ASUS PadFone - Phone, Tablet and Netbook Combined

Launch SRP: S$800

Performance and Conclusion

Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Prowess Unleashed

In a move that goes against the quad-core trend, ASUS opts for a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz processor for the PadFone. What benefits does Qualcomm offer that other mobile processors in the market don't? 

Based on Qualcomm's whitepaper, the Snapdragon S4 processor is manufactured using the latest 28nm process technology that offers "inherent advantages in frequency scaling, power consumption and size reduction". What these terms simply mean is that Qualcomm claims that its S4 dual-core processors are able to deliver better performance with better power efficiency and in a compact form factor.

As usual, we will be using the Quadrant benchmark to assess the performance of the ASUS PadFone against the current competition. The most obvious comparison will be with the NVIDIA Tegra 3-touting HTC One X, which utilizes an older CPU architecture design based on the "4-Plus-1" concept. Besides the HTC One X, we will also be pitting the PadFone against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus running on pure vanilla Android 4.0, and the Motorola Atrix 2 which implements a similar docking concept. 


How the Phones Stack Up
Device ASUS PadFone HTC One X Samsung Galaxy Nexus Motorola Atrix 2
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4460 dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4430 dual-core 1GHz
GPU Adreno 225 GPU 12-core GeForce PowerVR SGX540 PowerVR SGX540
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
OS Google Android 4.0 Google Android 4.0 Google Android 4.0 Google Android 2.3

The current competition is no match for the ASUS PadFone as the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor proved its worth against the "more powerful" Tegra 3 quad-core processor. The PadFone breached the 5,000 mark and positioned itself in a very comfortable lead. It will be interesting to see how good a fight the similarly-spec'ed HTC One S can put up when it arrives locally by end June.

Number crunching aside, actual usage of the ASUS PadFone was a smooth experience. In fact, due to the minimal changes to the Android OS, we felt it was more fluid than the HTC One X. Don't get us wrong; the Sense 4 on the One X is the most polished yet from HTC but compared to an almost stock Android 4.0 OS, the difference was noticeably better on the PadFone. Web browsing was a breeze too, as with multi-tasking concerns.

 

Multimedia Performance Matters

Sporting a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display, the ASUS PadFone is able to deliver rich and vibrant colors typical of AMOLED displays. Although most high-end smartphones have begun shifting to HD displays (1280 x 720 pixels) , the qHD (960 x 540 pixels) display of the PadFone is more than sufficient in meeting the multimedia needs of most users.  If you are concerned about scratches appearing on the beautiful display, you can put your worries to rest as it is reinforced with the scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass.

Cloud storage services seem to be the buzz word recently as phone vendors flock to different cloud storage service providers to bump up the appeal of their phones. Here's a list of phone brands and companies which have jumped onto the cloud storage bandwagon: 

Not wanting to be left out of the game, ASUS also offered 32GB of WebStorage for three years on the PadFone. This is a nice complement to the storage capacity on the PadFone (16 or 32GB) and will be handy as the phone provides the storage space for the PadFone Station too. For heavy users, there is also a microSD slot on the PadFone that supports up to 32GB capacity. 

According to ASUS, there is no cap on file transfers or data download capacity and users can send huge files without any limitations. To enjoy the free 32GB storage, you have to register with a WebStorage ID and password. 

The imaging aspect of tablets has been under the limelight recently, thanks to the superb performance of the 8-megapixel rear camera on the Transformer Pad Prime.  On the specs sheet, the rear camera on the PadFone seems to be impressive; it has a larger F2.2 aperture lens for better photography under low light conditions and a 5-element lens for better imaging quality. It however retains the same 8-megapixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor. With these specs in mind, we carried out our imaging test with high expectations.

While the image quality is considered reasonable for a phone, we expected better results. Colors are of a cooler nature (even somewhat overexposed) and the camera appeared to have difficulties capturing as much details. Noise levels were also evidently higher than expected. Overall, very middling for a top of the line phone.

 

Battery and Portability Performance 

The last benchmark in the performance section is battery mileage. Thanks (or no thanks) to the claims of Qualcomm, the Snapdragon S4 processor is said to offer power efficiency due to the independent clock and voltage of each core. Instead of running all cores at the same clock speed, each core can run at a independent frequency and voltage depending on the workload tackled in a dynamic fashion. An unused core will shut down independently resulting in lower power consumption in idle state. Let's find out if its claimed architectural efficiency is of any use in our tests:

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

Similar to the Transformer Pad Prime, the PadFone has three System Performance Profiles that you can toggle with. They are Performance Mode, Balanced Mode and Power Saving Mode. By default, the PadFone is preset at Balanced Mode, which we used for our battery test.

Test Phones Compared

Specifications/Device ASUS PadFone HTC One X Samsung Galaxy Nexus Motorola Atrix 2
Processor
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
Display Size
  • 4.3-inch
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.65-inch
  • 4.3-inch
Display Type
  • Super AMOLED
  • Super LCD 2
  • Super AMOLED Plus
  • TFT
Display Resolution
  • 960 x 540 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 960 x 540 pixels
Dimensions
  • 128 x 65.4 x 9.2mm
  • 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9mm
  • 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9mm
  • 126 x 66 x 10.4mm
Weight
  • 129g
  • 130g
  • 135g
  • 147g

The ASUS PadFone performed admirably by lasting about 6 hours and 45 minutes, edging out the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy Nexus which have larger battery capacities. However, it came close to toppling the Motorola Atrix 2 despite the latter having a large battery capacity and a lower processor clock speed.  Do take note that our battery test simulates fairly stressful usage conditions and that actual battery mileage varies under different usage conditions.

The Portability Index saw the tables turned against the Motorola Atrix 2 as it lost out to the ASUS PadFone in terms of thickness (9.2mm VS 10.4mm) and weight (129g vs. 147g). Its lightweight and slim form factor coupled with an excellent battery life helped push the PadFone to the top in the Portability Index. 

During normal day-to-day usage, the ASUS PadFone was able to last through a day of emailing ,surfing social networking sites, web browsing, messaging and making a few calls. Our pet peeve with the PadFone is the back casing warming up easily after a few minutes of usage, especially when gaming or web browsing. While this is not unique to the PadFone, the phone warming up on heavy usage can be quite annoying. If you're going to be using the device with a case, the issue is somewhat mitigated.

Furthermore, the twin 6,600 mAh battery packs in the PadFone Station and Station Dock were able to supply enough juice to last three to four days under typical usage conditions. This is certainly good news for consumers who want to work on-the-go without having to worry about finding a power outlet or the battery dying on them - if they can shoulder the extra weight that they add on to the PadFone.

 

Conclusion

The ASUS PadFone is one of the most versatile mobile device we've seen to-date. It can dock with the PadFone Station and transforms itself into a tablet, and pairs with the Station Dock to become a netbook. What's more, it provides the processing power with its Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz processor that proves the point that having more cores doesn't necessarily mean better performance.

Though the entire tranformational concept of the PadFone seems unique and appealing, it's a shame that the overall hef (1.499kg) is definitely the deal breaker. You can easily get a better deal with an Ultrabook that weighs in the same range but offers far more functionality and performance. We can find any reason why the average consumer on the street will consider this over the more portable Ultrabook.

However as a phone, the ASUS PadFone has the necessary specs to take on the powerhouses in the market. The combination of a great design, good handling, beautiful display, smooth user experience, Android 4.0 and commendable overall performance may finally entrench the ASUS branding in the minds of consumers today. 

ASUS has not revealed any information on the pricing of the PadFone or its accessories, which brings us to our final point: the price factor may turn out to be the most important factor in determining the ASUS PadFone's success in the market. If ASUS is able to find a sweet price point for the PadFone, we are confident that consumers will take it into consideration alongside the heavyweights HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and possibly the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III

The ASUS PadFone will be available sometime this month and we will update this review as soon as we have more information on pricing matters.

*Update: The ASUS PadFone will be available exclusively from StarHub at S$800 without line contract. Customers who want the PadFone Station, Station Dock and the PadFone Stylus Headset can get them at S$328, S$228 and S$128 respectively. The ASUS PadFone will be available at all StarHub Shops and authorized dealers from 2 June 2012.

8.5
Design
8.5
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
8.5
Performance
8.5
Value
8
The Good
Great overall performance
Good design and handling
Beautiful Super AMOLED display
The Bad
Back cover gets warm easily
Camera performance not up to expectations
Accessories not very practical