Last week, much to the dismay of Apple fanboys, we saw how Android is currently on top of the 7 inch(ish) tablet market via the Google Nexus 7, a tablet that comes with better specs despite being significantly cheaper than the Apple iPad Mini. But now that we’ve discussed how Android is doing in the budget tablet sector, it is now time to turn our attention to the big boys: the 10 inch(ish) high-end tablet market.
In the Apple corner, we have the spanking new Apple iPad 4, an updated version of the iPad 3 and, in that popular Apple phrasing, the “best tablet that Apple makes”. In the other corner, we have the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, currently one of the best tablets that the Android ecosystem has to offer.
How well does the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity fare against the Apple iPad 4 on paper? Let’s find out, shall we?
Starting off this battle with the most important component in a tablet (this is the way I see things, opinions may vary from one person to another), the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity uses a 10.1 inch Super IPS+ LCD display running at a 1920 x 1200 (16:10 aspect ratio) pixel resolution. The PPI density rests at 224, one of the highest values we’ve seen so far on an Android tablet display. Colors are bright and vivid, while its brightness makes it easy to use the Infinity in bright daylight. However, the opposition that the Transformer Infinity faces is a really tough one.
The Apple iPad 4 uses the same Retina display that was used by the third generation iPad, namely a 9.7 inch LED-backlit IPS TFT display running at a 1536 x 2048 pixel resolution (4:3 aspect ratio), and amounting at an impressive – for a tablet – Pixel Per Inch (PPI) ratio of 264. Brightness, saturation and color reproduction is spot on, while viewing angles are as wide as they come.
Although the display on the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity is of very high quality, the reality is that the retina display used on the Apple iPad 3 and iPad 4 is the best tablet display currently available on the market, no doubts about it! In addition, despite the fact that the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity has a display larger by 0.4 inches across the diagonal, the actual screen real estate is roughly equal between the two tablets due to the different aspect ratios.
Build Quality and Design
When it comes to the design of the various iPad models, it looks like the general principles followed by Apple have not changed all that much since they have designed the original iPad. The iPad 2 was only a bit different than the original iPad, the third iPad changed even less, while the Apple iPad 4 looks exactly like its predecessor. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, given that most people tend not to be against the glass and aluminum combination used by the Cupertino based manufacturer.
The fourth generation iPad measures 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4 mm (9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37 in) and weighs in at 662 g (1.46 lb). Moving on!
Back in the Android camp, the Transformer Pad Infinity uses the same combination of glass and aluminum, although the circular effect on the back plate is somewhat more interesting than the finish used by Apple’s products, although this is a subjective assessment. In all fairness, two tablets that use the same build materials and carry displays of roughly the same size cannot be very different one from another. If you’re going to like one, you’re going to like them both, and the other way around.
The ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity measures 263 x 180.8 x 8.5 mm (10.35 x 7.12 x 0.33 in) and weighs 598 g (1.32 lb).
As you can see for yourself, the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity is slightly thinner and lighter than the Apple iPad 4, although differences are really to small to be of ultimate importance in choosing between the two!
This is actually the only sector that Apple has decided to improve upon with the Apple iPad 4. As a result, the iPad 4 dumps the A5X System On a Chip (SoC) used by the iPad 3, and uses the new Apple A6X SoC instead. Apple has not shared any details about the A6X, but has indicated that it will feature 2 times the CPU capabilities and 2 times the GPU capabilities.
The ASUS Transformer Pad Infnity features an overclocked Nvidia Tegra 3 Soc consisting out of a quad-core Cortex A9 processor (that runs at 1.6GHz per core when in quad-core mode and at a 1.7GHz when running in single core mode), an Nvidia GeForce ULP (standing for Ultra Low Power) GPU. Add 1 GB into the mix, and what you get is a tablet that is only a little more powerful when it comes to its CPU / GPU combination than the budget Nexus 7. This is one sector that the ASUS Transformer Infinity cannot be placed in the same league as the iPad 4. The Infinity is not the most sluggish of all tablets, not by the least of it, but a difference in real-life performance is surely to be noticed between the Infinity and the Apple iPad 4.
We’ll have to wait for benchmark results to flow in before we can confirm Apple’s claims, but it it worth mentioning that, if Apple did not distort the reality (and they unfortunately tend to do a lot of that), the Apple A6X SoC is significantly faster than anything else currently available in the Android ecosystem. Until Samsung’s Exynos 5 or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro SoCs make their way into tablets, the Apple iPad 4 is the most powerful tablet there is, and by a couple of lengths at that!
Both the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity and the fourth generation iPad come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB variants, but only the Android tab can work with SD cards (of up to 32GB in size). In addition, both tabs come with LTE compatibility options (as they should, given that they are top-end tablets).
On to the cameras, it is really beyond me why anyone would want to take pictures with a tablet, but just for the sake of mentioning all aspects, the Apple iPad 4 uses a 5 MP primary sensor and a 1.2 MP secondary one, while ASUS have opted for an 8 MP primary sensor and a 2 MP secondary camera for their Pad Infinity.
One further thing that needs to be discussed is the docking station that ASUS has designed for the Transformer Pad Infinity. Basically the lower end of a laptop, the docking station will act as a keyboard as well as additional battery for the Transformer. Although you shouldn’t expect the Pad Infinity to magically turn into a full-fledged laptop, it’s really nice for typing on the go. In all fairness though, there are similar accessories for the iPad, it’s just that they are not manufactured by Apple themselves, but by third-parties instead.
Operating System and Software
Ok, so now on to the bit that separates these two tablets the most, the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity has been initially launched with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich but fortunately, it has been since updated to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (in fact, the Pad Infinity is the only tablet other than Google’s Nexus 7 to officially run Android Jelly Bean). In the other corner, the Apple iPad 4 will run iOS 6, the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS.
Although the number of tablet-optimised apps is larger with the iPad, Google has really tried to incite Android app developers to optimize their apps for tablets, not only smartphones. Currently, most of the major Android apps have tablet-optimised versions, although there are still plenty of apps that display a stretched version of the smartphone interface on a tablet. However, this is not as big of a problem as it used to be in the past (quick joke: probably the main indication for this is the fact that Apple dissed a few non-tablet optimized apps when they announced the iPad 4 and the iPad Mini).
On the other hand, with an Android tablet, you’ll be able to do almost everything you want: customize everything, install apps from any source you want to, even change the way that the OS works (by installing custom mods). With an iPad, you’re kinda stuck with the simplicity that Apple has designed for you, and there’s no way to change that. In addition, all iPad apps need to be pre-approved by Apple before they get into the Apple App Store – the only way to install apps on an iPad.
If customization and widgets is what you’re looking for, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is the right way to go. If all you want to do is browse the web and play Fruit Ninja, you’re probably better off with an iPad.
Pros and Cons
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity Pros
– Thin and light
– Good, crisp display
– Android is fully customizable
ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity Cons
– Tegra 3 is more like a mid-range SoC nowadays
Apple iPad 4 Pros
– Best tablet display ever
– Fastest CPU/GPU combination (if Apple is right about the A6X)
– Wide array of tablet-optimized apps
Apple iPad 4 Cons
– The eternal walled garden problem
As much as I would like to be able to say that the Android ecosystem has a tablet that can rival the Apple iPad 4 in all possible areas, the reality is that while Android tablets have definitely made strides in the right directions, the Apple iPad 4 is the undisputed king of the tablet market for the moment!