 14 hours.
It should also be mentioned that it is a fantastic keyboard in its own right. The isolation-style keys give you enough travel to be comfortable and Asus gives you as much spacing as possible between the keys.
The trackpad is, understandably, a little on the small side, and using a cursor on Android takes some getting used to. More than once we found ourselves using the keyboard along with the touchscreen for navigation.
We've touched on the screen already, but it really is the standout feature of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, and deserves closer scrutiny.
Firstly, it won't touch the new iPad's mammoth 2048 x 1536 resolution, but for the majority of consumers that shouldn't be much of an issue.
You get crisp, clean 1080p video on the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, and the colour balance is excellent. The reflective screen will cause you problems if you try using it outside, but then show us a tablet where this isn't a concern.
If we were to gripe, it would be that the connections could be improved. The single USB port is USB 2.0 and, ideally, we'd have it upgraded to 3.0, which would enable us to read/write data to the tablet 10 times faster. Also, we give you 24 hours before you lose the unsecured rubber cap that covers the port.
Interface and performance
The good news is that Asus has left Google's operating system more or less alone, and the Infinity runs better as a result.
There are a couple of extras thrown in for good measure. For example, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity boots up with the custom tree-themed Asus wallpaper. You get several variations of this picture slotted in among the rather bland, standard ICS wallpapers.
There are also several exclusive widgets to take advantage of, from relatively generic options such as Asus E-Mail and Asus Weather to generally useful widgets such as Asus Battery and Asus Task Manager.
Extra widgets might not be the deciding vote on which tablet you opt for, but these are well designed and informative extras that act as the cherry on top of the Ice Cream Sandwich, enabling you to further customise the five available home screens.
Asus has made the Transformer Pad Infinity a blank canvas for you to download apps and widgets from the Google Play store and customise it any way you want.
Just press and hold to place your desired app on the home screen. Because this is ICS, you can also drop apps into folders to catalogue your programs and save space.
In its native state, the operating system on the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is incredibly swift. Transitions between menu screens, apps or home screens are about the smoothest we've seen on an Android tablet.
Because Asus has loaded the Transformer Pad Infinity with a Tegra 3 processor, a shortcut to the Nvidia TegraZone is automatically placed on the home screen. This takes you to Nvidia's online portal of gaming titles designed specifically to showcase the Tegra 3's prowess.
The Glowball demo, specifically, is designed to show off Tegra 3's capabilities, and running it on the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity was a lesson in how tablets can be used for gaming.
The on-screen Asus keyboard is well sized and a different design to Google's own. However, it can't compete with physical keys, so there's very little reason to use it in place of the keyboard dock.
Asus has kept the standard Android 4.0 ICS browser for the Transformer Pad Infinity, which means you've got Flash support and tabbed browsing as standard.
You'll likely have to visit Google Play to download the latest version of Flash, and here you'll also find alternative browsers, such as Opera or Dolphin HD.
Google's browser makes it easy to catalogue favourites via the small star icon in the top right-hand corner. You can add your favourite websites – such as TechRadar – to your bookmarks page or the home screen directly.
You can keep a bookmark on the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity itself, or link it to your Gmail account so you can get to it on your other devices.
It goes without saying that browsing the web with the Asus Transformer Infinity Pad's Super IPS 1920 x 1200 screen is a great experience. Zoomed pages look impressive, and the extra pixel count keeps both images and text looking crisp.
The Asus Transformer Infinity Pad packs 1GB of RAM, which keeps browsing smooth and lag-free, even with several tabs open simultaneously.
The Infinity Pad tablet has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity as well. At present, you'll have to rely on Wi-Fi, because Asus has yet to announce a 3G version.
The Asus Transformer Infinity Pad is, unsurprisingly, an ideal choice of tablet for enjoying media – whether that's movies, music or books.
The 10.1-inch screen has a glossy Super IPS coating that gives colours a darker contrast than the typical matt screen can afford. You'll notice it particularly with dark blues and blacks.
The caveat is that the reflective surface can be a pain if you're trying to read an ebook in a brightly lit environment.
We tried playing several different types of video file and found that MP4, MKV and AVI files all play back smoothly through the native Google Movies app.
Of course, other options such as MX Player are available to download from the Google Play store. These third-party players will offer some advanced options for playback, but Google's own player also enables you to rent movies through your Google Play account.
The addition of the microSD card slot is an unabashed positive. This enables you to expand on the inbuilt 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage with up to 32GB of extra storage – something you'll need if you plan to store high-definition movies on the tablet.
While high-definition movies can easily take up 5GB of storage space, an album takes up much less, and with apps such as Spotify and LastFM available on the Google Play market, the Asus Transformer Infinity Pad is well served when it comes to music.
The standard Android player acts as the default music player, giving you an attractive cover flow and the usual options for playback.
You can sort music into playlists and use the shuffle tool to skip through tracks randomly. The Android player is music playback at its most basic, and for more options you'll need to find a third-party music app.
The solitary speaker grill is found on the back of the tablet and will give you a reasonable amount of volume, although audio quality is slightly tinny.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity boasts SonicMaster technology for the audio, but the experience is still lacking. There are no additional speakers on the keyboard dock, so the best option is to invest in a pair of decent headphones.
You can enjoy ebooks on the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, although, as we mentioned, be prepared to put up with reflections from the glossy screen. The native Google Reader app will give you access to thousands of ebooks, both free and paid for.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity has a couple of useful reading apps pre-installed. The first, Zinio, enables you to subscribe to your favourite magazines and read them full-screen and high-res on the tablet. The second is the Amazon Kindle app, which gives you access to Amazon's vast library of titles.
Asus' own MyLibrary app collates your books and newspapers into one place and enables you to quickly access and browse through your library.
A similar app, MyNet, does the same for your music, movies and photos. We weren't overly enamoured with the dark/light blue design, but the interface is simple to navigate and you'll quickly grow accustomed to it.
Apps and games
Although Asus has installed a few useful apps and widgets for navigating the Transformer Pad Infinity, it hasn't pre-loaded any games onto the tablet.
Instead, Nvidia's TegraZone shortcut is waiting for you on the home screen to take you to a selection of the finest Android games available.
Gaming is where the quad-core Tegra 3 processor really comes into its own. There are a few games on the Google Play store designed specifically for the Tegra 3 processor, thanks to some pretty detailed 3D graphics. We spent plenty of time with Zen Pinball THD, a 3D pinball game designed for Tegra 3 devices.
Whether or not you enjoy gaming on a tablet largely comes down to using the touchscreen. It's not as intuitive or as enjoyable as using a controller, or physical buttons such as on the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS, but in terms of graphical ability, tablets such as the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity now offer a viable alternative to games consoles.
Of course, the beauty of gaming on Android is that there are plenty of casual games to enjoy for five or 10 minutes on your commute.
Even though the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity can handle the 3D grunt of titles such as Tiki Kart 3D and Temple Run, there's always the option to kick back with a casual game like Cut the Rope or Angry Birds.
The sheer amount of apps available from the Google Play store is staggering, and you won't struggle to fill the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity with your favourite downloads.
Whether you're a news junkie, media fanatic or just a big gamer, you're going to find all you need inside Google's emporium.
Because the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity comes with a ready-made keyboard dock, it doubles as almost a netbook-like device, so if you're interested in working on a tablet, but have been put off by touchscreen keyboards, then this is the answer.
You're given a full version of Polaris Office, which will enable you to open, edit and share office documents such as word files, spreadsheets and presentations.
Like anything else, there are rival office apps on the Google Play market. Two of the big hitters are Quickoffice and OfficeSuite, although these will set you back around £10 (around $15.50).
Needless to say, the keyboard also comes in useful for emails, and you have the standard Gmail app pre-installed, as well as a generic email app to connect your chosen mailbox to.
The rest of the apps available out of the box include the usual range of Android offerings such as Maps, Google+ and Google Press Reader – among others.
You'll also find a File Manager app pre-installed that enables you to navigate through the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and move or delete files.
Asus has installed two cameras on the Transformer Pad Infinity. The first is a front-facing 2MP camera that you can use with Skype or similar apps for video chatting with friends and family.
The second is a rear-facing 8MP camera that does a good job of matching your typical smartphone snapper, although we still feel you look slightly odd standing up and taking pictures with a 10.1-inch tablet.
Nevertheless, we braved the puzzled stares of onlookers and tested out the functionality of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity's lens, and the results were pleasantly surprising.
You're thankfully given a large amount of options to use, and can play with the exposure and the white balance until you find your perfect setting. There are also more universal shooting options, such as switching the ISO and focus mode.
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You can adjust the camera to suit your shooting environment via scene mode, so if you're tying to capture images in low light you can use the night setting. Or, for moving targets you can opt for the action setting.
There's no option for black and white or sepia photographs, so if you want that retro Instagram-type look, you'll need to find it from the Google Play store.
If you shoot in a 4:3 aspect ratio, you can take advantage of the 8MP lens, although if you opt for the 16:9 widescreen format you're going to be limited to 6MP. Even so, shooting with tablets is less about megapixels and more about the quality of the lens.
We found the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity shot clean, crisp images, and reproduced colour balance well. Unfortunately, it did nothing to stop us looking a tad ridiculous while out taking said pictures.
Battery life and benchmarks
We found the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity returned the kind of benchmark scores we really would anticipate from a top-flight Tegra 3 tablet, and it served to cement the performance we'd already experienced while using the tablet.
During general usage, the 19.5Wh battery (sans keyboard dock) lasted remarkably well. During looped 1080p video, with brightness maxed out and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi running, the Asus lasted for 407 minutes – almost 7 hours of activity.
Of course, with the dock added that gets bumped up – to 14 hours, according to Asus.
The dock itself acts as a reserve battery and will charge the tablet up from its own stored power when the two are connected, meaning you can detach the tablet with the maximum amount of charge.
Either way, you won't struggle for power or longevity with the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity.
When it comes to Android tablets, we have to say that Asus has it pretty much covered. The recent Google Nexus 7 is a more than impressive debut into the 7-inch market, while it seems the Transformer series just keeps getting better.
If you're looking for a 10.1-inch Android tablet then you're likely to be looking at Asus or Samsung, perhaps with Acer and Toshiba in mind. But the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity offers not just an excellent tablet experience, but the benefit of a full netbook keyboard as well.
There's certainly no question the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity has the muscle under the hood to take care of all your tablet needs – gaming, apps, video, music, browsing and productivity.
A special mention has to go to the fantastic Super IPS display panel. Next to the new iPad, this is one of the best displays we've seen on a tablet.
The USP of the Transformer range has always been the attachable keyboard dock, and this continues to be a big reason for taking the plunge with this tablet. The keyboard is comfortable to use and boosts both battery life and connectivity.
As a tablet, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is still as impressive, and wisely Asus has decided to leave ICS well enough alone – save for a couple of apps and widgets that actually do improve the experience.
Add to that the 1920 x 1200 resolution, great battery life and the fact that other useful features such as microSD support haven't been overlooked, and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity looks to be the definitive Android tablet.
Using the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is still very much a solitary pursuit. There isn't a USB connection available without clipping on the keyboard dock (only microUSB), and the speakers aren't quite good enough to really fill a room with quality sound.
Our only other point of note is that during the stress-test benchmarking we noticed the back of the tablet growing fairly warm. Not enough to merit concern, but given that Asus managed to keep its Zenbook Ultrabooks cool to the touch through any processing task, this was something of a surprise.
Finally we can't help but think that the Infinity is priced a little on the steep side, sure it's got a swankier screen than its predecessor, but above that there's no major difference and if you're not willing to part with the big bucks then the Transformer Prime is still a quality option.
Asus has almost defined its tablets as the de facto alternatives to the iPad, and with this offering it's hard to argue. Everything we'd look for in a high-end tablet is present and accounted for with the Transformer Pad Infinity.
While power is always welcomed, it was the improved screen that really caught our attention. Given that we use our tablet mostly for browsing the web and watching video, we couldn't help but marvel at the resolution, either.
Tablets have been derided as consumption devices rather than production devices in the past, but that time is well and truly over, thanks to the amount of apps available. No matter what your hobby, chances are you'll find an offering on Google Play to cater for it, and the quad-core Tegra 3 processor nestled inside Asus Transformer Pad Infinity can run it.
Add to this the benefit of being able to snap-in a fully featured keyboard and touchpad and this device becomes a work platform as much as an entertainment machine.
If you've already bought the Asus Transformer Prime, then you won't need to upgrade – but if you're looking for a top Android tablet (and have the cash to splash), then the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity should be at the top of your list.