I’ve been covering the tech industry for almost twenty years and, needless to say, it has gone through tremendous transformations. With this latest revolution of smartphones and tablets taking over computing, it’s really the first time that Intel has not been on the forefront of the industry. In fact, this is an area where Intel has been struggling to gain a foothold and while they have some upcoming solutions that might change that in the future, right now, their hopes are with Medfield- the low powered Atom processor present on the ASUS Fonepad that we’re looking at today.
I’ve always held ASUS in high esteem. Back then I made all my computers and would always prefer to equip them with a motherboard made by ASUS. Their quality and their designs are more human than most of their competitors- not just with components but also with consumer products such as laptops or tablets. The new fonepad surely feels like a quality product in your hand. Packaged in a nice little box with a charger, a USB cable and not much else, the fonepad is available in silver and bronze colours. I received the former from ASUS.
ASUS has done a good job with the construction quality of the fonepad. It good in your hands and generally creek-free. The power and volume buttons reside on the left side of the device while the USB and 3.5mm audio jack sit at the bottom. The top part on the back side slides out to reveal slots for a microSD card and a microSIM. Removing this takes a bit of force and is not very easy but then again, you won’t be removing this frequently.
Powered by Intel’s Atom Z2420 processor, the Asus fonepad is equipped with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage with a 7″ IPS LCD with an 800×1280 resolution. On the connectivity side, not only do you have your traditional Bluetooth (3.0) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) antennas but also 3G connectivity that lets you make traditional phone calls- very much like the first Samsung Galaxy tablet released almost two years back. The following table shows the full specifications for the ASUS fonepad.
Turning on the fonepad shows a decent screen that works better indoors than outdoors. However, turning that average screen to your liking using ASUS’ Splendid application is a great touch. It lets you adjust the contrast as well as the warmth of colours on your device giving the user more customisation than I’ve seen on any unrooted tablet. While the 7″ screen offers good portability, I can’t help but think that ASUS could have decreased the bezels around the screen to provide a slightly bigger screen.
ASUS has equipped the fonepad with Jellybean 4.1 although considering their reputation with updates, I wouldn’t be too worried. Like their other Android based devices, ASUS goes for a very stock looking Android experience which is fine by me. They do have a few widgets for time/weather added as well as a few applications of their own such as ASUS Story and ASUS Studio.
Performance on the ASUS fonepad is very dependant on what you’re doing. It generally works well though there is noticeable lag every now and then when scrolling screens or moving between apps. Watching movies or playing games like Angry Birds also works well but where the unit faults is when 3D kicks in. The PowerVR SGX540 GPU used for this tablet is average at best and that shows in frame rates when you power up a new-ish game utilising 3D features.
Where the ASUS tablet shines is with connectivity. Not only does it offer your standard set of WiFi and Bluetooth radios but also comes with 3G connectivity that supports voice. What that means is that you can use the ASUS fonepad as a phone. Granted, that does not necessarily look that great, it is something that works well and ideal for someone who does not want to separately spend on a phone and a tablet.
Finally, the battery life is quite good on the ASUS fonepad. The Li-Ion 4270 mAh battery is not only large in capacity but works really well under standby. I had the device charged and went on a work trip for four days. It took me two more days to get back to the fonepad to start reviewing it. In these six days, the ASUS fonepad had only discharged 30% of it’s battery even though it was connected to WiFi almost all the time.
Priced at AED 999, the ASUS fonepad isn’t necessarily a great tablet but it is a great tablet for that price. It features excellent connectivity and a decent display that can be tweaked to your liking in a body that that doesn’t feel cheap.