The New Apple iPad ($499, 4.5 stars) started the resolution race, and it looks like Asus is the first to market with an Android contender—the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 ($499/32GB, $599/64GB). We first heard about this tablet back at Mobile World Congress, and though it doesn't quite match the iPad pixel-for-pixel, its 1,920-by-1,200-pixel resolution is still pretty impressive. Aside from the screen, the TF700 looks and feels a lot like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 ($499, 4 stars), but inside are slightly more powerful components, from a faster-clocked processor to an improved camera. While this is certainly a major step forward for Android tablets, there just aren't enough apps that take full advantage of the high-resolution screen.
Design, Features, and Camera
Much like Apple's own high-resolution tablet, the TF700 is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor. The TF700 measures 10.35 by 7.11 by 0.33 inches (HWD) and 1.31 pounds, making it nearly identical to the TF201 (10.35 by 7.11 by 0.32 inches, 1.28 pounds). It's thinner and lighter than the new iPad (7.3 by 9.5 by 0.37 inches, 1.46 pounds). The aluminum frame feels solidly built, with the same concentric textured rings shared between all Asus tablets. There's a slight taper along the left and right edges, which gives the tablet a wedge-like appearance. On the backside, instead of a single piece of aluminum, a thin strip at the top is made from plastic—likely a revision to address any GPS signal issues. The TF700 will be available in two colors: Amethyst Gray and Champagne Gold. The ports and buttons have been moved around; the Power and Volume buttons are now both on the top edge, with the headphone jack, micro HDMI, and microSD card slot found on the left. The bottom edge houses the proprietary connector for charging, syncing, and docking with the optional keyboard dock ($149). The TF700 is compatible with the keyboard dock for the TF201, but not the dock for the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 ($379, 4 stars).
This is a Wi-Fi only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks (only at 2.4GHz), and it also features Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS. Bluetooth headsets connected fine and GPS was fast and accurate.The $499 base model comes with 32GB of internal storage, which is double that of the $499 new iPad, and you can upgrade to 64GB for $599. The 64GB iPad will run you $699. We tested the 64GB model and found that it only accepted microSD cards up to 16GB.
The camera has been upgraded from the TF201, and now features an f/2.2 aperture as opposed to the f/2.4. It's the same 8-megapixel camera found in the TF300, but with an LED flash. There's also a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Images taken with the rear camera looked good, with crisp details, accurate colors, and proper focus. Indoors, however, details were still a bit too soft for my taste. The low-light performance was acceptable, with little image noise, but some dark spots looked too dark and lost details in the shadows. Images taken with the front-facing camera were very grainy and the quality was unsuitable for anything but video chats, where quality is less of a factor. Video using the rear camera is captured at 1080p resolution and held steady at 30 frames per second both indoors and outdoors, which is an improvement over previous models that dropped frame rates indoors. The quality itself is largely the same though, and the footage is still too wobbly.
Software, Display, and Performance
The Infinity TF700 features the same Android 4.0.3 "Ice Cream Sandwich" build as the TF201 and TF300. There are some minor cosmetic changes, but the main thing you'll notice is Asus's customized quick setting panel in the notification bar, which give you access to common settings like Wi-Fi, performance modes, and screen brightness. For a more in depth look head over to the TF201 review or our hands-on with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime with Ice Cream Sandwich. There's also the usual pre-loaded software, ranging from Netflix and Kindle apps to Asus's own cloud storage and e-book reader apps.
The marquee feature here is the 10.1-inch 1,920-by-1,200-pixel IPS+ display, and it doesn't disappoint. It's not quite as densely packed as the 2,048-by-1,536-pixel Retina display, but the 224 pixels per inch is fairly close to the iPad's 264 pixels per inch. You likely won't notice the difference at normal viewing distances. The display itself is covered by Corning's new Gorilla Glass 2, which is thinner than the original and supposedly offers better touch responsiveness, but I didn't notice any difference. Much like the Transformer Prime TF201, the Infinity TF700 has a Super IPS+ mode that jacks the brightness up to 600 nits. Apple doesn't list an exact brightness for its displays, but the TF700 is much brighter than the iPad—so much so that I found myself checking to make sure the iPad was in fact set at max brightness. Viewing angle is solid and colors look pleasantly saturated in both normal and Super IPS+ modes.
The new screen enhances text so Web browsing and emails look great, but few apps have been optimized for the high-res display. The problem lies not with the TF700, but rather with the Android apps themselves. Text elements and pictures with high enough resolution look incredibly sharp and detailed, but many games don't take advantage of the new screen. Riptide GP and Shadowgun, two games optimized for the Tegra 3 processor, look the same on the TF700 and the low-cost TF300. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and most apps scale very well to the higher resolution. In some cases, apps do look better. For example, the birds in Angry Birds Space look clear and detailed when fully zoomed out, making the same rendered birds on the TF300 look like pixelated blobs.
The question is, will developers begin to optimize apps for the high resolution displays? They have yet to optimize many games for even standard resolution Android tablets, so I remain skeptical. The Google Play app market pales in comparison with the over 200,000 tablet-oriented apps in the Apple App Store. Most Android apps are made to run on smaller phone screens, and generally look bad on 10-inch tablets, with far too much wasted space. There are options like the Tablified Market ($1.49, 4 stars), which offers around 1,500 apps, and Nvidia's Tegra Zone, which features a few dozen apps specifically made to take advantage of Tegra processors.
Pushing all these pixels is Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor with 1GB RAM that has been updated from DDR2 in the TF201 to DDR3 in the TF700. The clock speed of the processor has been bumped up to a 1.6GHz max with two to four cores active and up to 1.7GHz in single core operation, compared with the 1.3GHz and 1.4GHz maxes with the TF201. That leads to some pretty impressive scores with the Antutu system benchmark, where the TF700 blew away the competition. It notched a 12,187 versus the next fastest tablet, the Toshiba Excite 10 ($449, 3.5 stars), which recorded 10,485 using a lower clocked 1.3GHz Tegra 3 processor. Everything ran completely smoothly; I could switch between multiple running apps and all system actions ran without a hitch.
The one area where the TF700 came down to earth was in our Nenamark graphics benchmark, where the TF700 scored 39 frames per second versus the 60 we've seen in some comparable tablets. This, however, didn't reflect itself in actual gameplay. Rather, it indicates that they've finally found a screen resolution that matches the Tegra 3's pixel pushing power. Games played smoothly and there was no noticeable difference between the TF700 and TF300, which is an impressive feat considering the TF700 pushes more than double the amount of pixels.
Media playback is solid with the TF700 and it breezed through anything we threw at it, including MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, MPEG-4, H.264, DivX, Xvid, and WMV files at resolutions up to 1080p. The high-resolution display also means that the TF700 isn't scaling down full 1080p videos, which is typical for tablets with 1,280-by-800-pixel displays. At normal viewing distances on such a small screen, the difference between 720p and 1080p is pretty negligible for all but the pickiest users. The micro HDMI port made it easy to mirror videos and apps onto larger HDTVs, where the difference between 720p and 1080p becomes more apparent.
The new iPad's high-resolution display warranted a large 42.5-watt-hour battery. Asus went with a 25-watt-hour battery, and has a display that is considerably brighter, albeit with slightly lower resolution. In our battery rundown test, which loops a video with Wi-Fi on and screen brightness set to max, the Infinity TF700 lasted 7 hours, 17 minutes, which is better than the new iPad's 5 hours, 33 minutes in the same test. The original TF201 lasted 7 hours, 38 minutes in the same test, so expect the same all day endurance from the newest Transformer. And don't forget about the optional keyboard dock, which will add around 5 hours to that figure.
The new high-resolution display of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is incredibly sharp and bright, but the whole effect is less breathtaking than it is on Apple's Retina display. This has nothing to do with the hardware, however. There just aren't enough apps that look good on Android tablets, let alone high-resolution tablets. Reading ebooks and browsing the web was a pleasure, as text was almost as sharp as on the new iPad. Images and videos with high enough resolutions looked remarkably clear on the TF700.
But you shouldn't be buying a tablet for simple web browsing, reading, and video watching—you buy a tablet for the apps. And right now, Android is still sorely lagging behind the iOS experience. The TF700 does have the advantage of a pretty useful keyboard docking station. But peripherals like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover ($99, 4 stars) or ClamCase ($149, 4 stars) can bring pretty similar functionality to the iPad. The TF700 is a valiant effort to dethrone the iPad's dominance, and it still has some serious potential if more apps come out that can showcase the high-resolution display. Until then, the iPad remains our Editors' Choice as the tablet to get.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.