- Excellent two-piece design
- High-resolution IPS display
- Good keyboard dock
- Second battery in keyboard dock
- USB, SD and microSD support
- Software bundle includes Polaris Office
- Charging is via a proprietary 40-pin port
- Top-heavy in 'notebook' mode
- Lacks integrated mobile broadband
- Relatively heavy
The original Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, which replicates the two-piece design of its predecessors and further refines the specifications. Due to become available in the UK at the end of August for around £600 (inc. VAT; £500 ex. VAT), does the year-old Transformer design still have what it takes?, which we reviewed last May, set the standard for tablet/keyboard combo devices. The follow-up added a quad-core CPU and Android 4.0, earning itself an Editors' Choice award. Now we have the
The short answer to the design question has to be 'yes'. In clamshell mode the Transformer Pad Infinity looks for all the world like a small, thin notebook -- yet the way it splits in two to free up the tablet remains as eye-catching as when we first saw it.
This is testament to both the originality and robustness of the earlier products, and to the fact that no other hardware manufacturer has so far matched Asus for the sheer utility of the tablet/keyboard combination.
The metal chassis of the keyboard section and metal backplate to the tablet are solid but weighty. Asus doesn't quote the combined weight, only specifying the tablet's weight as 598g. It tipped our scales at 600g, with the keyboard dock adding 528g. That's a total weight of around 1.13kg.
Key criticisms of earlier models apply to the Transformer Pad Infinity -- notably the fact that charging is via a proprietary 40-pin connector (which also links the tablet and keyboard sections together). Elsewhere, the tendency we noticed in earlier models for screen taps to cause the device tip backwards when in notebook mode is also evident here.
The keyboard design remains good. The isolated keys feel comfortable under the fingers and it's perfectly possible to touch-type at a decent speed. The keyboard offers a range of Android-specific features including Home and Menu keys. The top row, as in earlier models, includes useful controls for volume, wireless, screen brightness and disabling the touchpad.
One of the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700's key features is a major upgrade to the screen. The 10.1in. Super IPS+ panel has a full HD resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels and the result is an impressively crisp, clear viewing experience.
The obvious screen comparison is with the latest iPad, whose 2,048 by 1,536 pixels are crammed into a 9.7in. screen, delivering a slightly higher pixel density. In everyday use there's little to separate the two devices, although the iPad just edges past the Transformer Pad Infinity in terms of text clarity. Once you've experienced this level of screen clarity there really is no going back.
Another key differentiator between the Transformer Pad Infinity and its Transformer Prime predecessor is the choice of CPU. The Prime's 1.4GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor has been upgraded to a faster 1.6GHz version in the Infinity, supported as before by 1GB of RAM. A low-power fifth core in the Tegra 3 processor is designed to handle undemanding tasks and conserve battery power.
With 64GB of internal storage there's plenty of capacity. There's also a 32GB option, but we have no UK pricing or availability information on that at the time of writing. You can augment the internal storage in various ways: the tablet section has a microSD card slot, while the keyboard dock has an SD card slot and a USB 2.0 port. The latter can accommodate an external device such as a mouse or an alternative keyboard, as well as allowing you to attach additional storage. You also get 8GB of Asus Web storage for life, which could prove handy.
The roster of ports and connectors is completed by a Micro-HDMI port and a 3.5mm microphone/headset combo jack on the tablet, which has two cameras: a 2-megapixel front-facing unit and an 8-megapixel flash-equipped camera at the back.
The Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 runs Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and Asus populates it with a strong range of applications. There are Wi-Fi streaming DLNA facilities via MyNet, while MyDesktop provides remote access to a PC or Mac desktop. Both Zinio and the Kindle app are among the preinstalled extras, along with Asus's own music store, Asus @vibe.
Probably most useful app for professionals is the superb Polaris Office, which can be used to create Word-, Excel- and PowerPoint-compatible documents. Asus also includes SuperNote, which allows you to create hand-written notes and drawings, and which Asus has included on previous Transformer devices.
Performance & battery life
The Transformer Pad Infinity's combination of the quad-core 1.6GHz Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM, not surprisingly, gave us no problems during testing. We were happy with the tablet's responsiveness to whatever we threw at it -- and that ranged from low-level tasks like document creation to more demanding tasks like playing games. Our only criticism is the boot time, which is a little slow.
As with the Transformer Prime there are two batteries -- one in the tablet and a second in the keyboard dock. With the dock attached, battery life is rated as 14 hours, while the tablet section alone should deliver 9.5 hours, according to Asus.
When it's not being charged, the battery in the keyboard dock transfers power to the tablet, so that the tablet contains as much charge as possible and can be lifted away and used standalone. The tablet section also charges before the dock, while the dock drains before the tablet. It's quite a smart system. Three CPU power management modes -- Balanced, Performance and Power Saving -- help conserve battery power when needed.
We found it easy to get a day's usage from a fully charged complete unit, and even managed a whole weekend away from mains power. Given that the proprietary charger is a nuisance to carry, that's all to the good.
The Transformer Pad Infinity retains the superb physical design of its predecessors, which is over a year old, but still unrivalled by any competitor. We're as impressed with it today as we were when we first saw it in the Eee Pad Transformer. The Infinity's new high-resolution Super IPS+ screen is a dream to use, and battery life remains impressive.
What Asus needs to do now is build in mobile broadband support and reduce the weight of the tablet/keyboard combo -- and bring the price down.