Asus Transformer Infinity First Look

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.

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.

Tablet Update: New Models Expected Before Xmas

With all the interest in the latest iPhone and Ultrabooks dominating the gadget news landscape in the last few weeks, one area that has been rather quiet is the tablet category. The release of the first generation of Android tablets has achieved limited success in the market, and while they may have offered additional features to compete with the dominating iPad 2, it hasn’t yet been enough to compel a large proportion of tablet users across to the Google platform.

By comparison, the combined efforts of Samsung, HTC and Motorola have made Android a force to be reckoned with in the Smartphone market. The introduction of Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, as it is known, may be the catalyst for a shift to the Android platform in large touch screen devices, as 4.0 is designed to be a cross-device platform. This means that Android users can finally experience similar compatibility to both their Smartphone and tablets the way Apple users do now with their iPhone and iPad.

Software and operating systems aside, Android manufacturers have found it a challenge to meet the visual appeal of the iPad 2. One of the defining characteristics of many Android tablets has been the inclusion of multiple ports – HDMI, USB and SD Card Slot – which has hampered the ability of these devices to offer models with similar dimensions, limiting the style propositions that can be achieved.

That may be about to change, with the major tablet manufacturers taking the same design aesthetics that they have with Ultrabooks in terms of slimness and weight while retaining some of the key attributes that they believe offer a credible alternative to Apple’s incumbent.

This will be the first holiday season with Android tablets in existence and with the New Year only a few weeks away, we can expect a few key launches that should reinvigorate the greater tablet market. Here are a few products we will be keeping an eye on and plan to get some hands on time with to share with our readers.

Model: Xoom 2 by Motorola

Google's favourite son, but will it perform as well as its like-minded competitors?

Why it’s important: Google’s acquisition of Motorola may not have affected the current output of Motorola Mobility, but eyes will be firmly fixed on the sophomore release of what was the very first Honeycomb tablet earlier this year. Slimmer, lighter and available in two sizes – 10.1 and 8.9 inches – Motorola intend to take the fight to Apple with more powerful processors, tough Gorilla Glass by Corning and a new pre-loaded app called MotoCast, which enables easy streaming of content from connected PCs and Macs.

Will Motorola’s new owners show parental favouritism by deploying Ice Cream Sandwich before all others on the Xoom 2? We are certainly keen to see the first iteration of Android 4.0 on a tablet, and we’re betting that the Xoom 2 will be one of the first to have it.

Model: Galaxy Tab 7.7 by Samsung

Galaxy Tab, it's been a while... will we finally get to see a new Samsung Android Tablet in the Australian market?

Why it’s important: Samsung’s 10.1 never had the opportunity to display its potential in many countries around the world, and Apple’s public legal action has actually fuelled the fire for interest in Samsung’s tablets, with many customers going so far as buying them from smaller online retailers willing to import them in.

Samsung have a slew of information already available on a public microsite, and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 sounds like a real contender. Featuring a Super AMOLED screen, 1280 x 800 resolution, weighing only 335 grams and measuring an impressively thin 7.9mm, this model may actually see the light of day – and we hear before the end of this calendar year.

Model: Eee Pad Transformer Prime by Asus

Slimmer, lighter, faster, and still the coolest tablet name in the market... the Asus Transformer Prime.

Why it’s important: The original Transformer with detachable keyboard succeeded in melding the touchscreen functionality of a tablet with the day-to-day needs of a netbook or notebook user. The innovative features included a separate battery in the keyboard compartment and Android-specific shortcut keys.

The highly anticipated Transformer Prime will be the first major tablet release to include the Tegra 3 quad core processor, slimming its screen component down to sub-iPad 2 levels of thinness. Improved battery life, Ultrabook-style design, brighter IPS Plus screen, and improved weight means this model will be on a bunch of Xmas wish-lists. We can’t wait to see this in the flesh either.

Expect a lot more detail on each of the above models in the coming weeks, which should reinvigorate an important category of the IT industry.

Are you biting your fingernails waiting for any particular tablet to come to the market?

Asus Eee Pad Transformer – Unboxing and Overview

The “first look” article I wrote earlier this year for the Asus Transformer tablet has become the most popular post on this site, and now we’ve produced a video for Bing Lee that covers the tablet and its unique keyboard dock in detail.

After spending a lot of time with this unit, the keyboard attachment makes a lot of sense for extended writing and input-heavy tasks. When separated from the keyboard/battery/dock, the Transformer tablet on its own is still a very impressive and well-designed device.

With Acer showing the way in terms of inputs and accessibility with its Iconia tablet, Asus have carved its own niche by way of innovation and adding features that we may not have thought we needed. Once you start using the Transformer with the keyboard, it definitely becomes second nature, and points to an even broader appeal with its netbook-like appearance and functionality.

The Transformer has also now been the recipient of the first Android Honeycomb update, from 3.0 to 3.1. Some of the improvements include the ability to add peripherals like mice, keyboards; resizing widgets to make your home screens even more customisable; attach digital cameras and manage content to and from them; and the ability to use VOIP and other audio streaming services. This progression takes the Honeycomb OS a step further in cementing it as a real alternative for tablet devices.

For your enjoyment, here’s our detailed run-through of the Asus Transformer: