ASUS PadFone 2 - A Serious Contender


Performance and Conclusion

Performance 

The ASUS PadFone 2 is one of the first LTE quad-core smartphones in the market to be powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad-core APQ8064 processor. The first LTE quad-core smartphone to be powered by a similar processor is the LG Optimus G, which was launched in September. Google's latest Nexus 4 also sports the same processor but lacks 4G LTE capability. 

Featuring a similar CPU architecture as its predecessor, the APQ8064 processor has four synchronous CPU cores which can be independently controlled for maximum efficiency. As we've seen in the review of the PadFone, the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor was no match for the S4 dual-core processor in the Quadrant benchmark. 

As such, we were very eager to see how the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 APQ8064 (quad-core) processor fares against the current mobile processors in today's top smartphones using the Quadrant benchmark. For those who are unfamiliar with the Quadrant benchmark, it basically evaluates the CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics of Android devices. In this comparison, we put the PadFone 2 up against the refreshed HTC One X+, the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE and its predecessor, the ASUS PadFone.

How the Phones Stack Up
Device ASUS PadFone 2 HTC One X+ Samsung Galaxy S III LTE Apple iPhone 5 ASUS PadFone
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
quad-core 1.5GHz 
NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.7GHz Exynos 4212 Quad
quad-core 1.4GHz
Apple A6
dual-core 1GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 
dual-core 1.5GHz
GPU Adreno 320 12-core GeForce Mali-400MP PowerVR SGX 543MP3 Adreno 225
RAM 2GB 1GB 2GB 1GB 1GB
OS Android 4.0.4 Android 4.1 Android 4.1 Apple iOS 6 Android 4.0

The APQ8064 processor in the PadFone 2 came up top among the phones compared with an overwhelming lead score of 7404. The HTC One X+ was at a very close second place due to a slightly higher clock speed of the Tegra 3 processor and software optimizations on the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Clock speed does play a role in benchmarks as the Galaxy Note II (not used in this comparison chart) registered a score of 6080 in the same benchmark despite being powered by the same family of Exynos processors. In comparison, the Galaxy S III LTE had a distant score of 5260.

It is important to note that the PadFone 2 is currently running on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, and when the Android 4.1 update arrives, we are expecting the PadFone 2 to crush the competition with yet another record score.

Putting the benchmark numbers aside, the PadFone 2 has done a very respectable job in providing a smooth user experience over the course of the review. Page scrolling was effortless, and we had no issues accessing multiple apps simultaneously. We encountered no problems during web surfing too.

However, there are a few isolated incidents we encountered. For example, the phone hanged and freezed for a few seconds before resuming normal operation on several occasions such as flipping through the different home screens. WhatsApp also hanged twice when we tried to access the app after multiple chat notifications came in. There was even one incident where we were checking out an overview of the home screens while the phone hanged and refused to return to the main home screen even after we pressed the Home button.

We reached out to ASUS Singapore and were advised to do a factory reset. Fortunately, none of the issues re-appeared after the hard reset. We continued to use the PadFone 2 over several days without any hiccups. We were also informed that ASUS Singapore is working on a software update for the PadFone 2 although there is no information on its availability. So it seems that the small hiccups we've encountered are easily curbed and ASUS is even looking forward to ensure this issue doesn't arise.

 

Multimedia Performance 

One of the significant changes in the PadFone 2 smartphone is the switch to using an IPS LCD screen technology from the previous AMOLED display. With a 4.7-inch Super IPS+ display (1280 x 720 pixels), the PadFone 2 matches the display prowess of the One X/XL/X+ and Galaxy S III (in terms of size).

The key highlight of its 4.7-inch Super IPS+ display is the application of Sharp's IGZO panel technology where a new semi conducting compound, indium gallium zinc oxide, is used to make the thin film transistors (TFTs). So what makes this technology superior? Well, it is claimed that IGZO panel technology is able to deliver higher pixel densities, lower power consumption and improved signal-to-noise ratios in touchscreen panels. 

In reality, the PadFone 2 fulfilled most of the claims except lower power consumption. We will discuss more on power consumption in our next section. With a pixel density of 312ppi, viewing multimedia content on the PadFone 2 is certainly a pleasure. We were impressed by the sharpness of the text and the accurate colors delivered by the display. 

The PadFone 2 comes with an outdoor viewing mode to boost the brightness of the display up to 550 nits while you are not under shelter. While it is effective for reading messages and navigating the menu under sunlight, we do not advise enabling it indoor as the display can be a bit too bright for comfortable viewing. In addition, enabling the Outdoor viewing mode will drain the battery faster.

Available in three storage capacities (16, 32 and 64GB), the PadFone 2's onboard memory may not suffice for some consumers who tend to carry their huge media library of music and videos in their phones. Taking on a somewhat similar strategy as HTC and Samsung, ASUS is now offering 50GB free WebStorage for two years with every PadFone 2 handset. The first-gen PadFone, on the other hand, has 32GB free WebStorage for three years.

 

Imaging Performance

The PadFone 2 is a growing breed of smartphones that are equipped with 13-megapixel rear camera sensors. At the moment, there are only a handful of Android smartphones with similar megapixel count such as the Sony Xperia TX/V and LG Optimus G. 

Boasting a Digital Still Camera (DSC) class Sony BSI sensor with five-element lens, f/2.4 aperture, and a dedicated image signal processor (ISP), ASUS claims that the PadFone 2 can deliver the best image quality at zero shutter lag.

Other features of its rear camera include a burst mode that can take more continuous shots (100 at 6fps) than the competition, and high speed 720p video recording at 60fps. In comparison, the HTC One X/XL/X+ is only capable of 99 continuous shots at 3.3fps while the Samsung Galaxy S III can take up to 20 continuous shots at 3.3 fps. A higher frame rate during video recording will deliver better and smoother videos. 

It also has a 1.2-megapixel front facing camera which is able to support both still and motion video recording. We put ASUS's rear camera through our standard imaging test.

 

 

Battery Mileage

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Test Phones Compared
Specifications/Device ASUS PadFone 2 HTC One X+ Samsung Galaxy S III LTE Apple iPhone 5 ASUS PadFone
Processor
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Qual-core 1.7GHz
  • Quad-core 1.4GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
Display Size
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.8-inch
  • 4.0-inch
  • 4.3-inch
Display Type
  • Super IPS+ LCD
  • Super LCD 2
  • HD Super AMOLED
  • IPS LCD
  • Super AMOLED
Display Resolution
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels 
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1136 x 640 pixels
  • 960 x 540 pixels
Dimensions
  • 137.9 x 69 x 9mm
  • 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9mm
  • 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm
  • 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
  • 128  65.4 x 9.2mm
Weight
  • 135g
  • 135g
  • 133g
  • 112g
  • 129g
Battery
  • 2,140mAh
  • 2,100mAh
  • 2,100mAh
  • 1,440mAh
  • 1520mAh

 


 


 


The PadFone 2 managed an impressive battery uptime of more than 9 hours and 30 minutes, which is slightly longer than the Galaxy S III LTE. Despite having "more cores", the PadFone 2 outlasted its predecessor by close to three hours.

We attribute its excellent battery mileage to ASUS's efficient power management and higher battery capacity of the device. This is evident in our Power Consumption chart, where the PadFone 2 is on equal footing with the Galaxy S III LTE. Its power consumption of 0.85W is only marginally higher than that of the PadFone and Apple iPhone 5, both which have smaller screens that obviously require drain less battery juice. However, considering the traits of the new Padfone 2 and its switch to an IPS LCD display while ditching AMOLED, we're actually surprised that the power consumption of the phone is on par with the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE - that's really an achievement.

As the PadFone 2 is the thickest and heaviest among the phones compared, it ranked behind the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III LTE in ourPortability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and portability. Nonetheless, it is still a huge improvement from the PadFone 2 and fares much better than the HTC One X+.

Despite the excellent battery performance under official test parameters, it unfortunately faltered under normal usage conditions which is quite unexpected. From our actual usage, we realized that the PadFone 2 could barely make it through a day at work, particularly when frequent web browsing and instant messaging via WhatsApp were involved. Not only did the battery level drain rapidly, the back of the PadFone 2 felt warm too. Its display also felt a little warm but it was not as bad as the back cover. The screen brightness was set at a minimal and the phone was not logged onto 4G connectivity.

Enabling the Power Saver or Smart Saving mode did increase the battery mileage to a certain extent. You can easily enable the mode via the pull-down notification bar or accessing the app through the Apps List. You can choose to select ASUS Optimized mode or customize your own power saving by scenario. You can also dock the phone into the new Station to recharge the PadFone 2. Taking advantage of the new Station accessory, over the course of the review, we found that we could easily last two to three days of usage with the PadFone 2 and its accessory combined.

 

Conclusion

Even though the first-gen PadFone was introduced barely six months ago, its successor arrived at a time where companies no longer take into consideration fixed product refresh cycles. Whether consumers like it or hate it, we feel that it is part of ASUS's strategy to remain competitive in this ever-changing smartphone landscape, and the PadFone 2 is its latest attempt to make its presence felt, if its recent earnings haven't done so.

Sporting the latest mobile processor, a 4.7-inch display with one of the best panel technologies, superb imaging performance and a solid design, the ASUS PadFone 2 is ready to fight with the big guys in the market. In addition, ASUS knows that the PadFone 2 needs a unique selling proposition to stand out and that's where its new PadFone Station comes into the picture. It's also a unique proposition for those who can't make up their mind if they really require a tablet companion since the PadFone comes with an accessory to convert the phone into a tablet when required.

We continue to be impressed by ASUS's innovation on its products and that is clearly seen in the PadFone Station. With a lighter and sleeker design, the renewed PadFone Station is the perfect companion accessory to the PadFone 2, and will certainly appeal to the growing market of consumers who demand more from a phone.

It's a pity that ASUS is unable to ship the PadFone 2 with the latest Android version and we really missed the keyboard of the Station Dock. After all, the PadFone Station and Station Dock were the elements that made the first-gen PadFone one of the most versatile mobile devices. In terms of battery life, we were a little disappointed by its real-world battery up-time. If it was able to last at least one full day of use without relying on its Station accessory to extend its up-time, we would have gladly given it a higher rating.

ASUS Singapore will be launching the PadFone 2 soon. Pricing, availability and other information will also be announced. We will update this review article as soon as we have the information.

*Update on 15 Nov 2012: The ASUS PadFone 2 is available in Singapore from 22nd November. StarHub continues to be the exclusive operator to offer the ASUS PadFone 2. The PadFone 2 will cost $848 (16GB) and $988 (64GB). Click here for more information on its pricing.

8.5
Design
8.5
Features
9
User-Friendliness
9
Performance
8.5
Value
8.5
The Good
Superb 4.7-inch display
Good overall performance
Great camera image quality
Sleeker PadFone Station
The Bad
No memory card slot
Lack of a keyboard dock
Could have shipped with Android 4.1
Real-world battery life is lackluster