Tablets with voice-calling capabilities seem to be the order of the day. As ridiculous as the concept may be, this new trend has already caught on like wild fire in India and it’s not uncommon to see hipsters talking on their tablet instead of a phone. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 P3100 has been the tablet of choice for many and seeing this trend, we have others jumping on this bandwagon too. Asus’s initial concept of a phone that could transform into a tablet (PadFone) didn’t fly well with consumers so now they’ve taken the simpler route, adding calling functionality to a tablet. The FonePad is priced in competition with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 P3100, which will soon be replaced by the Tab 3, a supposedly slimmer and lighter version of the Tab 2.
Design and Build
The FonePad’s design is loosely based on the MeMO Pad, another 7-inch tablet that never really made it to the Indian market. The tablet has a sizeable bezel, which is just enough to be held comfortably with both hands without making it look ugly. The glossy front is a real pain to keep clean as it attracts fingerprints very easily. The tablet is comfortable to hold with one hand which ought to be since it also doubles up as a phone. We liked the matt finish for the back cover which protects the non-removable battery. The power and volume rocker are placed on one side and along the sloped edge, which is not the most ergonomic of placements. We have a rear facing camera as well and the speaker grille is all the way to the bottom. The flap above the camera can be removed to insert the microSIM and microSD card. Finally, the headphone jack and microUSB port are placed at the bottom.
Overall, the FonePad is another well-built, sturdy device from Asus. The dimensions make it very comfortable to hold although the button placement could have been better.
SIM and microSD card slots
The FonePad is fitted with a high-quality IPS display which sports a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution. The panel manages to produce vibrant and punchy colours and the LED backlight is strong enough for outdoor use as well. The display also has very good viewing angles as there’s very little to no colour shift when viewed at an angle. The tablet runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean which is lightly skinned. There are toggle switches in the notification bar which can be moved around, a power saving mode and a selection of floating apps. The floating app list lets you use the calculator; watch a video, etc. while performing other tasks. The problem is that it’s a bit sluggish and that’s mainly due to the Intel SoC onboard.
Easy to use UI
The FonePad uses the same Intel Lexington-based Z2420 Atom SoC that we first saw on the XOLO X500. Even with 1GB of RAM, the SoC isn’t the fastest and it shows when you try to switch between apps or load a heavy game like Dead Trigger.
Asus hasn’t messed around too much with the stock music player, which is not a bad thing since Jelly Bean comes with a pretty mean player. You can sort your songs by Recent, Albums, Artists, Songs, Playlists or Genre. The player has a clean look to it and you even get audio enhancements by default. The great bit is that the player also supports FLAC files. The audio quality is good with a decent pair of earphones and the volume is quite loud even without the enhancements. The volume level of the speakers is not very good though for music or movies but alerts are still very audible.
Decent media playback
The stock video player and the one by Asus only recognises MP4 files but MX Player extends the format support quite a bit. 1080p videos play flawlessly but not through the floating video player app.
The Asus FonePad is a quad-band GSM and 3G phone along with other connectivity options like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. We even have A-GPS with GLONASS support. NFC is missing and so is the 5GHz band for Wi-Fi. Call quality is good and so is the speaker phone volume.
Good set of useful apps
We also have Asus WebStorage which gives you unlimited web storage space for one year after which you have to pay a fee to continue the service. MyCloud lets you quickly browse and sort out your media files saved in the cloud. One feature we really like is App Locker. It essentially lets you put a common password for whichever app you want so you can prevent nosy people from snooping your private picture collection.
You get a 3.1MP rear camera and a front facing 1.2MP camera, both capable of 720p recording. Both cameras are below average indoors under ambient lighting. There’s a lot of grain in the images and not much detail. Outdoors is a bit better but overall, is still just about average. You get the standard set of tweaking options along with panorama mode.
Camera is strictly average
The FonePad is fitted with a 4270mAh battery which when coupled with the low power Atom, delivers really good battery life. We managed to get about 4-hours of video, 3-hours of audio and 2-hours of YouTube streaming. All the tests were performed with a SIM card and the tablet connected to Wi-Fi, which is pretty remarkable.
Stylish looking exterior
Verdict and Price in India
The Asus FonePad is priced at Rs 15,999 for the 8GB version, which is a pretty good deal. We would even go as far as saying the FonePad offers more value for money than the similarly-priced Nexus 7. Apart from not receiving updates instantly and the lack of a powerful processor, the FonePad does everything the Nexus 7 does and more. It can run almost any app (albeit heavy apps like 3D games won’t run as well), has a pleasing and functional skin, similar battery life, plays Full HD videos, boasts of expandable storage and it doubles up as a phone. The camera is still a bit woeful although we do appreciate the inclusion of it and the fact that it’s auto-focus. The only major downside that we came across is the fact that it can get a little sluggish now and then. Between this and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, we’d recommend the Asus FonePad for its higher resolution screen, (relatively) better auto-focus camera and better battery life.
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Sep 17, 2014