Review Price £219.00
Asus Fonepad Hands-on Preview
IntroductionAsus may be even more of a master tablet-maker than previously suspected. Having helped Google to create the Nexus 7, the South Korean manufacturer has now produced its own take on the 7-inch tablet ideal with the Asus Fonepad. We went hands-on with the low-cost tablet at its launch at Mobile World Congress 2013 to see whether it’s worth getting excited about.
Asus Fonepad – Design and FeaturesAs a relatively low-cost tablet that’s likely to cost around £220 when it launches in the UK in April, the Asus Fonepad’s metal rear was a pleasant surprise. Most of its behind is covered with anodised aluminium, giving it a cool-to-the-touch feel that leaves the impression of something more expensive than, say, a lightweight glossy plastic tablet.
Tablet aesthetics have largely boiled down to how large the screen bezel is, and whether any terrible design decision have been made, but the Asus Fonepad is pleasant enough to look at. It comes in grey and champagne shades, similar to those seen in the existing Transformer range.
What’s special about the Asus Fonepad compared to the existing top-dog Google Nexus 7 is that offers expandable memory, and will launch in Europe as a 3G edition. The top part of the tablet’s rear houses a plastic flap that covers a Micro SD memory card slot and a Micro SIM slot. Anyone who has wished that the Google Nexus 7 had expandable memory should take note.
Of course, as the name suggests, the Asus Fonepad is also a phone. This is where Asus starts to lose us though. The main problem is that it'll take trousers of MC Hammer proportions to accommodate the Asus Fonepad, such is its overall size.
Of course, you’re not tied to using the Fonepad strictly as a phone, and it should function perfectly well without a SIM card installed. The tablet is fully Google certified too, meaning you get access to Android goodies like the Google Play Store and Google’s own apps. We take these for granted, but once upon a time few budget Android tablets had them.
The Fonepad offers GPS and GLONASS as well, meaning it can function perfectly well as a giant in-car GPS system too. It’s undoubtedly a flexible little tablet – much more so than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.
Asus Fonepad - ScreenAlthough the Asus Fonepad might be considered an extension of the idea behind the Google Nexus 7, it doesn’t improve on screen quality in a particularly notable way. The tablet has a 7-inch 1,280 x 800 pixel IPS screen, the same setup used by all the best 7-inch tablets.
This provides much lower pixel density than the Apple Retina standard. This lesser 1,280 x 800 Android standard is unlikely to change in the 7-inch tablet world until the iPad mini 2 arrives with its rumoured Retina screen to kick Android tablets of similar proportions up the proverbial jacksie once more.
Asus Fonepad – Software and PerformanceThe Asus Fonepad runs a modified version of Android Jelly Bean 4.1 – Google Nexus 7 owners may well cry that the Google Nexus 7 is already on to version 4.2. One annoyance of the Asus Fonepad is that you’ll have to get used to waiting for Android updates, rather than getting them right after release.
The most important change Asus has made to Android is one you can see in the virtual nav bar. There’s an extra button here that opens-up a drawer of apps that also acts as an email notifications bar. It’s basically a complement to the top notifications bar – one that’s a bit easier to access. It will also help you keep your home screens looking cleaner.
Tablet performance appeared to be great in our hands-on. It’s no surprise when the Asus Fonepad uses a dual-core 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z2420 processor. This provides much better performance than a non-Intel mobile processor of the same specs would get you. Our only worry is that many games aren’t compatible with Atom processors.
Asus Fonepad – CameraAsus has made a version of the Fonepad with dual cameras, but it sounds like we won’t see it on shelves in the UK. The version heading for European markets is the 3G 16GB edition that only has a user-facing snapper – set for sell for 219 Euro.
We’re not missing out on much, though, as the rear camera edition only sports a naff 3MP camera. And, yes, you will look like a plonker using the thing to take snaps out in public.