The new iPad (3rd generation) has just been launched, and it’s time to look at how competitive it is to one of the most expected upcoming Android tablets – the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity 700 (Asus product naming is getting a little out of hand here; it shouldn’t take a full sentence to call a product by its name). The Transformer Pad Infinity will also be a high-resolution tablet like the new iPad and it’s worth looking at their specs and their use cases to see how they compare.
It looks like Apple didn’t increase the CPU performance at all over the iPad 2, and it’s the same dual core 1 Ghz Cortex A9 CPU as last year. This may pose a problem for the new Retina optimized app, and it will start to seem slower when compared to all the upcoming tablets that will show up within the next year by the time the 4th gen iPad appears. Android tablets are already starting to have either the quad core Tegra 3 chip with 1.3-1.6 Ghz per core or dual core 1.5 Ghz S4 chips, which are more like a dual core 2 Ghz Cortex A9 in terms of performance, to put it in perspective.
I’ve said before that in most cases a dual core processor should outperform a quad core one if it has higher performance on each core, compared to a quad core chip with lower performance for each core. But in this case the iPad has lower performance for the 2 cores as well, and the Transformer Pad Infinity should have at least 60% higher performance in the browser and most other apps, because of its higher clocked cores.
People may be forgetting this with Apple’s marketing of their new GPU, but it’s important to remember that although the GPU is important to push pixels on the screen in games and for the UI, the CPU is still by far the most important chip in the device, and most tasks are handled by it. This means you should pretty much always look for a device with a faster CPU, and the GPU should always be a lower priority.
The iPad has a slightly higher resolution than the Transformer Pad Infinity here, with a 2048×1536 vs a 1920×1200 resolution, or 40 extra PPI (264 vs 224). This will help give text extra crispness for text, but the difference shouldn’t be noticeable. Plus none of them is actually “Retina”, meaning 300 PPI, according to research cited by Steve Jobs himself.
As for movies, the extra resolution does nothing, because movies are still at most at 1080p, and both resolutions can let you run that at native resolution. I would argue one aspect makes the Transformer Pad Infinity even better at watching movies because of its 16:10 ratio. On an 4:3 iPad, the letterbox space will occupy 1/3 of the screen.
The Super IPS+ screen seems to look better as well with higher brightness and less sunlight reflection. The video below also shows that even if Apple’s GPU may run certain (simple) things a lot better, it seems to be lacking in some graphics features, and Nvidia is actually focused on making games look better, rather than just winning benchmark tests for simple GPU tasks:
Both tablets will have 1 GB of RAM, and that’s actually one of the disappointing part for both tablets. 1 GB for tablets is pretty low, especially when it comes to browsing, which you do a lot more than on a phone. Plus, having these high resolutions means apps will run more data through RAM, which means it will feel “less” than before. Other upcoming tablets should have 2 GB of RAM throughout the year.
The Transformer Pad Infinity seems to have higher MP cameras than the iPad in both cases (8 MP vs 5 MP, and 2 MP vs 0.3 MP), and it remains to be seen how the quality will compare, but to be honest I could care less about the rear camera on tablets. Who actually takes pictures with their cameras? And even if they do, it’s probably like a one time per month thing. I just don’t think it’s worth investing a lot of money into competing over this.
Both tablets are priced the same when having the same amount of storage (32 GB), but the iPad also has a 16 GB version. I think it’s unwise for Asus to not release a $500 16 GB version, too. While I agree that now with these high resolutions, apps will be 3-4x bigger in size (a 100 MB app will become 300 or 400 MB), so storage will feel much smaller than before, and it a good move to move towards 32 GB default storage for high-end tablets, it’s just not a very good decision to not have anything to compete at the $500 level. It’s a mistake Motorola already made with the Xoom. But perhaps Asus will release such a version by then.
The new iPad has a 70% bigger battery than both iPad 2 and the Transformer Pad Infinity. This seems to be the fault of a pretty inefficient set-up of a PowerVR SGX543 MP4 GPU, a higher resolution, and a chip that is still made at 45 nm. Even the LTE chip is the same power hungry LTE chip that we had in the HTC Thunberbolt and other LTE devices last year.
So their solution to all of this was to put as big of a battery as possible in the tablet. This also added 50 grams of weight and 6 mm of thickness, when tablets are supposed to become ever thinner and ever lighter. While thinness is almost always preferable and we should always push for it in the tech industry, just like now twe are pushing for thin ultrabooks, I don’t think it’s that huge of an issue as long as it’s around 9-10 cm for a phone or tablet.
Weight on the other hand, actually is a big issue. Tablets are still very heavy at 600 grams, and the new iPad increases that to 652 grams. An “ideal” 10″ tablet will weight somewhere around 300-400 grams if you want to watch or read something for more than 30 minutes and not be bothered by the weight.
I’m a big supporter of having bigger batteries in smartphones, like in the Droid RAZR Maxx, and I believe all smartphones should have 3000+ mAh batteries, but if tablets can last for around 10 hours of normal use there’s no need to increase the battery life. The Tegra 3 is a pretty efficient processor thanks to the 5th core and power saving modes, so the Transformer Pad Infinity should achieve the same kind of battery life even without a huge battery. Plus, I think simply going after bigger batteries is manufacturer laziness.
Their #1 priority should still be energy efficiency, not using bigger batteries. Smartphones are an exception because you always use them with you so you want them to last as long as possible – days if possible. That means they should keep focusing on both energy efficiency and putting 3000 mAh batteries inside them.
I still believe that by now you’re making a choice of ecosystems, whether it’s Android or iOS, so that should be the #1 decision for most people, but in terms of specs the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity seems like a better tablet in everything except the slightly higher resolution. You get higher performance for most apps thanks to a quad core and higher clocked CPU, and richer graphics thanks to the Tegra 3 GPU. Plus, you get a thinner (8.5 mm vs 9.4 mm) and a lighter tablet (586 g vs 652 g), and if you want to use it as a laptop, there’s no better choice then a Transformer device.