segunda-feira, 10 de setembro de 2012

ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity Review

The ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700) is ASUS' sixth tablet, counting the Eee Slider and the Nexus 7. After making so many tablets', ASUS has gained much experience in how to make a quality tablet, and this experience reflects especially on the TF700. It is just about the best tablet you'd possibly find (at least, of all Android tablets). It has a mind blowing design and ergonomics, it packs a punch in terms of hardware, but the best feature of all is that the TF700 is the world's first Android tablet with a Full HD screen, offering razor-sharp text, vivid colors, and crisp images and videos. With a very good entry level price ($499 for the Wi-Fi only version with 32GB of storage), this tablet should prove to be quite a best-seller, but it still remains to be seen whether it's sales will be comparable against today's best-selling tablet, the Apple iPad.

First, let's compare the specs of the Infinity with other tablets:
ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity New iPad Acer Iconia Tab A700 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 ASUS Transformer Pad 300
Connectivity Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE Wi-Fi + 3G Wi-Fi + 3G Wi-Fi
Body 598g, 8.5mm thickness 652g, 9.4mm thickness 667g, 10.9mm thickness 600g, 8.9mm thickness 635g, 9.9mm thickness
Display 10.1" Super IPS+ Full HD (1920x1200) w/Corning Gorilla Glass 2 9.7" IPS TFT Retina Display (2048x1536) 10.1" Full HD (1920x1200) LCD 10.1" PLS TFT 1280x800 10.1" IPS 1280x800
RAM 1GB, single-channel (32-bit wide) DDR3-1600 for Wi-Fi only version. 1GB, dual channel (64-bit wide) LPDDR2 @ 500MHz for 3G/4G version 1GB, quad-channel (128-bit wide) LPDDR2-1066 1GB, single-channel (32-bit wide) LPDDR2-1066 2GB, dual-channel (64-bit wide) LPDDR2 1GB, single-channel (32-bit wide) DDR3L-1333
Storage 32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32 GB
Camera (Rear) 8MP w/autofocus, LED flash, 1080p video 5MP w/autofocus, face detection, 1080p video @ 30fps, w/video stabilization 5MP w/autofocus, LED flash, 720p video 5MP w/autofocus, LED flash, 720p video @ 30fps 8MP w/autofocus, 1080p video
Camera (front) 2MP VGA, 480p video @ 30fps Yes, Unknown specs 1.9MP 1.2MP
OS Android 4.0 ICS (4.1 update coming soon) iOS 5.1 Android 4.0 ICS Android 4.0 ICS Android 4.1 JB
Chipset NVIDIA Tegra 3 T33 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.6GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 520MHz) for Wi-Fi only version. Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 (Dual-core Krait @ 1.5GHz + Adreno 225) for 3G/4G version Apple A5X (Dual Cortex-A9 @ 1GHz + PowerVR SGX543MP4 (quad-core) @ 250MHz) NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.3GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 520MHz) Samsung Exynos 4412 Quad (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.4GHz + overclocked Mali-400MP4) NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.2GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 419MHz)


The Infinity retains many of the design features found in its little brother, the Transformer Prime. The 10.1" display is surrounded by a relatively wide bezel, with a bright, small ASUS logo sitting on the top left of the bezel, just above the screen. On the back, you will find an extraordinarily good-looking metallic spun design, with a metallic ASUS logo at the center. The tablet is available in both Champagne Gold and in Amethyst Gray colors. The difference the Infinity has from the Prime's all-aluminum casing is that it adds a plastic RF strip running along the top side of the back casing, together with the camera and LED flash, at the center. The RF strip is for improvement of Wi-Fi/GPS signal reception, which proved to be quite poor on the all-aluminum Prime. The RF strip will also be fundamental for good 3G/4G reception. The Infinity, not unlike the Transformer Pad 300, has a less tapered design than the Prime, meaning that the edges are less sharp. All this in an unprecedentedly thin 8.5mm thickness makes the Infinity the best-looking tablet you could hope to get your hands on. 


This is, after all, the main innovation coming with the Infinity. ASUS has proved that it can create the best display in most categories. It excels in brightness and is suited for outdoor reading, thanks to its Super IPS+ technology, which boosts the screen brightness to unprecedented levels. It offers 178° wide viewing angles thanks to the IPS display. It has some very good color reproduction, although not as vivid as the display in the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It has great scratch-resistance, because it is the first tablet to use Corning Gorilla Glass 2. But the big deal of the TF700's screen is it's Full HD display. A 1920x1200 resolution in a 10.1" display results in an amazing 224 pixel density, making text look razor-sharp, images look vivid, and games more realistic. It's resolution is just a bit indistinguishably lower than the New iPad's 264 pixel density. The TF700 clearly has the best display in any Android tablet, for now.


I'll have to evaluate the Infinity twice here, once for the Wi-Fi only version, which is powered by a Tegra 3 processor, and another time for the Snapdragon S4-powered 3G/4G version. Let's begin with the Tegra 3. The TF700 is the first device to include Tegra 3 T33. The T33 is powered by a Quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU running at up to 1.6GHz, with 1MB of L2 cache. So far, it is the CPU that offers by far the best performance, but that doesn't mean that power efficiency suffers much. NVIDIA has designed the Tegra 3 so it could use only enough cores to satisfy the current processing needs of the deivce. Also, NVIDIA's patented 4-PLUS-1 technology includes a fifth companion core, which is designed to operate at a very low frequency, at up to 500MHz. When the device doesn't need performance from the Cortex-A9 cores, for example, when it is idling, or when it is locked, it will power gate the four cores and all processing will be done by the companion core, thus extending battery life dramatically. The Tegra 3 is equipped with a 12-core GeForce GPU, which, ironically enough, isn't the SoC's strong feature, given that NVIDIA is a GPU company. The GPU is based on an eight-year-old core architecture, and has horrible per-core efficiency, but offers very good performance nevertheless, but unfortunately it's performance in games is even further reduced by the poor memory bandwidth, which, for a Full HD display, is almost below average. On top of that, Tegra 3 is known for having problems with heat management. After periods of time doing intensive processing, for example, when rendering games, the SoC can get pretty hot.

The 3G/4G variant of the TF700 is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Plus SoC. Qualcomm balanced performance with heat management/battery life with the S4, while NVIDIA chose to sacrifice a bit of the latter in favor of the former. The Snapdragon S4's main advantage over Tegra 3 is that it is built upon 28nm process, which offers much better heat management and battery life than T3's outdated 40nm process.  The Snapdragon S4 is also powered by the Krait processor, which is a Cortex-A15 class architecture, that is faster and more efficient than the older Cortex-A9 in the Tegra 3, but don't forget that the MSM8960 has only two of these Krait cores, and running at 100MHz slower than T33. The result is that the S4 offers a bit less performance than Tegra 3, although they are comparable, but with better power consumption and heat management. The Snapdragon S4 Plus has an Adreno 225 GPU, which offers very similar performance to Tegra 3. The Adreno 225 is built on a much more advanced architecture than Tegra 3's eight-year-old architecture, but it is still beat by Tegra 3's GPU in most benchmarks, but by a small margin. Another concerning issue of the Adreno 225 is its memory bandwidth, because even Tegra 3's already poor memory bandwidth doubles the S4's bandwidth. This should prove to be quite concerning for gaming on the TF700, especially for games that are optimized to run at the tablet's native resolution.

Both of these chipsets do quite beautifully on the CPU side, and do ok on the GPU side, but they have some serious problems with memory bandwidth. Even at HD resolutions, the fill rate figures for these SoCs were already quite concerning, now at Full HD this should be even more of a problem. Perhaps it is good that virtually no games are designed to take advantage of the TF700's FHD screen, because if there were such games, undoubtedly the poor memory bandwidth would severely bottleneck performance on these SoCs. They're both no match to the GPU inside the Apple A5X, the PowerVR SGX543MP4, which isn't good at all, considering that now Android tablets are catching up with the New iPad thanks to FHD tablet displays, not to mention that, despite only having a few pixels more than the TF700, the New iPad still has roughly 4 times the fill rate of Tegra T33, and about 8 times the fill rate of the S4 MSM8960. 


This is the question that keeps coming up all the time: Android or iOS? This should be the base for one's choice of whether they should buy an iPad or an Android tablet. Even though the TF700 still has Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, I'll evaluate Android 4.1 Jelly Bean instead because the TF700 will be upgraded to 4.1 very soon. iOS is a simple OS, which doesn't allow for much customization, but is easy to use, is flawlessly fast, pretty stable, and offers the widest variety of apps, and enables fast multitasking with multi-touch gestures. Android is the exact opposite of that. Developed by Google, it is more complex, and has many customization options, like 3D animated wallpapers, widgets, such as having weather, email, and time live right on the home screen, however, it offers no multi-touch gestures, has a considerably smaller number of apps, and it is also pretty unstable. Android used to be a very slow and laggy OS, but Android 4.1's Project Butter has ensured that the mast majority of performance faults were fixed, bringing the fluid experience that until now only iOS offered. So it's really about whether you prefer easy and simple, without customization, or complex, and with lots of customization. 


ASUS has a knack for making good quality products. The Transformer Pad Infinity is proof of that. It is constructed very well in every sense, from body design to UI refinements. The Infinity is a device for all types of uses: taking pictures, watching videos, playing games, reading e-books, but the Infinity, together with the whole Transformer series, has proved itself to be especially adapt to working, thanks to ASUS' innovative keyboard dock, which enabled fast, easy typing. The keyboard dock's purpose is to enable the tablet to be quickly 'transformed' into a small netbook, hence the name 'Transformer'. With this keyboard dock, ASUS invented a new category of mobile devices, in which all of the Transformer tablets are included. But that's not all that the keyboard dock offers, it also provides one USB 2.0 port and an SD Card slot, for easy connection of peripherals and storage devices, and the keyboard dock also extends the tablet's battery life to an unprecedented 16 hours. The only possible complaint I could think of for this tablet is that it's GPU and memory controller aren't strong enough for the TF700's FHD screen. It is a great product, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for an Android tablet. I'd especially recommend it to people who intend to use a tablet for work, once again, because of the keyboard dock. Kudos to ASUS for making such a premium tablet!

2 comentários:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you

  2. Excellent post and wonderful blog, I really like this type of interesting articles keep it u.
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