Hands-on with the Asus Transformer Infinity

The EeePad Transformer range of tablets has been a reasonably well-reviewed set of products for Asus, and now the company hopes to show an even more impressive hand with a new product bringing the best technology yet to its netbook-esque touchscreen gadget.

Technically the fourth Transformer tablet Asus has introduced, the Asus Transformer Infinity takes a lot of what made the TF201 Transformer Prime excellent, and one-ups the technology, improving the specs inside and making the Infinity the first Android tablet with a display that goes slightly beyond that of full HD 1080p.

In the hands, it’s a very similar experience to the Prime, one of the better Android tablets we had seen when we reviewed it earlier this year.

From the look and feel, the two models are very close, each with its spun metal casings and available ports, with microSD, micro-HDMI, and headset jack.

The new screen on the Infinity is very nice, sitting at a 1920×1200 resolution and covered in Corning’s second-generation Gorilla Glass technology (now called Gorilla Glass 2!). Colour and viewing angles are just as excellent as they were on the Prime, with the Super IPS+ display offering up a 178 degree viewing angle.

Text and images look very clear, and while the 224 pixel per inch value isn’t as high as Apple’s new iPad 264ppi Retina screen, it’s still one of the sharpest tablet displays out there.

Under the hood, we’re seeing some improvements even though there are some pretty obvious similarities between the two models. Both boast a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, though the new Infinity model manages to pull a faster 1.6GHz speed, making it the fastest Tegra 3 device out there.

A quick benchmark showed us that while the performance here is pretty impressive, it was edged out in one benchmark by HTC’s flagship One X smartphone handset. An Asus spokesperson pointed out that this could be due to the higher resolution running on the Infinity, with the screen’s higher-than-full-HD resolution sacrificing the top spot to the HTC’s Tegra 3 powered mobile.

Google’s Android Ice Cream Sandwich is still the operating system of choice, and you’ll find a storage amount of 64GB to work with out of the box, with a microSD slot on the tablet itself for easy upgrades.

Some of the connectivity has improved, with Bluetooth increased to version 4 (from 2.1 on the TF201), while the WiFi stays the same with support for 802.11 b/g/n networks. Sadly, the new high-speed 802.11ac technology isn’t offered here.

And then there’s that dock, that lovely keyboard and battery dock we’ve loved so much that makes it possible to type so naturally and effectively makes the Transformer tablets into a touchscreen netbook hybrid.

That’s still here, and for the first time, a Transformer tablet is compatible with another dock.  Up until this time, every Transformer tablet has required its own dock, but here in the Infinity, the dock from the Prime can be used, able to extend the 10 hour battery life to 16 hours.

You probably won’t need to find one of these docks, however, as the $999 price tag for the Infinity includes the keyboard dock.

We’re not sure we agree with the near one thousand dollar price-tag, especially since this tablet competes directly with the new Apple iPad, a slate that can be found for well under the $999 price with similar specs, such as the 64GB storage option and high-resolution screen. Couple that iPad with an external Bluetooth iPad keyboard and you’re still probably going to come in under the Infinity’s recommended retail price.

Still, we’ll reserve full judgement until we get the Infinity in for a full review. For now, eager buyers can find it for $999 at Asus resellers across the country.