Just over half a year since the presentation of the phenomenal Prime, ASUS has prepared a successor in the Transformer family, namely Infinity. And while its predecessor was all about balancing and cost-cutting, the new one is much more Epicurean in nature, improving on all aspects of the original with an inevitably higher price. That said, Infinity isn't simply Prime 2 - more of a Prime 1.5.
Exterior and keyboard
Just like with Prime, the body of ASUS Infinity is made of ground aluminium, with an identical texture and colour choice, making the two devices difficult to distinguish. After a more thorough look, we were able to notice that the "see-saw" volume regulation button on Infinity has been moved to the same edge housing the power button.
The keyboard section is identical to Prime's, making it possible to use exactly the same keyboard on two different models, for what may very well be the first time ever. As before, the keys had to have a somewhat shorter step compared to ordinary notebooks, but we didn't mind; more extensive text composition and editing remains a breeze, and as was the case with T300, many local languages and characters are natively supported on the physical keyboard, which is a very important feature.
There's also the inevitable SD card slot and a single USB connector. The docking mechanism is identical to Prime's, which means elegant and with an exceptionally firm grip, so firm that it's almost impossible to separate the two sections when the lid is down. We wouldn't have minded a wider opening angle, and the weight balance issue in fully open mode hasn't really been countered either. The touchpad is sufficiently large, with a single see-saw button on the bottom and multi-touch support, which makes it remarkably easy to manipulate content (for instance, zooming in/out on a webpage) with two fingers. As expected, ASUS coated this model's display with a special layer too, with the objective of fending off fingerprints, which are still present, but not as visible or difficult to remove as otherwise.
Cameras are present on both sides of the tablet again, but have been significantly improved over Prime. The front camera is obviously intended for video calls, so it got a higher resolution in order to support Full HD display, offered by several programs already, Skype included. The one on the back was among the best on tablet devices in general already, so there was no need to increase its resolution, but it received an increased viewing angle nevertheless, making the images it produces that much more panorama-like. The blend opening has been enlarged too, which outlines details more visibly in low-light conditions. The stereo back speaker has suffered changes as well, making it somewhat louder and clearer. Its position on the right-hand side makes it more difficult to hear when the tablet is handheld, as the hand itself is likely to cover it partially or entirely.
The supreme enlightened - display
The most important novelty on Infinity is its display, which has a higher resolution than a 50" Full HD TV. In fact, you'll have a hard time finding a monitor that has a higher resolution than Prime. As this was a huge change, we were afraid that other features of the display may end up underwhelming, but it turned out that our fears were unsubstantiated. As with Prime, the viewing angles are excellent, with colour precision and contrast just the way they should be.
The display is still proteted with Gorilla glass, albeit with its improved version, called Gorilla 2 for short. In theory, this should provide a thinner protective layer, higher light pervasion and a 25% tougher protection against physical damage, but all of this remains specifications, as the claims are difficult to verify in real-world conditions. The significantly upped backlight, providing enough "juice" in Super IPS+ mode to make the tablet usable in the open, is still present, successful and essential for outdoor use. We'd even go as far to say that the tablet remains usable even under strong direct sunlight.
Despite the display's high resolution, we didn't encounter any problems with the graphical interface. We were generally on the hunt for a UI element that's failed to adjust properly or some other graphical bug, but this simply hasn't occurred. This enabled an unprecedented pleasure of enjoying a crisp clear, razor-sharp display, primarily of text, but also high-resolution video. Granted, if someone switches your Infinity for Prime, it'll be difficult to tell the difference at first, yet give it a few days, and you'll really begin to appreciate the difference in display quality, and in order for you to see the difference for yourself, we've prepared a high-resolution image of the two displays which clearly shows how small Infinity's pixels really are.
Tegra 3 on steroids
Infinity is based on the latest Tegra 3 platform, provided by NVIDIA, and is the first widely available device with this SOC (System-on-chip) platform. We've written on Tegra 3 extensively already, but in short, it's a quad-core CPU with an additional core with reduced performance and consumption, coupled with a 12-core graphics chip. The aforementioned fifth core is there to reduce consumption and fulfil simpler demands by apps that don't require the CPU to unleash its full power. NVIDIA has bumped the core clock up from 1.3 GHz to 1.6 GHz. The three operating modes - Normal, Balanced and Power-saving - have remained, and the switch can be performed manually by clicking the appropriate icon in the notifications corner. Even at maximum load, we were able to use the tablet for more than eight hours (without the dock), with a very active use involving games, surfing and video playback. Yet the situation isn't nearly as simple as it may appear at first sight. NVIDIA has definitely improved its SOC in this tablet considerably, both in terms of raw speed and memory access, both of which outperform Prime by quite a bit. Yet this wasn't done merely to follow up to technology improvements; the system's performance on the whole had to be adjusted to the significantly increased display resolution.
And while there are zero problems or hiccups when surfing or using less demanding applications, it may be questionable what the situation is like with the latest games or HD films. As for the latter, they appear just godly on such a small display. Don't expect miracles, though - fluidity can only be counted upon up to a bitrate of 5-6 Mbps. For cinematography addicts with collections in higher bitrates, there's no aid - they'll have to re-encode to get usable results. On the other hand, MKV files with such bitrates are often 15-20 GB in size, which is hardly appropriate for a tablet anyway. As for games, the situation is very interesting indeed. With less demanding, 2D games, such as Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies, the graphics were marvellous, but hardly different from what you'd get from a Prime, for instance, and the same goes for performance. Yet truly demanding modern games, such as Renaissance Blood THD, are an entirely different story. The increased display resolution makes the game look far better than Prime could ever hope to achieve, but also at a reduced framerate, especially in GPU-heavy environments such as fiery levels. Since it's tablets we're talking about, detail level or resolution reductions usually aren't available, which leaves you stuck with what you have. On the other hand, Galaxy on Fire 2 wasn't as demanding on the GPU, while still looking fantastic in this resolution, especially at 60 FPS. In simpler terms, if the game in question isn't on the bleeding edge of graphics development for tablets, and therefore doesn't use the GPU to the absolute maximum, it'll look beautiful and work flawlessly smoothly, while the aforementioned heavy-weight titles can only provide the former.
ASUS' customised apps and widgets are still available. The likeable, colourful live wallpapers are likely the most popular ones, using the water level to display battery status and so on. ICS also brought a lot of optimisation in the core components as well, with noticeably lower CPU loads and less occupied RAM. Multitasking is working great, making it very easy to see the list of recently used apps and re-run any of them, but also close them in order to release resources. The power of hardware contained within definitely comes to the forefront when combined with the latest OS and a humongous display resolution. Subjectively speaking, surfing, e-mailing, text processing and Facebook-ing are all similarly agile as on Prime, but the higher display resolution makes it all appear a bit nicer. Synthetic benchmarks show a noticeable difference in performance in favour of the latest Tegra 3, partly due to higher clocks, partly to optimisations, and partly to faster RAM.
Infinity, for now
|CPU||nVidia Tegra3 T33L, quad-core @ 1,6GHz + one @ 500 MHz|
|MEMORY||RAM 1GB DDR3L, Internal 64 GB|
|DISPLAY||IPS+ LCD, 10.1", 1920 x 1200 pix, Multi-touch, 600 nits brightness|
|GPU||Tegra 3 GeForce ULP|
|CAMERA||Front 2 MP, Back 8 MP, autofocus, LED flash|
|CONNECTIVITY||WiFi, USB (on dock), Bluetooth, GPS, 3,5 mm audio, microSD, SD (on dock), micro HDMI|
|BATTERY||25 Wh pad, 19,5 Wh dock|
|SIZE||263x180,8x8,5 mm pad, 263x180,8x10,4 mm dock|
|WEIGHT||586 g pad, 537 g dock|
|OTHER||dock (kayboard + battery)|
|PRICE||~ 690 € with dock|
When we first encountered Prime, we stated that it was going to be at the forefront of Android tablets for a while. After 6-7 months, it's already time for it to abdicate. It's not suddenly obsolete or scrap, far from it, but it simply isn't the best anymore; Eyefinity has risen. All those features that had us raving are still there - Infinity is light, thin and has a metal casing. The image quality it provides is unheard of in the Android world, with mythical sharpness and precision. Software and hardware have both been improved, starting from the Tegra 3 platform, over cameras, to the phenomenal new high-resolution display. Alongside that, it's still the brightest on the market, but has inherited some flaws of its predecessor too, such as a small lid angle, physical instability and a tendency to fall over like a baby. The speaker position remained similar, so the sound may end up muffled when the tablet is handheld in landscape mode, with the right hand blocking the way. Yet it's managed to bring forth so many qualities that its drawbacks have to be disregarded - it's thin, light, powerful, pleasant to touch, bright and crisp, all of which makes it the undisputed Android king. If you're discouraged by the fact that it's more expensive than Prime by over 100€ (at least the version with twice Prime's memory is), wait for the redux with half the memory, which should price out similarly to what Prime currently costs, because one thing is clear either way - Infinity is "creme de la creme" of Android tablets.