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!

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.

Tethering with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Here we are with our final segment on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – a subject that seems to generate the most discussion – 3G or no 3G?

Creating a WiFi Hot Spot for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

When on the go just create a WiFi Hot Spot on your smartphone and connect right up.

As with our previous Tab 7.7 work, this is a reader/viewer generated article and video for our audience, all based on the questions and feedback on things you’d like to see demonstrated or shown on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

We fielded questions from our own site, our Facebook page,  Google+ Page and of course our YouTube channel, and came up with 5 short videos on various aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

The one question that keeps on popping up on both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Asus Transformer Prime comments areas are to do with 3G versions of the two models. And the two questions that crop up here are a) how would you choose one over the other, and b) how would you get by with just a wi-fi version if you’re on the road?

Having an integrated 3G model definitely has its benefits from the word go. You can turn it on no matter where you are, and if you have a mobile signal, you are good to go for internet connection and therefore connect to all your apps, content, email, and anything else that requires an online connection.

Because 3G is built-in it’s instant-on, theoretically quicker because it uses it’s own hardware to connect and display online content, and you are not having to change your wireless settings every time you walk into a free wi-fi spot, although you may still want to do that to save on your monthly bandwidth.

And that brings me to some of the drawbacks to having a 3G tablet – it’s another account that you have manage, and if you sign up to a contract you may not use all your bandwidth and therefore waste it, or overuse and end up paying extra. Pre-paid plans do help with this and are much more popular these days.

The alternative to this is to pad your smartphone’s internet limit to a higher level and share that with your tablet, saving you on the cost of the 3G hardware (as there is a price premium for 3G vs Wi-fi only) and keeping your bill to just one that you can monitor and adjust as required.

I did a snap survey and I was very surprised with the amount of people that didn’t realise that “hotspot” activation on their smartphone was something they could do right now, today.

I know many of our readers are more advanced in their knowledge, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to show very quickly how to connect the Samsung Tab 7.7 to a smartphone, using two of the world’s most successful phones – the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S II.

The iPhone is pretty straight forward, and there are a couple of steps you do need to do each time you want the personal hotspot feature to be activated. However, it does work smoothly and Apple have made it as simple as they could within the menu system they currently have.

The Android software is a little more interesting because you can take advantage of the widget feature that gives direct control and feedback from your home screen without having to open an app or go into a menu setting.

You do have to go into the settings menu once to set up access to the hotspot with password protection, but once that is done it is a simple case of downloading and installing a free hotspot widget that you can then toggle on and off, making it very easy to connect your tablet to your phone within seconds.

Here is the video for the Android hotspot connection feature:

 

And here is the method for setting up a hotspot widget on your iPhone smartphone:

 

And that ends our extensive look at the Samsung 7.7. We will keep answering your questions on this product so please feel free to ask anything that we haven’t yet covered.

Which do you prefer? 3G or Wi-Fi only tablets? Do you hotspot or just use it from non-online activities when you’re away from your home wireless signal?

For a more detailed and first look at the Samsung galaxy Tab 7.7  CLICK HERE; for the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE; for the segment where we used theTab  7.7 as an eBook, just CLICK HERE; for a look at multitasking on the Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE; and for a quick video editing app look, CLICK HERE.

Video Editing with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Hi everyone, we’re back with our first post for 2012!

These next couple of weeks are going to be pretty exciting with our attendance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but before we go we still have a couple of features on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 to punch out for your enjoyment.

As with our previous Tab 7.7 work, this is a reader/viewer generated article and video for our audience, all based on the questions and feedback on things you’d like to see demonstrated or shown on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

We fielded questions from our own site, our Facebook page,  Google+ Page and of course our YouTube channel, and came up with 5 short videos on various aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 has a basic video editor to add effects to videos stored on locally..

A regular on our Facebook page, Maans Le Roux, asked us about the video editor output on the Tab 7.7. One of the big issues with editing videos on smaller devices is many only save an edited video in a highly compressed format like .3gp.

The video output on this particular app that comes pre-loaded on the Tab 7.7 saves in high definition mp4, so it’s good enough to playback on larger computer and television screens, or upload to YouTube in good quality.

In fact, you can actually select the video resolution to suit different file sizes depending on how you intend to use the video.

One function we couldn’t see was to cut or crop a video’s length on the Video Editor app. This may not have been a final version on the unit we were using, so we’re not judging the app, more showing the basics of how to use the editing app and save the video to see what output formats are available.

Here’s the short video showing the video editor in use and the output selection:

 

Do you use video editing in portable devices, or upload videos straight to YouTube from your smartphone or tablet?

For a more detailed and first look at the Samsung galaxy Tab 7.7  CLICK HERE; for the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE; for the segment where we used theTab  7.7 as an eBook, just CLICK HERE; and for a look at multitasking on the Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE.

Multitasking With the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Here we are once again with a reader/viewer generated article and video for our audience, all based on the questions and feedback on things you’d like to see demonstrated or shown on the soon-to-be-released Galaxy Tab 7.7.

We fielded questions from our own site, our Facebook page,  Google+ Page and of course our YouTube channel, and came up with 5 short videos on various aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

For a more detailed and first look at the Samsung galaxy Tab 7.7  CLICK HERE. For the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we used theTab  7.7 as an eBook, just CLICK HERE.

It's easy to do multiple tasks on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, thanks to the Android platform and the slick Touch Wiz skin.

Multitasking in the Android environment is one reason I enjoy using the Google platform for tablets and smartphones. The ability to switch between open apps in a really simple but intuitive way has been one of Android’s main differences between it and other smartphone and tablet operating systems.

Allesandro Valenti from our Facebook fan page asked to see multitasking on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, among other things, and we’ve created a video to show how easy it is to switch between apps, force close them and even manipulate and control certain functions while staying within a particular environment.

The TouchWiz overlay doesn’t really add or take anything away from the multitasking, and in the video you can see how quickly we can move from one app to another without much effort.

Multitasking situations crop up all the time now in our busy world. You could be reading an online newspaper when an email notification comes through, and you can quickly switch and reply, then return to browsing. Music can be played in the background while doing other things like ebook reading.

How seamless it is to switch between them is the key to a good portable device, and Android have made it one of their key development areas, with notifications and app switching a defining part of the Android Honeycomb environment.

Without further ado, here’s our short video of how multitasking works on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7:

 

Do you think multitasking is an important aspect your your mobile device, and does that factor form part of your decision making? Feel free to leave your comments, and maybe even tips on power multitasking, in the section below. See you there soon!

Again if you haven’t already seen the previous articles and videos on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 you can find them here:

For the detailed first look article of the 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we used theTab  7.7 as an eBook, just CLICK HERE.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is a Great eBook Reader

Here we are once again with a reader/viewer generated article and video for our audience, all based on the questions and feedback on things you’d like to see demonstrated or shown on the soon-to-be-released Galaxy Tab 7.7.

We fielded questions from our own site, our Facebook page,  Google+ Page and of course our YouTube channel, and came up with 5 short videos on various aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7. These are unscripted, off-the-cuff segments to showcase the things that you said you’d like to see.

If you haven’t already seen the other articles and videos on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 you can find them here:

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Galaxy Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at Galaxy theTab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

This second segment is in response to Facebook fan Marissa Cookson’s request to see some eBook reading on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Today we look at the Readers Hub and the functionality of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 as an eBook Reader.

eBook reading is something that will come very naturally to owners of this 7 inch Android tablet. It’s the size of dedicated eBook readers, and although it’s not e-ink like the Kindle and other eBook readers, the Super AMOLED screen is actually more responsive and dynamic than e-ink readers could ever be.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of e-ink Readers, being the proud owner of a PRS-T1 which I do use for long reading sessions. But if you’re the owner of a Galaxy Tab 7.7, you’re probably not going to want more than one tablet to carry around. Ideally, a 7 inch can do a little of everything well, including book reading.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is an excellent reader, I am happy to report, and for many reasons. Firstly, without even looking at the software, the lightweight nature makes it comfortable to hold in one hand as a reader for extended periods. From a screen point of view, the real estate mimics that of a large paperback novel so it feels natural while reading.

One of the drawbacks (and there’s not that many for dedicated ebook readers to be honest) is that you do need external lighting in order to read. Here with the 7.7, you are able to read in any environment, lit or not, and adjust brightness settings to your requirements.

From a page turn point of view, the “curl” option gives the impression of a real book page being turned, and the powerful processor made it smooth and responsive to the fingers movement. I actually prefer that visual page turn to a simple fade or switch to the next page, which I find a little jarring (you do have the option for either).

Finally, the Reader Hub itself presents a fair few reading opportunities. Newspapers, books and periodicals are all available for purchase within this hub, and you can build up your collection within each category. Both Kobo and Zinio are huge online publishing companies with a wide reach, and Press Display delivers daily newspapers from around the world. Content availability is definitely not an issue.

If there was one change I’d like to see in the reader hub, I would prefer to have one sign-in for all three formats rather than having to manage separately. Ultimately they are separate companies but it certainly would make it easier to track and manage.

In all, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 succeeds as a reader. Let’s dive into some demonstrations on the new video below. Enjoy! (if the video isn’t showing it’s because we’re just in the middle of uploading now).

 

What do you think of the Galaxy 7.7 as an eBook reader? Would it be one of the major activities you’d be indulging in if you owned one?  Let us know what you think and feel free to leave comments below and as always, we’ll be there to respond.

For those of you who have yet to see and read the other articles on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 can do so here:

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Galaxy Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at Galaxy theTab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 vs. iPad 2

We answer your questions about browsing, book reading, accessories and a few other aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Here we are once again with a reader/viewer generated article and video for our audience, all based on the questions and feedback on things you’d like to see demonstrated or shown on the soon-to-be-released Galaxy Tab 7.7, to see more on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 click on this link above.

We fielded questions from our Facebook page,  Google+ Page and of course our YouTube channel, and came up with 5 short videos on various aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

As we did on the Prime, these are unscripted, off-the-cuff segments to showcase the things that you said you’d like to see. Thanks for the feedback as always and it’s a lot of fun to respond directly to your comments.

If you haven’t already seen the other articles and videos on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 you can find them here:

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the ebook demonstration of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at the Galaxy Tab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

This first one was in response to questions about the browser capability. We pitted the 7.7 against the iPad 2 to see how the browser worked in an online environment rich with video and image content, so what better place than our own site?

Overall the browser on the Galaxy Tab 7.7 worked very well. It sometimes took a just little longer to load a page but hardly worth the fuss really, and really that may have been a connection issue as both devices were sharing the same wireless network.

We did find that the embedded flash video took longer to load on the 7.7 than the YouTube player on the iPad 2 again that could have been the interent connection or the fact that it’s running Flash. The next major difference was the playback on each device. Pressing play in the flash player on the 7.7 started the video right away. However on the iPad 2, you had to “load” the player then press play again on the YouTube player, so a little more clunky to play content within that environment.

Pinch and zoom, scrolling and moving around the screen was smooth and very responsive on the 7.7 and generally speaking, the experience was a pleasant one.

Rather than me tell you all about it in written word, let’s have a look at the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and iPad 2 side by side:

 

What did you think of the comparison, and does it sway you to either product? Feel free to leave your comments below; we read every one of them. :-)

For those of you who have yet to see and read the other articles on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 can do so here:

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the ebook demonstration of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at the Galaxy Tab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – The Best 7 Inch Android Tablet

With the announcement of the Transformer Prime by Asus, and the news still being updated daily about the fate of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in various regions, another tablet from Samsung has been quietly gathering steam and is set to land on our shores in a very short while… the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

First, here’s our new video showcasing some of the rather cool features and design elements of the 7.7. There’s plenty more details and pics below. Also at the bottom of this articles you will find links to more articles and demonstrations of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 so be sure to take a look.

 

The 7 inch Android tablet market has been rather hit and miss so far, with the first iteration of the Galaxy Tab being the only real contender and most of the focus on the 10” category, and for good reason – that’s been the mainstay of Apple’s iPad up till now, and manufacturers have been innovative and creative with their offerings in order to stay relevant and have a chance of competing in that space.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 takes a completely different tact, being lighter and slimmer than, well, any Honeycomb-based tablet we’ve seen so far. Compared to the original Tab which relied on a reworked mobile phone OS, it’s a much more mature product and fits snugly between a smartphone and large screen tablet. This may actually be the product to redefine what a small screen tablet is capable of.

Small, sleek and ready to slip into any size handbag or pouch.

Spec-wise, the Galaxy 7.7 is powered by a dual core 1.4GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, and will apparently come in three flavours – 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. It has N wireless on board, Bluetooth 3.0 and has a built-in GPS.

Samsung’s new 7 inch Android tablet sports a slightly larger screen, at 7.7 inches, but offers the exact same resolution features as its 10” cousins – 1280 x 800. Combine that with the Super AMOLED Plus screen, and you’ve got gorgeous detailed images and bright, rich colours. Because the pixels are so densely packed together, the screen display is second-glance-worthy. The small amount of video files we had played back smoothly in high definition.

Video playback up to 1080p on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

I really haven’t held a tablet as light as this one. It’s only 340 grams, but it’s hard to describe what that means after holding various iOS, Android and Windows tablets – sure, this one is smaller than they are in terms of size, but the experience of holding one is amazing. I once commented in an earlier article how I’ve injured myself by falling asleep and dropping a first gen iPad on my face while reading… you’re in no danger of self-mutilation or embarrassment here.

Audio is pumped through these stereo speakers either side of the proprietary connector.

Did I mention how thin the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is? We’ve seen the Transformer Prime come in at 8.3mm, but the 7.7 takes “slim” to yet another level – it’s a sliver of a tablet at 7.89mm. To pick it up and rotate its dimensions in your hand is quite the chuckle producer – you don’t believe how thin and light it actually is.

Ridiculously thin... The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is lighter and thinner than pretty much any tablet on the market.

This is definitely a one-handed tablet – your fingers do need to spread, but you can also cup your fingers and hold it for a long time without fatigue. The cool metal backing does equalise with your hands temperature after a while, but put it down and the cold feel of stainless steel will once again greet your fingertips.

That’s a great segue into the materials and construction of this latest Samsung Galaxy Tab. Some other 7 inch Android tablet offerings have been rather thick, and felt a little fragile – squeeze the body and creaks have been heard from lesser machines. The engineering on the 7.7 is superb, we could detect no give between the body and screen; they are almost fused together. The metal back provides a stiffness and therefore top-shelf handling experience.

Maybe it's my long fingers that make this pic look odd... In any case the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is easily held in one hand, piano fingers or not.

Walking around this tiny pocket rocket and you can see how Samsung have achieved this degree of slimness: like the iPad and its own family of tablets, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 keeps ports down to an absolute minimum. All we have are a headphone jack, a micro SD card slot and Samsung’s proprietary 30-pin connector. Where most tablets try to offer a complete solution with inputs and outputs, particularly to differentiate against the iPad, the 7.7 follows its own path and offers instead adapters that can be fitted to connect various outputs.

Blink and you'll miss it... An external port on the Galaxy Tab 7.7, in this case a Micro SD Card Slot.

Is that going to be an issue for users? Based on the interest in the 10.1, which offers the same limited connectivity, no. It’s actually more sensible for this Galaxy Tab to eschew those I/O burdens as it’s probably closer to a smartphone than a tablet in some respects (the screen is actually a larger clone of the Galaxy S II). The option is there but you have to really feel the need in order to go to the effort of purchasing an adaptor.

The brushed metal back provides great rigidity to the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Like all other HoneyComb tablets, there is a front and back camera setup, with a 2 megapixel camera on the front and 3 megapixel camera on the back. The back camera has an LED flash and 720p HD video recording capability. I think there is an inverse proportional relationship of the number of shots taken on a tablet to the size of the screen. Because the 7.7 is so light, it’s much easier to be spontaneous and shoot some off-the-cuff pics and video.

3MP camera and LED flash... The smaller the tablet, the more this will get used.

There is one black dot on the Galaxy Tab 7.7, but its existence helps give it a gold star for functionality. The black dot (not figuratively speaking, an ACTUAL black dot) on the side of the 7.7 is an infra-red transmitter. There is a program pre-installed on the 7.7 called Peel, and it actually converts the 7.7 into a universal remote control. If you’ve ever found remote controls to be clunky or not really that helpful, Peel may change your view on that.

Now not only do I not have to get up to change the channel, I don't even need to find the remote. She says lazy, I say efficient.

Setting it up is a breeze, and so is the actually use, just point at the device you’ve programmed in and it’s as if you’re using the original remote. But this functionality is a stunner, because you can browsing, reading or playing a casual game, use Honeycomb’s built-in multitasking to switch to Peel, change the channel/volume/input, and switch back to your previous activity, and the 7.7 never leaves your hands.

Software-wise, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 uses the same Touch Wiz overlay that their smartphones use, making the transition for Galaxy phone users a no-brainer. There is improved software such as video editing, image editing and even image management, letting you sort by a range of different criteria such as size, location (if geotagging can be found) or date/time.

Galaxy S II users will find no trouble using the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

The Galaxy also retains the “Hub” areas of the smartphone, and apparently the Music Hub will be available soon as well, but only for music, not for videos. I tried the Social Hub out and I liked its aggregation of my different social feeds in one easy to view panel. Being Honeycomb, this is a live widget that updates on screen so you can snack on bite-sized pieces of your connected world.

Manage all your social feeds into one panel on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

The 7 inch Android tablet market is not as big as the 10 inch segment, by any means. It looks like Samsung has managed to carve itself a little niche with a product that doesn’t rely on third party programs to succeed, and adds little quirky features like remote control and revamped image/video apps into its sleek shell to give users a true out-of-the-box experience.

As always, I’ll leave it to you, our readers to make the call on whether this really is the best 7 inch Android tablet to date. Are you looking for a 7 inch tablet, or are you waiting for the 10.1 to be released? Are either of them on your shopping list for consideration?

Give us your thoughts and questions and we’ll respond – look forward to seeing you in the comments area!

For those of you who have yet to see and read the other articles on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 can do so here:

To see the Galaxy Tab 7.7 perform as an ebook reader  CLICK HERE. For a Q & A segment in which we compared the Galaxy Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2  CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at the Galaxy Tab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

 

 

Question and Answer Time for the Asus Transformer Prime

This time, believe the hype... The Transformer Prime from Asus is a very strong contender in the tablet market and sets new benchmarks in hardware.

What a wild couple of days! When we released the first article and video for the Asus Transformer Prime, it went ballistic and we were dealing with comments and questions from all over the world.

We believe in responding as much as we can to our readers on this website, and we wanted to do something similar for our video presentation.

So with the limited time that we had with the Prime, we took a few questions that seemed to be recurring frequently, and made two videos, calling out the user name of the viewers and answering the question.

In this way we hope to provide another level of interaction for all our visitors, who we appreciate spending time with us. Thanks again for your comments and here’s our off-the-cuff, much more informal videos for your viewing pleasure.

Feel free to ask more questions on this page as well!

This first video addresses some of the questions regarding Flash performance, pinch and zoom, using the browser, the touchscreen experience and other hardware features:

 

The second part of the Q & A details some aspects of game play, using live wallpaper and widgets, testing the screen in sunlight, trackpad performance and how to take advantage of a USB hub given there is only one USB port on the Prime:

 

This next segment shows how to download an image from email, edit it and then tweet it. Nice challenge, and I think we rose to it!

 

We were then asked to show a typical productivity activity, like writing a document, saving it and emailing it. With the keyboard, the Prime makes office tasks very easy:

 

Finally, a frequent question regarded game play. I don’t consider myself to be the most talented of gamers, and I’m sure I had this game, Riptide, on easy, but I couldn’t help some fistpumping (at 1:18) when I came in first. The main thing to notice here is the smooth graphics, instant response from the accelerometer and the water splashes that looked even more realistic in person. Casual portable gaming just took another leap forward:

 

And here is the original Transformer Prime video we released in case you missed it the first time around:

 

Once again, I’d like to thank all of our readers for spending the time to read our words, and for the effort taken to comment. The least we can do is respond in kind.

I hope you enjoyed the videos and we’re here to answer any more questions you may have.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime – First Look

[Update: Now that the embargo has lifted, we have released a further five videos showing various demonstrations of the Transformer Prime. We have collected them in this new article, where you can view and discuss the features we've shown. The videos were based on questions from our audience, whom we acknowledge in the segments. Enjoy!]

Welcome to the first ever Ritchie’s Room TV segment! Here we take a look at the new Transformer Prime from Asus. Read on below for lots more detail and images.

 

The Transformer Prime is easily the most hyped of all upcoming tablets. The original Transformer took the idea of the keyboard dock and integrated it so well that it became much more than simply functional; it melded design and hardware with the Honeycomb platform in an attractive and useful body.

Look strangely familiar? The Transformer Prime takes many design cues from the new Zenbook range from Asus.

The Transformer Prime is the evolutionary step, taking cues from the recent UX Zenbook series to offer an eye catching, metal finish on both the tablet and keyboard dock. There are improvements to its successful predecessor in pretty much every area, with the exception of the operating system, but an upgrade will be coming soon, we are assured.

As a stand-alone tablet away from the keyboard, the Prime is as sturdy as it is slim, thanks to the rigid metal back that offers no chance of bending or twisting. The spun metal pattern immediately invokes the UX21/31 look and feel, and sits very comfortably beside its two larger cousins.

The spun metal casing is a classy touch, positioning the Transformer Prime at the premium end of the tablet market.

The front layer of Gorilla glass provides another layer of protection, without sacrificing image quality or resulting in increased thickness. We tried banging pretty hard on the glass, and although we didn’t go so far as to try scraping a key across the screen, the display feels like it could take a fair bit of punishment.

As it’s been reported widely, the tablet component is thinner (8.3mm) and lighter (586g) than the iPad 2, and in the hand it feels very easy to handle, both in landscape and portrait positions. With Samsung out of contention in many regions, the Prime will be the one of the most likely direct contenders to the iPad 2. In Australia, pricing indications are that the Prime with keyboard will be around $100 more than the equivalent-capacity iPad 2 and will arrive in 32GB and 64GB versions.

Thinner, faster, lighter... the iPad 2 has a real competitor in the Transformer Prime from a hardware perspective.

With slim form factors inevitably comes some compromises, and in this case the outputs on the Prime aren’t as comprehensive as other models in the market. However, given the Samsung 10.1 had only its proprietary connection that necessitated various adapter purchases, any additional ports are more than welcome. In this case, a micro HDMI port and Micro SD slot are fitted alongside the volume controls.

Slimmer than most, but the Transformer Prime retains a good level of on board ports.

The Super IPS+ screen is an absolute winner. When it comes to tablets, particularly the premium models, visual display needs to be absolutely spot-on, and here the Prime does not disappoint. Wide viewing angles allow sharing to an almost side-on position, and the IPS+ feature boosts the brightness to counteract outdoor lighting to make the Prime readable in almost any condition. By the same token, there is total control to limit the intensity of the light when you’re using the Prime on your bedside or darker environments.

The Super IPS+ screen is great in any bright or dim environment.

This is the best performance I’ve seen in HD video playback as well, no doubt thanks to the upgraded processor. The Tegra 3 is the first quad core chip to power a tablet, and the Prime is the first release to boast the inclusion. 720p and 1080p video files that had previous jittered a little (or a lot) on previous models we’ve tested ran very smoothly.

Video playback is superb. This really illustrates the benefits of a widescreen tablet.

The associated sound coming from the Prime is unexpectedly loud and clear. I say unexpected because the grill could easily be missed as another design feature, but the speaker is as effective as anything I’ve experienced so far on tablets. In fact, I found that by holding the tablet in a way that cups the grill actually enhances the audio quality even more.

This deceptively small grill punches out an impressive level of clear audio.

The upgraded memory is also certain to be a contributor to an overall improved Android experience with the Prime. If you’ve ever used one on of the task killer apps on Android, you’d know that there are a lot of processes happening at any one time, so the extra memory will definitely be a boon to multitasking and open app support.

Another upgrade is the back camera, boosted to 8 megapixels and featuring an f2.4 aperture, plus an LED flash. This sounds suspiciously similar to the iPhone 4S camera, and it might actually encourage more photo-taking with this unit. I wonder, how many people use their tablet as a serious or even casual camera? With improved hardware, there might come increased usage.

The Transformer Prime may find increased use in webchat and photo shoots with better camera specs.

From a software point of view, it’s the familiar Honeycomb 3.2 that we’ve come to know and frequently discuss. I’m sure there were a fair few people holding their breath in wild hope that Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich as it is commonly known, would be released in tablet form with the Prime. Sadly, it was not to be, but everything points to an upgrade, possibly before Xmas. We’ll keep you updated on that point.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts... the Transformer Prime.

What would the Transformer Prime be without the second component, the keyboard dock, that gives it the coolest name in consumer electronics? The keyboard has been slimmed down and there is a UX-inspired tapering of the front of the keyboard, to remind us that we’re in Zen-like company. It almost looks like a netbook-sized Ultrabook.

Like the keyboard before it (which is not cross compatible with the Transformer Prime), the new keyboard places some commonly used Android commands as shortcuts on the keyboard, like back, search and home. If you use the keyboard enough, you’ll find yourself using these quite often while the keyboard is connected. Like a premium netbook, the island keys are well placed for regular and long session use.

Like the previous keyboard, Android shortcut keys become second nature after a few hours of use.

The keyboard also follows the tradition of supplementing the main unit’s battery life with its own battery, giving the total package up to 18 hours battery life. As per the original Transformer, the keyboard can feed a charge to the Prime tablet, keeping the tablet running for the good part of an entire day, or a long international flight.

The bottom corner of the display shows the keyboard battery transferring to the main tablet unit.

The keyboard also adds a couple more inputs not available on the main unit: a full size SD card slot and USB port. I think at least one more USB port could have been added, considering the support for USB devices that Honeycomb, and by extension Ice Cream Sandwich, has now integrated into the platform, making it easier to connect more storage devices and other accessories.

No USB port on the tablet but USB-connected hardware can be accessed via the keyboard dock.

To complete this overview, I have to say that as a single unit, the keyboard and tablet combined still feels reasonably light. At just over 1.1kg combined, it can very easily sneak into a large handbag or a small backpack with no issues. With the inclusion of Polaris Office, and the use of Google Docs, this could very well be the mobile productivity device of choice. The Transformer Prime has made a pleasing progression from the debut model.

More than meets the eye... With the Keyboard dock in place, the Transformer Prime is an Android tablet in disguise.

Without the keyboard, the Transformer Prime is the Android tablet we’ve all been waiting for, in form factor and performance. The keyboard adds another dimension of usability because of its tight integration with the Prime tablet and well-thought key layout.

Along with the Motorola Xoom 2, Samsung 7.7 and other unconfirmed models from major brands, the Prime represents the next generation of Android tablets, adding their own flourishes and customisation to the platform. This new generation looks far removed from the first releases of Honeycomb tablets, and with a growing app library, accessory support and software overhaul just around the corner, the tablet market is primed (sorry!) for big things in 2012.

Are you waiting in anticipation for the release of this new Android tablet?

As always, feel free to leave your comments and questions below.