Tegra 3 inside, expansion outside
The Transformer's keyboard dock isn't just an input device. Under the hood lurks a 19.5Wh auxiliary battery that backs the 25Wh unit in the tablet. When the two are connected, the dock's battery is used to charge the tablet, adding hours of run time. Asus boasts the Infinity's real-world battery life tops 13 hours with the dock attached, a claim we'll test later in the review.
In addition to the battery, the dock contains a full-sized SD slot and a standard USB port. The USB port may lack SuperSpeed connectivity, but it makes transferring files to and from the Transformer a snap. So does the SD slot, which promises instant compatibility with just about any digital camera.
Thanks to the Tegra 3 SoC that powers the Transformer Pad Infinity, the USB port is good for more than just portable storage devices. Nvidia has built robust game controller support into the Tegra's drivers. Everything from current-gen console gamepads to generic controllers can be plugged into the Transformer, though it's up to game developers to take advantage. The handful of tablet titles I've played with a gamepad have been more enjoyable than those restricted to touchscreen input. To be fair, I tend to prefer arcade-style games and am picky about precise, responsive controls.
|Processor||Nvidia Tegra 3 T33 1.6/1.7GHz with GeForce graphics|
|Display||10.1" IPS TFT with 1920x1200 resolution|
|Ports||1 Micro HDMI 1.4a
1 analog audio headphone/mic port
1 USB 2.0 (dock)
|Expansion slots||1 miniSD
1 SD (dock)
|Input devices||Capacitive touchscreen
Chiclet keyboard with touchpad (dock)
|Dimensions||Tablet: 10.4" x 7.1" x 0.33"
(263 x 181 x 8.5 mm)
Dock: 10.4" x 7.1" x 0.41" (263 x 181 x 10.4 mm)
|Weight||Tablet: 1.32 lbs (598 grams)
Dock: 1.18 (537 grams)
|Battery||Tablet: 25Wh lithium-polymer
Dock: 19.5Wh lithium-polymer
The Transformer Pad Infinity uses a new version of Nvidia's Tegra 3 processor dubbed the T33. This isn't fresh silicon, but a higher speed grade that's been cherry-picked from the mass of Tegra chips rolling off TSMC's 40-nm fabrication line. With single-core loads, the chip can reach speeds up to 1.7GHz. Occupy two or more cores, and the ceiling drops to 1.6GHz. Those clocks are 300MHz higher than those of the Tegra chip in the Transformer Prime. They have an additional 100MHz advantage over the T30L Tegra variant in the Transformer Pad 300, too.
All those speeds apply to the Tegra 3's quad-core cluster. The chip also has a fifth "companion core" that tops out at 500MHz. This low-power core is separate from the main quartet, and Nvidia uses software to switch between them based on the system load; all five cores can't be used at the same time. Nvidia describes the architecture as 4-plus-1. Given how the scheme works, 4-or-1 seems more fitting.
The cores are all based on the ARM Cortex-A9, a popular choice for mobile SoCs. There is one more difference between them, though. The companion core is made up of transistors optimized for low leakage, while the other cores use transistors designed for operation at higher frequencies. Those low-leakage transistors have relatively slow switching speeds, which is why the companion core's top speed is so low.
While processor cores take care of computing duties, an integrated GeForce handles graphics. Nvidia has revealed little about the nature of this IGP. We know it has 12 "cores" that are likely ALUs, but their origin and clock speed remain a mystery. Other members of the Tegra 3 family have 12-core GeForce graphics, and there's no indication that the Infinity's T33 flavor runs its graphics component any faster. That immediately throws up a red flag for the Infinity, which has more than twice the number of pixels of a typical Tegra 3 tablet. Apple beefed up the iPad's graphics horsepower when it moved to a high-PPI display. A faster integrated GeForce may have to wait for the next-generation Tegra SoC.
1080p video playback shouldn't be a problem for the Tegra 3, which has a dedicated video block to accelerate the decoding process. A wide variety of formats is supported, of course. The video block also handles 1080p encoding, allowing the Infinity to capture HD video using its rear-facing camera.
The rear shooter is an 8-megapixel unit with an F2.2 aperture and LED flash. There's also a front-facing 2MP camera meant for video conferencing. It supports HD video chat, but 1080p video recording seems to be limited to the rear camera.
The rest of the Transformer Pad Infinity's specs stack up as one might expect. There's a gig of low-power DDR3-1600 RAM backed by either 32 or 64GB of flash storage. As an added bonus, both models come with 8GB of cloud-based capacity courtesy of Asus WebStorage. The cloud storage is good for the life of the device, which is better than the single-year freebies Asus has offered in the past.
Wireless connectivity options include Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi. You'll need to tether the tablet to a smartphone to get online via cellular data networks, though.
Naturally, the Infinity runs Android 4.0, otherwise known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Asus has done a better job than any other tablet maker of keeping its devices up-to-date with the latest version of Google's OS. We hope that trend continues with Jelly Bean, the Android update rumored to be released this summer.
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