The requisite sidekick
The Infinity wouldn't be a Transformer without an accompanying keyboard dock. Tablet keyboards are pretty common—about half of the slates I see in the real world are paired with one—but none match the features and functionality of the Transformers' sidekicks. There's a custom keyboard dock for each Transformer tablet, including the Infinity. The latest Transformer Pad is also compatible with the keyboard dock designed for the Transformer Prime, so long as it's running firmware revision 207 or newer. Kudos to Asus for the backward compatibility.
Attaching the keyboard involves little more than sliding the tablet into the dock's hinge. Two prongs ensure that everything lines up correctly, and the tablet snaps into place easily. A sliding lock prevents the two components from separating prematurely.
The hinge provides enough tilt to give users a good view of the screen. It also allows the Infinity to close like a clamshell, making the dock perhaps the smartest screen cover around.
Although this hybrid design is undeniably slick, it comes with some baggage. In a traditional notebook, the base is much heavier than the lid, which contains nothing more than the screen. The Infinity's lid is the entire tablet, and it weighs 61 grams more than the dock. That discrepancy produces a back-heavy system in notebook mode.
Fortunately, the Infinity's balance isn't too precarious. The screen can be tilted all the way back on a flat surface with no issues. However, if the system is on a downward slope of about 10°, the front edge of the keyboard dock starts to lift. This isn't a huge problem because one's hands are usually on the keyboard dock to prevent the whole thing from tipping. Short of making the tablet lighter, which I'm sure Asus has tried, the only solution would be a heavier dock.
The keyboard is the dock's most obvious element; it's pretty good, too. Heavy-handed typing will produce some visible flex in the center of the keyboard, but there's less warping than we observed on the Transformer Pad 300. The Infinity's keyboard definitely feels more solid.
Despite the dock's slim profile, the keys have a decent amount of travel. They offer good tactile feedback, with none of the vague mushiness that plagues all too many notebook keyboards.
|Total keyboard area||Alpha keys|
|Size||250 mm||92 mm||23,000 mm²||154 mm||47 mm||7,238 mm²|
|Versus full size||87%||84%||73%||90%||82%||74%|
The chiclets are a little on the small side, producing a keyboard that falls short of full size. Keep in mind that this is a 10" system. Even with the screen's wide bezel, there's only so much room for the keyboard. My XL-sized hands can still type comfortably at speed on the Infinity without generating too many typos. It would be nice if Asus gently contoured the keys to help keep one's fingers centered, though.
Overall, the biggest impediment to typing on the Infinity is the touchpad that sits below the keyboard. Most notebook touchpads detect when the user's fingers are tickling the keys and ignore inadvertent contact. Not the Infinity. This problem plagues all of Asus' Transformers, and we've been told by the company that Android is actually to blame. Google is apparently loath to offer too much touchpad functionality in Android, lest it steps on the toes of Chrome OS. Fortunately, the keyboard's top row of function keys includes one to disable the touchpad.
It's a shame the toggle is necessary, because the touchpad is a nice addition to the dock. Few tablet keyboards have integrated pointing devices, requiring users to lift their hands and fat-finger the screen. The Infinity's touchpad offers a smooth tracking area and a precise pointer that works much better than the touchscreen for photo and document editing. Reaching up to stab the screen takes longer than shifting one's hands to the touchpad, as well.
While a larger touchpad would be nice, Asus makes good use of the available real estate. The touchpad's surface is nicely delineated from the palm rests, and the integrated buttons depress with an audible click.