Asus Transformer Infinity First Look


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We’ve been following the Asus line of Transformer products ever since they were released, from the first Honeycomb tablet to include a keyboard dock, to the Slider, and then to the Transformer Prime, which set new benchmarks for the Google OS line of tablets. Now, we have the latest model - the Asus Transformer Infinity.

Asus Transformer Infinity Tablet
Anyone up for a quad core high definition super bright super-slim tablet?

 

This release is an important one, not just for Asus, who have been flexing their innovative muscles in the Android tablet domain since the introduction of the category, but for the tablet market as a whole. Why? The Asus Transformer Infinity can truly go up against the new iPad, the incumbent market leader in this category, and offer a substantial answer to all of the iPad’s propositions.

As you’ll see in the following videos, the Asus Transformer Infinity has great hardware, software, a robust operating environment and is supported by a maturing app store in the form of Google Play. Asus have addressed areas like wireless connection issues and GPS performance to produce a tablet all-rounder.

Asus Transformer Infinity GPS
The Asus Transformer Infinity has a plastic strip on the top rear to maximise GPS performance.

 

The hardware component of the Asus Transformer Infinity is far from flimsy, with a metal casing ensuring no flexing or bending on any part of the device. Despite the screen upgrade (which we’ll get to in a moment), the tablet on its own does not gain any weight, staying at 586 grams, exactly the same as its Prime predecessors.

The Asus Transformer Infinity also retains the ports that made the Transformer series so attractive, with Micro-HDMI and Micro-SD slots on the tablet body, and a further full size USB port and SD Card slot on the keyboard dock component.

Asus Transformer Infinity with keyboard
The usefulness of a tablet with a keyboard cannot be fully appreciated until you have to type an full length article about one.

 

Inside the Infinity is an upgraded quad core Tegra 3 chip, quoted at 1.6GHz but benchmarked at 1.9GHz. The OS is snappy, with Android functions and App commands all working unhesitatingly.

Just in case we thought we were being a little biased because of our fondness for the Transformer line up, we thought it prudent to quantify this and to see just how the Asus Transformer Infinity could handle the pressures of the job compared to another fairly popular tablet… say, the iPad?

This is where we became REALLY intrigued. Not only did the Infinity beat the iPad in many benchmark tests, but some by a huge margin. The graphics test, which saw the Prime pale beside the iPad in our earlier experiences, still showed Apple to have a command in that particular area. When it came to browsing, Java script handling and computational processing, the Asus Transformer Infinity swept the field.

The other big news was the high definition display. The big visual test was to see (literally) if there was a marked difference in the Infinity’s screen and the iPad’s highly praised display. And yes, there was a huge difference – the Asus Transformer Infinity was way brighter. Other than that, at normal viewing proximity, both screens delivered great detail and clarity. At massive zoomed enlargement, the iPad didn’t stray from its perfected image, and the Infinity showed some signs of pixelation. But that’s not how we view a tablet in normal circumstances.

If we seem a little lathered up in our praise of the Asus Transformer Infinity, it’s because this release shines a bright light to a competitive market across ecosystem platforms, where hardware vendors are creating innovative new products. As we always say, competition is a great thing for the industry and the smartphone, tablet and Ultrabook markets are hotbeds of design and technology fusions.

Asus Transformer Infinity lid closed
The future of mobile computing in our hands?

 

If you have any questions, please leave them below and we’ll find out the answers for you.

Until next time!

Samsung Galaxy S3 First Look at a VERY Smart Phone

Bona fide events built around around product launches are few and far between these days, but there was no doubt that the local launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3 in Sydney yesterday was aimed to make as much of an impact as possible, delivering on the promise of a new mobile device that could set new standards in mobile functionality.

After receiving our Samsung Galaxy S3 and spending a few hours with it in the studio today, there was no doubt that the bar has been raised and it will be hard to leap frog this device any time soon. We’ve put together a few segments so you can see what our impressions are, particularly if you’re looking at upgrading your smartphone any time soon.

The phone is light, powerful and rates extremely high on the usability factor. The hardware is light but also robust with no give or flex in the tooling. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is powered by a quad core 1.4GHz processor, and it shows. All app opening/closing/switching, browser performance and camera use all ran without a hitch.

The 1280 x 720op 4.8″ screen is lovely to behold. The Super HD AMOLED display provides wonderful contrast levels, where black levels really do feel like black, and colours appear quite vivid and deep. Watching content locally or streamed on the Samsung Galaxy S3 was issue free.

The Touchwiz UI has had a raft of tweaks for the Samsung Galaxy S3, and all focused on user experience. The phone can be set to respond to motions to mute the phone, make phone calls from a message window, and brightness can be maintained if your eyes are placed on the screen. You can take a video playing in the video player and have it hover over the rest of the screen while you do any other activity on the phone.

The S Voice is also a decent competitor against Siri. In our test, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was able to hold its own and go the extra mile (pardon the pun) when it came to street directions to a destination – in Australia this service is still blocked by Apple.

Google does a pretty good job at integrating social media accounts in their smartphone OS, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 continues that trend, with local photos having the ability to be tagged with social profiles.

The built-in 8MP camera on the Samsung Galaxy S3 continues to demonstrate why so many people eschew a dedicated compact camera these days – smartphones are able to compete in casual shooting environments with ease. This camera has a few cool features, like burst mode, best photo which chooses the optimised pic from a burst 8 shots, 1080p video recording, 720p from camera recording, and snapshot function while recording video. These are features you find on decent dedicated camera setups, so it’s no wonder there is a shift in user behaviour.

Aside from the hardware prowess, operating system refinements and overall performance, the Samsung Galaxy S3 continues to include some content offers as well. The Music Hub, which has been around for some time now, is available for a free trial, as is a subscription to  Quickflix for movies and TV shows. Navigon GPS software is also preloaded.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is a remarkable phone. Considering the advancements made since the GS2, and the side-by-side comparison with the rather dimunitive-looking iPhone 4S, this phone ticks most of the boxes a smartphone user would want – with the exception of 4G connectivity and the still-fragmented Android ecosystem.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Should the new Samsung Galaxy S3 be crowned the new king of smartphones?

However, Samsung are betting on screen size and a controlled, specialised interface along with content and social/usability propositions to make their pitch – and it looks like millions of interested punters around the world are buying it. To be honest, so are we.

This page will be filled with a few videos over the weekend focusing on some different areas of the Samsung Galaxy S3. We hope you enjoy them, and let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.

Until next time!

Google Lab Adds Gesture Control in Android Web Browser

We have been spending a fair bit of time discussing the Android Web Browser experience on the Android 4 tablet platform, courtesy of the Transformer Prime. We even had a chance to check out the Chrome for Android Beta browser.

The fundamental issue here is that even though the stock Android web browser and the Chrome browser are great examples of browser environments and functionality, they don’t address the issue of how touch screen interfaces differ incredibly from standard desktop environments.

The stock Android web browser on Ice Cream Sandwich tablets gives a little insight into what they are developing over at the Google labs. It’s a great example of innovative gesture design.

(note:  one of our readers @Diesel, has kindly pointed out that this Labs feature is actually also available on Honeycomb Tablets, which is terrific news for owners of Android 3.2 tablets.)

If you own a tablet that happens to have been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, then simply select the stock browser, press the menu button on the upper right hand corner, and go to settings. The last option you’ll then see on the left hand side is the Labs button. Select Labs then tick the Quick Controls box.

When you return to the browser, you’ll be able to see the entire page with no top or bottom area compromise. Sliding your thumb in from either the left of or the right presents a semi circle with icons denoting certain functions. These provide instant access to common commands, such as bookmarks, deleting current tab, adding  a new tab, back, forward, and refresh.

Menu options on Android Web Browser

Using the left hand thumb, hovering over each icon will display the relevant options.

The tab select button is an interesting space to flick through currently open tabs vertically, easily navigating to your open page of choice. Even though this is a hidden little gem in the software, it also gives an indication of what functions may appear on progressive releases, and perhaps eventually on Chrome for Android web browser.

Tab Control on Android Web Browser

The right hand thumb has the same options in mirror image. Here the Tabs are selected vertically.

After using this “Easter Egg” feature on the ICS Android web browser, it becomes pretty clear that there has been a fair bit of thought into making it useful for both left and right-handed people. The browser has also been made more efficient by placing commands in the natural areas where hands would be holding the tablet.

For Chrome to really take the lead in mobile browsing, adding an option to control the online navigation could position Chrome for Android into the ultimate mobile internet browser.

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Here’s the Ritchie’s Room video showing some of the cool features of the experimental Lab Android web browser.

 

 

Would you shift your mobile browser to Chrome if it included gesture functionality similar to what we’ve shown, or is it still too clunky to be a real feature? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

Whether it’s on a smartphone or a tablet, the quality of the online browsing experience is critical to the success of any mobile device. Chrome for Android aims to become the optimum browser for Android devices. However, as we pointed out in our previous article, Chrome for Android comes without Flash support in its Beta state, and none is planned.

This development (or lack thereof in this case) was also commented on by  Adobe. They mentioned continued development of the PC-based Flash product, and their contribution to HTML5. That in effect is a surrender to the market shift away from their long-standing plug-in.

Is it such a big deal that this browser is throwing the towel in so early? After all, even the stock browser supports Flash, and we made a tongue-in-cheek video pointing this out when comparing it to the iPad. Today we could very well re-shoot that video, only this time with two Android tablets: one running the stock browser and the other running Chrome for Android that doesn’t support Flash.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

No, this is not an iPad screenshot, it's a Transformer Prime showing the world that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support.

When we step away from the issue and look at it a little more objectively, Flash is still very much reliant on localised drivers and plug-ins to provide an online experience. In this day and age that combination does seem to be a little old-fashioned. With all things moving to online storage, cloud services and less dependence on the specs of notebooks (take Ultrabooks) and tablets (which are stripped down compared to any PC of note), HTML5 seems to be the best solution.

Chrome for Android comes without Flash support, but will enable HTML5 authors and developers to create rich, interactive environments that will be transferable to any device, regardless of their plug in. After all, why should we need to download an app for Adobe Flash Player  just to see a website in its entirety on an Android device?

The very nature of the functionality of Chrome for Android is to connect seamlessly with your desktop experience. With no plug-ins and instant access to open tabs, the shift is very much in the favor of HTML5, the fact that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support seems to be a short term issue.

Apple did indeed bring this topic to a head. It’s encouraging to see the entire mobile platform converging on a single standard for the benefit of all mobile browser users, regardless of which ecosystem they have invested in.

Chrome on Android Using the Asus Transformer Prime

Earlier this week Google released the beta version of Chrome on Android, fulfilling a commitment to provide a seamless link between the desktop and mobile browsing experience.

Here’s our video showing you some great cross-device activities that, up until now, haven’t been possible, and it’s exciting to see them in action.

At this stage only 12 countries, including Australia, have been given access to the beta version of Chrome on Android, and it is limited to mobile and tablet devices with the Android 4 and above OS. In Australia, that really only gives the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Asus Transformer Prime the opportunity to show off this new browser. We are lucky enough to have a Prime tablet at our disposal, so we can show this off in tablet mode to you.

 

Chrome on Android menu system

The menu for the Chrome beta for Android browser, which includes "Other devices", a hint at the cross-device power of this internet browser.

The intention is for Google to move its stock browser over to Chrome on Android once beta testing has been completed, and if the initial experience is any indication, it’s a good move.

First up, the browser asks for your gmail account details to sign you in, as a large portion of the features involves utilising synching with your desktop browser. If you currently don’t use Chrome and do own a Nexus or Transformer Prime, I’d suggest you move over immediately to at least see what this has to offer.

Once you’ve signed in, make sure you’re also signed in over on your Chrome Desktop browser, because this is where the fun really begins.

Once you use the Chrome on Android beta browser a few times, one thing becomes very obvious – that Google is looking to provide a completely seamless browsing experience regardless of what device you are on. Whatever bookmarks you currently have on your desktop are immediately pushed to your tablet, and any changes you make are also moved across.

Chrome on Android Desktop and Local bookmarks

You can see the bookmarks above for both local and synched content within the Chrome beta browser.

But that’s not all. The synching also brings across your browsing history, so any websites you visit regularly will come up in priority to other search results. It’s uncanny, opening this browser for the first time and it knows what you are entering in the Omnibox.

What’s an Omnibox, I hear you ask? It’s the box in Chrome where you enter the URL, but can also be used for search terms. No more looking for a Google search box, just type right in the omnibox and you’ll get taken to the website of your choice or be presented with a list of options based on your search term. Those that use Chrome on desktop will be used to this feature, but it’s the sudden “awareness” of your new device using Chrome on Android that makes it a little spooky.

 

Chrome for Android Browsing Spooky Geen Android

Does it get any spookier than this Chrome eyed little Green Android?

Synching is one thing, but how about transferring all your open tabs on your desktop to your tablet? When you open a new tab, there are three rectangular buttons at the middle bottom: Most Visited, Bookmarks and Other Devices.

Most visited appears to be a more localised history. Bookmarks are split into Desktop, Other and Mobile bookmarks. Opening the Desktop bookmarks folder presents all the bookmarks from your desktop.

“Other devices” presents the currently open tabs from other Chrome browsers that you are currently signed into. However, instead of just duplicating all the tabs, it shows the pages in a list form so you can choose which ones you want to open. This is a great feature if you are on your desktop searching for movie times or restaurants and want to continue that exploration while you are at large.

Chrome on Android open tabs from desktop

Here you can see open tabs from the Toshiba PC, and a webpage that has been pushed to the tablet.

Another feature is the Chrome to Mobile feature, which ensures the page you were on is sent to your device even if you shut your current sessions down or have to power off your PC. Just install the free Chrome to Mobile app onto your desktop browser, and a small phone icon will now appear on the right hand side of the Omnibox. Press the icon, and a dialogue box will ask you to confirm which device to push to.

The next time you open your Chrome browser on your tablet, the page will be there waiting for you under the “Other Devices” area. This is a much quicker way of sending links, going browser to browser instead of going from the browser, to sending an email, receiving the email and pressing a link that opens in a browser – everything happens within Chrome.

Chrome is known for its “Incognito” option, and it is replicated here, and the overlapping squares and “Spy vs Spy” icon on the left hand side makes sure you don’t forget which browser you are in.

Chrome on Android incognito browsing

Incognito mode opens another window with all incognito tabs gathered, with easy switching between both modes.

The last thing I will mention here is voice search, another icon on the right hand side of the omnibox that, once pressed, will display a microphone for you to verbalise your search request. It seemed to be intelligent enough to pick up the basic phrases we threw at it, but given it is a beta version I’m sure it’s a feature they are working on to be polished by the time the final version is released.

Chrome for Android Browsing Voice Search Windows

Search by speaking is now available. Voice search is a highly competitive domain and Google need to deliver a polished product.

The initial impression of the beta version of Chrome on Android is very positive, and given this is the foundation for their stock browser once users provide feedback and bugs are ironed out, the idea of always-connected, always-on takes another step forward. Web browsing is a huge part of what we do on devices, and to have an uninterrupted experience between the difference physical screens we use is a very compelling reason to move to Chrome, both from a tablet and a desktop perspective.

Have you tried out Chrome beta on an Android mobile or tablet, and what are your thoughts? Are there any other scenarios that you’d like us to test? Let us know in the comments area below.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet

When we first reviewed the ASUS Transformer Prime late last year, the promise of an upgrade to Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich was just that – a promise. When the Prime finally arrived, there was a fair bit of anticipation but also apprehension that the upgrade would come down the pipeline anytime soon.

However, the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, was deployed very quickly and this was probably in no small part due to some issues the Prime was reportedly having, by many users, when in Wi-Fi mode.

And it looks like it was a big coup by Asus – The Motorola Xoom, which announced OS upgrades for its Wi-Fi version of its tablet, was pipped at the line by Asus in getting the Android 4.0 upgrade into the hands of its Prime owners. As such, it’s worth taking a look at some of the new features to be seen on the Prime that are specific to the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Homepage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

The new Android 4.0 brings more usability and ease of use to an ever-improving tablet OS.

Firstly, tablets running Android 4.0 have taken a leaf from Apple’s book and placed a shortcut to the camera straight on the lock screen. Swipe right to unlock, swipe left to enter the camera. We’ll be posting some samples of both video and image capture off the 8MP back camera in the next couple of days so you can see the quality of the camera – and it is pretty decent, with 1080p video recording.

It looks like the 3G vs Wi-fi debate has Google’s attention, as Android 4.0 now comes with a Data Usage screen in the setting area, where you can track how much bandwidth has been consumed by week, and by which applications. This feature is a great way to monitor your mobile internet usage, especially if you are using 3G tethering.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Data Usage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Keep track of your new Android tablet's data use by week detailing each app's contribution to the overall bandwidth usage.

Speaking of data usage, the Browser has had some changes to it as well. One of the most welcome changes is the ability to request the desktop version of the site you are in if it has automatically taken you to the m.website.com, because it was recognising Android as a mobile browser.

However, with the screen size and flash support, many sites are worth visiting in their rich desktop version. A new touch gesture based browser is also available to trial in the labs area of the browser, keep a look out for a video covering this in more detail to be uploaded soon or better yet subscribe to our YouTube channel at Ritchie’s Room TV.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Lab Browser Screen Shot on an ASUS Transformer Prime

Comprehensive browser options including desktop website version request. A mobile site just looks wrong on a 10 inch screen.

Widgets used to be treated very differently to Apps, in that they would be found in a fairly convoluted way via the home screen and there was no way to see more than a few widgets at a time. Now, the widgets live in the same place as the apps for easy management, with the new Android 4.0 recognising the different formats and placing them in separate categories.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Widgets Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Apps and Widgets, living together in perfect harmony as part of the new Android OS.

As with the last OS update, the App store icon is placed for easy access on the top right hand corner in the apps screen, and widgets are easily size-adjusted to suit your homepage layout. The native contacts app has been renamed and upgraded to “People”, with more social networking integration. This seems a little Windows Phone-ish but is a good upgrade so you can see dynamic feed updates on your friends.

App management has always been a bit of a bug bear for Android. There are a lot of tools on the market that help with task killing, but a native app manager would always be preferable. Now, with the Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich iteration, it’s finally here.

All you need to do to shut down an app is press the recent apps icon on the bottom left hand corner, and swipe an app to the right. That will shut the application down and take it off the recent apps list.

This is way easier than any previous method and beats Apples iOS in terms of simplicity – no extended presses or physical buttons, just home page, recent apps and swipe. You’ll see an example of that in the video below.

If you’ve been using Honeycomb, then you will find the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich full of practical improvements. It’s not so much a departure as a welcome progression, and shows Android setting itself up as a serious contender in the Tablet OS wars that will explode later this year.

I’m sure there will be further tweaks before then, and we’ll report on them as well. In the meantime, here’s the video that shows some of those new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich features I mentioned above.

 

Do you think you’ll use some of these new features and which ones interest you most? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.