Note 1: A Chinese website has taken my article and translated it into Chinese. It is not the exact translation but the gist is there with some omissions. The link (華文翻譯）.
Note 2: The Padfone Infinity has been upgraded. You can check the review here.
It was only not so long ago that ASUS introduced the very first Padfone, a 3-in-1 device that can be a smartphone, tablet and an Android Netbook with keyboard and a stylus. It was well received as a device that can do everything but it burst unto the scene with unimpressive specification. Add that to issues with the trap door that seems to trip up users, the original Padfone find it hard to win hearts though everyone loves the concept.
Next came the Padfone 2. They dropped the keyboard dock and the stylus and in come a unique docking mechanism that allows the phone to be extracted out quickly and yet is secure enough that even hard shaking wouldn’t dislodged it from the tablet dock. What we missed a lot is the keyboard. Yes we can make do with a Bluetooth keyboard but it won’t be as sleek. The specifications has improved and can at least match those in the market but the screen is its Achilles heel, coming in at only 720p with a smaller 4.7 inch screen it is ok for a user but a Photographer like me would like a bit of ommph in their pictures through better resolution and size.
Side note: A lot of people equate the quality of the camera using the screen of same camera/device to make the decision. Fact is how would anyone make that sort of decision if the screen is biased in the first place?
For example, a full size sensor DSLR usually would have a much better rear LCD screen than say the APS-C DSLR. For someone to say it is better, then the same pictures must be shown using the same calibrated screen to make a fair judgment. More often than not, the current crop of APS-C sensor camera pictures are very good at 1920 x 1080 even when compared to Full Frame. Also do note both Full and Crop frame sensor photos are downsized to the monitor screen size. For general usage, use 1920 by 1280 (2.5MP) is more than enough. Retina display would require 2880 x 1920 (5.5MP). In short, too many people say Full Frame is better when it may not be so with the current crop sensor / image processor technology. Hence the old mantra that full frame is better may not be true especially when it comes to pixel pitch (the singular area of capture for each pixel on the sensor).
Within a year ASUS up the ante up a couple of notches with the newer iteration of the Padfone concept with the Padfone Infinity.
The important specifications:
- Dimensions – Phone: 143.5 x 72.8 x 8.9 mm / Tablet: 264.6 x 181.6 x 10.6 mm. Total weight: 145g + 532g
- Screen Resolution – Phone 5″ Full HD 1920 x 1080 / Tablet 10.1″ Full HD 1920 x 1200 both with Super In-Plane Switching +
- Processor – Snapdragon 600 Quad Core with Adreno 320 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 32GB or 64GB storage (50GB ASUS Webstorage)
- Battery power- Phone: 2400 mAh / Tablet: 5000 mAh Total 7400 mAh. Standby time: 410 hours
I do own a Padfone 2 and it is also the main reason why I am so happy with the Padfone Infinity. I would go straight to Pros and Cons instead of going technical totally so those who are not IT inclined can have a better idea what is going on. The review is after owning (yes it is not a sample) for a couple of weeks.
Pro No. 1: PF-I Specifications matches or even exceeds competitors
Unlike Padfone 1 and 2, the Padfone Infinity (PF-I) burst into the scene with top notch specifications. PF-1 has a great concept but was hindered by under-powered processors and a small screen. The logic was simple then. Since there is a docking station, a small screen is good enough. What the designer did not realised is that some users would leave their docking station at home and bring the phone to work. So the concept should at least match how people use their phone and not to assume it will change the habit just because there is a tablet. As for the processor and RAM, it was woefully inadequate as compare to its competitors. In the end, the concept though good, did not convert a lot of people.
When it comes to PF-2, they have at least improved in terms of processor and memory but was served by a less than stellar HD-Ready screen (i.e. 720 pixels on the short side). The PF-I now has full HD screen and the colour is beautiful! I can even read my screen in direct sunlight (with full screen brightness of course)!
Pro No. 2: Good Design and usage of material
So when the PF-I was announced, the clean look and usage of aerospace grade aluminum provides a better tactile feeling of the whole unit as compared to competitors and the old PF-2. Gone are plastics and the concentric circle of its predecessors and in come brushed metal back and unibody design. The whole unit just shouts ‘premium’. The use of the unibody design is in-line with the iPhone and HTC One and One X and so it is in good company.
The size is also in the ‘just nice’ category with me able to operate the phone with just one hand. Perhaps when we are trained by the Samsung Galaxy Grand or the Sony Experia Z Ultra, then the Padfone Infinity at 5″ would be seen as a none issue.
Pro No. 3: Standard micro USB Connector is Used
When it comes to connectors, The PF-2 has simplified those found on the PF-1. It was good news at first but it came with a modified, semi-proprietary micro USB plug. I jokingly called it the horned plug as it look as though it has horns. Although it can use the normal micro USB cable, it was loose and can easily dislodged itself just with a slight nudge. It was certainly not a nice feeling to find the phone was not charged fully at the start of the day.
PF-I has certainly solved it once and for all by adopting the standard micro USB port and such problem as described above went away. Plugging in an external battery pack is very secure as well.
Pro No. 4: Extended Battery Power
The PF-I did last the whole day without much problems with casual use of the Internet, SMS, Whatsapp, Emails and the occasional games and Facebooking. Add the Dock into the power equation with an additional 5000 mAh of power and the whole unit is able to last with more than 70% battery in both units from Singapore to Hong Kong (3+ hour trip) with 2 movies and some reading. The unit definitely can last the whole day without worries unless one is into Facebook and phonography.
Pro No. 5: External Speaker
The external speaker is now facing sideways, just above the on/off button on the right side of the phone. It avoided the muffled sound due to the fact that some old design have downward facing speakers.
Pro No. 6: Good Apps and Audio with Sonic Master
The Padfone Infinity now comes with ASUS Story and of course the Audio Wizard. ASUS story is like a mini photo e-book you can create with photos taken with the camera. Although ASUS is usual not the brand one would think to go for in terms of audio, the sound reproduction is really very good with my Shure headphones and earphones. Of course it is no where near to purpose built headphone DAC amplifiers but it does a very good job aural-y.
As compared to Beats? I will take the PF-I’s SonicMaster any day.
Pro No. 7: Awesome Mobile Gaming and User Interface
The Snapdragon Quad Core with Adreno GPU serves up a very good mobile gaming experience. I used the Padfone Infinity to play EA’s Real Racing 3 and the experience is smooth and with no jitters. Game loading is within the acceptable level and can be seen as quick for some.
I would even think the performance boost will come from rooting the device. That said, the User Interface is as vanilla as it can get unless one gets the Nexus and that’s what I like about ASUS implementation.
Pro No. 8 – On The Go (OTG) Thumbdrive Access
Since HTC made a big blooper of excluding the OTG access on the HTC One X (remedied in subsequent updates). This has been something for me to look into whenever new phones comes about. This is particularly useful when I have to send a picture file off quickly to a client or Facebook unless I have a Samsung Galaxy Camera or the NX300 (review coming soon!). This is even more important since the PF-I do not have a microSD slot.
Pro No. 9: Good Camera Implementation
I am usually not a fan of phone cameras but lately I was pretty impressed with the rethinking and remaking of the phone cams starting with the Nokia Lumia 920, then the HTC One X and the excellent HTC One with its 4 MP Ultra Sensor with a bigger pixel pitch. I was initially quite skeptical of the 13MP sensor on the PF-I but I downloaded the photo and took it through my normal on-screen testing and avoid looking through the excellent IPS+ screen and here’s what I got below. All photos are unedited and taken by the Padfone Infinity.
The Camera Test folder can be seen at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilzworkz/sets/72157633949856055/
Of course there is no such thing as a perfect product and here are some of the low points while using the phone for one month.
Cons 1: Not Enough Speakers (anal complain)
For having such a good audio processor it is a bummer to have a small speaker on the phone. In comparison, the HTC One has two front facing speakers for a more immersing effect. Of course this can be solved by using the earphones/headphones but going ‘naked’ would be good sometimes.
Cons 2: Provide a docking Station with keyboard
The original Padfone captures the imagination of having three devices coming into one that looks like a net-book. The keyboard is a useful feature and buying a new BT keyboard is just not sleek enough. Perhaps something like the Surface that comes with a keyboard cover?
Cons 3: Accessories
This may not be under ASUS control but it would be nice to have at least the provision of screen protectors when the product is launched. Unlike the more established brands such as Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy Phones, the accessories for this is pretty scarce in the open market. I can’t really blame the stall owners not to bring them in because it is just too expensive to bring in bulk.
However I do want to suggest to ASUS – Get the screen protectors in bulk and put it in the product package. At least it solves the number one concern for new converts to ASUS products which is a screen that won’t be scratched (speaking of which the screen is pretty robust but better be safe than sorry).
For those reading this, here are the places I got my tablet stand/cover and screen protectors.
The tablet cover with a slot opening for the phone and the phone flip case for times when I don’t bring the tablet out.
Qoo10-Singapore – MP3 / Mobile / eBook – PadFone3 Tablet Holder with P…
Then I got the matte screen protectors for the tablet and the phone:
Qoo10-Singapore – MP3 / Mobile / eBook – Asus Padfone 3 Infinity Scree…
Qoo10-Singapore – MP3 / Mobile / eBook – Asus Padfone 3 Infinity Scree…
Cons 4: Unremovable Battery and No microSD slots (anal complaint)
I will still harp on this until the cow comes home. The number one thing we do sacrifice is the ability to change batteries when we have a unibody design. Apple is the first to go unibody then followed by HTC One X. Generally it is ok if the battery has no problems but what if the battery became faulty? Yes, time wastage at the service centre.
I would at least hope that a slot for the microSD card can be implemented in a unibody design. 32GB/64GB may sound a lot but for the younger generation of media file hoggers, it is more practical to have a slot. It is a good thing that we can use OTG and transfer via the thumbdrive but one can hope yes?
Con 5: Panoramic Feature Down Sample the File’s Size.
The motion panorama feature got the shots but the app shrank the file size to less than 1MB. In comparison a normal shot using 13MP would yield a 5MB file size. It may be due to the fact that doing a pano would require a lot of processing power and shrinking the size of the photos to create the final image would help with the stitching faster. Although I understand the reason, still 1MB at the maximum is really too small. Then again, if you are seriously into Panoramic, doing a proper stitch is the best way.
On the whole, the Padfone Infinity is the natural culmination of all the feedback that ASUS has gathered over the years since the introduction of the Padfone Original. Kudos to ASUS for sticking their guns and guts to provide an alternative to the basic offerings from other brands.
The Padfone Infinity do deliver well in terms of battery power endurance, usability, screen resolution and practicality. For a casual or even a heavy user, the Padfone Infinity do complete all the ticks except for some anal requirements of mine. I do have to sacrifice the need for a removable battery for a nicer looking phone. However I am still hopeful there can be a microSD slot somewhere in the future.
The PadFone Infinity will cost S$898 for the 32GB version and S$998 for the 64GB one. To turn the phone into a 10.1-inch tablet, the optional docking station will cost you another S$368.
The Padfone Infinity is now offered by M1 and Starhub as part of the phone contract.