|Introduction and Specifications|
|There are generally two types of iterative processes that manufacturers go through with respect to product development and refinement; there are feature and performance enhancements that result from market feedback and there are enhancements as a result of technology advancements and cost reduction (or both combined). When it launched in December last year, the Asus Transformer Prime was, in our opinion and many others, thought to be one of the best 10-inch Android slates on the market at the time. That claim could still be made today, if it were not for the recent introduction of the latest iteration of Asus' Transformer product family, the Transformer Pad Infinity.
We recently stepped you through the details of Asus' lower cost Transformer Pad 300 and felt that it was a fine alternative for users looking to save a few pesos. But let's be honest, somebody has to compete with Apple's new iPad (it still should be called iPad 3 damn it) and its ultra-high resolution Retina display. Though the Transformer Prime's Super IPS+ display certainly competes in overall brightness and contrast, pixel density of the panel at its native 1280x800 resolution couldn't compete with Apple's super-tight 2048x1536 detail on the iPad.
Alas the innovation and refinement beat goes on with Asus thankfully, and the all new Transformer Pad Infinity we'll be showcasing here today offers a new 1920x1200 full HD Super IPS+ display to rival the iPad, as well as some goosed-up internals like a faster NVIDIA Tegra 3 4+1 core SoC (System on a Chip), improved camera performance and a few other trimmings polishing-up the product a bit more.
Let's give you the quick nickle video tour first...
The good news is, the MSRP still remains the same as the original Transformer Prime at $499 for the 32GB and $599 for the 64GB versions of the tablet. Here's a quick run-down on the vitals and then we'll dig in deep on this Ice Cream Sandwich loving bad boy.
So again, the key take-aways here amongst all of the specifications are:
Combined with an Asus/NVIDIA/Google optimized version of Android 4.03 Ice Cream Sandwich and you have quite a few upgrades going on with the new Transformer Pad Infinity. Again though, the only thing Asus didn't upgrade is the price. On paper, the new Transformer Pad Infinity is serious competition for the new iPad or any other 10-inch tablet on the market for that matter. Let's take a closer look at the product and then see how it handles in use testing and the benchmarks.
|Transformer Pad Infinity Design|
The Transformer Pad Infinity doesn't look a whole lot different than the previous generation Asus Transformer Prime. In fact, until you turn on the unit and marvel at its ultra-crisp display, the only thing that distinguishes the tablet from its predecessor is a thin plastic metallic band that trims the rear camera area of the device.
Hello Gorgeous... Display -
Ahh but the Pad Infinity's display, that's really where the rubber meets the road. The word "Infinity" in the model branding conjures up associations with things like vision, depth and quality; the latter of which has been coined by Nissan motors for their high-end line of automobiles. Hopefully Asus doesn't run into a little branding skirmish like they did with Hasbro but regardless, the 1920x1200 display on this tablet is "infinitely" better than anything we've seen in an Android slate to date. Alright, so maybe "infinitely" is a strong word but we had to use it anyway.
To be sure, the extra resolution makes a world of difference. Images and text are decidedly more crisp, with much better contrast for the Transformer Pad Infinity's display versus the Transformer Prime. Viewing angle range is about the same between the two IPS panels. However, since there is much better contrast on the higher res Infinity, you can see text more clearly at wider angles and colors look less washed out. It's hard to describe but it's not like the image fades out more on the Prime, as you get off center from its display, just that to begin with, it's not as deep, vibrant or as crisp as the Pad Infinity's 1920x1200 Super IPS+ display. In addition, the Transformer Prime appears to be setup just a touch warmer for its color preset versus the new Transformer Pad Infinity. We like the Infinity's cooler hue, though we suppose that's a subjective opinion. It presents whiter whites and again offers better overall contrast. In the shots above we have both tablets set to their Super IPS+ mode at max brightness. The difference is obvious and dramatic, when you see them side-by-side.
Hands-down, the new Transformer Pad Infinity's display really is that much better than the Prime's and it rivals Apple's current iPad Retina display in our opinion. Now before you pixel snobs get all hot and bothered about the higher resolution panel in the new iPad, it's true, at 2048x1536 Apple offers higher pixel density and does look slightly tighter and sharper to the naked eye versus the Transformer Pad Infinity. However, at standard viewing distances for a tablet, we'd bet you'd be hard press to distinguish a marked advantage for the iPad's display. In addition, Asus' Super IPS+ mode offers fricken laser beam brightness for better outdoor viewing performance over the iPad.
And finally there's Corning's Gorilla Glass 2 that has been strapped to the front of the Transformer Pad Infinity. Claims are that the second coming of Gorilla glass now offers a thinner but just as durable surface that is more responsive to touch interface commands. We didn't notice much if any difference to be honest but hey, the 2.0 version of anything is better, right? Well, maybe.
The rest, from a materials and design standpoint for the new Transformer Pad Infinity is pretty similar versus the Transformer Prime. We got our hands on a champagne purple model with its signature brushed aluminum finish. It's gorgeous. We love it. Our only reservation is that the surface is a total fingerprint magnet and is more prone to scratching that most tablet exteriors we've seen and tested.
The new Pad Infinity is ever so slightly thicker at .33" thin versus the Prime at .32". The keyboard dock is the same between the two systems and you get a 2-in-1 audio headphone jack, a micro HDMI port and Micro SD card slot on the tablet, with a full sized SD Card slot and USB 2.0 port on the dock. In the tablet is a 25Wh Li-polymer battery and the dock offers a 19.5Wh battery as well, for a potential up time of 9.5 hours with just the slate, and up to 14 hours possible with the dock connected. The keyboard, though well made, is your basic chiklet style netbook keyboard. If you're phobic of cramped typing spaces you'll need to take a deep breath, relax and come up the learning curve with it, plain and simple.
|Asus UI Customizations and Camera Performance|
|When it comes to useful tweaks to the already rather functional and complete Android 4.x interface, Asus dials things in better than most. We're not completely satisfied; we miss the simple task killer X boxes that can be found on the likes of Lenovo's IdeaPad tablet, on the Android active task bar but that's a minor quibble. Asus' control panel and customizable widgets also offer quick access functionality that most tablets don't.
Home Screen with Custom Asus Control Panel - Asus Customized Widgets
The Asus control panel that you can bring up on the bottom right of any screen, is identical to what is available on the Transformer Prime. It allows direct access to screen brightness and Super IPS+ controls, three power management levels (power saving, balanced, performance), WiFi/BT on/off toggle, pivot mode, settings hotkey, and a battery life indicator for the pad and keyboard. And wait, what's this? In addition to customizable widgets like the battery level indicator, MyZine and weather, Asus offers an active task manager widget. It might add a bit more clutter to your desktop versus an integrated Android task bar modification but it does get the job done.
Asus MyZine Widget and Android Web Browser Keyboard
Asus App Backup and Polaris Office
The Asus MyZine widget is about as close as you get to the active tiles feature of Windows 8, except they're, well, not active. But hey, you do get quick access and view of your most recent web page visits, pictures, music and weather forecast. Come on Google, you can do this. At least Asus makes the effort here, and also bundles in things like their App Backup utility and the most current version of Polaris Office.
As we previously noted, the new Asus Pad Infinity has an updated, wide F2.2 aperture 8MP rear-facing camera with updated IR filter. The results of this new technology speak for themselves. Feast on the rainy day pooch cuteness...
Indoor and Outdoor Still Camera Results - Both Lower Light Conditions
Without question the Transformer Pad Infinity has one of the nicest integrated HD cameras we've seen on any mobile device to date, tablet or handset. It even does relatively well in lower light situations as you can see, with much less grain visible versus what the Transformer Prime delivered. This too was like night and day. You might not be the type to take pics with a tablet very often (neither are we), but if you need to take that impromptu snap, this integrated tab cam won't let you down.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity 1080p HD Video Sample
In terms of video performance, the Transformer Pad Infinity's revamped 8MP auto-focus camera also excels versus virtually all other tablet cameras we've tested thus far. Here you can see our resident Jack Russel terrorists are captured with relative clean, sharp precision even in fast moving action. For an integrated tablet camera the results are impressive and image quality speaks for itself. As you can also here, the on board mic captures audio from a nearby source (in this case I'm holding the tablet fairly close) nicely as well.
|Performance: CPU and Web Browsing|
Test Methodology: In all of our test vehicles for the following benchmarks, we ran each tablet at its performance optimized settings where available, with the exception of the Transformer Pad Infinity and Transformer Prime which were tested at Balanced and Performance power profile settings. Performance mode on the Pad Infinity offers the full performance of its NVIDIA Tegra 3 T33 processor, whereas Balanced mode compromises performance a bit to conserve power, capping the CPU at 1.6GHz max frequency. Beyond that, each tablet was also connected to a wall power source to ensure full performance. Here's a quick spec rundown for each tablet tested.
Unfortunately, the iOS version of Linpack is different enough that we couldn't compare iPad numbers in this test, and still get an apples-to-apples match-up (no pun intended). However, versus the other Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 slates here, as well as Samsung's Exynos dual-core processor, NVIDIA's Tegra 3 T33 puts out over 2X the performance of Tegra 2 and has a measure edge over the Prime's stock Tegra 3 setup.
|Performance: Graphics GLBenchmark|
GLBenchmark is new to our 3D performance benchmark set. The test suite is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark with a number of performance metrics incorporated in it. We specifically use the Fill Texture Fetch suite to measure raw texture fill rate of a graphics core and the Egypt Off Screen test to measure 3D performance in frames per second. The Off Screen test renders workloads at 1280x720 for all devices, but off-screen, so Vsynch and screen refresh are not limiting performance.
Looking at the texture fill rate numbers, Apple's A5 offers a boatload of bandwidth, almost two times that of NVIDIA's new Tegra 3 T33 SoC in the Pad Infinity, even at its performance setting. Samsung's Exynos processor holds its own for that matter, in the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus. Regardless, Tegra 3, at least according to GLBenchmark, has roughly three times the texture fill rate of Tegra 2 and the T33 variant expands on that performance even more.
In the Egypt Off Screen test, the Asus Pad Infinity's Tegra 3 T33 begins to close in on the iPad 2's A5 processor and offers over a 20% performance boost versus the standard 1.3Ghz Tegra 3 SoC in the Transformer Prime or Pad 300.
|Performance: Graphics and General System Level|
|An3DBench XL is a benchmarking tool based on an Android port of the jPCT 3D engine.
The app runs 7 tests in total that look at graphics processor fill rate and complex rendering workloads and scenes.
This is an Android-only benchmark, so unfortunately the iPad 2 couldn't play here. We'll also note that the Emporer's New Clothes test seems to be limited by screen refresh (Vsynch) on the higher-end devices, which is why the bar graph is close to flat on that test. However, looking at the more demanding Flower Power and Magic Island tests, we see some differences. The Flower Power test shows the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus' slight fill rate advantage again, like it did in the GLBenchmark Fill test. That said, the new T33 variant of Tegra 3 once again closes that gap significantly.
On the other hand, our Magic Island numbers show a sizable lead for Tegra 3 all around and even more of an edge for the Pad Infinity, where the high polygon counts in this test shows a nice performance advantage for NVIDIA's Tegra 3 T33 new chip.
The Android-based AnTuTu benchmark does a nice job of measuring individual subsystem level performance for our tablet competitors here, with models for CPU, GPU, RAM and IO (or storage subsystem) performance.
Here we only had datapoints between the two most recent Asus Transformer tablets, the Prime and the Pad Infinity. As you can see, in all tests the new T33 version of Tegra 3 offers a dramatic performance increase over the standard Tegra 3 bin, with the exception of GPU. We're not sure why this was the case, but as you can see, the results scaled properly with a slide increase for the Pad Infinity in Performance mode. Likely this is about an NVIDIA or Android driver-level optimization for the sort of workloads placed on the GPU core. Finally, note the significant edge the Pad Infinity has in the IO test. Apparently Asus has tweaked performance here as well, and it's likely at least partially attributed to the faster DDR3-1600 memory in the Pad Infinity, assisting with overall system throughput.
|Battery Life Testing|
|In an attempt to quantitatively measure the Transformer Pad Infinity's battery life in a controlled benchmark environment, we ran a test in which we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics, Flash media and text. The page automatically refreshes every three minutes. This is a simple baseline test that measures up time with web browsing. Due to time constraints, we were only able to test one performance mode with the tablet, so we chose its Balanced mode for our measurements. In the future we hope to do more testing with the Pad Infinity's keyboard dock attached as well, which will extend battery life significantly.
For this test, we set the Pad Infinity's display to 50% brightness, which is still plenty bright and easy on the eyes. Again, this test was setup in the Balanced performance mode for the tablet. In Power Saver mode, which will offer plenty of performance for simple web browsing, you could expect longer up time.
Though these are the most impressive result for the Pad Infinity here, Asus' new tablet managed to extend battery life in our web browser test, though as we've shown you, the tablet does offer better over all performance, in addition to its high resolution and higher contrast Super IPS+ display. The original Eee Pad Transformer's Tegra 2 dual-core SoC is less power hungry obviously so it managed over an hour and a half of additional battery life. Regardless, we measured 8 hours and 5 minutes of untethered performance with the new Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and that's not bad at all. Attach the Pad Infinity's optional keyboard dock (we hope to update results here soon) and we expect you'll get another 4 - 5 hours of use on top of that.
|Performance Analysis and Final Thoughts|
Performance Analysis: The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity offers a level of performance that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 - 20% faster all around, versus the previous generation high-end Transformer Prime. In fact, the Transformer Pad Infinity in many test conditions, especially in terms of graphics performance, is one of the fastest Android tablets we've tested to date. In addition, its battery life actually improved in our light duty web browsing test setup, though your mileage may vary, especially if its rendering more graphics intensive content like HD video or otherwise.
So then, if you bought the Transformer Prime less than 6 months ago, you're probably jonesing pretty heavily right about now. Almost everything about the Transformer Pad Infinity is better than the Asus Transformer Prime, from its faster Tegra 3 T33 SoC, to its improved camera, Bluetooth 3.0, Corning Gorilla Glass 2 and of course its deliciously high resolution 1920x1200 Super IPS+ display. What's commendable for Asus is that the company has managed to work in all of these feature and performance enhancements, while keeping the price point exactly where the Transformer Prime is currently at $499 for the 32GB version and $599 for the 64GB version.
As you can imagine, we should start seeing significantly more aggressive pricing on the original Transformer Prime since the new Pad Infinity is here with all its high-end trimmings for exactly the same MSRP. So, depending on where things settle at retail for the Prime, you may have a hard decision to make if you're considering either of these Asus slates. You could save a few bucks and go with the Prime or go all out for the new Transformer Pad Infinity. We'd offer that $499 for a 32GB tablet with the quality and features of the Transformer Pad Infinity is a reasonably good deal and you'll appreciate its upscale image quality and performance from top to bottom. If you're looking for a 10-inch Android slate, we say go for it.