Asus PadFone 2 review
Android 4.1 (JellyBean), 4.7in 1,280x720 (phone), 1,280x800 (tablet) display
When it comes to shaking things up in the mobile market, Asus is up there with the best of them. Its Transformer line brought a neat keyboard dock to the standard Android tablet, but the PadFone is significantly more innovative. It's a premium smartphone which slides into a dock to make a 10.1in tablet. The PadFone 2 was originally launched back in October, but has only just begun to be available in the UK.
There are two main advantages to the PadFone's design. The first is that, if you buy the PadFone on contract, you get a tablet and a phone for the price of a premium smartphone. The second is that all your apps and content are always present on both devices, without your having to set up any complicated syncing arrangements.
At present the PadFone 2 is only available on contract from Carphone Warehouse. It costs from £33 a month on a fairly generous contract, and with unlimited data from £36 a month.
THE PADFONE PHONE
The phone part of the PadFone 2 is a good-looking device, which until the HTC One came out was one of the smartest phones around. It doesn’t quite measure up to the metal-backed beauty of the HTC One, but its edge-to-edge glass and plastic back, adorned with concentric circles, make it a desirable object.
The screen is also something to write home about. It's a 4.7in IPS panel, and it has impressively deep contrast and vibrant colours. The display only has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, which puts it behind the latest top-end phones such as the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z and upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4 with their 1,920x1,080 displays, but text is still exceptionally clear.
Putting the phone side by side with the Samsung Galaxy S3, we saw Samsung's phone had even deeper contrast and marginally punchier colours thanks to its AMOLED display, but text wasn't quite as sharp. The S3's display uses a PenTile arrangement where the screen has a third fewer subpixels per pixel than on a normal LCD, so this could account for the difference in smoothness.
We also ran the new 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark for Android, which tests a phone's 3D performance to give an idea of how well it will perform in taxing mobile games. In this benchmark we saw 9,584, which is one of the quickest scores we’ve seen yet and significantly more than the 8,987 from the Sony Xperia Z, which also has a quad-core 1.5GHz chip. When we ran 3DMark with the phone slotted into the tablet, the score increased to 9,836, as the processor seems to overclock slightly with the tablet's extra battery power - we're waiting for confirmation from Asus that this is the case. 3DMark's flashy 3D graphics were smooth and looked great on the phone.
The phone's speed shows in how well it runs Android 4.1 - it's smooth and fast at all times. While companies such as Sony and HTC customise Android to a great degree, Asus has left it pretty much alone. There are some mediocre preinstalled apps and we weren't keen on the cheesy-looking default keyboard, but Asus has mainly left you a blank Android slate to customise as you see fit.
We were also impressed with the PadFone 2's camera. Outdoor shots were well-exposed with accurate colours. When compared side-by-side with the Samsung Galaxy S3's camera, which is one of our favourites, the PadFone produced better-exposed images with more faithful colours, but the S3's shots showed more detail. Indoors, the Galaxy S3 just about had the edge, thanks to very slightly sharper images with less noise, but there wasn't a huge amount in it.