Asus FonePad – review
Asus seems to be developing a fondness for wordplay, as after the PadFone we have the FonePad.
While the PadFone infinity is a gorgeous Android handset which slots into a dock to make a 10in tablet, the FonePad is a 7in tablet with full phone capability. We're not convinced Asus has got the names the right way around, as the PadFone is primarily a phone which becomes a tablet, while the FonePad is a tablet with phone capability, but anyway.
The FonePad is a 7in Android tablet with a 1,280x800 IPS display, running Android 4.1. We were impressed with its screen; it's bright with an even backlight. There's a slight air gap between the digitizer and LCD, so it doesn't feel like Android is directly under your fingers as on the Sony Xperia Tablet Z.
Unusually, the tablet is Intel rather than ARM-powered, with an Atom Z2420 processor and 1GB RAM. This is a single-core chip running at 1.2GHz, which is a far cry from the quad-core 1.5GHz+ ARM-based models we've been seeing at MWC.
Comparing x86 chips to ARM is comparing apples to oranges, though, and the FonePad seemed to run Android well enough, apart from a slight animation stutter when returning to the homescreen. The FonePad has a custom keyboard installed, which we found to be responsive and extremely easy to type on.
In many ways the FonePad is a rival to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – another compact tablet with integrated 3G. The Asus model is slightly smaller than the 8in Galaxy Note, but they both have 1,280x800-pixel displays.
Thanks to a built-in microphone and earpiece, the Note 8 can be used to make phone calls, but Samsung isn't stressing this function particularly. However, Asus is really pushing the FonePad as two devices in one; as a replacement for both your phone and tablet.
While the FonePad can be used as a phone, its size means we'd only recommend it for occasional use, as holding the tablet up to your ear is both awkward and looks silly. You could always use a headset to make things easier, but we think most people will still carry a phone. Maybe there's a market for mobile phone-shaped Bluetooth devices, so you can use your 3G tablet to make calls while avoiding the Bluetooth earpiece taxi driver look.
This'll never catch on
The most surprising thing about the FonePad, however, is its price. The European version, which doesn't come with a camera and has 16GB of onboard storage, will cost just €219 (about £190) when it's released in March. This is astonishingly good value; it's like getting a Google Nexus 7 with built-in 3G for just £30 more.
We'll have to get hold of a FonePad to test its battery life properly, but if first impressions are anything to go by Asus may well have a winner on its hands.