While phablets were originally touted as convergent devices, combining the benefits of a tablet and smartphone into a single device, they’re really just oversized phones. There are a lot of people who own a phablet but still end up bringing a tablet with them as well. The ASUS Fonepad is what I would call a reimagination of the phablet.
It is essentially a 7 inch tablet with the ability to send text messages and make cellular calls, but ASUS is pushing hard to market it as something more than that. It’s an all in one device that allows you to bring just one gadget with you and just leave everything else behind. I was able to get some hands on time with it at the ASUS Fonepad launch event at URBN Kitchen and Bar at The Fort the other day. Here are my thoughts.
Build Quality and Design
The ASUS Fonepad comes in two color variants: Titanium Gray and Champagne Gold. It’s pretty compact, measuring 196.4 x 120.1 x 10.4mm, and weighs 340 grams. ASUS obviously wants to distance the Fonepad from the cheap plastic build that is common on competing tablets. I was told it is currently the only mainstream tablet to feature a smooth metallic finish, rather than a plastic one, and it certainly gives the ASUS Fonepad a more premium feel over anything else I’ve seen so far.
One thing I like is that the seldom-accessed SIM slot and micro SD card reader are kept hidden in a compartment toward the top at the back of the Fonepad. It’s still easy enough to pry open to access them, but otherwise, they are kept hidden away from view. The more commonly accessed 3.5mm headset port and micro USB port can be quickly found at the bottom of the device.
If there’s anything I don’t like about the ASUS Fonepad, it’s the cover of the compartment that hides the SIM and micro SD card slots. It comes off too easily and gives the impression that it might actually come apart if you were to drop the Fonepad. This is easily remedied with a protective case, but it’s still something worth pointing out.
Performance, Software and User Interface
One unique thing about the ASUS Fonepad is that it features a single core 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z2420 CPU and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. At first glance, a 1.2GHz single core CPU might not sound like much, but the Atom Z2420 uses hyperthreading technology, meaning it can handle multiple threads like a dual core processor for enhanced multitasking. These aren’t just paper specs either. The ASUS Fonepad scored an impressive 11,120 in Antutu, which is very good for a single core processor considering the Nexus 7 with its quad core Tegra 3 chip scores about 12,726 in the same benchmark test.
The ASUS Fonepad runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box. It’s an almost stock implementation of Jelly Bean, which is just the way I like it. No heavy UI overlays eating up a huge chunk of RAM for the sake of functionality. ASUS did include some home-baked software features, such as BuddyBuzz and SuperNote lite, which add some functionality to the Fonepad out of the box.
Swiping through the UI is fast and surprisingly smooth for a single core solution. The navigation keys are all onscreen, although you might confuse the ASUS logo at the bottom of the screen to be a hardware home button from time to time. I also found the virtual onscreen keyboard to have a more comfortable layout, and it just looks easier to type on whether you’re in portrait or landscape. Finally, you can take advantage of floating apps, which allow you to launch the calendar, calculator and other stock apps and keep them in a floating window even while using different applications.
The ASUS Fonepad sports an HD IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 (WXGA). That results in a pixel density of 216ppi, which is about the standard for a good 7 inch tablet these days. Being an IPS display, you’ll enjoy excellent color reproduction and wide viewing angles, making the Fonepad ideal for consuming web content, watching movies and playing games.
The Fonepad comes with a complete suite of telephony and connectivity options. There’s Bluetooth 3.0 and WiFi b/g/n, which is common on tablets. You also get GPS with A-GPS support and GLONASS, turning your Fonepad into a complete navigation solution for your car. The Fonepad also supports HSPA+ speeds, so you can enjoy downloads at up to 21Mbps and uploads of up to 5.76Mbps.
Did I mention that the Fonepad also allows you to make calls? No, you don’t have to plug in a wired or Bluetooth headset for it to work. You can actually take the Fonepad and put it against the side of your head to take calls. If you thought taking calls with the Note phablet series was awkward, this takes it to a whole other level. Of course, there’s no stopping you from using it with a wired or Bluetooth headset, but ASUS did keep showing the Fonepad being used like a phone against the side of the head in their launch presentation.
The ASUS Fonepad is shaping up to be one of the better 7 inch tablet options out there with full connectivity features and even the ability to make calls and texts just like a regular phone. You might not use its calling functions without a headset that often, but it’s compact enough that it’s possible in case of emergencies, though you’ll still look like a dork. Anyway, it’s not like anyone’s forcing you to use it for calls without a headset, and you’re looking at an all-in-one device that will give you an average of 9 hours a day in terms of battery life, at least according to ASUS.
Personally, I think the Fonepad is a great choice. The telephony features are all just more icing on the cake. Itching to get one? The ASUS Fonepad will be available in 1.2GHz / 8Gb (Php11,999) and 1.6GHz / 32Gb (Php14,999) flavors in the last week of May.
ASUS Fonepad Specs
- 1.2GHz / 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z2420
- 7 inch WXGA HD IPS display (1280 x 800, 216ppi)
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
- 1Gb RAM
- 8/32Gb Storage + 5Gb lifetime ASUS Webstorage
- 3mp autofocus primary camera, 1.2mp front camera
- WiFi b/g/n
- Bluetooth 3.0
- HSDPA 21Mbps, HSUPA 5.7Mbps
- GPS with A-GPS, Glonass
- 4270mAh 16w Li-polymer battery up to 9 hours*
- G-sensor, E-compass, Proximity and Ambient light sensors
- 3.5mm headset jack
- Micro SD card reader, up to 32Gb supported
- Micro USB port
- Micro SIM
- Comes in Titanium Gray or Champagne Gold
- Price: Php11,999 (8Gb) and Php14,999 (32Gb)
*Battery life will vary according to usage. Battery life was measured by looping a 720p video with brightness set to 100nits, external microphone, WLAN/3G on and Gmail logged in for email updates.