Asus Transformer Pad Infinity - Battery Life, Screen and Video
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity's keyboard module features its own battery to just-about double the tablet's stamina, but battery life from the tablet part alone is respectable. We left it playing a video on loop with wireless switched off and brightness set to 50 per cent and it lasted for almost dead on eight hours.
Attach the keyboard and this will be boosted to over 14 hours, making the Transformer once again a king of Android tablet stamina. However, it is slightly less than the original Prime managed, thanks to the demands of the additional screen pixels here. The keyboard battery's lot in life is to keep the main battery charged, and will start feeding it once attached, ensuring you'll be able to disconnect and carry on using if you fancy, at any time.
At present, just the Wi-Fi only version of the Pad Infinity is available. There is a 3G version on the way, but it'll cost a significant chunk more - and the Wi-Fi edition isn't exactly cheap to start with.
Other than this, the tablet is well-specced in terms of wireless connectivity. The inbuilt Wi-Fi n offers Wi-Fi Direct, letting two compatible devices talk to each other without any actual internet connection. There's also Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS, but no NFC. It's not a terrible loss in a large tablet like this, but the next twelve months should see some interesting innovations within this standard.
NFC stands for Near Field Communication and will let you buy things on the high street with little more than a swipe of the device over a sensor. As such, it's much better suited to smartphones - swiping a 26cm long tablet over a till is not going to look elegant.
The main upgrade the Infinity offers over the Prime is an improved screen. Resolution has been bumped up from 1,280 x 800 pixels to 1,920 x 1,200. With pixel density of 224dpi, it's not quite as packed as the new iPad - which offers 263dpi - but the effect is much the same at normal viewing distances. Text and images look incredibly sharp, and you have to try very hard to see any signs of the underlying pixel structure - you need to push your eyeball right up against the glass front.
A number of tablets this year will offer this resolution, though, including the much cheaper Acer A700. What's less common is the Super IPS panel type used in the Pad Infinity. Maximum brightness is quite incredible, and normal brightness levels are well down the brightness slider scale. There's an automatic brightness setting on hand if you want the tablet to take care of business. It uses a sensor up by the user-facing camera to judge ambient light levels.
The "plus" of the IPS refers to a brightness-boosting mode designed for outdoors use - with super-shiny screen finishes tablets generally struggle with reflections when used out in the sun. Max out the brightness and flip on mode and you should have no problems. It's only really designed for these situations, though, as it will naturally chomp away at the battery and reduces contrast a little.
Used in "normal" mode, contrast is excellent and colours are deep and vivid, but with a natural tone that's superior to the often oversaturated tones of rival AMOLED displays. Tablet screens don't get any better than this, yet.
Such a wonderful screen should make the Transformer Pad Infinity the perfect portable movie theatre. The keyboard module comes in handy here too, letting you rest the tablet on your knees easily when on the train.
Inbuilt codec support is pretty respectable as well. Although Windows warned us that the files were not designed to work on the tablet, most of our video test files played back just fine using the integrated Gallery app, all apart from a fairly challenging 1080p x264 MKV sample - including DivX, Xvid and a number of MKVs.
Switching to a third-party video player app that supports software rendering we were able to play all our samples at full speed. The Tegra 3 T33 chip powering the Infinity has much more power on tap than the Tegra 2 of the original Transformer, which famously had trouble handling video files.
You will ideally want to download a separate media player, though, as there isn't a proper video player app here beyond the Gallery - also home to photos.
Software and Performance
Gallery is a generic Android app, and for the most part Asus has let the Android OS be. The Transformer Pad Infinity runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, with just a few tweaks and changes.
The icons on the nav bar are a little different, for one, and there are more controls on the pop-up Settings bar. Asus lets you pick between three power modes here - Power Saving, Balanced and Performance. These alter the behaviour of the CPU, making it work as hard as possible in the Performance mode. The Power Saving mode also seems to alter the screen contrast to reduce the rate of juice drain. In our battery test, we kept the tablet on Balanced mode.
There are clear compromises in using the lower settings in day-to-day use. Just flicking around the Android interface shows clear - and rather surprising - lag at times in Power Saving mode, which may be in part down to the sheer number of pixels the tablet has to render. Just over 2.2 million, if you're wondering. Even in Performance mode, there's a little jerkiness to screen transitions at times.
This should hopefully be alleviated once the Transformer Pad Infinity is upgraded to Android Jelly Bean 4.1, thanks to its more intensive use of processing power across the system. It should arrive within a few months of the tablet's release.