Asus Transformer Infinity Review: Amazing Device, Undone By Price


Asus currently has a tight range of products, especially when it comes to mobile devices. Its trifecta of tablet offerings — dubbed Transformer — consists of the entry-level Pad, the power-hungry Prime and now we have the weaponised Infinity. We liked it at our first hands-on, but now that we've got it as our plaything, does it eat the competition for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

What Is It?

The Asus Transformer Infinity is a 10.1-inch monster tablet that sports a quad-core Tegra 3 brain from NVIDIA, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, expandable up to another 32GB with a microSD card. The screen is an 1920 x 1200-pixel, Super IPS+ display which carries 224 ppi.

The battery has a claimed life of 9.5 hours of use and when it's connected to its bundled keyboard dock, the device will run for up to 14 hours. It's got an 8-megapixel camera on the back and stares at your pretty face all day with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.

What's Good?

The first thing you notice about the Transformer Infinity when you pick it up is the meticulous attention to detail in the design.

Almost all tablets currently on the market look like a black rectangle on the front, so it's in the rear where most devices are defined. The uninterrupted aluminium panel we saw in the Transformer Prime (you know, the one that screwed the GPS and wireless connectivity) is banished here. It's largely the same, save for the thin strip of grey that adorns the top of the device. It's designed to improve wireless communications mostly, which is great and shows that Asus is listening to problems.

The whole device is amazingly light for a 10-inch tablet, too. At 598 grams, it's only 62 grams lighter than the new iPad, but it's amazing what that little a difference does to the usability of the device. It encourages you to pick it up and wander about with it, which is what a tablet is for.

Now say you do decide to wander around outside with the Infinity. You might think you'd be reduced to squinting to make out anything on the screen in the cold light of day, but the Super IPS+ display is incredibly readable, even in direct sunlight. That's thanks to the various modes that this Asus builds into the Infinity's settings pane. You can increase the brightness slider to 100 per cent brightness which helps, but tapping the "Outdoor Mode" button soups up the display brightness to give you that extra little bit of oomph you need to make it readable anywhere. It's a welcome addition.

Just on that settings pane, too. It has three buttons marked "Power Saver", "Balanced", and "Performance" to help you tell the tablet what how you want the power distributed. It's great to see Asus recognising that your tablet is going to be doing different things at different times. It doesn't need to be a resource monster when you're just sitting at an event typing into a note, for example and it's awful when it's sluggish during a hardcore gaming session.


The battery life on this thing is incredible, too. 14-hours from a tablet even with a keyboard dock is wonderful. The one thing we need more of in the mobile space is battery life. With chips becoming more and more powerful, batteries need to keep up and it's great to see Asus figure out a workaround in the meantime.

The Infinity is powered by a Tegra 3 processor with a clock speed of 1.9Ghz. Naturally, it blows the competition out of the water when it comes to benchmarks, achieving a GeekBench 2 score of 1849, which is higher than anything on the GeekBench Android charts. The highest score on the official GeekBench charts comes from the Nexus 7 (which Asus also make) with a score of 1602.

The trackpad, USB port and SD card slot in the bundled keyboard dock are especially good because it makes the Infinity work like you imagine a netbook or ultrabook would — properly. There are a few problems when it comes to Android on the device when the keyboard dock is engaged, but we'll get to that.

Lastly, the free 5GB of cloud storage from Asus and a pre-installed productivity suite like Polaris Office means you can actually get some stuff done on this tablet.

What's Bad?

I mentioned the keyboard dock's trackpad and its wonderful array of ports earlier. These are great to have on a tablet, but using them drags you back into the cold reality that you are in fact using a tablet and not a PC. Because this tablet is so PC-like when you plug it into the dock that you forget you're using Android. As a result, when you start trying to Alt + Tab between apps or highlight some text, you're thrown somewhere else because the button you pressed doesn't do what you thought it did.

We've seen that Asus is a keen Windows RT partner so hopefully a Windows Transformer comes out in October/November that rectifies these issues.

While we're on the keyboard dock, too, it's worth noting that it's very light. Normally that's a good thing because it means you can carry your device around without developing a back injury, but when it comes to the Infinity it's the worst, simply because when you dock the Infinity, start doing some work and then take your wrists off the dock, your tablet overbalances and flips over. That acrobatic insanity could mean that your tablet flings itself onto the floor device-first and lead to a screen crack, so be wary of your angles and weights here.

It's also pretty noticeable that Android doesn't have a huge amount of support for a high-powered tablet like the Infinity, too. NVIDIA bundle in an app called TegraZone Gaming, which points out all the games on the Google Play store that are designed for the powerful Tegra 3 chip in the Infinity. It's helpful, but it shows where the Play Store is letting users down. There are a limited selection of truly beautiful and powerful apps on Android, and the ones that are there are almost buried so as not to annoy people who can't run them.

The only other gripe I have about the Infinity is the price. We mentioned in our hands-on that the Infinity retails at $999 on Australian store shelves. A bit of Googling and Amazon browsing shows that you can get the Infinity and its nifty keyboard dock for $US649. That's a difference of $350. You can buy the US-version of the Infinity and a Nexus 7 from your local retailer and still have change left over, or you can pay an inflated price for Australia. I asked Asus point-blank why the price difference existed and all I got was the stock-standard: "It's to do with the cost of doing business in Australia". Poor.

The good news is that the Infinity comes with a global Asus warranty, which means that the company will service it no matter where you bought it. The only issue with importing it is that you'll have to pay for shipping the tablet to and from the manufacturer to get fixed if it ever goes bang.

Should You Buy It?

When Asus premiered the Transformer Infinity in Sydney a few weeks ago, we were excited. Now that we've had a chance to get into the guts of the device and review it, we've discovered that not all the glitters is gold, but it's still a right-sight shinier than any Android tablet on the market right now.

Sure, there's a glitch here and there but it's forgiveable, simply because the rest of the tablet is just that good. The only thing I'd advise though is that if you were going to buy one, try and source it internationally. I don't really like encouraging imports because supporting the local market is a top priority, but $349 extra for this device against what you'll pay for it overseas really is a bit silly. $50 to $100 extra I could understand as the cost of doing business in Australia, but a $349 Australia Tax surcharge? I don't think so.

Price aside, this is a great tablet. the simple fact of the matter is that if you want to buy a great Android tablet right now, you'd be mad to go passed Asus. From the Nexus 7 (which is actually manufactured by Asus) through to the Padfone, the Transformer Prime right up to the Transformer Infinity, it's a great time to be buying Asus.


Comments

    As usual, you guys assume you have to pay the full retail price. I bet I could walk into JB and get a price comparable with the US price+shipping without having to haggle. i.e. Just ask, "what's your best price?" And don't forget that US prices are before tax, which can be as much as an extra 12.5% in some states, and ours have GST added.

      $649 * 1.125 = $730

      Assume $50 shipping, we're still $200 better off getting it overseas.

        I'm going off the RRP I got from the manufacturer. I don't care what you pay for it in store, that's what the hardware maker thinks the device is worth here. That's why I said it's $999 locally.

          That's fine for the purposes of informing your readers but when the headline reads "undone by price", it gives the impression that you live in some kind of bubble and have no idea how the real world works. To put it less delicately, retail prices are for suckers and you just make yourself look like a sucker when you put so much emphasis on RRP, rather than real-world pricing, in a review. So rather than bleat about how much more expensive it is here than in the US, why not suggest that there is probably plenty of wiggle room for local retailers to do you a deal?

          And on the "cost of doing business in Australia", did you see the news the other night? It was saying that the average wage in Australia is now more than $70,000. Add in ridiculously high real estate costs, higher transport costs and all the rest of it and it isn't hard at all to see how it might be significant compared to the $26,000 average wage and dead-low real estate prices in the US. And that's before you take into account the size of the market. As I say on motoring forums all the time - the US market is 12 or 13 times larger than ours, so they can afford to make less money on each sale. But I'm sure if you went and asked for a local price to buy 12 or 13 units, you'd have no trouble getting them for the same price they are in the US. Lastly, we have vastly higher standards when it come to consumer protection law, which must push prices up.

            RRP is the best indicator to go on because it's consistent, whether you are good at haggling or not. Car reviewers don't mention that you can haggle down the prices to make them more worthwhile, neither should gadget reviewers.

              Actually, motoring journalists do that all the time overseas, if not so much here. I couldn't tell you how many times I've read a road test on a Vauxhall that says it's not worth the retail price but nobody pays that anyway, so it's actually not bad value.

            Being a bit of a schwanz here man.

              If you are just quoting a price, then yeh, that is fine. But if you are comparing RRP to other pricing that you source from Google and Amazon, then it doesnt make any sense.

        Unless you can get $200 off at JB. I had no trouble getting $350 off a $1600 Asus laptop, so I reckon you'd get close to $200 of this without even trying.

      It's amazing how many people never ask for "best price". Most people I know walk in and if they don't like the price they just leave. Crazy. I've got up to 50% off in JB for requesting a discount and through negotiating.

      Or you could just do what I did and order it from the US for $335 less than what the RRP is here, including shipping :P You're a fool if you buy it here, even if you do manage to get a discount it'd still work out to be significantly more expensive.

      Best price I got at JB was $870.

      Motormouth, a device with a $999 rrp can be had for cheaper, but a device with a $700 rrp can be had for even cheaper again. Understand?

      You really are a funny fellow aren't you.

      No sales tax for online goods in the USA if the purchaser is from a different state to where the online store is located. If you're from New Hampshire there's no sales tax at all.

      Highly dubious. Link a receipt then you'll get your praise

    JBhifi list it as $876 on their site.

      Given that, I'd expect to get it for around $720-$750 without too much effort. For the full protection of Australian consumer law and the ease of dealing with a local retailer, I'd say it was worth it.

    Surely if you are going to do a bit of nifty googling to get the price down to US$649 then you could have done some nifty Aussie googling? www.asusnotebooks.com.au has the price at AU$810 +$10 delivery. JB HiFi will match that price. So there is $180 odd saved already. Granted the price difference should not be that great but that is a big difference is it not??

    Bought mine for 650$ on ebay. Great tablet, build equality could be better... already chipped my display. Can't wait for jelly bean!

    I'll give it a month or so and it will go down drastically to compete with the new note 10.1 depending on its aussie price that is.

    Don't forget that the RRP is US $650 and AUD $999. Just like we don't usually pay full retail, I doubt our conterparts in the US pay full retail . They probably pay closer to $500-550 when they haggle?

      I don't think so. I think the US $650 is an advertised price from a retailer. I tried to find the RRP from the US Asus site and couldn't but for all we know, it could be the same as it is here. From my experience in the US last December, t is much, much harder to find a store with a decent range of stuff on display. We wet to four big malls in LA and even a massive Best Buy in Culver City, bigger than any two Harvey Norman orJB stores I've ever seen, only had half-a-dozen laptops and 3 or 4 tablets. My brother was looking to get a Zenbook like mine but we didn't see any at all.

      Please remember that the US model does not come with the keyboard included - it's an extra accessory.

    Luke, I've really been enjoying your articles but I have to take you to task for two things you listed as "bad" about this tablet:
    You said: "Because this tablet is so PC-like when you plug it into the dock that you forget you’re using Android. As a result, when you start trying to Alt + Tab between apps or highlight some text, you’re thrown somewhere else because the button you pressed doesn’t do what you thought it did.

    We’ve seen that Asus is a keen Windows RT partner so hopefully a Windows Transformer comes out in October/November that rectifies these issues."

    That's not a problem with the tablet/keyboard - it's a problem with the user. You're using an Android tablet - you of all people should have expected that Alt+Tab was not going to function like it does on Windows. :P I don't even think there is an Alt key on the Android keyboard, is there?

    Secondly, your comment about the lack of Tegra3/tablet optimised apps. Again, that's not a fault that exists solely for this tablet - it's a problem in the Android ecosystem. I've started noticing more, better quality, tablet-optimised apps starting to appear on the Play Store - hopefully this trend continues particularly as specs continue to improve and tablets become more common.

    Otherwise, good article. Yep, the price sucks. Typical Aus tax. Come on inquiry - do something about it! :D

      I cannot say about the Transformer Infinity, but if it's anything like the Prime, then YES there is an Alt button and YES you can alt-tab and choose which program you want to load up. Just hold the alt button and press tab twice.

        Well, look-it that! There IS an ALT key on the Transformer keyboard. Thanks imspartacus and apologies Luke!
        However, if ALT+Tab *does* work as an app switcher in Android then it still begs the question why it didn't work for Luke...

          I'm probably just going to wait for the Surface Pro. I don't see a point in using a keyboard with Android.

          My take on it was that Luke was saying that it's getting big enough that you forget you're not using a full desktop OS until you try and do something you expect from Windows etc.

    Not buying anything until Apple and Microsoft announcement in the next couple months. If you can hold off I think there will be great deal's on existing Android tablets.

    Given that you didn't say that the Transformer Infinity is worse than the "new" iPad (as you usually like to point out) I'll take this article as stating the opposite.

    i bought the transformer pad infinity and itis much better than the ipad and was still cheaper because jb hi fi are selling it for 876 on special.

    Mine arrived today off an ebay seller, $650 for 32GB with Dock shipped from US. CHA CHING!

    that was an informative review but WAAHHHH you placed too much emphasis on RRP WAAAAAAHHH

    Never mind price or a non-complete ecosystem... the tablet flips over if you take your hands off the keyboard? Isn't that all the deal (nevermind tablet) breaker anyone needs?

      The IPad breaks if you knock it off the edge of the table.....might as well discount that option as well....

      I don't have that problem with my Infinity. I have to actually push it over for it to fall, if I just take my hands off it it stays upright.

      He's talking specifically if you have it on your lap, rather than sitting flat on a table.

        Really???? Sarcasm loses it's impact when the audience is not prepared......

    I bought A TF101 Transformer from amazon for a bargin. The Only Problem? You also need to buy a Universal Power plug/ US to AU adapter.

    Reread the last paragraph. "Passed"?!?!

    Ive been doing some research on a tablet to purchase for some time now and it seems every andriod tablet has its pros and cons. Nothing seems to be perfect. It seems this Ausus Infinity is the best of a bunch chasing the ipad which I will never buy.

    I own a Transformer Infinity and I am pretty happy with it, sure it cant do everything but then nothing can do everything,
    I am wondering why the numbers 1 and 6 as well as the up and down button are highlighted differently compared to the rest of the tablet, does anyone know why and what they do??

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