Hands-on: ASUS's New Android Tablets at Computex 2013 (Updated with Videos)
Ever since ASUS reported its biggest quarterly profits in more than four years last November, the Taiwanese company seems to be on a roll with product releases this year.
It announced the entry-level MeMO Pad in January, which arrived in Singapore a month later with a price tag of S$249. At MWC 2013 in late February, ASUS unveiled the 7-inch Fonepad and the 5-inch PadFone Infinity, which we reviewed a few weeks ago (1) (2) and found them to be quite impressive.
More devices such as Chromebooks and smaller Windows 8 tablets are expected to be announced in the coming months. For now, ASUS has four Android tablets to keep consumers craving for more. Let's take a look at each of these new tablets which are announced a few hours at Computex 2013: -
MeMO Pad HD 7
As you can see from the photo, the MeMO Pad HD 7 has a glossy finish which attracts fingerprints and smudges very easily. This is in contrast with the 8GB ASUS Fonepad that we reviewed earlier that has a smooth aluminum finish on its rear back.
The decision of using plastic has its advantages too. First, the device is really light at 302g. As points of reference, the aluminum-clad Fonepad and Google Nexus 7 weigh 340g. It even edges out the 7.9-inch Apple iPad mini (Wi-Fi) which weighs 308g. Second, the choice of materials helped ASUS lower production costs. The 8GB model costs US$129 and the 16GB variant is priced at US$149.
ASUS also managed to keep the costs low by using the new MT8125 quad-core processor from MediaTek. It is actually a quad-core Cortex A7 CPU with clock speeds up to 1.5GHz which is catered for the fast growing tablet market. During the product demonstration, the MT8125 quad-core processor seemed to deliver smooth navigation.
MeMO Pad FHD 10
Compared to the MeMO Pad HD 7, the MeMO Pad FHD 10 feels more solid. Its handling is also better, thanks to the textured matte plastic rear which provides a good grip of the tablet in our hands.
What differentiates it from the rest of the tablets we've seen so far is the Intel Atom Z2560 dual-core 1.6GHz processor running under the hood. Intel announced this processorI in late February as part of its new Clover Trail+ chips. It is built on a 32nm process and features dual-core performance, with support for Hyper-Threading that enables up to four processing threads for execution on each physical core of the chip. During the product's demonstration, we found the speed of operation to be swift.
One of the key features of the MeMO Pad FHD 10 is its 10.1-inch display. With a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, it is able to deliver good color contrast and clarity. As pricing is not announced, we wonder if the high resolution display will increase the overall cost of the device and make it less affordable as the MeMO Pad HD 7.
Transformer Pad Infinity (2013)
As we were not allowed to touch or operate the device, our impressions of the new ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity were purely based on sight.
For the most obvious reason, the 10.1-inch display is the first thing that caught our attention. With a display resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, the new Transformer Pad Infinity rivals that of the Google Nexus 10, and is perhaps slightly better as it offers better viewing angles.
Design-wise, it is hard to discern any physical differences between the new Transformer Pad Infinity and its predecessor. The new model still sports the metallic spun finish on its back, which is inspired by the Zenbook series. As noted in our review of the Transformer Pad Prime, this particular design is aesthetically pleasing and helps minimize the issue of fingerprints and smudges that plagued the MeMO Pad HD 7.
The same can be said about its keyboard dock as the layout seems to be similar. It is likely that the battery capacity is increased as ASUS claims that the mobile dock has a built-in battery for all-day mobile use. The previous Transformer Pad Infinity and its dock are stated to have a battery uptime of up to 14 hours.
Fonepad Note FHD 6
ASUS appears to be taking on a similar product strategy as the market leader, Samsung with the unveiling of the Fonepad Note FHD 6. If you recall, ASUS just announced the 7-inch Fonepad less than four months ago at MWC 2013.
As with the new Transformer Pad Infinity, we were unable to lay our hands on the Fonepad Note FHD 6. We were told that the device shown was a prototype and many of its key features could not be demonstrated.
Similar to how devices of such sizes are positioned, ASUS markets the Fonepad Note FHD 6 as the most ideal device for consumers who do not want to carry a smartphone and a tablet around. In fact, the company claims that the device is the perfect balance between work, play and social activities.
For work, the Fonepad Note FHD 6 comes with a stylus that can be hidden away in its slot at the back. While the stylus function could not be demonstrated, we were told that the stylus enables the user to make handwritten notes, freehand sketching, and quick and easy text selection. Moreover, ASUS will bundle exclusive note apps for use with the stylus.
For work and/or play and social activities, there is the 6-inch Super IPS+ display which boasts Full-HD resolution (1,920 x 1080 pixels). Based on what we saw at the booth, the display was indeed very sharp. The screen size also makes the device ideal for watching movies and playing games on-the-go.
In what seems like ASUS taking a leaf out of HTC's books, the Fonepad Note FHD 6 sports dual front-facing stereo speakers. HTC implemented a similar concept in its flagship smartphone, the One, which we found to be an excellent hardware decision. As the speakers are enhanced with SonicMaster audio technology, it is likely that the audio quality is at least comparable to the HTC One or even better.
Our only concern with the Fonepad Note FHD 6 is its built-in 3200mAh battery. We wonder if the battery is able to keep the device powered up for a day since the Full-HD display is likely to drain more battery juice. For comparison's sake, the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note II has a 3100mAh battery while the 6.1-inch Huawei Ascend Mate has a 4050mAh battery.