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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hands-on review: MWC 2013: Asus Fonepad

As if the Padfone isn't strange enough a concept, what about this: a 7-inch Android 4.1 tablet that can also make calls. Meet Fonepad.

Yes, that's right - Asus now have two different but similar products called essentially the same name but in a slightly different order. Crazy times.

Check out our hands-on with the Padfone in the video below:

Unlike the Padfone, which is a smartphone with a tablet shell, the Fonepad is a device rather like the Nexus 7 (which Asus also makes for Google) but with the ability to make calls. It was leaked back in February.

Asus reckons that you won't hold it up to your ear - although you can look ridiculous if you want - but will instead use a headset or Bluetooth accessory to make calls. The concept apparently comes from research which shows that smartphone users don't make as many calls as you'd think; they use the device more for web browsing, email and apps than they ever do for voice.

The big other difference from the Nexus 7 is the processor. While the Nexus tablet uses Nvidia's Tegra 3, the Fonepad boasts the Intel Atom Z2420 introduced at CES 2013. In our limited hands on time, it became evident that the single-core processor is pretty snappy on Android; certainly there are none of the performance issues we've seen with even dual-core Atoms running Windows 8.

As the Padfone Infinity uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600, that makes Asus one of the most processor agnostic companies out there. Asus has plenty of solutions for Windows 8 and Windows RT as well as Android, so it's pretty platform agnostic as well.

The Fonepad does tread familiar ground with its screen, again aping the Nexus 7 with a 1,280 x 800 IPS display. It's clean and crisp and far superior to other 7-inch screens out there, some of which tend to be 1,024 x 600. The HP Slate 7 is one such device we've seen at MWC 2013.

In terms of the other spec, there's a 3MP rear-mounted camera, dual microphones, 720p video, 3G HSPA+ connectivity and a microSD slot underneath the top plastic bit on the back. That's also where the micro SIM goes.

The headphone socket is on the bottom alongside a standard micro USB port. The sleep/wake button is on the side, next to the volume up/down rocker.

The Fonepad is certainly an interesting device and price point is crucial. The Asus Fonepad price will start from $249 (£165 / AU$241) when it goes on sale in March. So it's relatively cheap and will sit above the Nexus 7 yet underneath the iPad mini in Asus' ongoing war with Apple, Samsung and Amazon for the 7-inch tablet space.

Making calls on this kind of device certainly isn't for everyone, but it's fair to say there's an increasing number of people who'd rather have a bigger screen yet don't want to carry around a tablet and a phone - those people who are also interested in a product like the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Fonepad offers an extra option.


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