Aug 25, 2013 Nick Rego
When the ASUS Padfone first hit the market, it was a surprise entry from the manufacturer. Here was a device that was able to transform from a phone into a tablet by simply docking- and it certainly got the attention of the tech world. But after the novel wore off, it under-performed in several key areas, and as a result didn’t make much of an impact. ASUS addressed a lot of complains with the Padfone2 by releasing a more powerful device. And now, surprisingly, ASUS has released the third iteration of the Padfone, in the form of the Padfone Infinity. This time around the company has squeezed in even faster hardware while maintaining an attractive form factor. Is third time the charm for ASUS?
ASUS has opted to craft the Padfone Infinity out of an twice-anodized aluminum alloy, forgoing the circular ridged pattern on the Padfone2 for a smoother and sleeker back that’s slightly curved for a better grip. The Padfone Infinity is also slightly longer than the previous model, meaning that users who aren’t comfortable with using large phones might be a bit finicky at first.
Looks-wise the Padfone Infinity is a no-frills phone. On the right side is the power button and volume rocker, as well as the phone’s speaker grill which means there’s less chance of audio being muffled when you hold the phone or place it on a table. At the bottom of the phone is the micro-USB connector which also serves as the connector port when docking it into the accompanying Station. To the left is the SIM card tray, which surprisingly holds a nanoSIM, making this the first Android phone I’ve seen do so.
The accompanying Padfone Station which the phone docks into hasn’t changed much, but it is sporting a full HD screen this time around. Measuring at 10.1” and weighing in at 670g (with the phone docked) it’s gotten a bit heavier this time around, but the improved screen comes at the cost of a slightly larger battery, so that’s fair enough.
When benchmarking the Padfone Infinity I didn’t expect it to perform as superbly as it did, especially against my current favorite phone, the HTC One. The Padfone Infinity sailed past the HTC One and the Padfone2, clocking in remarkable speeds across the benchmarks. Even with the Padfone Infinity docked, it showed no signs of lag at all, and blazed through everything I threw at it. From gaming to opening PDFs to editing documents or recording video, the Padfone Infinity conquered them all without a hitch.
As with the Padfone2, ASUS has opted to change as little as possible when it comes to the Android UI. It bundles a few of its own apps such as the Audio Wizard for fine-tuning audio, as well as apps like BuddyBuzz, a Birthday Reminder app, and a few more. The Padfone Infinity also lets you set up “Scenarios”, which is similar to how you would setup different collection of homescreens on your phone. The advantage is that you can have one Scenario for work with shortcuts to your business apps, Dropbox, email etc, and also have a personal Scenario that had shortcuts for WhatsApp, music, games, etc. It’s a unique feature that expands your screen real estate by a significant amount, and switching between each is as simple as pinching and zooming on the main screen.
Also making a return are the various floating apps. When the Padfone Infinity is docked, you can have various apps such as a browser, dictionary, or email floating on top of all your other windows. I’m not sure how many users will utilize this feature, but it’s nice of ASUS to have included it. One thing that they have changed is what happens when you swipe up on the Home button. Usually this would launch Google Now, but now it brings up a small carousel, which lets you access search, voice commands, Google Now, and the App drawer, You can also pin up to five apps here, which will make them accessible no matter which app or window you have open.
What’s also new here is ASUS Echo, which is ASUS’ own attempt at voice commands. Unfortunately it’s still very much an experimental thing, and is limited to only searching for and dialing contacts. Hopefully ASUS can make improvements to ASUS Echo based on user feedback, so that the next version is more responsive. You can however still use Google Now for a much broader range of voice commands if you prefer.
The screen on the Padfone Infinity is a visible improvement from the Padfone2, sporting sharper colors and crisper images. It is fairly good when used outdoors, and there’s even an “Outdoor” mode which cranks up the brightness to maximum at the expense of the battery. Regardless, HD content looks superb on the Padfone Infinity, whether you’re watching content while it’s docked or not.
The camera on the Padfone Infinity is the same 13 megapixel type as seen in the previous model. As before, there’s a decent number of options and tweaks available when taking photos, and image quality does not disappoint. It’s worth noting that when the Padfone Infinity is docked and you switch on the camera, it defaults to a 5 megapixel photo that fills the entire screen – you can switch to the full-resolution 13 megapixel version, but this needs to be cropped out later on.
Audio quality on the Padfone Infinity was good, both in and out of the docking station. The relocation of the speaker on the Padfone Infinity means that you’ll have clearer audio when grasping the phone or propping it on the table, and even the speaker on the Station is loud enough to enjoy media when the tablet is propped up. Call quality was also very good, with crystal clear audio at all times. ASUS’s AudioWizard does make a difference depending on what content you’re listening to, so I advise switching the different modes depending on what you’re doing. Overall, while the Padfone Infinity’s audio quality can’t compete with say the audio on the HTC One, it still delivers a very audio performance overall.
Heat is always a concern when using devices such as the Padfone Infinity, but the only time it got noticeably warm was when I was streaming a movie while the device was charging. Battery life on the Padfone Infinity is great, with the phone lasting me a full day’s worth of use. Bear in mind, you can also dock the Padfone Infinity into the Station at any time to give it a further battery boost, but charging it this way is quite slow, so it should only be used in case of emergency.
It’s unknown why ASUS would release a new Padfone model so early, but nevertheless the Padfone Infinity is a subtle yet undeniable improvement from the Padfone2. For anyone who still owns the original Padfone, the Padfone Infinity makes for a no-brainer upgrade, but users of the Padfone 2 might not see the need to jump ship just yet. The only question remains is who would be in the market for a device such as the Padfone Infinity? Well, for anyone who’s currently on an Android phone and is also in the market for a tablet, the Padfone Infinity makes perfect sense, blending two different form factors together while keeping all your data in one place.
A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys playing videogames during work hours and tinkering with the latest gadgets.
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