In April last year, we tested the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 – a 10.1-inch Android tablet that docks with an included keyboard to form something akin to a netbook. We rated the Transformer highly, at 4.5 stars. So we were excited to receive the follow-up: Asus’s Transformer Pad Infinity TF700.
The Infinity is, at a glance, identical to its predecessor. Physically, the new model is just 0.2mm thicker and 12 grams heavier – neither of which you’d notice, even in a side-by-side comparison.
The Infinity includes 1GB of DDR3L memory and 64GB of eMMC flash memory, just as its predecessor did. It also has 802.11bgn wi-fi, Bluetooth 3.0, a 2MP front-facing camera and an 8MP rear facing camera. However, there have been some major improvements elsewhere.
The rear-facing camera now uses a back-illuminated sensor to reduce noise and improve low-light performance. Colours look good in indoor lighting, but there’s still enough image noise in low light to blur smaller details out of existence.
Also improved is the 10-inch IPS display panel’s resolution – from 1280 x 800 on the Transformer Prime, up to 1920 x 1200 pixels on the Infinity. This raises the dot-pitch to 224 PPI, close to the 264 PPI found on Apple’s Retina iPad, and it makes for a beautifully sharp display.
The NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor has seen a speed bump to 1.6GHz in the Infinity, from the 1.3GHz model in the Prime.
At the time of its release, the Transformer Prime topped the Android charts in the AnTuTu Benchmark. The Infinity outdoes the Prime and sits a hair above the Samsung Galaxy S III, but it’s below the likes of the HTC One X + and Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
When we used the included Polaris Office suite, performance was fairly poor with a notable delay when typing on the keyboard. This was also an issue on the Transformer Prime, but in that case the cause turned out to be software – Documents To Go and OfficeSuite Pro both ran fine. However, the both Documents To Go and OfficeSuite Pro also ran sluggishly on the Infinity – I could type much faster on the keyboard than the software could display.
The web browser also felt sluggish, using either the default mobile browser or the full-fledged Google Chrome. I was able to use Google Docs in the latter, however, and though I found scrolling and using menus was often slow, the word processor was able to keep up with my typing speed. So, it’s not a problem with the keyboard: for some reason, those office packages just run slowly on the Infinity. It may be related to the uncommonly high resolution display, for which most Android apps are not designed, but that’s mere speculation.
Battery life for the Infinity seems as good as the Prime – I was able to manage a couple of full 8-hour workdays before having to recharge, which works out to about a week of very casual use. This is thanks to the auxiliary battery in the keyboard, which powers and recharges the tablet when docked.
I wouldn’t recommend the Transformer Infinity for $1,399 when there are alternatives such as Samsung’s ATIV Smart PC ($1,299) that do a whole lot more.
I used the two for the same tasks, over the same period of time, and the ATIV never appeared sluggish while running productivity applications or websites.
There are cheaper Android tablets out there for which you can easily find bolt-on keyboard accessories and cases. If you need a tablet/laptop hybrid, I think the various Windows 8 options have already stolen the Asus Transformer’s mantle.
This review was first published in the December 2012/ January 2013 issue of New Zealand PC World.