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MWC: Asus Padfone Infinity hands-on review

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BARCELONA: Primarily a tablet and PC maker, Taiwanese firm Asus has been taking aim at the wider mobile market for some time now.

The Padfone Infinity is arguably its first serious attempt on the market, seeking to offer businesses a smartphone that can be converted into a fully functioning 10in Android tablet.

To its credit, the Infinity phone-tablet hybrid does feature some pretty powerful technology. However, with a price tag of €999 (£862), the tech comes at a premium.

At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) show, we had the chance to get some hands on time with the Infinity to evaluate whether the phone-tablet can justify its hefty price tag.

Design and build
The Padfone Infinity is a smartphone that comes supplied with its own tablet dock.

The phone can be inserted in the rear of the dock to convert it into a fully functioning 10in Android tablet. This means that the phone section is the heart of the device, handling all the processing.Asus Padfone Infinity docked

On its own, the phone section of the Infinity has a very stripped down, business friendly look, featuring a unibody brushed aluminium chassis.

The only notable design feature on the phone is the Asus Padfone brand, found at the bottom edge of its rear casing.

While this means the device doesn't look anywhere near as flashy as more consumer-focused devices like the Galaxy S3, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z, we quite like the Infinity's no-nonsense metallic design.

We also found the Infinity phone quite comfortable to hold, despite its large 144x73x8.9mm measurements. Despite being made of metal, the phone section actually weighs in at just 141g.

While heavier than phones like the feather-light 112g Apple iPhone 5, we didn't find the Infinity phone's weight to be an issue and were surprised at just how light it felt to use.

It was only when we inserted the phone into its 265x182x10.7mm, 530g metal tablet dock that the Padfone began to weigh us down.

While we didn't get the chance to take the device away from the Asus show floor, we suspect the weight could prove an issue for business people looking to use the device as a tablet while on the move, although this is still lighter than Apple's iPad.

MWC Asus Padfone Infinity

Display
The phone section of the Infinity comes loaded with a 5in 441ppi display that Asus claims is superior to the Retina Display seen on Apple's iPhone and iPad devices.

Testing the Padfone on the brightly-lit showroom floor, we were very impressed with the screen, and found it exhibited excellent brightness and colour balance levels as well as good viewing angles.

We will delve further into how well the screen performs in more adverse outdoor lighting conditions in a future full review.

The tablet section of the Infinity features a 10in 1,080x1,920 display that we were similarly impressed with in the short time available for a hands-on/

Software
The Padfone Infinity runs Google's Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system. This means that the device features a host of great Google features.

Asus has made some changes to the platform, adding its own cloud storage and video and photo sharing services.

Most of the applications are consumer-focused and won't be of interest to business users, though they are easily hidden and past their addition Asus hasn't made to many significant changes to the OS.

Performance
The Padfone is powered by a 1.7GHz Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor and features 2GB of RAM.

Testing the device as a standalone phone, we found the Padfone was blazingly fast, being able to load multiple content-heavy webpages in itspre-installed Chrome browser in a flash, even when running on the showroom floor's dodgy Wi-Fi connection.Asus Padfone Infinity apps

The same was true when we loaded the phone into its tablet dock, where again we experienced no performance issues at all.

We're really looking forward to seeing how the Padfone copes when tasked with more challenging tests when we manage to get hold of one for a fuller evaluation.

Camera
The phone section of the Padfone carries a 13MP rear-facing camera. This features an F2.0 lens designed to help improve its low light sensitivity, meaning it should be better than most phones at taking photos in the dark.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to really test this on the brightly lit showroom floor. However, the test shots we took in the camera-friendly lighting conditions did come out nicely, looking crisp and vibrant even when viewed blown up on the tablet section's 10in HD screen.

Storage and battery
The Padfone we looked at was configured with 32GB of internal storage. Asus has also confirmed users will get 50GB worth of free storage space on its cloud service.

Asus has equipped the Padfone handset with an impressive 2400mAh battery. The frim claims this will last 19 hours off a single charge. If this proves true, then the Padfone's battery life could prove a key selling point, with most rival devices lasting no more than about 10 hours off one charge.

Prospects
Overall, our early impressions of the Asus Padfone Infinity are positive. Despite its hefty price tag, we think the benefit to businesses of being able to offer employees a tablet and phone in one device could tempt some buyers.

However, in terms of mass market appeal, while we like the Padfone's bare bones, no-nonsense design, we don't have high hopes that it will entice consumers away from the more flashy high-end Samsung and Apple devices.

27 Feb 2013

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