In the battle to steal Android tablet market and mind share from Samsung, it would be hard to argue against ASUS as the most formidable combatant.
Their solid build quality, powerful hardware and typically light skinning of Android has endeared them to Android fans (the newly announced Nexus 7 confirms that Google feels the same way). The Transformer line is perhaps the best personification of this as, much like the original Motorola Droid, it seems to position itself as the anti-iPad. It tops the iPad specs in nearly every category and is typically depicted with its signature keyboard attached, something which is likely anathema to Apple.
The Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 (Infinity) is the new king of the hill for ASUS with a full HD screen added to the familiar form factor of the Transformer line and I’ve had several days to put it through its paces. ASUS has undeniably delivered the specs with this latest installment, but how does it stack up as a total package?
1. Internal hardware
As advertised in the lead-in the Infinity really blows the doors off the current competition in the specs department with the iPad’s screen being the lone possible exception:
- 1.7GHz (single-core in use) 1.6GHz (2-4 cores in use) NVIDIA Tegra 3 T33 processor
- 1GB of DDR3 RAM
- 32 or 64 GB of internal storage with microSD expansion
- 10-inch Super IPS+ 1920×1200 display with up to 600 nits of brightness
- Corning Gorilla Glass 2
- 8MP F2.2 rear camera
- 2MP front-facing camera
- Bluetooth 3.0
- 25Wh battery
- 7.11/10.35/0.33″ at 1.31 lbs.
It’s a nice place to start, but as always the specs are only part of the story and how they come together is the real key.
2. Build quality and design
The Infinity is available in two colors, Amethyst Gray (as tested here) and Champagne Gold. I can only speak to the Amethyst Gray and it’s a nice understated option.
The front of the device is unremarkable (save for the display which we’ll get to later). ASUS has gone with the same black bezel favored by most tablets these days. It’s broken up only by a small white ASUS logo, the ambient light sensor and camera.
The back is a little more visually appealing with the silver ASUS logo at the center of the tablet and the probably now familiar concentric circles radiating out from it. To the side you’ll find the speaker grille, and near the top the section with the camera, flash and microphone, which is done in plastic to alleviate the connectivity issues experience by the Transformer Prime.
Taking a walk around the rest of the tablet there is a power button, charging LED and volume rocker across the top as viewed in landscape. Along the left is a headphone jack, micro-HDMI port and microSD card slot. Finally the bottom features the ASUS proprietary connector and two additional holes that lock the tablet into the optional dock.
The Infinity feels rock solid in your hands. The screen is of course a giant piece of glass so I wouldn’t want to drop it, but it’ll handle the typical abuse that could happen in your bag. The weighting of the tablet is also excellent, regardless of the orientation the weight feels evenly distributed. The buttons are solidly constructed, without the wiggle or mushiness I’ve had in some.
The display on the Infinity is perhaps its defining feature as most of its other specs, while impressive, were shared by either the Transformer Prime or Transformer Pad 300.
The Infinity breaks through the full HD barrier for the Transformer line with a resolution of 1900×1200. The Infinity also offers a Super IPS+ display, one area that the TF300 cut corners on, and this makes for a far better outdoor experience than most tablets when that mode is enabled.
I’m not the biggest pixel peeper out there, but the screen on the Infinity looks amazing. The bump up in resolution is quite noticeable when compared to the standard 1280×800 tablets and leaves everything looking far more smooth and crisp. The color representation and contrast appear to have been improved as well and stack up favorably with anything else out there.
I had only two complaints with the Infinity screen. The first is that there is a bit of light bleed in a couple spots, although after noticing it during boot I didn’t find it to be that discernible in normal use. The second is that with anything short of the Super IPS+ mode the glossy screen is highly reflective.
The screen is the single most important feature on any tablet and the Infinity delivers one of the best I’ve seen on an Android tablet to date and by far the best of the 10-inch devices.
ASUS has once again done what so many manufacturers seem to have a hard time doing and that is leaving Android alone. The Infinity has a virtually stock build of Android 4.0.3 and what has been added doesn’t impinge on the basic stock experience. With Jelly Bean potentially knocking on the door this week, this becomes all the more important as the less ASUS has to tweak for the update the better.
The majority of what ASUS has tacked on are apps and widgets. Not so many that your tablet feels flooded out of the box though. The notification area is one of the only notable visual changes with a number of convenient shortcuts having been added.
The apps are a mix of gaming and productivity. Tegra Zone brings the Tegra 3 optimized games front and center for you. The ASUS application suite adds Polaris Office, SuperNote, App Backup, App Locker, ASUS Sync, MyNet and ASUS Webstorage. I have other apps that I already use for many of these functions, but it’s not excessive to me. For a new user, having a solid base of apps out of the box is convenient.
ASUS also packages some of their own widgets. Again it’s only about half a dozen and they are for the most part useful, so no complaints there.
The display may take top billing with the Infinity, but NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 processor is sure to get a best supporting nod come Oscar time. Launching apps, swiping between home screens and scrolling through web pages was consistently smooth and touch responsiveness is the best I’ve experienced.
With the Tegra Zone NVIDIA has made no bones about gaming being a central focus for their mobile processors and the Infinity tore through every title I installed. For the most part the Tegra Zone titles are just graphically super charged versions of games you may have already played like Shadowgun or Riptide GP.
If you’re a benchmark person we’ve got you covered too. On the left you’ll find the numbers for the Infinity, and on the right you’ll find the numbers for the Transformer Pad 300.
Smartbench 2012 Productivity – 3890 / 3340
Smartbench 2012 Gaming Index – 1909 / 2275
Antutu total – 11886 / 12443
Antutu Floating Point CPU – 3313 / 2363
Antutu 3D Graphics – 1015 / 1175
GL Benchmark 2.1.4 – Egypt Offscreen – 72/ 62
GL Benchmark 2.1.4 – Pro Offscreen – 97 / 81
Quadrant – 4845 / 3722
Browsermark – 122770 / 112870
Sunspider 0.9.1 (lower is better) – 1443.0 / 1784.2
Moonbat on Chrome (With web worker set to 1) – 1389.3 / 1757.6
Moonbat on Chrome (With web worker set to 4) – 2588.3 / 3155.4
I think this was the first time I was impressed by the cameras on a tablet. They don’t hold up to the cameras on the top smartphones, but I don’t see that as a realistic standard for a tablet anyway.
In daylight, or under reasonably bright interior lighting, the 8MP rear camera is capable of capturing very respectable images with little noise. Like many smartphones the Infinity particularly shines on macro images.
Shots from the 2MP front-facing camera are obviously far less impressive, although if you are using that for pictures it’s probably for photobooth style shots and typically high quality isn’t the priority there.
The rear camera captures up to 1080p footage and it looks excellent on the tablet or output to a TV. The front-facing camera does 720p for video calls, hangouts, or conferencing and the quality matched what I’ve seen on many higher-end laptops.
ASUS claims the Infinity will last around eight and a half to nine and a half hours streaming video on WiFi and that matches up well with what I experienced running Netflix on a loop. I had similar results during a more normal day of testing with Twitter, email, gaming and general browsing. I was also occasionally making use of the Super IPS+ mode and juicing the brightness as high as possible.
Battery life testing is always hard as everyone’s version of a “normal day” is quite different, but I have a hard time imagining any remotely typical usage pattern for this device that wouldn’t allow its battery to see it through a day of use.
I’ll cover the dock in the next section, but it warrants mentioning here as it adds four and a half to five additional hours of battery life to the Infinity. One interesting note on the battery life and the dock is that the tablet waits until it has drained to 70% before pulling from the dock and it continues to repeat that pattern until the dock’s battery dies.
8. Keyboard dock
You can’t review a Transformer branded tablet without touching on the optional keyboard dock. ASUS didn’t invent this form factor, but they are certainly doing more with it than any company has previously.
The Infinity uses the exact same keyboard dock that the Prime used so nothing new to see here, but that’s hardly a criticism. Whereas most companies are using a keyboard dock to add only that tactile typing functionality, ASUS is giving users an SD card slot, a full USB port, a trackpad and of course a 19.5WHr battery.
The keyboard itself is very useable. I can’t say I would opt for it over my laptop or desktop keyboards, but I would take it over any virtual keyboard in a heartbeat. It took me a couple days to adjust to the size and some of the specialized shortcuts, but once I did I found it really sped up my workflow on the tablet and not just when typing.
At $149 the keyboard dock for the Infinity is a bit pricey, but for all of the added functionality that it brings with it I think it is worth the price of admission.
Particularly if you factor in the dock the Infinity has nearly every bit of wired and wireless connectivity that you could hope for. And while I myself actually prefer a WiFi-only tablet to avoid yet another data contract and also to keep the cost of the tablet itself down I have to concede that the lack of a 4G option for the Infinity is a problem for some.
Regardless, that certainly isn’t enough to bring it below an average ranking in this category. Bluetooth 3.0, micro-HDMI, WiFi b/g/n and a microSD slot on the Infinity itself put it ahead of most of the competition and again once you add the dock with its SD slot and full USB 2.0 port it feels like you’ve got more options than some ultraportable laptops.
The pricing for the Infinity itself is fantastic. This tablet packs in higher-end specs than almost any other Android tablet out there and isn’t charging a premium for that with the 32GB base version coming in at $499. The 64GB model clocks in at $599, and while that would be overkill for me, I know some people like the security blanket of having every video, song and file with them at all times.
The only reason I fall shy of giving the Infinity full marks on price is that I wish the keyboard dock was just $99 rather than $149. Maybe I’m being unfair to the Infinity as the dock is of course optional, but I just feel like it is such an integral part of the experience with this tablet that it would be wrong not to have it and if the full base package were $599 I think it would be a much easier sell.
The ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is easily the best Android tablet that I have used to date.
Every other tablet (Android or not) that I have tried has been a device that I would browse the web, play games and consume media on. And to be clear even if that is all you are looking for the Infinity is more than capable of serving that purpose for you. But with the integration of the keyboard dock you can also get actual work done for hours longer than any other device you own.
I’ve been looking for a tablet that could successfully straddle those lines since I had to give up my HP TC1100, which looks every bit the part of a Transformer ancestor, and I’m thrilled to see ASUS execute on that concept so effectively with Android.
The Infinity will be available in the U.S. the week of July 16th, so you’ve got a bit of waiting to do, but if you have any questions about the device that I missed in the review just let me know in comments and I’ll do my best to get them answered.