The New iPad and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, two top tablets whose price starts at $499 (though a more direct comparison is the $599 32 gig WiFi New iPad and $499 32 gig WiFi Transformer TF700) . So how do you pick, assuming you're not lucky enough to buy one of each? Both feature extremely high resolution IPS displays, elegant designs that include liberal use of aluminum and fast internals. The new iPad runs iOS 5 while the Infinity TF700 runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. And that's the most important differentiator: the OS and philosophy behind the respective ecosystems make for a very different experience.
No, I'm not going to say one OS is better than the other. But I will say that the New iPad and iOS are perfect for those who are techno-phobic or simply want a product that just works. What do you give up? The New iPad's UI isn't customizable beyond the wallpaper, and you're pretty much locked into iTunes and iCloud for syncing, apps and in-app content purchases. You can stream Netflix, Hulu, and as of today Amazon Instant Videos, use a wide variety of streaming radio services and load eBook apps like Kindle and Nook (though you may have to use your browser rather than the app to make new purchases).
Android is open season: in-app purchases are cool, and there are a variety of movie stores for Android (often bundled by carriers who get a cut of your purchases). You can customize the home screens and tinker with custom UIs and app launchers. You can load content via the Transformer Pad TF700's microSD card slot or use USB flash drives and hard drives (NTFS and FAT32 both supported). You'll need to buy Asus' $15 USB host adapter or the $149 keyboard dock to use USB peripherals. Apple's $29 Camera Connection Kit includes two dongles (one USB and one SD card), but the New iPad puts out very little USB power so many peripherals won't work.
As with previous Transformer vs. iPad comparisons, it's clear that the iPad is geared toward quick and easy consumption (movies, music, web browser and email) while the Transformer TF700 is more of a computer replacement with a focus on both content consumption and creation. What do you give up? Speed and stability. While my TF700 is very quick, it does occasionally slow down and need a reboot. I rarely need to reboot the iPad and it never crashes. When one company makes the OS and another makes the hardware, you lose the speed and stability that a tight platform integration offers.
With both platforms you can access cloud storage services as well. The Transfomer Pad Infinity TF700 has a micro HDMI port that mirrors the tablet's screen. Apple sells a $39 HDMI adapter and both tablets support HDMI 1.4 and HDCP. Apple has AirPlay for wireless streaming viao the $99 Apple TV, while the Transformer uses dLNA (free, but it uses a file manager style interface that's not as newbie-friendly).
Currently Asus doesn't offer a 3G/4G version of the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700. You can use your smartphone's Mobile Hotspot feature, a dedicated Mobile Hotspot device (MiFi) or WiFi for data. The iPad is available in WiFi and WiFi + 4G LTE models. Keep that in mind if you need data on the go and don't have a smartphone with Mobile Hotspot.
The New iPad has a 2048 x 1536 IPS Retina display. The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 has a 1920 x 1200 Super IPS + display. Honestly, it's a tie. Both have very wide viewing angles, good color saturation, reasonably good color accuracy and super-sharp text. Both displays beat other tablets on the market. The Transformer Prime gets a point for extreme brightness, which is handy outdoors. Super IPS + mode gets you better than 600 nits of brightness to combat the sun. Winner: Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 for its super bright display.
You know the drill: the iTunes app store has more apps for tablet than the Google Play Store. While Android phone apps are catching up nicely with the iPhone, tablet optimized apps still lag. That said, the popular commercial staples are available on both platforms, from MS Office compatible suites to image editing to news consumption. Netflix, CNN, Kindle, Nook, Pulse, Facebook, Twitter, IMDB and much more.
The Android tablet gaming scene has improved greatly, and we now have a good selection of top notch games. But these games often come out for the iPad first, with a few weeks or months delay for Android (we're looking at you, Max Payne Mobile). There are more than enough tablet apps to make the Transformer Infinity TF700's experience rich, and it plays games wonderfully. But if gaming is high on your list, iOS is still the winner with a huge selection of high quality games.
Winner: New iPad
This is a tie; both tablets manage 9 hours of use on a charge. Both have batteries that are sealed inside. You can extend the Transformer's battery life to 14 hours with the $149 keyboard dock, which has a battery that charges the tablet.
Winner: Tie for naked tablets. Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 wins when paired with the keyboard dock.
There are of course many more points of comparison. So hunker down and watch our New iPad vs. Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 Comparison Smackown video: