At the conceptual level, the ASUS Padfone series has always sounded cool, but it's never managed to translate that into mainstream success. Previous Padfones, though technically impressive, have been too expensive to win over consumers and carriers en masse. On top of that, ASUS has yet to present a really compelling use case for combining a phone with tablet dock.
Nevertheless, the Taiwanese manufacturer is back with a third Padfone iteration, the Padfone Infinity. The Infinity boasts superior specs, a redesigned, brushed aluminum chassis an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. But is that enough to justify this class of device? Check out our first impressions from Mobile World Congress after the break.
On its own, the ASUS Padfone Infinity handset is an impressive piece of hardware. It packs the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 5-inch 1080p IPS display and a sumptuous brushed aluminum chassis. It's every bit as powerful as some of the leading 5-inch Android phones currently on the market, and at a design level we think it many traditional plastic offerings outclassed. LTE connectivity and a 13MP camera with BSI sensor ensure that all the major spec boxes are ticked. The phone's aluminum construction is particularly impressive, and slightly reminiscent of the HTC One.
The Padfone Infinity is running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which absolutely flies along on the next-gen Snapdragon chip. You've got ASUS's software tweaks on-board too, though the overall visual style sticks fairly close to that of vanilla Android. ASUS is also developing its own suite of cloud applications, offering services such as cloud storage and cloud sync on the device. The overall picture is of a rounded and well-specced, high-end Android smartphone.
But this isn't quite an ordinary smartphone. As a Padfone device, the Infinity comes with a tablet dock -- slide the phone into the top and the dock springs to life, activating a full Android UI on its 10-inch, 1080p display. The brains of the thing is in the phone, but ASUS's software intelligently switches between the phone and tablet UI. (We ran into a few issues with the docking procedure on the pre-production units at the ASUS booth, however some teething issues are to be expected when dealing with non-final hardware and software.)
But there still aren't a whole lot of reasons to carry pick up the latest Padfone over an equivalent phone and tablet combo. The Infinity will retail for €999 (around $1300), and that's tough to swallow when you could buy independent devices for the same price, or less. As an independent smartphone, the Padfone Infinity is among the best out there, but it'll take a more compelling tablet experience to convince us of the worth of the overall package.