Asus PadFone Infinity review: first look
There was a sharp collective intake of breath at the Asus launch event for the PadFone Infinity at MWC. Not out of wonder or excitement – but at the price.
At €999 (around £799), this is a seriously expensive piece of tech - right up there with the priciest iPads Apple has to offer. As such you'd expect the PadFone to exude a little bit of luxury, to be beautifully built, to feel exclusive; we're happy to report that it does exactly that.
As with the first Asus PadFone, unveiled at last year's MWC, the PadFone Infinity is a two-part phone/tablet hybrid. It comprises a 5in Android smartphone which, when docked, turns into a 10.1in tablet. The tablet dock, or "Station" as Asus calls it, is dumb; there's no CPU inside, although its 5,000mAh booster battery (adding to the phone's already sizeable 2,400mAh internal power source) shouldn't be discounted.
As befitting a £799 product, the phone is gorgeous. The subtly curved rear panel is made from brushed aluminium, with the PadFone motif etched at the bottom. The front of the Full HD screen is made from flat, scratch-proof Corning-branded glass; the unit just begs to be picked up and touched.
Perhaps it's because we've been desensitised by bigger devices, but the 5in PadFone is also an eminently sensible size. It's light, and those rounded corners mean it should slide neatly into your pocket.
Switch it on and it continues to impress. The colours on the screen look rich and balanced, and it's impossible to make out any of the pixels. That's due to an extremely high pixel density: cramming a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 into a 5in screen diagonal gives a Retina-beating 441ppi. For comparison, the iPhone 5 manages "only" 326ppi.
The mechanism for docking the handset into the 1,920 x 1,080 tablet Station has also been refined since last year's model. Instead of having to pop open a flimsy flap to dock the unit, with the PadFone Infinity you simply slide the smartphone into a slot from the top. It locks in position with a positive thunk, and what was on the phone's screen instantly transfers to the 10.in display.
With the two parts fitted together, it doesn't feel particularly heavy – a quick perusal of the spec sheet reveals why: the phone weighs 141g and the Station 530g, adding up to a very reasonable 671g. This is only 9g more than the 3G iPad 4.
The finish of the PadFone Station itself is a disappointment when compared to the handset. It's slim at 10.6mm, but the soft-touch silver plastic finish is pretty standard, and there's nothing to make it stand out from the crowd.
In terms of general responsiveness, however, there's nothing at all to complain about. In both phone and tablet modes, homescreens, menus and web pages whipped by in a blur. We gave Asus' SuperNote software a whirl on the stand – an advanced note-taking app that allows you to type, speak and scribble notes with your finger (or a capacitive stylus) – and found the handwriting recognition to be remarkably accurate. SuperNote is one of a number of pre-loaded Asus apps, which also includes Asus Story for creating attractive photo albums, and Asus Echo for voice control.
With other specifications taking in the full gamut of flagship smartphone features, the PadFone leaves absolutely nothing to chance: the powerplant is the latest quad-core chip from Qualcomm – a 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600, with 2GB of RAM for support; it has support for both dual-band 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi; there's 32GB or 64GB of internal storage; you get a 13-megapixel, f/2 rear camera and a 2-megapixel f/2 one at the front; and it runs the latest version of Android Jelly Bean 4.2.
There's no doubt that the Asus PadFone is the last word in smartphone luxury. The question is, at this price, will many people buy one? We're not entirely convinced.