I admit that I go through phases with the technology I use day-to-day, many phases. A couple months ago, I switch from a laptop to a Samsung branded Google Chromebook – I had dreams of living in the cloud. A few weeks after that, a new 4th gen iPad arrived to become my full-time desktop, complete with keyboard cover. Fast forward a few more weeks and I find myself in BestBuy – a place I had not been in ages, with the intention of purchasing an Asus Transformer Pad Infinity (price matched at $399) to replace the iPad which replaced the Samsung Chromebook, both of which now sit on the floor in the corner of my bedroom.
Hardware: Sitting at the top of the Asus tablet line, the Transformer Pad Infinity has premium specs. Internals include a 1.7ghz quad-core nVidia Tegra 3 process, 1Gb RAM, 32Gb memory, and a 1920×1200 10″ IPS screen. The star of the package is the IPS screen, with excellent viewing angles – it clocks in a dense 224ppi. This places it just below the Google Chromebook Pixel and Retina iPad at 239ppi and 264ppi respectively. Test and touch response on the display were also excellent. To aid viewing in direct sunlight, Asus included an IPS+ mode which allow the display to hit 600nit brightness – far beyond that of other tablets on the market (including iPad). Other hardware feature of note are the 8MP rear and 2MP front facing cameras. Both of which were middling in testing, producing muted colors with soft details – ala Galaxy Nexus era.
What give the device its Transformer name is the pairing with a keyboard dock. sold separately at $150 USD. The dock itself includes a USB port, full size SD card slot, and perhaps most importantly – a second battery that extended that runs the accesories and charges the tablet when docked, adding precious battery life. Since the keyboard itself attaches at the very base of the tablet screen, the pairing gives the Transformer pad the exact ergonomics and form factor of a traditional laptop. It even include handy shortcut keys, including one for screenshots and disabling the built-in trackpad. For typing, this format and design makes it better suited than any iPad with keyboard combination – and a direct competitor for Google’s own Chromebook Pixel.
Software: Software on the Transformer Pad is a standard affair, with a small number of Asus specific additions. There are a number of Asus ‘junkware’ applications that can be disabled from the application menu. The tablet has full access to the Google Play store, so application can be downloaded to expand the functionality of the tablet as needed. While browsing the Play store, it is still an issue in finding tablet specific applications. Because of programing limitation many applications still have phone versions and a fully separate release marked for tablets. Even with the limited selection of tablet-specific application, the Transformer Pad proved a much richer experience than the Google Chromebook I had been using the previous months. Applications such as video clients and games are still leagues beyond what is available through browser apps – even news readers come in richer and higher performing variants in tablet garb.
Although application interface and functions were rich using the Transformer Pad, performance while using the device as a computer replacement did leave much to be desired. A quick Google search shows a number of complaints regarding performance and compatibility of the Tegra 3 chip used in the Transformer Pad. In normal use, a number of application crashed out to the home screen. On a few occasions, the tablet itself crashed and restarted the operating system – no bueno. I quickly found that the 1Gb RAM was a bottleneck and installing a task killer app resolved these hangs. Which this shouldn’t be required, it demonstrated a number of the performance bugs are still a result of the Android operating system. Android 4.1.1 is the latest software available for the device.
Conclusion: Admittedly, a big attraction of the Transformer Pad for me is the design. While typing and using the tablet in public – its “spun metal” lid attracted many looks. The packaging of the device provides the usability of tablet form and applications with the productivity prowess of a laptop. With the software bugs not withstanding, the Transformer Pad proves to be an excellent laptop replacement, an excellent iPad replacement, and a Chromebook Pixel at half the price – if, you’re a gadget hound like myself.
Rating: 9 of 10