ASUS Fonepad - World's First Intel Lexington Tablet

Launch SRP: S$369

Performance and Conclusion

Performance

The ASUS Fonepad is powered by an Intel Atom Z series processor, codenamed Lexington. It is basically a single-core processor with Intel HyperThreading Technology, which allows it to process two threads in one cycle (as long as actual hardware resources such as suitable registers within the processor are available at any one point of time). To find out more about HyperThreading, we've summarized it in this old article. If you recall, the Fonepad has the same processor as a recent smartphone we reviewed earlier - the Acer Liquid C1.

We will be comparing the ASUS Fonepad against the other tablets of its class, which include the Google Nexus 7, Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) and Galaxy Tab 7.0  Plus. The following benchmarks were used for raw performance evaluation:  

  • Quadrant evaluates the CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. This is an Android OS based test.
     
  • Smartbench 2012 is a multi-core friendly benchmark application that includes both the Productivity and Games indices for a more complete gauge of the overall performance of Android tablets.
     
  • SunSpider Javascript benchmark measures the browsing performance of the tablet. 

How the Tablets Stack up
Device ASUS Fonepad Google Nexus 7 Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
CPU Intel Atom Z2420 single-core 1.2GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core
1.2GHz
Rockchip single-core
1.2GHz
TI OMAP 4430 dual-core 1GHz Exynos dual-core 1.2GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX540 12-core GeForce Vivante GC800 PowerVR SGX540 Mali-400MP
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
OS Android 4.1 Android 4.1 Google Android 4.0 Google Android 4.0 Google Android 3.2

 

The Intel Atom Z2420 processor managed to hold its own against the multi-core ARM processors of the other tablets. For example, the Fonepad had better scores in the Quadrant, Smartbench 2012 (Games) and SunSpider Javascript benchmarks. As a point of reference, the Acer Liquid C1 has scores of 2515 and 1756 in the Quadrant and SunSpider benchmarks.

Number crunching aside, we found the overall user experience on the Fonepad to be average. Even though Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean is supposed to bring buttery smooth performance, we did not experience that during our time with the Fonepad. In fact, it was more of a mixed bag of feelings. When we first started using it, the Fonepad was smooth in its operation. After installing a couple of apps and using it for a few days, the operations seemed to slow down. Moreover, we encountered some problems playing games on the Fonepad.

For example, we installed two versions of SHADOWGUN game app - the standard and the DEAD ZONE versions. While we had no problems running the standard SHADOWGUN on the Fonepad, the DEADZONE version had problems loading and crashed halfway. The criteria for playing SHADOWGUN: DEADZONE is stated as follows on Google Play Store: 

  • Devices with at least 512MB RAM
  • Devices running on Android 3.0 Honeycomb and higher

We feel that the issue mainly lies with the x86 architecture of the Intel Atom processor. Although Mike Bell, Intel's Vice President of Ultra Mobility mentioned in an interview back in 2012 that Intel is "a first class citizen" on the Android ecosystem, it appears that there is much work to be done to ensure that Android apps are optimized and compatible with Intel processors.

 

Imaging & Multimedia Performance

The Fonepad sports a 7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, which works out to a pixel density of 216ppi. This is on-par with the Google Nexus 7, and superior to the other tablets of its class including the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. The IPS display delivers sharp text and accurate colors for a pleasant multimedia experience. 

While the Nexus 7 lacks a memory card slot, users will be relieved to know that the Fonepad comes with a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB. Although the Fonepad comes with 8GB internal storage capacity out of the box, you actually only have about 4.3GB usable storage space. Preloaded apps take up about 66.30MB while the rest is likely to be set aside for the Android OS. 

If you are planning to use the Fonepad for its voice call function, it is important to note that we recommend pairing it with a Bluetooth or wired headset. Although tablets with voice call capabilities have already been in the market for some time, it is uncommon to see people putting these larger-than-life mobile devices beside their face while making calls.

Besides looking really odd and attracting unnecessary attention to yourself, putting the Fonepad beside your ear has little practicality. We tried holding up the Fonepad to our ears several times during voice call conversations, but were unable to hold any clear conversation even at maximum volume. So do yourself a favor and pair it with a Bluetooth or wired headset for convenience.

Given its price tag, the Fonepad comes with the most basic suite of imaging features such as a 3-megapixel rear autofocus camera and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. As such, one shouldn't have too high an expectation of the Fonepad when it comes to imaging performance, even though both cameras are capable of 720p resolution video recording.

 

 

 

Battery Performance

Next, we ran the ASUS Fonepad on an intensive battery test, which involves a video with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels being looped on the unit. The test is performed under specific parameters, such as:

  • Screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
     

Test Tablets Compared
Specifications/Device ASUS Fonepad Google Nexus 7 Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
Processor
  • Single-core 1.2GHz 
  • Quad-core 1.4GHz 
  • Single-core 1.2GHz 
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  •  Dual-core 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 7-inch
  • 7-inch
  •  7-inch
  • 7-inch
  • 7-inch 
Display Type
  • IPS LCD
  • IPS LCD
  • IPS LCD
  • PLS LCD
  • PLS LCD 
Display Resolution
  • 1280 x 800 pixels 
  • 1280 x 800 pixels 
  • 1024 x 600 pixels
  • 1024 x 600 pixels
  • 1024 x 600 pixels 
Dimensions 
  • 196.6 x 120.1 x 10.4mm
  • 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm 
  • 192 x 120 x 11mm
  • 193.7 x 122.4 x 10.5mm
  • 193.65 x 122.37 x 9.96mm
Weight
  • 340g 
  • 340g 
  • 370g
  • 344g
  • 345g
Battery Capacity
  • 4270mAh 
  • 4325mAh 
  • 4100mAh
  •  4000mAh
  • 4000mAh

 

ASUS surprised us previously with the awesome battery mileage of the Nexus 7, hence we were not entirely caught off-guard by the better-than-expected performance of the Fonepad. It lasted 8 hours and 10 minutes in our standard battery test, which is about 2 hours and 30 minutes shy of the record set by the Nexus 7.

Nonetheless, the Fonepad is still well ahead of the other 7-inch competitors thanks to its low power consumption. As a result, it also ranked second in the Portability Index where each device is assessed on how well it balances battery life with their physical attributes (weight and volume).

While our battery test is quite strenuous and is used to help us establish a base line for comparison between various tablet offerings, in an actual usage scenario, getting a day of usage out of the Fonepad was no issue for us. This included our regular weekday schedule of email, web-surfing and social media usage. In case you don't know, ASUS has spent quite a bit of effort in developing power saving software, which led to the creation of Power Saver and Smart Saving features.

Enabling Smart Saving will give you two options: ASUS optimized mode and Power Saving by scenario. The default mode is ASUS optimized mode where network connection is always kept active. If the battery is running low or you want to maximize the battery life, you can enable Ultra-saving mode where the network connection is disconnected when the device is suspended.

However, if you want more control over the power management on the Fonepad, you can select Customized mode where you can preset which usage aspect to conserve battery juice on. For example, checking the box for Watching Videos will reduce the brightness to 60% though you are still able to customize the level later.

 

Conclusion

So what's our verdict on ASUS's first foray in making a tablet that has voice call capability? The ASUS Fonepad is actually the best tablet-phone hybrid we've reviewed to-date. It has a more solid build and offers a better overall performance than most of its similar-sized competitors.

What's even more attractive about the Fonepad is its price tag of S$369, which is significantly lower than the launch price of Samsung's 7-inch tablets and it mostly outperforms them. The Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite may be slightly cheaper at S$328, but it is definitely not in our list of recommendations.

If you do not require the voice call feature, you can check out the S$499 Google Nexus 7 (32GB, 3G). The 16GB and 32GB Wi-Fi models are also available at S$349 and S$399. With Google I/O coming out in a week's time, you may want to hold off the purchase of the Nexus 7 for the time being as a second gen model is expected to be unveiled then. Its availability is said to be in July. Even if the latest and greatest Nexus 7 models do not tempt you, having a little patience is advisable as you are likely to get the current generation of Nexus 7 devices at lower prices.

Outside of the Android camp, you do not have much alternatives besides the more expensive Apple iPad mini which is priced at S$448 for the 16GB (Wi-Fi model) and S$618 for the cellular version. What you will get on the iOS camp is a super thin and light design, solid build quality, the largest database of tablet-optimized apps and superior user experience.

Windows 8 fans may have to exercise more patience as there are rumors of smaller Windows 8 tablets coming soon which includes the leaked Acer Iconia W3.

8.5
Design
9
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
9
Performance
7.5
Value
8.5
The Good
Solid build quality
Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
microSD & micro-SIM card slots
Good battery life
Affordable
The Bad
Navigation lags at times
Below average imaging quality
App compatibility issues
Limited 8GB built-in storage