Asus'was one of my favourite tablets of last year, offering excellent power, a great screen and a very handy keyboard dock that made typing out long emails much more comfortable than using on-screen keys.
Asus is back again to tempt our wallets open with the Transformer Pad Infinity 700. Like the Prime, it's a 10-inch tablet with a dock, packing an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor. The screen now offers Full HD resolution and the chip has been supercharged to make this Android tablet-cum-laptop superbly powerful.
It's out at the end of August for £600.
Design and build
The Infinity's looks don't deviate much from the original Prime blueprint, which I'm pretty pleased about. The original Transformer looked supremely sleek while being sturdy enough to beat someone half to death with (I'm presuming).
The Infinity is no different. The same metal construction was satisfyingly free from flex or creaking when I poked and prodded it as though it had wronged me in some way. The chassis of both the tablet section and the keyboard dock are all metal, so when it's folded together like a laptop, it feels extremely secure.
The dock connector and the hinge feel particularly well constructed. Although the tablet only slots into a very small metal strip, it manages to sit snuggly and doesn't wobble or flex when you open and close it. All in all, build quality seems very high and I'd have absolutely no worries about chucking it into a bag and carrying it around town.
It's been given the same spun metal finish as the Prime, which I personally think looks beautiful. If you prefer something more angular and jagged, you won't be so keen. It's a very subtle finish on the Infinity, as opposed to the quite deep, spun grooves on the plastic casing of the more budget-minded Transformer Pad TF300.
As a 10-inch device, it's not exactly massive -- it's roughly the same size as an average netbook. That means it's well sized for sliding into a tiny bag and will fit easily onto a small train table or into your carry-on luggage if you want to use it on a long flight. The tablet itself is only around 8mm thick, which is slimmer than the iPad. With the keyboard attached, it's around 18mm -- still very slender.
The keyboard layout on the dock hasn't been changed, which is great, as I found the Prime surprisingly comfortable to type on. You'll normally find keyboards this size on netbooks and they're often extremely awkward, requiring you to squash your fingers in to hit the right keys. The Prime was a big improvement over a netbook and the Infinity offers a similarly comfortable experience. If you've got enormous bin lid hands, you might still struggle, so have a go on one in a shop before you lay down your cash.
The only real difference you'll notice from the Prime is on the back of the tablet. The outer casing has been altered in response to numerous claims that the Prime suffered fromdue to the case design. While Asus adamantly denied that such problems occurred in the UK model, an Asus representative did admit to me that the company was very aware that it had problems -- although Asus got in touch to tell me in no uncertain terms that this representative was giving false information. Believe what you will.
I didn't personally find any problems with my Prime and I'm happy to say I experienced no such issues with the Infinity. I was able to maintain a strong Wi-Fi connection throughout my flat, even in spots that my phone sometimes struggles with. So I have no concerns over connectivity abilities at all.
Around the edges of the tablet you'll find a power button, volume rocker, microSD card slot, micro-HDMI port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a dock for the power cable to connect it to the keyboard. On the keyboard dock you'll find a power dock, a full-sized SD card slot (very handy for quickly viewing photos from your camera's card), and a USB port.
It's quite annoying that there's no micro-USB port on the tablet as it means you're forced to carry around the proprietary cable. So don't expect to quickly transfer data at your mate's house if you forgot the cable.
The keyboard dock also packs a battery, extending the amount of time you can keep using it for. Asus quotes around 14 hours of normal use from both batteries, which I'd say is fairly accurate. Like always, it depends how you use it. If you only do a spot of ebook reading and keep wireless networks switched off, you should get a good time, but if you play the latest 3D games and do a lot of video calling, best keep the charger within arm's reach.
One of the key areas that's been given a tweak is the screen. The 10-inch Prime packed a 1,200x800-pixel resolution display that was extremely bright and vivid. The Infinity, however, has upped the stakes to include a 1,920x1,200-pixel display. That's a higher resolution than Full HD.
It's not quite pushing the boundaries of Apple's new iPad 'retina' display, with a whopping 2,048x1,536 pixels, but it's certainly the top dog of the Android bunch, for now at least. Such a high definition on a screen of only 10 inches results in a pixel density so small that text and icons look incredibly sharp.
Head over to YouTube and fire up the best-looking high-definition clip you can find, safe in the knowledge that the screen is totally capable of doing it justice. It's also extremely vivid, offering great colour and contrast. The same IPS+ technology from the Prime features here, which makes it searingly bright. This helps cut out reflections and glare when using it in bright sunlight or under harsh indoor lights.
Android Ice Cream Sandwich
The Infinity is loaded up with 4.1 Jelly Bean. Still, ICS is very fresh and most Android devices are eagerly awaiting updates to it, so it's more welcome than the older Android Honeycomb found on the Prime.(ICS), which was until very recently the latest, greatest version of Google's operating system. It has since been rudely usurped by