ASUS had a strong showing at this year's Mobile World Congress where it unveiled not one, but two mobile devices targeting the extreme ends of the consumer markets. The first device is the ASUS PadFone Infinity, which will go up against the likes of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z.
The second device is the ASUS Fonepad, a tablet with full 3G phone functions. Tablets with voice call capability have been in the market for some time, thanks to Samsung which started the ball rolling with the 7-inch Galaxy Tab in 2010. Huawei also recently joined in the race with the MediaPad 7 Lite. Does the increasingly cramped tablet market have any more space for the ASUS Fonepad? Let's find out in this review. Before you do, here's a quick look at the specs of the ASUS Fonepad:
Key highlights of the ASUS Fonepad
ASUS has been making pretty good hardware and the Fonepad is no exception. Clad in an anodized aluminum shell, the Fonepad certainly feels more premium compared to the plasticky Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) and Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. Unlike plastic, there is no give or flex to the bodywork of the Fonepad.
Considering its proposition as an entry-level device and the amount you are forking out for, the Fonepad is absolutely a better deal. It is even more impressive if you take into account that the Fonepad is lighter than its competitors:
The immediate comparison to the Fonepad is without a doubt the Google Nexus 7, which is also manufactured by ASUS. While the Nexus 7's rubberized back gives a nice textured feel and offers good grip of the device in your hands, we prefer the smooth aluminum finish on the Fonepad. There are only minimal differences in terms of dimensions between the two devices, which are hardly noticeable (e.g. the Nexus 7 is thicker by 0.05mm).
As the Fonepad doubles as a phone, it comes with two microphones - one at the top to analyze ambient noise, and one at the bottom to record voice and ambient noise. The microphones are deliberately placed further apart to provide more accurate ambient noise reduction by software algorithms. You will find the standard suite of connectivity ports and options on the Fonepad, which include a 3.5mm audio output jack, a micro-USB port, a micro-SIM slot and microSD slot.
The Fonepad runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and has some of ASUS's own customization. ASUS believes that the Android user interface is at a point where over-customization will do more harm than good, and hence only makes subtle changes to the user interface. Now, let's take a look at some of its add-ons:-
There is a long list of shortcuts added to the notification pull-down tab, which include Wi-Fi, AudioWizard, Settings Menu, Quick Settings area and screen brightness controls. This allows you to toggle these controls without going into additional layers of the menu settings.
Depending on your preferences, you can customize the list of shortcuts in the Quick Settings via Settings > ASUS Customized Setting > Use ASUS Quick Setting. If you prefer a cleaner look, you also can disable Quick Settings.
Users of other ASUS tablets may find this app familiar. A lighter version of the SuperNote app found on the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 and Transformer Pad Infinity, the SuperNote Lite is a note-taking app that enables you to type, scribble or draw on notes.
The difference between the two apps (SuperNote and SuperNote Lite) is that the Lite version does not support handwriting-to-text function. Therefore, do not expect your notes to look nice and standardized when you opt for the "write" option. This is one aspect where Samsung Galaxy Note devices excel in; the fine implementation of S-Pen allows you to write notes smoothly compared to using your finger.
Similar to how HTC and Samsung provide free Dropbox cloud storage for their mobile devices, ASUS also provides 5GB free WebStorage on the Fonepad. What's new in WebStorage is Microsoft Office compatibility where you can view, create, edit and share Office documents on the Fonepad. WebStorage not only works with other ASUS tablets and phones, it also work on any PC or laptop.
BuddyBuzz is a social feed aggregator where you link your Facebook, Twitter and Plurk accounts into a centralized location to view updates, most popular posts, favorites, a buddy list and a combined list of messages.
While the interface is simple and straightforward to use, we hope that there are more social networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram that can be integrated with BuddyBuzz.