After being at the Portuguese presentation of the FonePad, we were given the device for a few days in order to take it through its paces.
Although the FonePad is not a big innovation like the Asus’s PadFones we were very curious about the intel processor under the hood, not only because Asus didn’t apply one in their previous Android devices but also because of Asus’s statements that indicated that the new intel CPU would improve the FonePad’s performance as well as its battery life in a way that couldn’t be achieved by the usual CPU’s.
Did it work? Well read on to find out…
Yet again Asus surprised us with a box of minimalistic design that tightly fits the FonePad and its accessories.
What comes in the box:
- User Manual
- Charging adapter
- Micro USB cable
You can check out the unboxing video below.
Design and Ergonomics
When it comes to design, Asus didn’t stray away from the transformer design guidelines. It is an all-plastic tablet with a silver back and black front and sides.
On the top and right of the FonePad you will find no buttons whatsoever. On the left there’s the lock/power button and the volume rocker, while on the bottom of the device you have the 3.5mm headphone jack and the micro USB port.
On the back of the FonePad you will find the loudspeaker, near the bottom, and the 3MP camera on the top. Besides that you are able to take the top lid off in order to slide in a micro SD card or your micro SIM card.
The FonePad is pretty light, weighing at just about 340g it has the perfect weight/size ratio for a 7-inch tablet, as well as the perfect size borders around the screen allowing you to hold it comfortably in either landscape or portrait orientation and don’t worry about accidentally touching the screen with an unwanted finger or palm.
The 7-inch 216ppi IPS LCD display has magnificent color contrast as well as brightness and the luminosity sensor does its job well controlling the amount of brightness it needs in order for the user to be able to spare their eyes if you need to grab it in the middle of the night.
When it comes to viewing angles, there’s no problem with this screen as well, you can lay it flat on the table, sit down and relax and you will still be able to see what is being displayed on the screen.
Performance and Software
Like most Asus device’s nowadays the FonePad already comes with the 4.1.2 version of Android and we believe an update to 4.2.1 will be out in no time at all.
The interface is pretty standard of Android, the only tweak it gets is the Asus keyboard overlay, which is a great keyboard to write on.
You have five homescreens at your disposal you can pretty much customize them as you please with widgets and application shortcuts.
When it comes to preloaded applications, you will notice that Asus, keeping what they usually do, kept them to a minimum and they don’t take up much space at all. You have the basic App Locker, App Backup, Instant Dictionary, SuperNote lite and Asus WebStorage. Besides those there are a few additions that are specified in the following list:
This application simply allows you to adjust the screen contrast and hue to your liking.
This is similar to what we saw on Samsung’s Galaxy S IV, it allows you to take a group of pictures or images you have on the FonePad and create an album with them.
This is Asus photo editor, which has loads of options in order to satisfy the needs of every user the FonePad may come across.
This is a sound optimizer that allows the user to choose between a few sound definitions that are pre-defined, as you can see from the screenshot below.
This little application is very useful if you have a number that keeps calling you and you don’t have a clue who it belongs to. All you have to do is get the number and add it on this application and it will make sure the calls made by that number will never bother you again.
This application enables users that have loads of social networks to keep their log ins in one spot and access their networks from this application.
This is an attempt made by Asus to allow their users to keep their files synchronized between their computer and tablet, but it obligates the user to have a WebStorage account, so this doesn’t make much sense to me…
This is definitely one of those applications you will use when you have nothing else to do so you just launch this and start scribbling. It has several painting options and a few add-ons like the cartoon balloons, which are pretty cool.
Another small application that will allow you not only to write a memo but also add a notification to it if you want the FonePad to ring at a certain time and date so that you don’t forget the memo.
As has been usual we ran the benchmark tests and took the FonePad through its paces with the usual suspects: Need For Speed MW, Dead Trigger, Fruit Ninja, Real Racing 3 and Lumos.
The only time I saw the FonePad drop the performance, was in Dead Trigger. The first time I played it, it lagged terribly even with the water effects off. I was surprised when this happened as its performance was amazing in NFS and RR with no lag whatsoever, and also because Asus had said in the presentation that the new CPU and GPU would allow the FonePad to have a graphic performance 2 to 3 times greater than the devices available on the market at the time of the launch.
You can also take a look at the benchmarks and take your own conclusions.
When it came to talking on the phone with the FonePad it behaved pretty well. Without earphones it was really weird making a call, but there were no complaints from myself or the other caller about poor performance of the speaker or the microphone. The same applies when I used earphones that didn’t had a microphone on them and the other caller still had no complaints about not hearing me.
There was a massive flaw that I picked up while holding the FonePad in landscape. One of your hands will cover the top of the device and by doing this you will notice that the phone signal will decrease to a minimum in just a few seconds, and when you take your hand away from the top of the device, the signal will then rise again to the normal signal level.
Connectivity and Battery Life
Opening websites was as quick as quick can be, images and text loaded quickly and even when zooming in and out the FonePad behaved remarkably. You can take a look at the results of the SpeedTests performed below. Three are from Wi-Fi and the other three from 3G network data.
Battery life could be better, but taking into consideration other devices we’ve seen from Asus it could also be worse. I had the device for four days with Wi-Fi always on, screen brightness at maximum level and some applications always running in the background like Google Hangouts and Facebook, and I only needed to charge it on the fourth day late in the afternoon after playing NFS, Dead Trigger and RR for a bit. This is great performance when you bear in mind that this is a phone as well as a tablet, and most smartphones nowadays need to charge everyday in order to be useful.
This was the biggest let down of this device. The 3MP rear camera without LED flash doesn’t bring justice to this device. The LED flash should have been there, or the quality of the camera should have been bumped up, but budget cuts are budget cuts and to keep the price tag of the FonePad at 249€ Asus had to make some shortcuts.
You can take a look at the snapshots and video samples to see that the rear and frontal cameras are nothing out of the ordinary. The pictures come out pixelated if you don’t have the light of God shinning on the subject you’re targeting, and if the environment has lower than average light you’re better of not using the camera altogether.
Camera performance aside, the user interface of the camera application is good, loads of options are available to the user, and the image gallery is just a swipe or touch away if you need to check out a photo.
Rear Camera Outdoor Video Sample:
Rear Camera Indoor Low Light Video Sample:
Rear Camera Indoor Strong Light Video Sample:
Front Camera Indoor Strong Light Video Sample:
I thoroughly enjoyed the FonePad, with the major exception of its camera performance. If you use your tablet more than you use your smartphone and are tired of carrying both devices around, I would go for the FonePad. On the other hand if you don’t give great use to your tablet or you just want a tablet with great performance, don’t buy the FonePad.
If you’re looking for a great performing tablet and aren’t interested in phone capabilities, you have the Nexus 7 at the same price tag.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a smartphone and don’t mind carrying a big slab around, you should checkout the FonePad. Calling quality was great, and if you don’t want to put the tablet to your ear everything you take or make a call buy a Bluetooth earpiece and you’re set.
Review by: Cátia Sofia @ Android Emotions