The ASUS Netbook by attaching a keyboard to it. This product line up is one that I’m keen to follow as an evolution, as the software and hardware improve I believe it has the potential to become a common form factor. But what about the handset itself? How does the Padfone stand up as just a handset? It has all the making of a superior device, its light weight, only .22mm thin and running a dual core Snapdragon S4 powerhouse for a processor. If you’re keen to find out, keep on reading.is more than just a phone, it can transform into a 10 inch tablet that can then turn into a
The Padfone is a satisfying phone to hold it your hand, it feels well built and solid, the textured back definitely adds to the feeling of security. It’s got the standard volume controls on the side, but rather than the volume rocker that we normally find on smartphones we’ve got two separate buttons which add to the durable feeling of the handset. The buttons are set into a metal band that surrounds the phone which tapers down at the end giving it quite an elegant look. On the top we’ve got a 3.5mm headphone jack that sits next to the power button. Along the left side we have Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB ports which are used to connect the handset to the PadFone Station. You can access the 1,520mAh battery by removing the back cover.
At a time when everyone is coming out with 720p display’s ASUS chosen to go with a qHD 960×540, 4.3″ Super AMOLED display. The colors are vibrant and you’ll have no trouble reading the display in the sunlight thanks to the outdoor mode. The display itself is made of scratch resistant Gorilla Glass with HCLR Film. Also on the front they’ve decided to embedded the ASUS logo at the bottom of the handset. We’re not especially keen on having the branding on the front as we are already subjected to the Padfone branding on the back. The handset is so sleek and stylish it could handle the inclusion of one of the logos but both is a little much. It seems like branding overkill, if I’m going to be a walking advertisement I would have liked to have seen a lower price at the register.
Connectivity wise the PadFone comes with everything you’d expect from a flagship smartphone, it’s got HSPA+, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and A-GPS. The PadFone’s microSD card slot allows for up to 32GB more storage and you’ve even got 32GB of free cloud storage on ASUS Webstorage for a lengthy three years, think Dropbox but not.
On a side note about the design, I think that the size and form factor are perfect. I wouldn’t say that I have the largest hands on the block so though I am able to handle larger phones like theor Note with no problem, I feel more confident with the Padfone in my hand. For me it is always a matter of grabbing the notification bar at the top of the phone, I can do it on the Note or the Nexus, but I have to balance the phone in my hand when I do. I tend to be a little bit on the clumsy side, on more than one occasion my phone has toppled out of my hand. Even if you aren’t clumsy like me, there is something incredibly satisfying about having the bottom corner of the phone wedged into the fat part of your palm at all times. If you’ve giant man mittens or bear paws, this aside probably won’t apply to you. But if you are among the many women or men with average size hands who are looking for a powerful phone, the Padfone has finally arrived. Smaller phones often aren’t given top of the line specs but you won’t have that concern with the Padfone. No more will you have to sacrifice size for specification like with the HTC One X vs One S. Also, if you’re a multitasker and want to securely do everything with one hand (like texting while driving, even though its illegal and dangerous and you shouldn’t do it) this might be the phone for you.
The Padfone has a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED capacitive multi-touch display with a 960×540 pixel resolution, giving a pixel density of 256 pixels-per-inch (ppi). We do wish that they’d added the Plus to the end of the Super AMOELD but so far we haven’t missed it since it does offer an outdoor more that bumps up the brightness high enough to deal with Taiwan summer. One other thing we think is worth mentioning, is that though 720p display’s are starting to become all the rage, until games and video content are ready for the HD format there actually isn’t much use for the extra pixels as the grain and polish of the content is virtually identical. However, if you plan on keeping your phone for a year or two, the lower resolution display will be the perfect excuse to upgrade when the content is finally ready to take advantage of the technology.
Also, worth noting is that the Padfone does have a Pentile display which means that some of the pixels on screen have only 1 component rather than the full 3 color components. This is similar to Samsungdisplay and most people are very much impressed by the display nevertheless. So if you’re down on Pentile, then you know what you’re getting your self into, if you’re like me and think it looks fantastic anyways, then you won’t mind one bit.
The Samsung Galaxy SIII was actually just announced also featuring a Pentile display, Samsung explained that Pentile display features more green subpixels than blue ones (blue degrades quickest over time), meaning, screen quality will degrade less over time.
The Padfone is not lacking when it comes to performance, ASUS is looking to make a name for them selves in the Smartphone game and choosing the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor was a good choice to help make that statement. Running at 1.5GHz the Snapdragon S4 8260A (Cortex A15) makes the handset run silky smooth and when docked into the Station there are no issues what so ever with performance. The Padfone proves to be king of the castle when it comes to the Vellamo benchmarks scoring 2554. I Quadrant the handset scored 5057 which puts it ahead of the HTC One X which scored 4025 and the Nexus at 2048. If you’re after the complete benchmarks, please click here.
We’ve already done a camera review where we’ve got several examples of photos shot in various modes. Specification wise the Padfone has a spectacular camera, it has an 8MP backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor, F2.2 aperture and a 5- lens. But that is pretty much as far as it goes, in real world scenarios it leaves a lot to be desired. Day time, it looks great, but as the sun goes down or lighting conditions are not optimal and you notice immediately.
Here is our walk through of the camera to give you a better idea of what to expect.
One thing that we’re extremely happy with is that ASUS kept the look and feel of the stock Android 4.0, but there were a few additions which we actually welcomed. ASUS has added few of its own widgets & the email app has to be used over any other if you want to engage the dynamic switching when you dock the phone into the tablet. Dynamic switching is the ability to seamlessly use applications between the smartphone and the tablet. The other widgets and apps can be removed and not used if you have your own Android favorites.
ASUS has also altered the pull-down notification tab by adding in a row of quick settings to toggle, this includes a shortcut to toggle the outdoor mode which lets you crank up the display brightness. ASUS also added an extra column in the apps and widget section with “Only” apps. These are tablet-specific apps, since you can download both phone and tablet apps on to this device, ASUS gives you the ability to remove these apps from your standard list and place them in the “Pad Only” section. When the phone is docked into the tablet all you have to do is drag an app from the home screen to the top right hand corner of the display where you’ll find the option to add “Pad-Only app tag”. After tagging it, the app will appear in the Pad Only tab. If you want to remove it from this section just dragging it out from the tab onto the home screen.
The fun doesn’t end there ASUS has included some additional customizations in the Settings tab which include the ability to take screenshots by holding the Recent Apps key and switching between the three system modes (Power Saving, Balanced and Performance). In my testing between Power Saving and Performance, performance mode had me looking for an outlet to charge up before I went out for the evening, Power saving let me go all day with email, light internet use, 2 hours of music play back and 1 hour of music streaming. The speaker on the Padfone isn’t impressive, at all, it’ll do in a pinch but it’s sound is not rich and offers n0 bass.
Here is our dynamic switching video to give you an idea of how the software works.
The Padfone Station is a 10.1 inch tablet that looks a lot like its cousin the Transformer, the main difference is that it doesn’t actually have a processor and you dock you phone into the back to power it. We love the concept! Why buy two devices when one with a killer accessory will do? No second SIM card, no wasted battery tethering, we’re a fan.
However, because you dock the phone into the back you have the added weight of the phone and the mechanics that go into housing it. The tablet itself weighs 724g which is way heavier than most tablets on the market, for comparison thePrime weights 586g. The Station does come with a huge built-in 6,600mAh battery which is a consolation since you can use it to charge your phone. But once you add your phone to the tablet it tips the scales at 853g which isn’t a comfortable weight. I found my hands getting tired quickly and was looking for alternative ways to hold it after a short period of time.
The Padfone Station a concept that I hope to see in the future, however, if you’re looking for more than a sofa surfing tablet, you might want to wait for the next generation.
Padfone Docking Station
If this is why you’re really interested in picking up the Padfone, a smartphone that turns into a netbook, then I’m back on board for you picking up the Station. Together this is definitely a thicker heavier version of the Transformer. Form factor wise it’s more similar to the original Transformer then the Prime. We’ve actually already tested the original docking station and it works, check out our detailed article here for more information on that.
But if you’re picking it up because you want it to be a tablet too…well then you should save your money for a different device. The docking station it self is too thick and heavy to be useful as a tablet. It’s too thick to fit comfortably into my purse (or your man bag) and I think that the next generation will be interesting if they can cut down on the bulk. The ecosystem needs work and there are only a hand full of apps that take advantage of the duo. As a phone I’m on board, but I’m hesitant to recommend the Docking Station since it’s the 1st generation of this series.
The ASUS Padfone is thin, light and powerful, it’s pretty much everything you look for in a smartphone, but like any product they could have changed a few thing to make it my dream product. There is too much branding on the phone, putting Padfone on the back and ASUS on the front is over kill, the phone is elegant enough that I can carry one with out making me think twice but a second one leaves me feeling like a walking advertisement. We’re also big fans of the concept of the Padfone, but we think that it needs to slim down and loose some weight before we’ll be recommending it to the masses. We’re also not keen on the camera, on paper it should be one of the best on the market, but it is lack luster. It will do, but you won’t be leaving your point and shoot at home.
What we love is the performance, the purist take on Android 4.0 with useful software additions and the display, it’s gorgeous, we love it! Those are actually three really important things, so I’m going to say them again, the Ice Cream Sandwich version is fantastic, it runs as smooth as butter and the display is viewable in full direct sunlight.
The 4.3 inch form factor is going to be appealing to a wider demographic of users than the larger phones that seem to be flooding the market lately. It’s slim elegant design fits firmly in your hand and build quality feels robust, to top it off it has a gorilla glass display. The phone does heat up, but that’s pretty much standard in handset that’s looking to compete in terms of performance.
All in all we’re a fan of the phone but we’d recommend you wait on the Station & Dock, I have no doubt that ASUS will nail this concept in their next generation.
If you haven’t had enough, here is our unboxing video!