For the rest, we're on familiar territory, as this tablet's hardware is lifted straight from the Transformer Pad Prime, launched at the end of 2011. In other words, it has a 1.3 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of onboard storage that can be expanded via the microSD card slot, a micro HDMI 1.4 output (with 3D output to a compatible TV), Wi-Fi n, Bluetooth 3.0 and an 8-Megapixel photo and video camera with LED flash. There's also a 3.5 mm headphones jack and a 40-pin proprietary port for hooking up a dock or a USB/charging adapter.
Seeing as this is one of Asus' Transformer Pads, the tablet can be twinned with an optional keyboard/battery dock, which boosts battery life and brings a physical keyboard, a USB 2.0 Host port and an SD/SDHC card slot.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T and optional keyboard dock will be available in grey/blue or champagne with 32 GB or 64 GB of memory.
DESIGN & HANDLING
We could sum up the Infinity TF700T by saying it's basically the same as the Transformer Pad Prime. But that would be too simple, and it really wouldn't be doing the Infinity justice. In fact, on closer inspection, this HD tablet is slightly bigger than the Prime. For starters, its connection ports are in different places—they're all on the left-hand edge in the Infinity rather than spread over the various edges of the Prime. The Asus logo has changed place too and, more importantly, the aluminium rear casing is completely different.
The rear casing was a source of some complaint in the Prime, apparently affecting the Wi-Fi and GPS signals. The Infinity has therefore ditched the circle pattern casing for a smooth aluminium plate with a 2 cm plastic strip covering its top edge. This should make sure the tablet picks up wireless signals just fine.
The tablet is pleasant to handle and its weight seems to be perfectly distributed. However, the edges of the frame seem to be a bit sharper than those of the Prime, which can make things uncomfortable for the palms of your hands when you've been holding the tablet for a while. The screen bezel is as wide as ever too—we can't wait for the day that tablet bezels get slimmed down like in LCD TVs.
With its keyboard dock, the Infinity transforms into a luxury netbook that's slim and relatively light (1.1 kg in total). Asus still hasn't done anything to make it easier to open the tablet and keyboard combo when closed in netbook mode. You therefore still have to grip both parts separately to prise the thing open, which isn't quite as sleek as the easy-open systems seen in the average netbook or laptop.
Note that if you already have the Transformer Prime keyboard dock, you'll be able to use this with the Infinity. However, seeing as the two tablets aren't exactly the same size, the Infinity isn't a perfect match for the Prime dock. It'll do, but they don't look 100% right together.
The main difference between the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T and the Prime is the IPS+ screen, which has Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels compared with 1280 x 800 pixels in the Prime. This should improve display quality, with enhanced sharpness and comfortable onscreen reading—like the kind of difference we saw between the iPad 2 and the new iPad.
Plus, seeing as Asus' previous generations of Transformer Pads have got great results in our screen tests, we had high hopes for this Full HD IPS+ screen.
The first thing we noticed about the new display was that, strictly speaking, the Infinity screen doesn't use S-IPS technology like the Transformer Pad Prime. Instead, it uses a PLS panel—that's Samsung's version of IPS technology. Asus has therefore changed technology for this particular model.
Top: sub-pixels in the S-IPS screen used in the Transformer Pad Prime.
Bottom:sub-pixels in the PLS screen used in the Pad Infinity TF700.
Screen contrast actually lags slightly behind the Prime. We measured the average contrast at 1000:1 in standard IPS mode, which places the Infinity TF700T behind the Transformer Prime (with over 1200:1) and our current record holder for average contrast, the Acer Iconia Tab A200 (1500:1). Nevertheless, it's still perfectly respectable, beating the 3rd generation iPad (930:1) and running circles around most netbooks and laptops.
The contrast is accompanied by a very high maximum brightness. In standard mode, this reaches 400 cd/m², while in Super IPS+ mode it pushes up to 620 cd/m²! That means you'll be able to see your Infinity TF700T screen perfectly well when using it outdoors.
Colour accuracy is very good in this tablet, with an average Delta E at 5.8 (this should be under 3 for perfect colours). Dark colours are reproduced nicely, with red and yellow shades particularly well rendered. This is therefore one of very few tablet screens on which colours aren't totally crazy, even if it's still no match for the near-perfect colours seen in Apple's latest iPad.
We measured colour temperature at 7377 kelvins, with nice, even levels that help ensure there's no blue overtone to the display. The overall result is nice and neutral.
The 17 ms ghosting time is decent, and is actually about average for an IPS-type screen.
Left: Transformer Pad Infinity / Right: Transformer Pad Prime
And now on to the serious stuff: how does the HD display compare with standard 1280 x 800 pixel Android tablet screens, and to the 2048 x 1536 pixel screen in the latest iPad?
From the outset, the increase in overall visual comfort is only too obvious. The difference between a Transformer Pad Prime and an Infinity is immediately noticeable. From Android icons and pages web, to HD videos and word processing, text, characters and images, everything looks to have taken a huge step forwards in this sharper Android environment.
Compared with the screen in the latest iPad, however, the Infinity is still short of a few pixels to knock Apple's tablet off the top spot for text clarity and general comfort. There are also some traces of aliasing with text displayed on the Infinity, while the iPad's Retina display keeps contours crisply defined.
Left to right: Prime, Infinity, iPad
That said, video playback seems to be more apt and generally higher quality than in the iPad. The 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution and 16:10-format of the Asus tablet are much better suited to watching 1080p content than the ultra-high but unusual resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio used in the Apple tablet.
Onscreen text up-close. Top to bottom: Asus Transformer Pad Prime, Infinity and Apple new iPad.
So, ultimately, does a Full HD Android tablet have what it takes to rival Apple's 9.7-inch Retina display? On the whole, we'd say it does, as video playback is an essential feature of any tablet, and this 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution suits it perfectly. Plus, general clarity and readability have improved greatly. It doesn't disappoint!
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
The Transformer Pad Infinity runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. There's no custom interface but Asus has thrown in some extra apps and services. For more information on these, we recommend you check out our reviews of the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 and Prime where we detail them thoroughly (MyNet, MyCloud, SuperNote, etc.).
In this particular review, we'll be concentrating on the speed, stability and pleasantness of general navigation following the addition of a Full HD screen.
The boosted resolution hits you like a smack in the face as soon as you start up the Infinity. The OS looks clearer, sharper, making Android 4 look incredibly crisp and clean. The difference is particularly noticeable, for example, when you compare Android icons on the Transformer Pad Prime and Infinity. It's the same story with Polaris Office and text entry with the keyboard too, making this HD tablet very nice to use. In fact, it feels like a whole new version of Android 4.
The tablet's responsiveness surprised us slightly when we first started testing the Infinity, as there were a few hangs here and there plus two full crashes and reboots. But when an incredibly well-timed update landed part-way through our tests, the Infinity instantly became faster and more stable. We just noticed two or three slight hesitations when opening the multitasking menu or when playing resource-heavy games (ShadowGun THD). On the whole, then, the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T is just as fast and responsive as other Asus tablets.
The Wi-Fi signal is stable and is picked up more strongly than in the Prime tablet we tested. Even when you're not right next to the hotspot, the Infinity rarely loses more than one bar of connectivity. Performances are therefore on par with the TF300. GPS positioning is fast too, even used indoors with the GPS+Wi-Fi function.
Since the arrival of the Nvidia Tegra 3, web browsing has been a real breeze. And now, in both portrait and landscape modes, Full HD resolution makes things even better. In fact, web pages are clear and easy to read as soon as you open them up. Although it's not quite as sharp as the latest iPad, it's still a major improvement on the Transformer Pad Prime.
For gaming, the TegraZone offers direct access to games optimised to run with Nvidia processors on Google Play. Here, though, the Full HD brings a new dimension to tried and tested titles. The Infinity can effectively handle all those polygons without even flinching. Once again, it's a hit!
Although we still find it hard to see the point of a camera in a device weighing almost 600 grammes and measuring over 20 cm, Asus' built-in snapper is just as effective as the one seen in the Prime. Pictures are neutral, with no aberration or crazy colour faults. Pictures are generally very crisp too, with sharpness accentuated towards the middle of the frame. The flash doesn't overexpose subjects and sensitivity is decent in low light. The video mode works well in good conditions, but it's not worth bothering with in low light.
Asus warned us not to expect battery life to match that of the Prime, as the Infinity uses the same battery but has a new Full HD screen to deal with. The Prime holds out for 10 hrs 25 mins of video playback with Wi-Fi on, whereas the Infinity manages 8 hrs 35 mins at best in the same conditions. On average, battery life averages around 8 hrs 30 mins or 8hrs 50 mins for video or mixed use (e-mail, web browsing, video and games). With Wi-Fi off, video playback can be pushed to just over 9 hours.
Note that these readings were taken with the screen in standard IPS mode. If you switch to IPS+ mode, the battery will drain much more quickly, with video playback maxing at 5 hrs 35 mins, without brightness on the top setting. And with power-hungry games like ShadowGun THD (Tegra 3 high-resolution version), the Infinity battery life drops to 4 hrs 40 mins—and that's in standard IPS mode!
With the keyboard and battery dock connected, video playback and mixed use with the screen in standard IPS mode is boosted to between 13 hrs and 15 hrs 40 mins on average. So while the Infinity can't outlast its non Full HD counterpart, battery life is still more than satisfactory for this kind of product.