With the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, Asus aims at providing a better visual performance for both the viewing experience and for image capture. The new FHD IPS touch display delivers higher resolution (1920×1080) than its predecessors, namely the Transformer Prime and the Transformer Pad TF300 (1280×800).
Since the Transformer Prime (TF201), the 8 MP rear camera has been upgraded with a new fast F2.2 aperture (from f2.4), enhanced hybrid infra-red (IR) filter (the slightly reddish tone of the photos of the Transformer Prime’s camera has been removed), and software update including dynamic auto-focus. The field of view (fov) is 16% wider and the CMOS Sensor and flash LED have been improved as well. The front camera is now 2 MP (previously 1.2 MP) to allow HD video chat.
On the processor side, the device gets more powerful as well, thanks to the updated Tegra 3 T33 with 1.6GHz (2-4 core active) / 1.7 GHz (single core active) with 1 GB DDR3/1600 Mhz RAM. The pricing remains relatively standard for a high-end 10-inch tablet: $499 for the 32GB model, $599 for the 64GB model, and $149 for the docking station (pricing subject to change at launch, expected on July 16th). For comparison, the TF201 had a 1.3GHz Tegra 3.
We all perceive the gadgets usefulness differently depending on our lifestyle, so let me tell you where I come from. Most of my (computing) time is spent using a powerful desktop computer (a PC) with two large displays. If I need to get some real work done outside of the office, I use a laptop (Macbook Air 11” + Win7). On the go, I keep track of emails with a smartphone, but I tend to reply only moderately from it because typing long emails is a bit painful on a touchscreen. With the tablet, I check news websites and social networks a lot, and I often use a laptop or tablet on my couch.
Because tablets have such a long battery life, I have been searching for ways to use them as laptop replacement in some situations like trade shows and meetings where I don’t do anything drastic like design or video-editing.
External designAt first glance, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity looks almost the same as the Transformer Prime, and is a hair thicker than its predecessor (0.33”- 8.38 mm) and less than a millimeter thinner than the iPad 3 (0.37”- 9.4 mm).
The specifications show that the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is 0.03 lbs heavier than the Asus Transformer Prime. That’s about 13.6g. In my opinion, this has no real incidence in the user experience, and the extra thickness is not noticeable.
I personally appreciate the elegant design of the unit, especially the subtly textured finish featuring the very unique color labeled “Amethyst Gray” by the manufacturer, which is slightly purple. At launch, you will have the option to buy a “Champagne Gold” version.
In terms of ports, the Transformer Pad Infinity is pretty much equivalent to the Transformer Prime (TF201). On the left side, you can find MicroSD, HDMI ports and the 3.5mm audio jack (it is on the other side in the Prime). At the bottom, there is the main proprietary connector for the USB, but also for the optional keyboard dock. Both speakers are placed on the bottom side as well.
Full HD IPS Display (Excellent)
One of the key update of the Transformer series is the high resolution FHD IPS touch-panel display (1920×1080) that has also a maximum brightness of 600 nits, just like the former high-end model (Prime), which featured a lower resolution (1280×800). The lower cost model (TF300) could only reach 300 nits.
The display quality is excellent, and even though the iPad third generation has a slightly better resolution (2048×1536), the difference is not obvious at all. In our opinion, the 1080p resolution is an excellent resolution for this screen size and this price point. It is also great to display 1080p movies in their native format, without any image processing.
The transformer Pad Infinity has a slightly more reflective display than the iPad and the Toshiba Excite X10 LE, but again, the difference is minimal.
Keyboard Dock (Unrivaled)
The dock is the trademark of the Transformer Pad series, and, according to Asus, the new tablet is compatible with the Transformer Prime’s dock. It provides a perfectly integrated keyboard solution for the tablet and it also acts as an extended battery and a screen protector.
This *crushes* any keyboard solution on competing platforms, except for the new Microsoft Surface tablet that we saw last week in Los Angeles. We have not been able to put our hands on a working unit yet, but so far, Microsoft’s integrated keyboard/cover is the most elegant and thin solution to date. Unfortunately, it will not be available before a few months, possibly in October. It is also important to note that the Asus solution, remains the best tablet solution to tap while having the tablet on your lap.
For anyone who needs to type in any serious way, the optional keyboard is an amazing accessory. You may think that for typing a 100 words paragraph here and there, the virtual (on-screen) keyboard is good enough. Try that with 20 or 30 emails, and let’s talk again… You may want to consider using a physical keyboard.
This particular option is awesome for those who are 95% happy with using a tablet, and just want a productivity boost coming from the physical keyboard. In addition of having an internal battery, the Keyboard dock also features a full-size SD card and a full-size USB port.
Just like with the previous model, the USB port is designed to work with USB keys and other low-power mass-storage devices. However, it may not work with an external 2.5” or 3.5” HDD/SSD, and will most likely not work with a USB 3G modem (use a WIFI Hotspot instead).
User storage (unbelievable value)
Just like the TF201 and the Transformer Pad TF300, the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 has excellent storage options. The TF700 comes in two storage flavor with 64GB or 32GB (versus a max. of 32GB for the cheaper TF300), however, it can be extended by another 32GB with the tablet’s microSD port, and by a further 256GB with the full-size SD card featured in the dock. That brings the potential storage capacity to 32+32+256 = 320GB! On top of that, Asus offers 8GB of free online storage, “for life” with its free Asus Web Storage service.
Knowing that competitors like Apple have built a fortune for up-selling flash memory ($100 premium from 16GB to 32GB, and $200 premium from 16GB to 64GB), this is a huge added-value for the end-user.
A branded 32GB microSD costs about $20 on Amazon, so this means that you can get a 64GB Transformer Pad Infinity for $520 or a 96GB version for $620. Compare that with a $700 bill for a new iPad 64GB (WIFI), and you will quickly realize that the difference can be measured in hundreds of dollars.
Additionally, unlike Android tablets which mounts all folders as read & write USB drives, the iPad 3 only mounts the photo folder as a read-only USB drive. Manage your tablet just like you would with a simple USB key.
Killer Apps (very good)
Keyboard: The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity comes with two virtual keyboards. The first is the Android stock keyboard, which is just like any other Android tablet. The second one is from ASUS and reproduces the layout of the dock keyboard. It is completely functional and I really like the fact that it has more keys visible at once (numeric keys), however it may take time to get used to it. I like both keyboards and their smooth tactile feedback.
Skype (average): since we did our Transformer Prime review, Skype now works with video out, and overall, the experience is good enough, even if the application could use some improvements. Asus upgraded the front camera from 1.2 MP to 2 MP, unfortunately, Skype needs to work more on the software, especially on the video-out compression algorithm. On the iPad Gen 3, the outgoing video quality in Skype is better while the Transformer Infinity’s video stream was pixellated. On the other hand, the incoming video quality was great on the Transformer Infinity.
Email: without the keyboard dock, the email experience is very similar to other Android tablets. The support for Microsoft Exchange, GMail and POP email is good, so even professionals can use it (check with your IT department for permissions/security).
With the keyboard dock, the email experience is fantastic. You can to work for longer periods of time, and type faster in general. If your life revolves around sending emails, you should seriously consider acquiring the dock.
Office docs: Polaris Office comes as a pre-loaded option to deal with Microsoft Office documents in the Transformer Pad Infinity. It can open a number of MS Office documents, but this is not a replacement for MS Office – not by a very long shot. It may technically “work”, but don’t expect to be productive with it. You may find a better application, but to our knowledge, there are no silver bullets to replace MS-Office, and that’s probably why Windows 8 is so awaited by Office users.
Web browsing: The web browsing experience is comparable with other Android tablets, and I did not notice any particular gains in speed. Actually, The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is also on-par with the iPad 3 in terms of page loading time.For those who are familiar with the Android browser, no need to describe it. I personally like the user interface a lot.
Facebook (slow): The current version of Facebook for Android Tablets is not impressive, it does not take advantage of the larger display at all. For example, the background image in my profile page wouldn’t display, and more importantly, the app was quite slow…. The iOS app doesn’t have the same “features” yet, in the iPhone we can see the profile background image but not on Android.
Supernote: I have briefly tried the Supernote application, using my fingers- it looks the same as the version I tried in the Transformer Pad TF 300. Unlike in the Samsung “S Memo” app in the Galaxy Note and in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, there is no handwriting recognition integrated (or I did not find it), however, you can easily switch from the pen (scribble) to the keyboard in one click.
Just like in the S Memo app, it is easy to insert pictures, either by shooting them with the camera or selecting from the gallery, and you can include videos, drawings (from paintbook), audio recording, or other image or text files (but no map – S Memo allows it). In the settings, there is a “scribble recognition speed” feature, which may look like the speed of the handwriting recognition, but I could not find it anywhere.
If you want to create a drawing, you need to select “Paintbook” instead of “Notebook” when you create a new set of pages, otherwise the sign you just draw will be added as a small handwritten text in the line.
When in Paintbook mode you have access to more drawing features such as different brushes and more color options than in Notebook mode. Additionally, the keyboard is not available there. Although the number of brushes and geometric shapes you can draw with is more important in the Asus Supernote, the size and color choices you have for each of them is more limited than in the Samsung S Memo app.
We find it annoying to have a separation between notes (Notebook) and drawings (Paintbook), especially since you cannot insert videos and audio recordings when you are in drawing mode. To do so, you have to insert a drawing in your Notes to be able to insert a video on top of it… I am not sure why Asus made this so complicated where they could have just integrated all the features in one place.
Books: There is a broad choice of eBook apps and services available from the Google Play store. You can easily buy books from Google Play store and read them using the pre-installed Google Play Book reader. I personally like Amazon’s Kindle as it is neutral in the operating system war raging in the mobile world. The experience is good, and it is pre-loaded in the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity.
Video: I played a number of locally stored 1080p videos and the viewing experience was fluid, the image quality was great with good contrast. The new full HD display helps a lot on the image quality side here.
Here are the official codecs supported by the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700: AAC, H.263, H.264, MP3, MPEG-4, ACC+ Enhanced, OGG, MIDI, AMR NB, AAC+.
Speaker (good): The Transformer Pad Infinity delivers a good audio quality as well, however the iPad 3 sound is more powerful.
Given how much faster the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is compared to the Transformer Prime (TF201), especially in terms of graphics performance, we don’t have any problems with bumping its rating from “very good” to “excellent”. The net benefit of running with this Tegra T33 chip is that 1/ it has obviously higher performance 2/ many games have been optimized and have added special effects on this particular platform. More info and titles on TegraZone.
Photography / Video (excellent)
Asus has improved the 8 MP camera of the previous Transformer Prime with a faster aperture (F2.2), a larger field of view (+16%), an enhanced CMOS sensor, enhanced hybrid infra-red (IR) filter (the slightly reddish tone of the photos of the Transformer Prime’s camera has been removed), and updated software options (dynamic auto-focus, depth of field, color enhancements).
When tablets started to flood the market, we thought that it was a bit ridiculous to take pictures with such big devices (over a smartphone). However, I have recently been told that many tourists have been spotted taking tons of photos while visiting the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco or at various landmarks in Italy. It is obvious that tourists need the maps when abroad and the long battery life is a key feature for long trips.
Just like its predecessors, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity photo quality is among the best in the tablet camera market. We have tested it against the iPad Gen 3, and the Transformer Pad Infinity does a slightly better job in terms of auto-exposure. It has also a better resolution: 8MP against 5MP for the iPad. The TF700 also delivers more realistic colors than the Transformer Prime which has a tendency to shift to the red.
In bright sunlight, the iPad 3 delivers slightly over-exposed photos that have the only advantage of providing more details in the parts of the images that were in the shade (see examples – see the originals in our Ubergizmo Flickr account). The Transformer Pad Infinity snaps very well contrasted photos shot in similar conditions, we do not get as much details in the shade, but the general result looks better. Overall the Transformer Pad Infinity camera is excellent.
Both the Transformer Pad Infinity and the iPad 3 capture 1080p video at 30fps. They both deliver a similar video quality which exhibit the same differences as the ones described in the “still photo” paragraph above.
You can check all the pictures in original size (8 MP for the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and and 5 MP for the iPad 3) in our Ubergizmo Flickr account.
System performance (Excellent)
The Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 comes with a Tegra 3 “T33” system on a chip (SoC) that is cadenced at 1.6GHz with two to four cores active and 1.7 GHz in single-core operation. The RAM is still 1 GB but now uses DDR3 operating at 1600MHz. Comparatively, the previous Transformer Prime TF201 was clocked at 1.3GHz and 1.4GHz respectively (with DDR2) and the Transformer Pad TF300 is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core (with DDR3). Overall, the new chip is much more powerful. Let’s go over the numbers, and I’ll comment:
As you can see, despite a superior hardware, the transformer Pad Infinity doesn’t performs as well as the former Prime and get a score closer to the Transformer Pad. This is odd and we do not have any logical explanation. We’ll double-check and report back if we find something conclusive.
Nenamark 2 graphics test: Nenamark 2 basically shows that the Tegra 3 chip does provide a significant graphics advantage when compared to other players on the market. As expected, the Transformer Pad Infinity gets the best result with this benchmark. Interestingly Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 which performs very well in smartphone did not get a whole lot of design-wins in the tablet market.
Recently, the iPad Gen 3 scored remarkable numbers in GLBenchmark on iOS, but I have yet to test an Android tablet that uses the same PowerVR GPU than the iPad Gen 3 – basically it is impossible to run tests to compare two different GPUs operated on two different Operating Systems. It would have been a very interesting contest.
As you can see on the graph, when it comes to graphic performance, the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is 60% faster than the Transformer Prime. Nice!
Antutu shows an overall system performance score and similarly to Nenamark 2, the Infinity gets the best score, as we would expect given its latest-generation powerful hardware. The Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is slightly faster than both its predecessors, mainly due to the higher SoC frequency.
Of course, beyond the synthetic benchmarks, what’s more important is the “perceived” performance. As such, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is one of the best Android tablet on the market, and the only direct competitor that I have seen to date is Asus’s own Transformer Prime. If you want a cheaper alternative, the TF300 Transformer Pad was built for that.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity is one of the best high-end tablet on the market. Compared to the dominant iOS tablets, it offers more “bang for the buck” with the storage extension options (with MicroSD on the Pad + SD slot on the dock) and the brilliant keyboard dock integration that also significantly extend the battery life (+ 6 hours).
Tablets are mostly used for entertainment, and Asus pushed the envelope on that front as well. The enhanced 8 MP camera is one of the best in this market, and provide way more options than the iPad’s camera app (this is often the case on Android).
The device is a killer for gaming, we can just tell by looking at the graphic performance, TegraZone games and game-controller capabilities. The new Full HD display is a pleasure to look at whether you browse the internet, read books, flick through your photos, or watch a movie.
Last but not least, the design is elegant and despite its largely enhanced performance, Asus managed to keep the body thinner than the iPad (without the dock).