Asus has certainly not scrimped on camera specs. The Padfone 2 comes with a 13-megapixel rear facing camera and dual 1.2-megapixel front-facing cameras (one for the phone and one for the Station), which are primarily meant for video calling.
The app that controls the camera has had a big overhaul since the first Padfone and offers a number of useful features such as camera effects, panorama, scenes and HDR. This makes taking photos a rich experience, you can tweak setting to your heart’s content. Unfortunately the 13-megapixel rear camera really struggles in low light conditions and pictures can be very noisy in anything but perfect conditions.
Another issue is that the colours are a bit muted and there appears to be some heavy post-processing affecting the picture quality. For example the shot of the Shard, below, was taken in good conditions yet the colours are drab and the photo is very flat.
Our dark store cupboard was lit up well by the LED flash, but once again the high resolution sensor struggles with noise.
Aside from pictures the camera can shoot video at 720p at 60fps and at 1080p at 30fps. Video quality is adequate for a phone but again the camera can’t reproduce colours accurately. The front facing camera, on the other hand, do a fine job of sending video over Skype.
The Padfone 2 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This isn’t the latest version of the Android operating system, but it is just one update off. Plans have been announced for an update to 4.2 in the near future.
The Android experience you get on the Padfone 2 is quite "stock". Asus has added a few features that improve the experience, though. One is a Wi-Fi switching service that automatically connects to the strongest connection you’ve stored. Audio Wizard, on the other hand, lets you pick from five presets that Asus claim provide a more natural sound, whether you’re watching a movie, listening to music, talking or gaming.
There are also two picture apps exclusive to Asus. The first is called Asus Studio, essentially a slicker version of the normal Android gallery. The second is called Asus Story. This lets you stitch together photos and text into little presentations. Both these features are intuitive and fun to use, but Story did crash on us a few times.
One area where the Padfone 2 excels is battery life. The phone has a 2140mAh battery, which provides enough stamina for it to last for more than a day with moderate use off a charge. This compares favourably to competitors such as the HTC One and Xperia Z, both of which struggle to last a full day.
We managed to get a little less than eight hours of constant video play with Wi-Fi streaming from the phone and almost exactly the same for the 5000mAh for the Padfone 2 Station. The Station basically doubles the phone’s battery life.
It’s hard to defend the Padfone 2 in terms of value. At £600 it costs only slightly less than you’d spend on a 16GB Google Nexus 4 and a 32GB Nexus 10 combined. While the phones are comparable in terms of performance, the Nexus 10 wipes the floor with the Padfone 2 in terms of a tablet experience. Alternatively you can get the recently released Sony Xperia Z, with its full HD screen, microSD card slot and waterproofing and still have money left over for a 16GB Nexus 7 to use as a tablet. The other option is to buy a Samsung Galaxy S3 with a… you get the picture.
The options are almost endless and most provide a better overall experience than the Padfone 2, and allow more than one person to use the phone/tablet at the same time. If you find the Padfone 2 going for a song or you desperately need a 3G 10.1 inch tablet without paying a premium for it then the Padfone 2 is worth considering, otherwise niche users only need apply.
The Asus Padfone 2 is a difficult device to dislike because it’s interesting and innovative, but it is also a difficult to defend. The idea of it makes sense on paper and there is a very capable, well-built phone coupled with a functional, if average, tablet. The problem is that it comes at a hefty premium and only one person can use the device at a time.
If the Padfone 2 provided a perfect phone and tablet experience we might be more forgiving of the lack of microSD card slot. However, as it stands, there’s very little to recommend this over practically any other tablet and phone combination at the price.