ASUS first introduced the Transformer Prime late last year and, at the time, we dubbed it the “best Android tablet yet.” The company recently sent us its latest Transformer-branded tablet, known as the Transformer Pad Infinity, or TF700 for short. It sports a sharper 1,920 x 1,200-pixel resolution HD display, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a better 2-megapixel front-facing camera with HD video chat support, an improved 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, and much more, while maintaining all of the features we loved about the original Transformer Prime. There’s a lot to talk about so I won’t keep you waiting. On to the review!
Side by side, the TF700 looks nearly identical to the Transformer Prime — so much so, in fact, that I picked up the wrong unit more than once. The TF700 sports a brilliant 10.1-inch Super IPS+ display that’s easy to read even in direct sunlight thanks to its 600 nits screen. Photos, videos and games were extra sharp, too, thanks to the aforementioned bump to a 1,920 x 1,200-pixel resolution. You can’t really distinguish a huge difference between the resolutions from the homescreen alone, but once you dive into your media it’s immediately apparent.
There are a few tweaks to the layout of the TF700’s ports. The headphone jack is now on the bottom left-hand side of the unit next to the HDMI-out port and the microSD card slot. The volume controls, which used to be on the left-side of the unit, are now on the top across from the power button. I like that they are further away from the power button (which was also slightly tweaked) because I always used to mistake the volume controls on the Transformer Prime with the power button.
The back of my TF700 unit has the same “metallic spun” design as the original Transformer Prime, which looks beautiful, and there’s a small plastic area that runs across the enhanced camera and single-LED flash that provides a better signal for the GPS. You might remember, the GPS in the original Transformer Prime didn’t work properly because the signal was blocked by the aluminum backing. The GPS now works flawlessly.
The Pad Infinity also has a slightly tweaked speaker on the backside. I was under the impression that the audio performance was supposed to be enhanced on the TF700 but I couldn’t tell a difference between music played back on the TF700 and the same tunes played back on the Transformer Prime. Both speakers were loud enough, but tinny. You’re better off connecting the tablet to a Bluetooth speaker for an improved audio experience.
The ASUS Transformer Infinity runs pretty much the same software that is available on the Transformer Prime, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The whole unit is powered by Android 4.0.3 and the Tegra 3 processor handled everything without a hitch. I like ASUS’s included widgets, such as the ASUS Weather application, but it takes up too much of the screen’s real estate. Likewise for the ASUS E-Mail widget — I can’t figure out why it needs to be so big.
There’s relatively little bloatware, too. ASUS includes its own useful DLNA application called MyNet for sharing content with other DLNA-enabled devices and also comes pre-loaded with an App Locker application that password protects any application that’s installed on the tablet. ASUS@Vibe is the company’s own music, book and app store but I prefer using Google Play instead since ASUS@Vibe is loaded with advertisements and isn’t as cleanly laid out.
ASUS added dynamic auto-focus, depth of field and color enhancements to the 8-megapixel camera and I definitely noticed an improvement in the photos I snapped. Colors looked much deeper and there was less noise, but they still weren’t that sharp. I also generally felt weird snapping photos using my tablet instead of my smartphone.
The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is slightly better than the 1.2-megapixel camera on the Transformer Prime. There’s noticeable pixelation in photos and that carried over to when tested the HD capabilities of the front-facing camera for video chat. I’m not really complaining, though, since it was satisfactory overall.
1080p HD video recorded with the TF700’s 8-megapixel looked clear on the screen, but colors weren’t as sharp and the overall quality wasn’t as impressive as clips I’ve taken with my Galaxy S III. Again, you’ll probably want to use your smartphone for recording video since it’s much more feasible, but it’s nice that the TF700 can be used as a backup.
The sharper display enhanced the gaming experience on the TF700 — We played GTA III on both the TF700 and the Transformer Prime and found that the TF700’s graphics looked much, much sharper thanks to the added pixel count. The game also seemed brighter to me and easier to control, but maybe that’s just because I’ve improved at controlling GTA III on a tablet over time.
I also installed Shadowgun, a game optimized for Tegra 3 tablets, and, again, was blown away by the graphics. NVIDIA does a great job enhancing the textures in games that are specifically tweaked for Tegra 3 and it’s a blast to kick back and play games such as GTA III and Shadowgun in console-like quality with a Bluetooth controller. Of course, you’ll need a USB port for that functionality, and that requires a $150 accessory known as the Transformer Pad Mobile Dock.
The ASUS Transformer Pad Mobile Dock really completes the whole Transformer Pad Infinity experience for me (as it did with the Transformer Prime). It isn’t new — the Infinity takes advantage of the same keyboard base station that other Transformer tablet use. Still, I love that it doubles as a charger, thanks to its included battery, and can provide up to an additional 6 hours of battery life on top of the 10 hours already offered by the tablet itself.
The keyboard is comfortable if you’re used to using netbooks and I quickly adjusted to its MacBook-like layout. My favorite part about the keyboard dock is that there’s a full USB port for adding a mouse, or a wireless USB controller, and a full SD card slot for additional storage. You’ll want to use a mouse, too, since the mouse buttons are sticky and a bit flimsy.
I received the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity just a few days ago and the tablet is still kicking along (although it’s almost dead). We will update this review if we see any change in battery life but you can rest assured knowing that you’ll get at least a day’s use out of it. If you have the added keyboard accessory you can expect much longer battery life, too.
I love the Transformer Pad Infinity — it offers improvements over the original Transformer Prime and I can’t see any area where there are serious flaws. I don’t think I’d upgrade if I already owned a Transformer Prime, but I’d certainly pick this tablet up if I was in the market for a new Android tablet.
My biggest worry, however, is that Google I/O kicks off this Wednesday and the company will no doubt announce an update to Android and a new tablet. We’re expecting a sub-$200 Nexus-branded device with the same Tegra 3 processor that’s in the Transformer Pad Infinity, but with a smaller 7-inch display. That might be attractive to users who want a budget tablet that can still play gnarly games.
The HD screen and improved cameras on the Pad Infinity are noteworthy features, but are they worth the $499 and $599 that you’ll need to drop down for the 32GB and 64GB models, respectively? We’ll have to wait and see just how solid the Nexus tablet is, but my heart says yes, it is worth it.
Until Google I/O kicks off, the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is the best Android tablet on the market. However, I also suspect that ASUS will upgrade the Pad Infinity to the latest version of Android, just as it upgraded the Transformer Prime to Android ICS, which means it could retain that title for quite some time — no matter what Google announces this week.