Feature Articles

Hands-on: ASUS PadFone 2

Hands-on: ASUS PadFone 2


Hands-on: ASUS PadFone 2

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

It was about six months ago when ASUS launched the first generation PadFone in Singapore. Back then, the ASUS PadFone introduced a new handphone / tablet hybrid concept where the PadFone is able to dock into its Station to become a tablet, and morphs into a netbook with its Station Dock.

While the concept is truly innovative, our major gripe is the bulky PadFone Station which weighs a hefty 724g. Taking the feedback seriously, ASUS went back to the drawing board and improvise on the PadFone.

Today, ASUS took the wraps off the second generation PadFone, also known as the PadFone 2. Before we dive into the details, here's a quick rundown of the specs of the ASUS PadFone 2: - 

 

  Key highlights of the ASUS PadFone 2 

  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
    (Upgradeable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean)
  • 4.7-inch Super IPS+ display / 1280 x 720 pixels 
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad-core 1.5GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32/64GB internal storage (no memory card slot)
  • 13-megapixel rear autofocus camera / BSI sensor / F2.4 aperture
    / Five-element lens / LED flash
  • 2140mAh (non-removable)
  • 137.9 x 69 x 9mm
  • 135g
  • Colors: Black and White
     
  • Availability: Expected to be launched before the end of December in Europe
    (Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania
    , Spain, and Sweden) and Asia (Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore,
    Taiwan, Thailand, and U.A.E). Availability in other countries will be announced at a later date

Comparing the ASUS PadFone 2 and the PadFone 

 Device

ASUS PadFone 2

ASUS PadFone

OS Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
(Upgradeable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean)
 Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
 
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 8260A dual-core 1.5GHz
RAM 2GB RAM 1GB RAM
Storage 16/32/64GB  16/32/64GB
Display 4.7-inch Super IPS+  4.3-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels 960 x 540 pixels
Cameras Rear: 13-megapixel / autofocus / BSI sensor / F2.4 aperture / five-element lens 

Front : 1.2-megapixel 
Rear: 8-megapixel / autofocus / LED flash / F2.2 lens / 1080p video recording

              Front: VGA
Battery Capacity 2140mAh 1520mAh
LTE  LTE 800 / 1800 / 2600MHZ N.A

Dimensions
Weight

137.9 x 69 x 9mm / 135g 128 x 65.4 x 9.2mm / 129g
Launch Price TBC S$800

 

Design 

Compared to the first-gen PadFone, the ASUS PadFone 2 is "bigger" in almost every aspect. Right off the bat, you will notice a slight increase in the screen size from 4.3-inch to 4.7-inch. This essentially places the PadFone 2 among the big boys, the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III.

While the first-gen PadFone utilizes a Super AMOLED display, the PadFone 2 comes with a Super IPS+ display which is based on Sharp's IGZO technology and is capable of delivering 550nits of brightness. 

This is rather impressive considering that the 10.1-inch display of ASUS Transfomer Pad Prime can deliver up to 600nits of brightness. We recently covered Sharp's showcase of the IGZO display technology at IFA 2012. To find out more about IGZO, click here.

Due to the 4.7-inch display, the PadFone 2 is longer and wider but marginally thinner than its predecessor. 

Similar to most high end Android smartphones, the ASUS PadFone comes with a microSIM card slot. The microSIM card slot is located at the top portion of the PadFone 2. Having said that, the PadFone 2 has a non-removable battery and does not come with a memory card slot.

 

Hardware Specs 

One of the most prominent upgrades over the first-gen PadFone is the processor. It is the second Android smartphone after the LG Optimus G to be powered by Qualcomm's latest S4 quad-core processor. According to ASUS, the ARM-Cortex A15 chip delivers more power at higher efficiency compared to ARM-Cortex A9 chips. We wanted to conduct the Quadrant benchmark test on the PadFone 2, but we were told that the unit was a prototype.

As points of reference, the first-gen ASUS PadFone with Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor scored an impressive 5,297 in the Quadrant benchmark while the Exynos 4212 Quad quad-core Cortex-A9 chip in the Samsung Galaxy S III managed a score of 5,294.

The NVIDIA-Tegra 3 processor of the HTC One X failed to match up with the competition with a low score of 4,025. Qualcomm also recently demonstrated the prowess of its APQ8064 chipset and its benchmarks results blew the competition out of the water.

With these numbers in mind, we are very excited to test out the review unit when it arrives. During our time with the PadFone 2, the user experience was very smooth. Considering that it is just a prototype and running on Android 4.0.4, we expect the finalized retail units to be even more impressive.

Another highlight of the ASUS PadFone 2 is its 13-megapixel rear camera. On paper, it is on-par with the LG Optimus G and Sony Xperia TX. Strangely, the aperture is smaller compared its predecessor at F2.4. A bigger aperture allows you to capture better images under low light conditions. We were unable to test out the camera's features and performance as the unit was a prototype.

 

No Jelly Bean Out of the Box

To be honest, we were disappointed that ASUS did not ship the PadFone 2 with the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS. With the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE and Galaxy Note II shipping with Jelly Bean out of the box, we did not understand why the PadFone 2 still runs on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.

It is even more puzzling when you take into account that ASUS is the manufacturer of the Google Nexus 7, the first Android 4.1 device. When queried, ASUS stated that the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean should be out sometime next month, the same time frame as the expected launch of the PadFone 2 in Singapore.

An ASUS spokesperson stated that time is needed to integrate ASUS's exclusive technology, DynamicDisplay with Android 4.1. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, DynamicDisplay will ensure that the app remembers when you stopped so that you can immediately resume where you left off before docking the PadFone 2 and vice versa. 

Given ASUS's excellent track record in delivering Android OS updates to its tablet devices (1) (2), we are confident that the company will come up with the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean as soon as they can.

 

ASUS PadFone 2 Against the Competition 

ASUS unveiled the PadFone 2 at a time where competition is very stiff. LG stole the limelight recently with its Optimus G, the world's first quad-core LTE smartphone. HTC also recently released the One X+, an upgraded version of the One X. Samsung, as the top phone maker, is not resting on its laurels either with its introduction of the LTE version of the highly popular Galaxy S III. Here's a quick look at how the ASUS PadFone 2 fares against the competition: - 

Specifications ASUS PadFone 2 HTC One X+ LG Optimus G Samsung Galaxy S III LTE
Operating System Android 4.0
(Upgradeable to Android 4.1)
Android 4.1 Android 4.0
(Upgradeable to Android 4.1)
Android 4.1
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad-core 1.5GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad-core 1.5GHz Exynos 4212 Quad
1.4GHz
Built-in Memory 2GB RAM 1GB RAM 2GB RAM 2GB RAM
Display 4.7-inch Super IPS+ 
1280 x 720 pixels
4.7-inch Super LCD 2
1280 x 720 pixels
4.7-inch True HD IPS+ 
1280 x 768 pixels
4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED
1280 x 720 pixels
Cameras  13-megapixel rear autofocus
1.2-megapixel front facing
 8-megapixel rear autofocus
1.6-megapixel front facing
 13-megapixel rear autofocs
1.3-megapixel front facing
 8-megapixel rear autofocus
1.9-megapixel front facing
Battery 2140mAh 2100mAh 2100mAh 2100mAh
Storage  16/32/64GB
(no memory card slot)
50GB free ASUS WebStorage for two years
64GB
(no memory card slot)
25GB free Dropbox storage for two years
32GB
(no memory card slot)
16/32/64GB
(microSD support up to 64GB)
50GB free Dropbox storage for two years
Dimensions 137.9 x 69 x 9mm 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm 131.9 x 68.9 x 8.45 mm 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm
Weight 135g 135g 145g 133g