It was not long after Asus launched the PadFone that they made a decision to launch its predecessor. Asus seems to believe in a completely different approach when it comes to finding the perfect combination between Smartphone and Tablet, so they keep seeking a way to perfectly combine both.
If, on one hand you have the advantage of only needing one data plan for both devices, the truth is that you may be compromising versatility, this being that you can’t use both devices at the same time, since the tablet only functions when connected to the smartphone.
Asus was kind enough to lend us the PadFone 2 for a couple of weeks. So we had the pleasure of using the 32GB PadFone 2 version along with its PadStation and take a look at what might be the highs and lows of these devices which might make a user buy them or not.
The PadFone and PadStation arrived in separate boxes, which keep up with Asus previous high presentation standards.
When it comes to the contents of the PadFone 2 box you will find the charger, cable and the headphones provided by Asus. It’s here we got thrown back by the fact that the cable was not a standard microUSB cable, you can see this in the image below.
The PadStation’s box is the same as every other tablet box made by Asus, the only difference being that the exterior is decorated with the PadFone 2. In this box you only find the Station and the Quick Start Guide since the cables and accessories were already in the PadFone 2 box.
The first impression you get from the devices is that they look pretty good and feel robust. You also get really curious about all the punch the hardware of PadFone 2 can bring to the table.
Here are a few examples of what the PadFone 2 brings to the table, hardware wise:
- CPU – Quad-Core 1.5GHz Krait
- GPU – Adreno 320
- Display – Super IPS+ LCD, 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.7 inches
- Memory – 16/32/64 GB, 2 GB RAM
Design and Ergonomics
So for this one we will start by the PadFone 2 and then we will talk about the PadStation.
The PadFone has an interesting size of 137.9 x 68.9 x 9 mm. Of course we have to bear in mind that this phone is the home for a 4.7 inch screen that keeps you captivated about whatever it is your doing. Even though just looking at the dimensions might lead you to think that it is too big, it fits perfectly in the user’s hand, allowing confortable use. Take into consideration that the device only weighs 135g, which of course helps the ease of use.
The sides of the PadFone 2 are covered in metal, which provides greater resistance against falls while also giving it a finer look.
On the front you find the humongous 4.7-inch screen, the proximity sensor (that is responsible for turning the screen of during a call), the light sensor (that is responsible for balancing the brightness of the screen according the brightness of the environment), and the 1.2 MP front camera. You won’t find any type of buttons, only a flat glass surface. The touch buttons are only available and visible when the screen is on.
On the right side of the device you will find the lock/power button as well as the volume rocker. The positioning of these buttons was carefully thought which made their use easy while handling the device.
On the top you have the microSIM card slot, and yes, the PadFone 2 is only usable with a microSIM card, no more full-bodied SIM cards here, and the 3.5mm jack for the phones in order for you to enjoy the sound quality of the device.
The left side has no buttons or card slots whatsoever. On the bottom you will find the microphone and the cable port.
The back of the device is the home for a tough plastic cover that gives you that feel that the device won’t simply slip from your hands and fall flat on the floor. You will also find a speaker and the 13MP back camera as well as it’s LED Flash.
Now on to the PadStation.
The PadStation doesn’t fall far from the Asus tablet tree. It has the same rounded corners of the other Asus tablets as well as all the other design features.
Having said that on the top you will find the lock/power button, on the left there’s the volume rocker and on the bottom there’s the cable/charger port, which is the same as the PadFone 2.
It is on the back of the Station that you will notice the difference between it and a regular Asus tablet. You will find a slot rimmed in metal, where you slide the PadFone into. The back of the tablet has a rubberized feel to it that is quite pleasant. It is also on the back that you will find the PadStation’s powerfull speaker.
The tablet by itself is quite light, but when you slide the PadFone into it you will notice that the combined weight is approximately the same as any other Asus tablet.
It is when you slide the PadFone into the Station’s back that you get a functional device. You will notice that the weight isn’t properly distributed, being that the set is heavier on the top. Other thing you will also notice is that the Station won’t sit straight on a flat surface, this happens because the PadFone slot causes a bulge in the middle of the Station.
The 4.7-inch screen that equips the PadFone2 has a resolution of 720×1280 and is able to display amazing colours. The fact that it is a Super IPS+ screen allows for great luminosity when you are outside or in well-lighted environments. The same can also be said for the Station’s 10.1-inch screen.
We have no flaws to point out as far as viewing angles go. But we have to say that there is a significant problem with the luminosity sensor. The brightness of the screen doesn’t work as well as other devices we’ve tested before, and sometimes even made us adjust the brightness of the screen manually.
Performance and Software
And since design isn’t everything we move on to hardware. Of course the user looks for a device that can fulfil all his needs in a quick a painless way, without any lagging or slow performance. In this particular case, the user also has to worry if the PadFone’s hardware is capable of powering the PadStation as efficiently and make it as smooth as possible.
Taking that into mind Asus equipped the PadFone with the best hardware available at the time. The device has a 1.5Ghz Krait QuadCore processor, 2GB RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU. With this hardware it is quite obvious that the PadFone 2 is quick and efficient when it comes to respond to user requests. The device is also quick when accessing its files. The graphic processing is also an interesting thing to take into account. We decided to test the device with some benchmark tests like Antutu, NenaMark 2 and Quadrant Standard.
When it came to the Antutu results the PadFone beat all its adversaries by a large advantage, it beat the HTC One X+, the Optimus G and the Nexus 4, as you can see in the image below.
The NenaMark 2 results were at a jaw dropping 57.8fps, as the image below shows.
Last but not least, the results of the Quadrant Standard show that the PadFone 2 still beat the HTC One X, scoring 7281 while the latter scored below 5000.
The equipment we had for test had the 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich version on it, even though an update to 4.1 has been announced and is available on several countries.
Since this is the latest device launched by Asus we firmly believe it will keep receiving OS updates as long as it is viable and also because it’s hardware can certainly handle it.
Taking a look at the set’s interface you will definitely notice that nothing has changed from the TF300T or TF700 to the tablet mode of the PadFone 2. This is good since we like the basic interface available in the Asus tablet line, which doesn’t stray far from the basic Android interface. When you take a look at the interface of the PadFone 2 you will notice a change. This interface was made in order to look more like the Nexus line.
One new feature you will definitely notice is the new tab in the apps menu. Now besides the applications and widgets tabs you will find a tablet tab. The new tab is useful, since this is a hybrid device and allows you to have different apps installed on the tablet and the smartphone. This also allows the device to avoid unsupported app errors, which is good any way you decide to look at it.
The proprietary apps are the same on the Station and the TF700, so if you are curious about them you can take a look at our review of the TF700. The news in this department lies with the AudioWizard and Asus Studio.
The Asus Studio works like an album. It is basically another gallery, which allows you to order your pictures and videos by date as well as location (if a location is available when you took the pictures or recorded the movies). Of course you can also see the pictures and the videos in this app without needing any other.
The AudioWizard allows the user to get the most out of the sound system of the device. It allows you to adjust the sound for the different tasks you are currently doing in your device. You can choose the movie mode, recording mode, games or voice. It also has a feature that turns of the sound altogether.
Last but definitely not least you have the Instant Dictionary. This feature is amazing by any standards. It allows the user to translate, in real time, any sentence that he can’t understand, whether it is in an email, app or webpage. In order to get it to work you only have to slide your finger through the words you want to translate, as is shown in the video below. On the video you are able to see the Instant Dictionary translating from English to Portuguese and Russian.
Most of the time the translations work as best as you would expect them to, giving a well deserved help to all the readers that have a difficulty understanding any given language.
Smartphone – Tablet Transition
One of the strong points of this device, and one by which Asus seeks to bring customers in, is the fact that you only need one device and one shell to have the best of two worlds. This concept entails a need for a transition method, which enables apps to change when the user plugs the Fone in the station or slides the Fone out, to exist. Asus tried it’s best when developing this transition method, and the truth is that it didn’t fail.
We were asked a lot of questions about how the device reacted if we got a call and we were on the Station, for example, and Asus thought of those things and was able to not let their customers down. So read on and all we be cleared up.
The transition between the two environments is as simple as sliding the PadFone in or out of the Station. If you’re working on your smartphone and need a bigger screen for whatever reason, you just slide the phone in and bam. If you’re working on the tablet and need to take a call, just slide the phone out and you’re done.
Say you start taking notes in the SuperNote but you realize you need a bigger screen, just grab the station and slide the phone in. SuperNote will appear on the Station’s screen and you didn’t even have to worry about saving the content of your notebook.
But, there’s a catch, this only works in some applications by default. If you want an app to go through the transition without having to worry about saving your contents, you need to activate the transition from tablet to smartphone or/and vice-versa. Bear in mind though, that some errors might eventually occur when the application is optimized for smartphones but or tablets.
One of the things we think Asus could improve on is the overall available interfaces. The fact that the smartphone and tablet interface are different may confuse the new user, and it will take a while until the user gets accustomed to it. It would be great that only one interface was available for both PadFone states, that way the user would not have to worry if the device is in the Station or Fone state. Maybe Asus will give up their tablet interface and finally update to the Nexus like interface? We would definitely like that…
Connectivity and Battery Life
Asus didn’t get caught up in the past and equipped this device with 4G and 4.0 Bluetooth.
Even though Asus tries to keep up to date in this field, we were disappointed by the Wi-Fi and GPS.
First things first, Wi-Fi, the difficulty the PadFone had capturing a signal left us bummed out. If we compare it with the LG devices we have tested lately, there were regular spots where the LG devices didn’t have a problem in the world with the signal, but the PadFone simply wasn’t capable of getting as much signal which decreased transfer speeds painfully.
Other thing we noticed is that the device definitely takes its time connecting to a network and getting an IP address, taking twice as much time as the LG devices we tested. We eventually got the PadFone to max its signal and got up to 40Mbps of download speed.
On to the GPS we can say that it is as quick capturing a signal as it is in every Asus equipment we’ve tested so far. On the bad side of it is the precision, or in this case, the lack of it. There were several navigation courses that the device messed up and said that we were on a parallel road which ultimately lead to confusion and a lot of miles wasted. Since this kind of error didn’t happen in the previous versions of Asus devices we believe that it is fixable when via software update.
The battery life of the PadFone 2 is another pro to consider of this device.
First and foremost, for those who have the Station Fone set, it will be almost impossible to run out of juice in the Fone, but you can try. This happens because if the Station is fully charged, it is able to charge the Fone at least 2 times, for this to work you only need to slide the Fone in the Station and wait for the magic to happen. If you think that it’s painfully slow to charge the smartphone by this method, you are wrong, it is slower than when you charge it directly, but it is still pretty fast.
Besides the boost you get from the Station, you still have and amazing battery life on your smartphone alone. If you’re a regular smartphone user, use GPS, make a few calls, send text messages, keep the Wi-Fi always on, and play a game here and there, the smartphone will last 2/2.5 days on one single charge. This kind of use would definitely drain a regular smartphone in 1/1.5 days so you get double time, without even counting on the Station’s two charges.
On the other hand, when you talk about the Station’s battery life you get less that a regular tablet, for a simple reason, when you have the Station on, you are also charging the Fone, so it drains battery faster. The Station will still last for a full day though.
You have 13MP at your disposal to capture the most important moments of your life. With this type of quality you can surely rely on the PadFone 2 to capture and keep your picture perfect moments in order for you to recall later on.
This camera is unquestionably another pro in this device. When it comes to cameras you can’t rely only on the MP, you also have to take into consideration the quality of the camera application, and this device brings it.
You can take your pictures in several modes, besides the standard mode, you have panorama, HDR and Beautification. As is standard procedure nowadays, you can also find the several scenario settings that help the camera capture the image in specific light conditions. Of course you can also apply colour effects to the pictures, like Black and White.
One the features that most pleased us, was the fact that in standard mode we could take continuous shots in a short amount of time which can help you catch that special frame that will make your photo come to life.
The camera’s companion, the LED flash, helps a lot in low-lighted areas allowing for great photo quality. We found that, as it happens in previous devices, the flash turns the photo hue blue, which will ruin some pictures.
When it comes to recording videos, we can only praise the device. The recordings have great image and sound quality as you can see in the sample below. The recordings can be done at 1080p @30fps.
- Hardware – great performance
- Battery Life
- Loss of versatility
- GPS e Wi-Fi
- Two distinct interfaces for both Station and PadFone
If you are interested in buying this device, make sure you don’t need to use a smartphone and tablet at the same time. After a few days with the device, we missed the ability to use a smartphone and a tablet simultaneously, like being in the middle of a phone call and being able to read a document on the screen of the tablet. The PadFone makes this impossible if not as difficult as it can be, making you have to answer your calls on speaker or with your headphones on.
Overall it is a good device, for a person that doesn’t feel the need to have both tablet and smartphone at the same time. It is a great buy for those that think their smartphone doesn’t have enough battery life for them. When considering the preloaded apps and the price tag on this device, we think it is certainly more suited for professional used than for personal use.
The hardware on the PadFone 2 is astounding and it shows you that on a daily basis, whether you’re trying to play a game without flaws or trying to read a document on your tablet in a sunny day.
We hope that Asus will release some updates that will fix the flaws we found in the Wi-Fi and GPS department. Joining both smartphone and tablet interfaces would be good as well, but that is a purely esthetical update and we leave it to them to decide if they will move forward with the tablet interface or not.
Review by: João Mateus @ AndroidEmotions