The handset's display uses Super IPS technology and has 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution. Ensconced below are a 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor (the same as found in the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One), 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of non-expandable storage. There's a 13-Megapixel backlit camera on the back that films in Full HD at 30 frames per second, plus a 2-Megapixel camera on the front. The operating system is Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, to which Asus added a few of its own apps and services.
The PadFone Infinity costs around £700 SIM-free, although there's also a smartphone-only version for around £500.
DESIGN & HANDLING
The smartphone reprises some aspects of the PadFone 2's design, all the while asserting itself as its own entity. Masculine, aluminium-clad and robust, it's a fairly large phone that doesn't quite fit as well in the hands as the Galaxy S4 or HTC One do. This is because it's relatively wide and thick without any particular ergonomic compensation on the back shell. But we've seen worse, and the physical buttons along the edges are easy to reach, whether you're a righty or a lefty.
The PadFone Station tablet/dock is thinner and lighter than the first PadFone's. Where the original PadFone had a bulky, protuberant compartment that opened up to house the smartphone, this one just has a slim open slot where the phone slides in vertically. The connection is maintained via the microUSB port on the bottom edge of the phone.
The connection is secure, so you can turn the tablet any which way without worrying about the smartphone falling out. And it isn't too heavy with the handset inserted, coming in at just under 700 grams, which is just about average for a 10.1-inch Android tablet.
The PadFone Station is well manufactured with a solid build and a slightly soft-touch plastic surface instead of the aluminium that adorns the phone, making it easily grippable. We would have liked to have seen a few ports on it, such as a mini-HDMI out or an SD card slot... Then again, it makes sense given that the smartphone is the primary device.
With IPS panels for both the smartphone and tablet, Asus clearly decided to make the screens one of the selling points. Both have excellent viewing angles and contrast (1,091:1 for the smartphone and 1,095:1 for the tablet), but the brightness is a little low in our book: 234 cd/m² for the phone and 264 cd/m² for the dock. Both have deep enough black to bring out the rest of the image, but the low brightness makes the screens less legible outdoors.
Asus did a great job with the colours, as both the phone and tablet have the same respectable colour fidelity with a Delta E of 4.4 (Delta E measures how true the colour tones are, where the closer to zero, the more faithful the tone). Even better, the colour temperature is about as close to perfect as you can get, at 6,503 K. This is all great stuff. The 200 ms touch response delay, however, is a far cry from the latest iPad (75 ms) and Galaxy S4 (110 ms).
Following this year's norm in high-end gadgetry, Asus gave the smartphone Full HD resolution. With high pixel density of 440 dots per inch, that makes small text easy to read in both portrait and landscape mode. Same goes for the PadFone Station, which has just-over-Full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1200, for a pixel density of 224 dpi.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
As already seen on the GS4 and HTC One, the Snapdragon 600 SoC and 2 GB of RAM are a good fit for Android. But the configuration is more interesting to study in this case, as it's practically pure Android, whereas Samsung and HTC both add their own user interfaces on top, respectively TouchWiz and Sense 5. Here there's no extra GUI or software overlay obscuring the operating system—it's just Jelly Bean and a few added wallpapers and apps, such as the excellent SuperNote, Asus Studio photo editor and Asus Story for scrapbooking. In theory, all of the cards are lined up for a smooth-running Droid experience.
The OS behaves just as it should and navigating between apps, the home screens and the launcher runs astonishingly smoothly. After inserting the smartphone into the dock, you just have to wait half a second and the image automatically shows up in 16:10 on the tablet screen.
The tablet is just a tiny bit slower than the smartphone, but not enough to get in your way. That said, we were disappointed to see that in this third generation of the PadFone concept there's still a lack of continuity in places. For instance, every time you connect or disconnect the two devices, you have to relaunch the web browser—which gets annoying—whereas other apps, such as SuperNotes, carry over from one to the other.
In tablet mode, at all times you can open mini-apps alongside your other tasks. This highly practical capability is winning over more and more brands, such as Samsung and Sony. It allows you to be using an app and then also open a web browser, calculator, calendar, e-mail, etc. A long press on the home button while in any app opens the aesthetically pleasing customisable app launcher, where you can select a programme and simultaneously use the web browser, photo viewer, photo editor, games, alarm clock and so on.
As for the Snapdragon 600 processor's raw performance power, all the major benchmarks show it to be just about on par with the version found in the HTC One: both the One and Infinity's CPUs just underperform the Galaxy S4.
Web browsing on the PadFone Infinity is just as good as on competing high-end devices. Pages load quickly when the conditions are right and the screen is easy on the eyes both in tablet mode (1920 x 1200 resolution helps) and smartphone mode (Full HD and a 5-inch diagonal also helps). The zoom function is fast and precise, helping make this a great online experience!
The PadFone Infinity plays SD, HD and Full HD movies without a hitch. But to read any and every file format, you're better off downloading a third party player from Play Store, such as MX Player or Mobo Player.
Between the highly capable processor and the Adreno 320 GPU (GL Benchmark: 32 fps), a combination that has already proved its stuff on the GS4 and HTC One, gaming ain't no thing on the PadFone Infinity. Any game you find in the Play Store, even the most processor-intensive, will run like a Swiss watch. And between the smartphone and tablet we saw no differences in the picture quality or gameplay fluidity.
The smartphone has a 2,400 mAh battery, which may sound extravagant, but not when you have a Snapdragon 600 and Full HD screen to feed. In our raw battery test the PadFone Infinity lasted 8 hours 53 minutes. That's when purposely stressing the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, audio output, GPS and so on. With more standard usage, the PadFone Infinity will last your average workday before a recharge is in order.
The tablet has a 5,000 mAh battery. You get to choose whether you want it to maintain the smartphone's power, charge the smartphone (this method charges more slowly than with the smartphone plugged into the wall) or manage the power usage between the two devices. As a tablet with the smartphone inserted, the PadFone Infinity can last two days or more. Of course, charging it this way takes a long time. The smartphone alone takes about two hours to charge.
The PadFone Infinity takes great pictures as a smartphone. Black comes out a tiny bit flooded, but there's a respectable amount of detail in the shots, contours look nice and precise, and you can tell there isn't an inordinate amount of digital enhancement.
The PadFone Infinity's camera doesn't perform quite as well in low lighting as the Galaxy S4 or HTC One's—you can see a subtle loss in detail and colour—but it's much better than the Sony Xperia Z, which also has a 13-Megapixel sensor. The flash is just right and doesn't overexpose subjects.
The camera app is extensive with a plethora of modes and scenes capable of fulfilling any mobile picture-taker's deepest desires. It may not live up to the GS4's photo app, but it's close.
The smartphone has a 13-Megapixel camera (f/2), but in tablet form the sensor gets stripped down to 5.5 Megapixels. The tablet doesn't take the most amazing photos out there, but they're entirely usable, as long as you can resign to using the lower resolution (there's less detail along the edges of the frame than in the centre), and the somewhat grainier image.