Asus FonePad review

The Asus FonePad is ostensibly a 7-inch tablet PC that is also capable of making cellular calls, putting it into a niche with the likes of the original Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the more recent Tab 7.0, and Tab 2 7.0.

Design and build quality

The Asus FonePad looks like a giant phone (of course) with an earpiece above its 7-inch screen. To the right of the earpiece is the front-facing camera.

Only an ASUS logo adorns the bezel below the screen – the FonePad uses software buttons. The top and bottom bezels are wider than the sides and appear to be identical to the Nexus 7. Along the bottom is the microUSB port and 3.5mm jack.

The right side and top are buttonless, while the left side holds the power button and volume rocker. Having used many devices with the power button on the right or top, we can’t say that we like the choice of placement this time around. On the bright side, the buttons are given a lot of headroom, making them easy to find by touch.

The back is smooth metal, giving very little flex and making for a very sturdy device, though it is much less grippy than we would have liked. Along the top edge is a removable plastic cover that grants access to the microSIM and microSD expansion slots.

Along the border of the metal back and plastic cover, in the middle, sits the rear-facing camera sans flash.

Slightly worrying is that our review unit’s screen seemed to lift at the top left – a characteristic that some early versions of the Nexus 7 also displayed. Whether the same issue will rear its ugly head again with consumer units of the PadFone remains to be seen, though we certainly hope not.

Asus FonePad
Asus FonePad

Internals and performance

Inside the FonePad is a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2420 CPU and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. There’s 1GB of RAM and 8GB or 16GB of storage – we had an 8GB unit for review, of which about 4.5GB was available to us.

For connectivity, there’s HSPA+ (up to 21Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up), WiFi b/g/n, and Bluetooth 3.0.

Performance on the FonePad was disappointing. In general, we found the device to be sluggish and we experienced spots of lag almost everywhere. The 6,838.8 AnTuTu benchmark score is considerably worse than any of the current top tablets (all of which are over 10K).

Screen

The FonePad features a 7-inch display which is on the smaller side for a tablet, but pretty massive for a phone. A 1280×800 resolution rendered crisp text making for a good reading experience, though a higher resolution screen (say, 1080p) wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Viewing angles on the FonePad were fine, though colours seemed to lean towards the cooler side of things, with grey-ish whites and washed out blacks.

One area in which the FonePad definitely doesn’t excel, is being useful outside. The problem is twofold: the screen doesn’t get very bright and it’s exceptionally reflective. If you like sitting outside reading or playing games on your tablet, you probably won’t like the FonePad much.

Asus FonePad
Asus FonePad and carry case accessory

Sound and call quality

Setting aside how ridiculous you look using a 7-inch device as a phone, the FonePad actually had decent call quality, offering loud and clear sound through the earpiece and little to complain about on either end.

The external speaker offered relatively tinny, though passably loud sound.

Cameras

Our review unit of the FonePad had a rear-facing camera, though this appears to be a market-dependent feature.

The rear camera is a 3.15 megapixel sensor, capable of 2048×1536 still images and 720p video capture. As can be expected, it’s fairly bad – giving low quality, grainy shots even in the best circumstances.

The front-facing camera isn’t any better, though it’s good enough for your video calling needs.

Battery life

Battery life on the FonePad was respectable – we managed to get a day and a bit worth of intense use out of the tablet that would see many other devices crumble in a matter of hours. Putting on the power saver option along with lighter use, extended that to three or four days.

Running it through AnTuTu’s battery test netted a very favourable score of 935.

Software

The FonePad is running an almost stock version of Android 4.1.2. There are some minor tweaks – such as the software buttons and the addition of the floating apps button (more on that later) – but nothing too horrible.

ASUS have added a pile of extra apps to the FonePad. The most familiar of these are Zinio and Press Reader, which turn up frequently on other devices too. The rest are a bit of a mishmash.

There’s ASUS Story which lets you organise photos into stories, and ASUS Studio which is allows you to edit photos and also has organisational capabilities.

App locker can individually password protect your apps (you set up your password and then select the apps to be locked), while App Backup will allow you to make a local backup of your installed apps.

AudioWizard gives you a bunch of preset configurations for your sound settings.

Block List lets you select numbers that you want to block from calling, Power Saver gives you some options to get the most out of the battery, and My Painter is a drawing app that can also make digital greeting cards.

My Library Lite helps you organise your e-books, and WebStorage gives you access to your ASUS cloud storage account.

BuddyBuzz is supposed to be a central application for your social media feeds, but we found it to be completely broken to the point that it continuously force closed until we manually shut it down.

Which brings us to a rather ridiculous end with the note taking applications. There’s MyBitCast, StickyMemo, Supernote Lite, and To Do List, all of which do essentially the same thing, but in slightly different ways. Do yourself a favour and install Evernote and stop trying to figure out which of those four apps you might want to use.

In addition to the 17 bundled apps (of which only a few are truly useful), is ASUS’s own version of floating apps. This lets you select any widget and turn it into a widget that floats above the currently open app. It works surprisingly well, though there is a slight delay when switching between different floating windows as the newly selected window needs to be completely redrawn for some odd reason.

Asus FonePad
Asus FonePad

Conclusion

The battery life on the FonePad was good, which is also about the only praise we can give it in the end.

With an average screen, disappointing performance issues, and a plethora of crapware bundled with the phone, the FonePad seems like a device that’s trying to do way too much, causing it to do everything poorly.

A massive phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will probably do the job better, and the Nexus 7 is definitely a better 7-inch tablet, though the FonePad’s price might seem enticing.

Unless you absolutely must have a 7-inch tablet that can also make phone calls, we wouldn’t recommend the FonePad.

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Asus FonePad review