It’s always a tricky thing launching combo concept’s. The idea of having a Phone transform into a tablet might have its perks, but the fear of getting a “cramped” tablet could prove to be a deal breaker. Is this the “second coming of Christ” or just another cool gadget that will end up in the box where old gadgets go to die?
ASUS might have made it right this time?
If you never heard of the “Padfone” before, it’s in short a phone that connects into a screen, making it a tablet. The phone is really where all the “juice” is and the screen is no more then a screen and a extra battery.The previous “Padfone”, released a little over a year ago, didn’t quite prove to be what I hoped and the combined weight and bulk made it hard to justify the “phone-in-tablet” combo concept. The real question is, have ASUS made it right this time?
This review won’t answer all of your questions (or mine). It will focus on the hardware concept. I will however use it as my main phone/tablet over the coming weeks, reporting back in later posts. Why? Because I love gadgets!
The main specs
Like many flagship phones out there it’s powered by Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro, 2 GB RAM and the Adreno 320 graphics chip. Very similar to the Nexus 4 or LG Optimus. This is a good thing. The 2 GB ram is just what Android needs on a tablet to make it “snappy” and it’s a common mistake to release Android tablets with less RAM. The mighty rear camera is a 13 Mega-Pixel Sony BSI sensor and in the Front a 1.2 Mega-Pixel one. On the tablet dock you have to make do with a front facing 1 Mega-Pixel but you still have access to the 13 Mega-Pixel monster on the backside with your phone docked. Besides your 2G, 3G and 4G the radios include the usual 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, FM radio, GPS and GLONASS.
The Padfone 2 comes with a 4.7inch, HD 1280×720, Super IPS+ with Capacitive touch panel Scratch Resistant Corning® Glass with anti-fingerprint coating screen. (This might be one of the longest sentences of tech nonsense I ever have written). In short the screen is just fantastic like most of the IPS screens from ASUS and it holds it’s own up there with any high-end flagship phone.
The Padfone station (the big screen..) ships with a 10.1inch, WXGA 1280×800, IPS with Capacitive touch panel Scratch Resistant Corning® Glass with anti-fingerprint coating.
If you want to compare this screen to a high-end tablet, the ASUS TF700T comes with a 10.1″ LED Backlight WUXGA (1920×1200) Screen, Super IPS+ with 10 finger multi-touch support – but you wont fit a phone in the TF700 on the other hand..
There is no microSD expansion. This seems to be a discussion around every phone without it, one that honestly bores me. I can’t really see this as a problem as we now live in “the wireless age of the cloud”. You probably already use Dropbox, Google drive or Skydrive. If you don’t, ASUS provides a 50GB WebStorage service for two years – for free. Please stop whining about no microSD expansion, it’s 2013.
The only minor downside with the Phone I can really find is that all this technology still only runs on the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) platform. It’s however a software issue so stay calm, you will get your precious 4.2 any week now according to ASUS.
So what about the overall build feeling?
I have used a lot of tablets, and I come from being one of the first tablet PC convertible users in Sweden (Thx to Fujitsu/Siemens and IBM/Lenovo) back in the days of Windows XP. Since then I had about 6-7 different tablet PC’s, about 6 different Android tablet’s and a countless number of smartphones. What makes me the expert? Well I used them all for work and play 24/7 for real and not only tested them for a couple of weeks.
Phonewise I’m recently coming from the “Russian attack helicopter” Lumia 920 and my first impression is how light the Padphone 2 feels (135 g with battery). Together in tablet mode the whole package is lighter than the iPad (the tablet is 514 g, you do the math). The Phone feels very much like the Galaxy S2 and the S3. Aluminum frame with a polycarbonate back cover etched with a pattern surrounding the camera. This actually looks really good and It makes the Padfone 2 easy to hold and eliminates any fingerprints on the back. The phone feels overall very solid, light and a little bit luxurious even.
At first people you meet probably will mistake it for the Galaxy S3, at least the white model. Personally I think the Padfone 2 looks and feels way cooler than the iPhone or the Galaxy S3.
Overall ASUS went for the minimalistic design, it has very few buttons (only two), and there elegantly tucked away in the aluminum frame. The usual android software buttons are three capacitive soft keys lit up between the screen and the logo at the bottom – I like this. It looks futuristic and makes the whole front side of the phone covered in glass – set phasers on stun!
“The Tablet”, or the Padfone station as it’s called, is not really what I’m used to.
I normally use the ASUS TF700 (all aluminum) and compared to each other, the Padfone station might feel a bit bulky and plastic. It’s no deal breaker at all, just a question of preference and what you are used to. I’ll pit them against each other in a later review. Connected together it feels and runs like any high-end Android tablet out there. It’s fast and runs any of the apps you are used to, streams HD video, plays your Netflix movies or lets you play any game from Android market.
The lack of standards when it comes to connectors
A minor drawback as I see it is the 13 pin connector on the lower outside of the Padfone station. I can see why it’s needed on the Padphone 2 connecting it to the Padfone station inside dock, but it would be really neat if the Padfone station it self had a stand alone Micro USB for charging and connecting it to a PC.
Now I have to use the 13 pin converter and you get yet another cable to carry around to support your charging needs. Actually you can use a standard Micro USB, but it wont fit perfect, but good enough to charge. I discovered it varies with the brand of the charger – Nokia chargers was a little loose for instance. But anyway, it works but hangs a little loose :P.
Despite the fact that the 13 pin connector actually can handle Micro USB, the fact still remains – right now I have 3 different connector standards for 3 tablets from the same manufacturer – ASUS. Someone really have to put some thought into this for future products – releasing anything not having micro USB built in is just crazy if you ask me.
So to answer a question I see many people google for and end up on my blog – no you can’t use the same connector for the TF600. TF700T or the Padfone – there three different standards I’m afraid.
So what is the Padfone station really?
In short it’s a 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 external IPS LCD display for the PadFone 2, but at the same time it’s also a 3.8V, 5,000mAh (19Wh) battery pack. The thing is, when you connect your phone to it, you can choose to charge while using it as a tablet – pretty neat, yes?
Connecting them together
ASUS has been working on the new docking mechanism for a year and a half, and it was needed bad. Some of you might remember the first Padfone where the phone was locked in by a cover, making docking and undocking a little bit to slow and complicated. Well ASUS has addressed this, and solved it in a impressive way.
Impressive, like in a new 13-pin connector (making your old Padfone impossible to connect of course) and a system that pushes four “toothed”, rubber pads against the two long sides of the phone when inserted. This keeps the phone secure inside the bay. And it’s really secure, powerful enough to withstand any of my powerful shakes. I can’t really imagine anything shaking it loose tbh. Yet it’s smooth as butter to just slide it in there and slide it out when you need the phone. I got some calls while using the tablet and it was no more problem than taking your phone out of your pocket to answer it. If you prefer you can just as easy use the tablet as a phone, either on speaker or with a Bluetooth headset of course.
So why would the Padfone 2 be a good choice?
I’m not sure it is yet, you will still carry around two gadgets, but you will get an extra battery to your phone just by taking your tablet with you, and you will get a tablet that supports 3G/4G just by carrying a phone. You can of course achieve this with a dedicated phone and tablet using a hotspot, but it’s really cool to watch a movie on your tablet, pulling out your phone and continue watching it. And the phone itself is a great phone even without the Padfone station.
Is Android really for a information worker in a corporate environment?
It also depends a little bit on what services you are using, this has nothing to do with the Padfone 2 I might add. But Android is not a OS made for work in my opinion, yes you can make most stuff work pretty easy, but if you like me comes from a corporate environment using mostly Microsoft products, Android can be a little tricky. There’s both security issues for the network administrator as well as lacking support for SharePoint and the Office 365 suite (The SkyDrive and OneNote apps is not really enough tbh). Still it’s no big deal to make it work if you use OneNote In combination with some kind of cloud service for your files/photos/movies/music.
The Padfone station might not have the most high-end touch screen with the highest resolution – but it’s god enough for any ones needs. For only work and in meetings, when it comes to tablets, I would still have to keep my TF600 or use my Lenovo tablet due to software.
I could easily see myself using this as my main phone with the option to get a bigger screen when I travel between home and work. The phone is one of the best ones out there if you ask me. It’s mostly up to your own preference of brand and design – when it comes down to speed and hardware you wont be disappointed with the Padfone 2. Personally I just love the minimalistic design and it could be a keeper!
Pros and cons
+ You get a extra battery and a tablet with 4G
+ The minimalistic elegant design
+ You feel very futuristic and cool
+ The Padfone 2, I’m in love
– Not the best tablet screen out there
– The lack of a micro USB on the Padfone station
If you plan on buying a high- end phone and you know you will need a tablet for browsing, e-mail and reading the Padfone 2 wont disappoint, and it’s super cool!