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Yesterday the Taiwanese company Asus launched the latest model in its Padfone line, the Padfone Infinity, and today we've had a chance to have a closer look at the device.
Like previous Padfones, the Infinity consists of two components: A smartphone and a 'dumb' screen with a dock that the phone can slide into, turning the combination into a fully-fledged tablet.
Let's have a look at 5-inch the smartphone first, and it's indeed well worth a look. The Padfone is in every respect a high-end Android smartphone. It's powered by a 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, has an outstanding 5-inch 1080p IPS screen and captures images with a 13MP camera that also features a bright F2.0 lens. Its 64GB onboard storage should be enough for even the most demanding users, but you also get an additional 50GB of free cloud space from Asus with your purchase.
The exterior design matches the high-performance components of the interior. The Padfone is beautifully made, with a brushed aluminium back and anodized aluminium edges. In terms of materials and build-quality, it's firmly based in iPhone territory -- which certainly can't be said of all Android phones.
In terms of software Android 4.2 is running the show. Tha Padfone is one of the first non-Nexus devices we've seen with this very latest version of the Google OS and although Asus says it likes to keep its OS version as close to the vanilla standard as possible to facilitate quicker updates, some changes have been made. For example, the notification tray has changed from stock Android and the camera app is a customized Asus version without the Photoshpere feature that can be found in stock Android 4.2.
In addition there is a range of Asus apps to help you get most out of the hardware. Asus Story lets you create a type of digital photo book with text that can be shared online. Asus Studio is a photo editing app that offers the usual array of editing functions and filters, and Audio Wizard is a tool comparable to a graphical equalizer, making sure you've got the optimal sound settings for listening to music, watching video, video-chatting or any other activity on your device.
While the smartphone is a stunning device on its own, it doubles as a tablet when docked to the Padfone screen. The latter has a resolution of 1900 x 1200 pixels and comes with an additional front-facing camera and its own built-in 5000mAh battery, in addition to the 2400mAh unit in the phone. The combo can be configured to charge the phone while plugged into the screen.
The connection is established via an enhanced Micro-USB port and there are also two additional antenna connectors to ensure maximum reception while the phone is docked. In practice, the switch between smartphone and tablet modes happens seamlessly. Whatever you were doing on the phone before docking it, you simply keep doing on the tablet screen after you've connected.
In theory the Padfone solution is a great idea. The current generation of tablets and smartphones are using the same processors and are running the same software. The size of the screen is pretty much the only significant difference between the two types of device and it therefore makes sense to share a processor and other components. However, the concept is only really attractive to consumers if it comes with a cost savings over owning both tablet and phone. This is where Asus has been struggling with previous Padfone generations and it seems the Infinity will be no different. At a projected retail price of 999 Euros in Europe, you could get a Google Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 instead and have 300 Euros to spare.
That said, if you don't mind the money the Padfone Infinity is a beautifully made and desirable high-end device with a unique 'transformation ability.' Asus says the Padfone Infinity will be available in Asia and Europe in the second half of this year. It's not clear yet if the device will ever make it to U.S. shores.
Asus Padfone Infinity headline specifications: