The Asus Transformer Prime was the most pre-ordered Android tablet to date until the Nexus 7 by Asus stole the show at Google I/O 2012 with its quad-core power and £159 price tag. This gives Asus the two most pre-ordered Android tablets so far, one showcasing budget, the other, brawn. This clearly suggests that when it comes to Android tabs, Asus really are the ones to watch with compelling offerings across price-points. Now the top-end of that price-point spectrum just got that little bit higher with the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity or TF700. This quad-core tablet costs £599, but for that hefty price you get the most powerful Android on market, a full HD display and the same styling as the delectable Transformer Prime.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: Design
The original Prime didn't fall short when it came to design with its spun metal back and slender physique. At 8.3mm, it was amongst the thinnest, but also amongst the most robust of all the tablets we've ever used. We even managed to flail it across the air on the underground where it met the floor with a deathy crash and it held up like a champ. The Infinity leaves us with the same confidence. It's thicker my 0.2mm which is relatively negligible. The styling is less streamlined with more pronounced sides, though it still feels rich retaining the spun metal backing and solid look and feel.
The thicker form of the TF700 could result from the higher resolution screen or indeed the plastic strip on the upper portion of the reverse. This strip doesn't look to incongruous with the rest of the tablet and its purpose is to ensure that unlike the original, the GPS unit works to full effect.
With a micro HDMI port as well as microSD expandability, this is one of the better connected tablets out there, enabling expandability up to an additional 32GB. The TF700's keyboard dock offers identical functionality to the Asus Transformer Prime. This means you get a total of one USB port, one full sized SD card slot, a proprietary charging port and last but not least, an additional 8 hours of battery life.
Despite the keyboard dock being thin, it's very usable. Weighting isn't ideal with the guts of the device being in the tablet portion but neither is it bad. While the keys are shallow, within 10 minutes we were touch typing. The chicklet keys, individually spaced offer a nice click feedback and the dock and full QWERTY add a dimension to the Prime missing from other tablets like the new iPad 3 and Samsung Galaxy tab, all of which can feel somewhat self-indulgent at times.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: Screen
Full HD at 1080p (1920x1200), Super IPS+ and rocking a pixel density of 224, the display is a high-point of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Infinity. Not only does it offer the Super IPS+ technology found on the Prime, which activates an extremely high level of brightness for the most comfortable outdoor viewing we’ve seen to date on a tablet device, its resolution is also class leading. While not as sharp as an iPad 3, the difference is imperceptible with pixels neither being visible when using it on your lap as a netbook or up close as a tablet.
Viewing angles are also exemplary, especially at full brightness with IPS+ switched on. The HTC One X is still the viewing angle king in the phone and tablet space, but the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity isn't far behind, bettering all other Android tablets on the scene.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: User Interface
As wonderful as it would have been to get Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean on the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, that would probably be expecting too much, so we'll let Asus off for the Ice Cream Sandwich stuffed inside their Infinity.
Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS gives you 5 homescreens, an apps drawer and a selection of preloaded widgets to which you can add more from the Android market. Asus has included some of its own such as a task manager and power watcher. The bar at the bottom of the display holds the back, home and multi-tasking on-screen keys to the left. Shimmy over to the right hand side for an expandable notifications tab which includes some options Asus has customised, illustrated above. Bringing their PC and laptop heritage into play, Asus have enabled power saver or performance mode in addition to the standard 'Balanced' mode.
The apps drawer is a standard staggered side scrolling menu, clean and simple with a jet black backdrop and smooth transparency transitions. This is also where you can add widgets with a long press to pick up and a let go to drop.
Pre-loaded apps include Polaris Office for all your document and spreadsheet wants and needs. This is nicely updated for the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity with templates to help with formatting on the go, something tablets and Android in particular has historically struggled with. Asus have also put some of their own software on board. This includes MyCloud for cloud storage, MyLibrary for eBooks and MyNet enabling DLNA functionality. For your portable reading pleasure there’s also a trial version of Press Reader and Zinio on board, as well as the standard Google application suite.
All in all, Asus are extremely respectful of stock Android and we're sure that has everything to do with Google's decision to team up with them for the Nexus 7 by Asus. Their customisations are clearly purposed and the third party applications are for the most part useful. We could do without Asus's own apps admittedly, or at least do with the option to uninstall them, but this isn't a deal breaker by a very long stretch.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: Camera and Multimedia
An 8-megapixel sensor and a lens with an f/2.2 aperture resides on the back of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, with a 2-megapixel front facing camera. Impressive on paper, we're glad to say it's also impressive in practice.
There is a little criticism which we'll get it out of the way first. Outdoor shots can look a bit washed out and under saturated. This could be thanks to the fixed wide open aperture, as the same can be said of the f/2 HTC One X. You can correct for this to some extent in the camera UI by jumping into the settings, so if you're prepared to tinker you can overcome it pretty easily. The other minor complaint is in reference to the stock camera UI. While it could be a lot worse - Gingerbread, Honeycomb or indeed a bad skin for example, the likes of HTC, Samsung and Sony are adding a lot of value to their cameras thanks to custom UIs. Given how far Asus have come of late in the mobile space, we expect nothing less from them.
Moving onto the good and what’s most noticeable is the level of detail and focusing capability of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. Macro shots also result in particularly crisp pictures with attractive blurring of the backdrop. The Infinity didn't give us any headaches focusing and took snaps nice and quickly. Indoors, noise is also handled well largely thanks to the f/2.2 lense. Switch on night mode and rest the tablet in the dock to keep it perfectly still and you will be amazed as to how well the TF700 does in low light. It's also given a big helping hand by the on-board flash which does a fine job of lighting up an otherwise dark and gloomy picture.
Video suffers from a similar washed out over exposed finish as photos, though shot at 1080p, it does look absolutely wonderful on the Infinity's matching resolution screen with a smooth framerate and sharp picture. Get close up on an object mid shooting and the continuous focus kicks in very quickly, shooting you into macro and capturing nooks and crannies you didn't even know were there.
What you end up with therefore is a camera that matches both the original Asus Transformer Prime and the iPad 3. Delivering similar results to some of the best smartphones on the market, anyone who likes an enormous viewfinder and a crisp picture, the Infinity goes the distance.
Games, movies, music, pictures, videos. If we were to pick one area the stealthy quad-core Tegra 3 processor really kicks in, it’s multimedia. Coupled with the pin sharp 1080p screen and extensive storage options, and you'll be able to get all your content onto the TF-700 and it will look incredible.
Movies play back exceptionally well - we played a full HD clip with no issue whatsoever. The 64GB of onboard memory means that you can get plenty of full HD movies on if need be ready for export via the micro HDMI to a full HD panel, or to just watch on the go.
Music sounds good too using the Infinity's on-board speakers. Located on the right hand side of the tablet, while it isn't the crispest stereo quality and it's rear facing, the speaker is pretty loud.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: Connectivity and Storage
Specc'd with all the connectivity options you could want from a Wi-Fi tablet, the TF-700 is loaded with Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth and GPS. As mentioned in the design section, the chassis ensures history doesn't repeat itself, so there's a plastic strip on the reverse to ensure fantastic GPS performance. The difference is marked, we ran tests side by side with the Prime and the Infinity GPS was much faster to lock on.
The remaining connectivity also works incredibly well. Internet pages are literally chewed up and spat out. Chrome browser works a treat and browsing, panning, zooming and loading were silky smooth. We can't wait for Jelly Bean to arrive and make everything buttery smooth but until then - you're well taken care of by all the power the Infinity throws at applications.
It also throws a lot of storage at you, with 64GB on board, up to an extra 32GB via microSD card and no less than one full sized SD card slot and one full sized USB port to attach even more in the way of GB and even TB. You'll want for nothing.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: Performance and Battery Life
We thought that the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity was a quad-core 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 tablet. It isn't, it's 1.9GHz, or at least that's not what Antutu benchmarking suggests. Regardless, this thing is fast. The UI is fluid, it multi-tasks well and games look fantastic. There is a shortage of full HD optimised Android games, as was the case with the Retina Display new iPad 3 when it was launched, however this should change with the upcoming Acer and Toshiba tablets sporting the same resolution.
Battery life is great. With a quoted 10 hours on the tablet itself, couple the 8 hours given by the keyboard dock, it’s nothing short of life changing if you’re coming from a 1-hour charge laptop. That said, these figures are only remotely realistic if you're talking about power saving mode with a dim screen. In real-world, we managed about 7-8 hours of constant tab use undocked. Docked and it's more like 12-15 hours which is still impressive.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: Conclusion
The Android tablet space has matured in 2012 and as a standalone tablet, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity has fast become the best 10.1-inch Android out there. It still isn't up there with the iPad as a tab thanks to iOS's ecosystem being so much richer with quality tablet optimised apps. Fortunately for Asus though, the TF700 isn't a standalone tablet. No, it's a mutating amalgam of power and function, a muti-purpose vehicle for productivity and play, it's a Transformer and it's skinny keyboard dock edges it to victory over the rest. It's pricey at £599, but you're getting plenty of bang for your buck with two devices, a full HD panel, 64GB of on board storage and the promise of regular updates from Asus if history is anything to go by. We're smitten, can you tell?