Name: Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
Price: $500 (32GB), $600 (64GB)
The Back Story: Asus has been on the come up as of late with its strong laptop and Android device lineup. The Taiwanese electronics giant stole some of the Galaxy Tab II's thunder this past spring with the release of the Transformer Pad TF300, which was well received by tech critics across the globe. Still, many viewed the device as a mid-level rendition of its premium tablet, the Transformer Prime, as well as a poor man's new iPad. The again, what Android tablet hasn't taken on that label? Well, Asus is ready to make a huge impact this with what it calls the true successor to the Prime: the Transformer Pad Infinity.
Blazing processing speeds, a stunning display, and a smooth gaming experience—there's a reason why the tablet earned a spot on our 25 Best Gadgets of 2012 (So Far) list. But can the Infinity outclass its forebear? And does it pack enough firepower to battle against the likes of the Google Nexus 7 and new iPad?
• The best Android tablet display: To say the Infinity’s Super IPS+ panel is a beauty would be an understatement. It’s alluring. The 10-inch HD screen produces amazing viewing angles, incredible screen resolution (1920 x 1200), and super sharp output. Netflix videos, emails, and photo galleries look remarkable. While the screen’s 224ppi density falls short of the iPad’s Retina Display (264ppi), it's still an upgrade over the new MacBook Pro displays, which is a massive feat for any Android tablet. This is clearly the device's biggest selling point.
• Monstrous CPU: With NVIDIA’s new 1.6GHz Tegra 3 CPU running the show, expect nothing short of blazing speeds and high-powered performance. It’s a multitasking beast that can run numerous apps in the background without showing any signs of slowing down. HD multimedia playback and onscreen navigation is on-point. Apps and web pages launch instantly. Simply put: it's a workhorse.
• Great multimedia experience: In terms of mobile gaming, you can never go wrong with NVIDIA’s hardware. Optimized 3D titles like Shadowgun and even Grand Theft Auto III generated smooth graphics and lag-free frame rates. Resolution is crisp, too. Some of the more popular 2D-ers like Angry Birds Space and Temple Run looked more polished as well.
• First-rate design: Asus has built a rep for assembling some of the sexiest looking devices on the market. Ditching the ribbed plastic unibody of the TF300, the manufacturer chose to run with its signature metallic spiral design featured on the Transformer Prime, this time housing the top of the tablet with a plastic strip. The tapered edges and solid build give the Infinity an affluent presence, plus the device is lighter (at 1.31lbs) and slimmer than the new iPad.
• Solid battery life and energy-saving options: The Infinity stuffs a 25-watt-hour battery under the hood that holds a charge throughout most of the day, while pulling 8 hours on excessive use. Asus' CPU-throttling feature returns as well, allowing you to run the quad-core in three different modes (normal, balanced, and power saving), with the latter option helping squeeze every bit of juice out of the tablet. We also recommend investing in the keyboard dock, since it stores a built-in battery, which generates an extra five hours of power.
• Memory galore: Ravenous media consumers should feel comfortable with the 32GB or 64GB model. If that’s not enough, Asus included an SD card slot for memory expansion and offers 8GB of free storage from its cloud service: MyCloud.
• Lack of optimized apps, again: The TF300 was chastised for not offering enough customized apps that could exploit Android’s software update. So we expected Asus to go harder and scratch underneath the ICS surface with its new premium tablet. Nope.
• Imperfect speaker design: Asus made the mistake of placing its one (and only) speaker on the back right of the tablet. Holding the device with your right hand in landscape mode blocks the audio output. Having a lone speaker also takes away from the multimedia experience.
• Expensive and wi-fi-only: With the Infinity falling under the same price point as the new iPad, plus its wireless restrictions, some might consider the upscale device a hard sell.
Final Say: With the best display featured on any Android tablet and its ridiculous processing prowess, the Infinity has the spec sheet to give competition a run for its money. NVIDIA’s quad-core definitely enhances the multimedia experience, plus the battery life and optional keyboard dock make it a suitable netbook alternative. Is it a serious threat for the Nexus 7 or new iPad? Yes and no. The Infinity matches up well in the performance department and bears unique features, but the high price tag hurts its competitive edge. By no means does the MSRP diminish the value of the Infinity, but a markdown could make it a prime time player.