TECH

Asus Padfone 2 UK Review: Smartphone Meets Tablet In Breakthrough All-In-One

19/03/2013 14:02 GMT

Former motherboard makers Asus had a breakthrough year in 2012 in their quest to become a true UK consumer gadgets giant.

And even if many consumers didn't realise their biggest hit mobile device - the Google Nexus 7 - was an Asus gadget at all, its success gave the Taiwanese company renewed confidence to take aim at Samsung and Apple in the fight to become the consumers' choice for smart phones, tablets, phablets and even FonePads. Whatever they are.

The Padfone 2 wants to be all of those devices, in one neat package.

The concept is simple: a mid-to-high end Android phone, that comes with a 10-inch tablet 'dock'. Click the phone into the dock, and you've got a tablet. Take it out, it's your phone again.

The first PadFone launched in 2011, but it's been a long wait for the follow-up Padfone 2 to hit the UK, priced at £599.

So now it's here, how well does it perform? And if the two-in-one concept really is a compromise, is it one worth making?

PadFone 2, Asus

The speed and power of Padfone 2 can't really be argued with. It has 2GB Ram and an impressive 13 megapixel rear camera, a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset and between 16 and 64GB of storage. Asus even offer a generous 50GB of free Cloud Webstorage for 2 years with the device.

Running on Android Jelly Bean 4.1 (not the latest version, and we hope an update will be forthcoming) the Padfone 2 delivers all the strength of Google's versatile Android OS, which is praised for its flexibility despite lacking some of the truly high-end apps boasted by Apple's ecosystem.

Asus also include a few unique apps developed for the Padfone 2, such as Super Note (which boasts text recognition, including English and Chinese), Instant Dictionary (word definitions available when browsing) and Audio Wizard, developed by Asus' own audio engineering team Golden Ear.

padfone

But despite the bespoke software and processor power, the PadFone 2 is notable mainly for Asus' integration of phone and tablet into one hybrid device.

Luckily, the industrial design elements of this process are excellent. Simply slotting the Asus phone into the back of the 'PadFone Station' turns the system into a fully functioning Android tablet, and the phone is snug and secure in the back. The tablet has no additional hardware beyond the screen and the battery, but it's more than powerful enough to run the larger display. The transition between the two is occasionally confusing - some apps translate between the screens automatically, others have to be toggled to work - but overall it performs well.

The tablet screen itself is light and compact, too. When the phone is not slotted in the back it comes in at 148g lighter than the iPad, and is still 13g lighter when the phone is attached. Likewise the phone is attractive without being all that stunning. It's not going to drop any jaws, but it does the job and lets Google's great OS steal the show.

The tablet also doubles as a power charger for your phone, giving the bonus of an extra battery pack for when you're on the move, with a prominent widget on the tablet showing the battery percentage for both devices.

padfone

One downside of the package is that when you're completely out of power, the device simply wont respond when trying to turn on - having some battery life set aside for a message telling you to charge would save you from thinking you've broken your PadFone, rather than simply having flattened the battery.

Aesthetically, the chassis feels a little too thick, and the wide bezel on the tablet screen isn't ideal. As we've seen with the popularity of the iPad mini and it's minimal design, less is more.

Perhaps the best feature of the device is the price, however. A £599 you hit two gadgetry birds with one purchase - buying an iPhone and an iPad with the same 3G capability at current prices would cost at least £1,000. On contract the Padfone 2 is free at £33 per month for two years. You can get Android phone and tablet combinations for less, if you look, but it's still quite a deal.

asuspadfonepreview

The problem - or opportunity - here, is that the Padfone 2 is not just a gadget, but a concept. And how well that concept fits into your life is down to you.

If you already have a tablet, or would rather a mix of operating systems, it's probably not going to work for you. And if you want a truly best-in-class experience with either device, the Padfone 2 is probably arriving too late in the UK to compete with the latest offerings by Samsung and HTC.

In that sense, it feels that a trick has been missed with the tablet itself. Other than it's 10.1 inch display, it could be viewed as a glorified battery pack - could extra memory, storage and graphics drivers have been added, making the PadFone 2 greater than the sum of its parts? No doubt that would have driven up the price and weight.

But if you're in the market for a new tablet and phone, don't have the cash for a custom solution and like the idea of a simplified gadget line-up, with only one phone to charge and sync, this might just be for you.

For everyone else, perhaps the PadFone 3, 4 or 5 will have some extra jaw-dropping tricks up its sleeve.

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