We’re a little late to this particular party, so let’s get the hyperbole out of the way. The Asus Transformer Infinity TF700 is unquestionably the best Android tablet you can currently buy, and the strongest competition Apple’s iPad has ever had.
It’s beautifully built, ludicrously powerful, impressive versatile and in possession of a fantastic screen. It’s not perfect – and it’s certainly not cheap – but if you want a device that can work as a laptop, a tablet, an exceptional media player and a fantastic Android games machine then this is it. You’ll just need deep pockets.
Clearly an evolution of the Transformer Prime, the Infinity has the same look and feel, with that brushed, radial effect on the dark metal back, and a simple black frame around the screen. At 598g and 8.5mm thick it’s 0.2mm thicker and 12g heavier than the Prime, but in the hand it’s extremely well balanced feels surprisingly light. Sure, there are slimmer and lighter 10.1in Android tablets to be found, but none that feel this well built. Barring the strip of plastic at the top, which houses the rear-facing camera, flash, power and volume controls and (presumably) the wireless antennae, it all feels seamless, solid and tight. Most Ultrabooks don’t feel this good.
Asus Transformer Infinity screen and sound quality
The Infinity’s killer feature is, of course, the screen. It’s a 10.1in IPS panel with a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, and in some respects it’s actually better than the screen on the iPad 3. You can switch between a standard IPS mode and a Super IPS+ mode, and if it’s bright and vibrant in the former, then it’s ludicrously so in the latter, giving you a screen that you can actually see even in bright sunlight (you know, the stuff you might dimly remember from last summer). Text clarity is excellent, good photosexhibit luxuriant detail and rich colours, and 1080p video is simply dazzling. The IPad 3’s screen might come out on top in sheer pixels-per-inch resolution, but I know which screen I’d rather watch a movie on, even given two such superlative choices.
On the sound front things aren’t quite so great. The output from the SonicMaster sound system is OK for playing games and watching movies, but there’s not a lot of power, and playing music makes you realise how thin the tone is. If you want a sonic experience to match the screen, you’ll just have to hook up a pair of headphones.
The other thing the Infinity brings to the table is performance. The UK Wi-Fi model now comes packing a 1.6GHz Tegra 3 T33 processor, giving you an extra 200MHz over the Transformer Prime. Given that the extra screen resolution gobbles some of that power you can’t expect a vast speed bump or a big increase in FPS in 3D games, but with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean now installed the Transformer Infinity just feels slicker, snappier and more responsive than any 10.1in Android tablet we’ve seen before.
Cutting-edge games like Phosphor Games’ fantasy adventure, Horn, run with a smoothness that defeats even some lower-end Tegra 3 tablets, with graphics that look even more sumptuous on the extra-HD screen. If you need confirmation, the Infinity scores a whopping 12fps/1,374 frames in the demanding GLBench 2.51 Egypt HD benchmark, which leaves it behind the iPad 3 (3,018 frames) but ahead of the 1080p Acer Iconia 701 at 1,152 frames. If you want to game on Android, you won’t do better until the next generation of mobile GPUs arrives with Adreno 320, Mali 6xx, Tegra 4 and Power VR Rogue.
The Infinity packs in the now standard two cameras, one facing front for video calls and one facing back. The rear camera, with an 8 megapixel sensor, a fast f2.2 lens and an LED flash, delivers excellent results by tablet standards, with bright, sharp pictures even in less than ideal outside conditions, though there’s still plenty of noise in low-light conditions indoors. We often see over-exposed shots and washed out colours with other tablet cameras, but the Infinity doesn’t suffer from either. The same goes for 1080p video. The 2 megapixel front camera is more than fit for purpose, though it’s best used in half-decent lighting if you don’t want to look like you live in a cave during video chats.
If we were just talking about the tablet, connectivity on the Infinity would be ever-so-slightly underwhelming. There’s a headphone socket, a micro HDMI output, a Micro SD card slot and a proprietary 40-pin connector to be used with the USB and charger cable Asus supplies. Where some other Android tablets have a USB port, a full-sized SD card slot and a micro USB connector on-board, this leaves the Infinity at a slight disadvantage. Of course, plug the Infinity into its keyboard dock and that all changes, with full-sized USB and SD card slots included, you have as many connection options as most tablets or Ultrabooks, if not more.
One advantage of waiting so long for a review sample is that we can evaluate the Infinity with Android 4.1 installed. It’s not a huge move on from Ice Cream Sandwich in terms of general look and feel, but Jelly Bean feels that bit smoother and more responsive, and Asus has done a nice job of customising the UI and installing apps without smothering the OS or packing the screen with bloatware. There are simple clock, email and weather widgets on the home screen, while pre-installed goodies include an excellent notebook app, which transforms hand-scrawled words into nicely lined-up documents, and Asus’ MyLibrary, MyNet and MyCloud eBook Reader, network media playback and cloud-storage/remote desktop apps. Of those, MyNet is particularly useful. Despite a basic interface, it does a good job of streaming music, photos and video from PCs or other DLNA compliant devices.
Of course, the biggest reason why people have taken to the Transformer line in the past is that you get such a versatile product. On the one hand, you have a nice, convenient and lightweight tablet. On the other hand, it slots into the bundled keyboard dock and you have something that feels like the middle ground between netbook and Ultrabook. This is as true of the Infinity as it was of previous Transformers.
With the Transformer Prime and Transformer TF300 Asus had the whole docking mechanism nailed, and the Infinity works just as smoothly, with the keyboard and touchpad usable pretty much instantaneously. Good-sized isolated keys, a sensible layout and generous spacing all make the keyboard comfortable to work with, and while it always seems off using a touchpad when you can just tap the screen, it does allow for a little more precision when you’re working on a document.
The net effect is that you can get some serious work done on the Infinity, not least because Asus still pre-installs the very usable Polaris Office suite. In fact, the more Android matures and the more polished its productivity apps become, the more the Infinity feels like a viable alternative to a Windows laptop. You might not get the big-screen/big keyboard ergonomics, Windows compatibility or raw horsepower of a bona-fide Ultrabook, but if you’re just looking for something that can handle some work on the road, then the Infinity, with its high-resolution screen and solid keyboard, fits the bill. Our only complaint? The sheer weight of the screen still makes the Infinity a bit unbalanced when used on a desk. It’s not as much at risk of tipping as the more screen-heavy TF300, but there’s still a bit of movement when you prod the screen too hard.
With such a bright, high-resolution screen and a faster processor, you might expect the Infinity to struggle when it comes to battery life. In fact, it’s very competitive, managing around ten hours of actual use, including video streaming over Wi-Fi and a pretty healthy chunk of Horn. This matches the performance of other leading 10.1in Android Tablets, including Acer’s dual battery Iconia A510.
But then the news gets better. Click the tablet into the keyboard dock, and battery life boosts by another six hours or so. Most Ultrabooks can’t manage that, let alone most netbooks, proving once again that the Infinity could be a great all-day mobile tool, not to mention a great option if you have a lot of travelling to do.
Sleek, beautiful, great-to-use and powerful, the Asus Transformer Infinity goes toe-to-toe with the iPad 3 as the finest tablet of the moment. The iPad has the edge on graphics performance and quality software, but the Asus has connectivity and versatility on its side – and both have excellent screens.
The only issue is that you pay a high price for this much goodness. £599 is a lot of money for a tablet, making the Infinity £40 more expensive than even the 64GB iPad 3, and while the keyboard dock is more than worth £40 of anyone’s money, we’re still talking about a big investment. Rivals like the Iconia A700 are edging closer to the £400 mark, so to some extent you’re paying for luxurious design and build quality.
Is it worth it? Unquestionably. If I could have my pick of any Android tablet now, then I’d have this one. We’ll wait to see what next year’s crop brings, but for now this is the best Android tablet on the market.
Manufacturer and Product
Asus Transformer Infinity TF700
NVIDIA Tegra3 1.6GHz
10.1in 1920 x 1200 LED Backlit Super IPS+
Proprietary 40-pin, microSD, micro HDMI, 3.5mm audio. USB and SD Card on keyboard dock
25Wh (tablet), 19.5Wh (dock)
Size and weight
268 x 181 x 8.5mm, 598g