The folks at Asus have packed in a brand new low-power consuming 1.2Ghz Intel Atom processor with a massive battery and full 3G-phone functionality into a seven-inch tablet – they call it the FonePad.
The FonePad was built with the intention to give the user a hybrid experience: allowing them to have an immersive entertainment experience while having the ability to make calls and such.
At first look, the only problem I imagine people would have with this device is holding it up to their ear whilemaking calls like a regular phone because of its size – you should definitely use the in-line mic headphones or invest in a bluetooth headset to evade the unending ridicule you would be subject to.
The FonePad is an impressive looking gadget with a premium feel. The vertical orientation makes for an easy fit into one hand while you use the other to navigate. Above the screen there is a horizontal slit in the black border surrounding the display next to the camera incase you choose to use the FonePad like a regular phone, underneath the display is the Asus logo. To the sides, the border is half the width in comparison to the top and bottom.
A very narrow metal trim wraps around the device on the bottom of which there is a microphone and a partial cutout for the 35mm audio jack. The back cover is fixed, made from a matt-finished metal that has a rather deep bezel around the sides housing the rest of the 35mm jack cutout and the charging port at the bottom. The power button and volume rocker are the only hard buttons, housed on the top left, along the bazel with the same finish as the rest of the back.
There is extruding rim surrounding the main camera that serves to protect the lens from picking up unnecessary scratches. Right above the camera on the top there is a piece of the back that comes out to expose ports for the Micro SIM and Micro SD cards.
Performance & Usability
For the past 4 weeks the FonePad has become my go to device for browsing through applications and playing games, even though the performance gets a little jittery sometimes while playing detailed 3D games like Real Racing 3.
AnTuTu results state the screen density to be three points shy of the alleged 216dpi, which is a result of the 1280 x 800 screen resolution. It’s the same as the Nexus 7 but way behind the 323dpi put up by the Nexus 7.2, also made in partnership with Asus.
By default it does not come with flash support since Android announced that ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) would be the last to support the format, there are a few alternate work-a-rounds’ through which you can stream video’s and music. Websites like YouTube have several walk-through videos but you’ll obviously need another platform to initially watch them on.
There is a 3.1Mp main camera and a 1.2Mp front-facing camera, both of which are capable of recording and playing back HD videos. The main camera can handle daytime photography fairly well but in incandescent or any low-light situation, all bets are off. Images have too much noise and light sources distort easily, making it very hard to take a photograph of an object or person against the light.
Within the stock camera application on the FoneTab you can switch between front and main camera easily, the same ease can be used to describe the process for switching between the video and still camera mode. The application also allows the user to add a few effect filters, control exposure, white balance and picture size apart from a different modes for portrait, landscape, night and panoramic shots.
When I started reviewing the FoneTab, I had my reservations with regard to how practical a seven-inch hybrid would be,I figured the mobility factor would be it’s Achilles’ heel. It was only once I started using it on a daily basis when I realized that I misjudged it completely.
The size makes reading and making keynotes very easy – great tool for meetings, especially since it comes with full 3G-phone functionality and fits comfortably in jacket pockets.
The combination of a robust battery with a low-power consuming processor lead to what seems like, unending battery life. Days literally went by without needing to recharge, during the time I spent with this device.
So, the battery is great, 1GB of RAM is adequate, processor is nifty enough to compute most tasks simultaneously while not draining too much battery and the GPU can handle its fair share of games. My only concern with the FoneTab now is how long can it stay relevant considering that the Nexus 7.2, also made by Asus, is now available in stores with a much higher screen resolution, Android 4.2.2 and more processing power.
Meanwhile, Samsung recently launched the Galaxy Mega. A 6.3-inch phablet that similar to the FonePad strives to deliver an immersive entertainment experience with phone functionality.
It may also be worth mentioning here that locally the Nexus 7.2 is priced below the FoneTab – the latter however makes up for its performance shortcomings through superior connectivity.