MWC 2013: Asus overview
Asus Padfone Infinity hands-on, day 2
We didn't get to spend a lot of time with the Padfone Infinity after the event yesterday, but Asus has dedicated today to showing off their products so we went back for a second hands-on.
The Infinity had a positive first impression to build on and it didn't disappoint. The phone has a premium feel - metal unibody phones have become a rarity, but it's hard to beat the classic brushed metal look.
The sides of the phone are conservatively styled - other than the side-mounted loudspeaker, there's nothing out of the ordinary there.
Asus has added some significant tweaks to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. One of them allows you to switch between different homescreen "modes". Here's how these modes work - you pinch zoom to get to the familiar overview mode, where you can add, remove and rearrange homescreen pnes.
Or you can move to a different group of homescreens. Each group has its own set of panes, each with its own widgets (it's similar to the Firefox Panorama feature). The default modes are Asus, Work and Entertainment and you can add more.
Another cool thing is the circular menu you get by long pressing the Home key. It's similar to the standard menu you get from the on-screen Home key (for phones that have them, the Infinity uses capacitive keys).
You can see the customized Android 4.2 running on the Padfone Infinity in this video:
The screen of the Padfone Infinity is a 5" 1080p Super IPS+ unit. Physically the phone isn't much bigger than the Padfone 2, but there's notably more screen real estate. It's sharper too, though the 312ppi of the older version wasn't bad either.
The screen on the Infinity has great overall image quality and viewing angles. The Asus Splendid app allows you to tweak the screen settings to your liking. You can adjust the color temperature and image contrast. There's also a vivid mode toggle.
The bump in resolution for the tablet dock, the Padfone Station, is much more appreciated though. The previous two Stations had 10.1" WXGA (1280 x 800) displays with 150ppi pixel density, which doesn't cut it even for tablets.
The new Padfone Station ups the resolution to WUXGA (1920 x 1200) and 224ppi. It is not quite on the same level as the iPad with Retina display or the Nexus 10, but the image quality is very good nonetheless. The Splendid app can tweak the tablet screen as well.
Anyway, once you plug the Padfone Infinity into the Station, phone apps are upscaled, you can still use the Modes feature on the homescreen and you get access to mini apps. There are more mini apps to choose from compared to the Padfone 2.
The video player on the Padfone can be controlled by gestures - you can scrub forward and back through the video by swipes. It's not a novel feature, we've seen apps from the Play Store do the same, but it's still nice to have out of the box.
The video watching experience has improved - not just because of the sharper screen on the Padfone Station, but also because of its powerful speaker. We didn't have time to test the video codec support - the Padfone 2 was missing things like MKV and subtitle support - but whether or not Asus had them enabled this time around, the Snapdragon 600 chipset should handle everything you throw at it.
Here's the Padfone Infinity in its tablet dock:
Speaking of performance, the Asus Padfone Infinity is impressively fast. It feels fast, but it also benchmarks very well. It topped several benchmarks against the likes of HTC One and LG Optimus G Pro, both of which use the same chipset. The benchmarks can be seen on the previous page.
We should note that the powerful chipset produces a good deal of heat. Because the back of the Infinity is made of metal, the head spreads out evenly and is not too hot to hold, but it is slightly uncomfortable. You won't have issues when using the tablet dock though, it's made of plastic and your hands don't touch the Padfone itself.
The back of the phone remains exposed so you can still use the NFC connectivity (the antenna is in the Padfone logo) and shoot photos with the 13MP main camera. The Station has its own 1MP front camera as the one on the phone gets covered.
Because of the way the Padfone is docked into the Station, the max resolution is reduced if you want to take photos while holding the tablet horizontally (which means the phone is vertical). There's a toggle to switch to the phone's original orientation, but that just leaves huge black bars in the tablet viewfinder.
Asus bragged about the 8fps burst shot mode that can snap up to 100 photos, but the camera has a few other interesting features too, including zero shutter lag and GIF mode, which creates cinemagraphs.
You can check out camera samples and read about the camera image quality over here.