Asus FonePad phablet review

Asus, the manufacturer of the hit Google Nexus 7, has launched another contender in the affordable tablet segment, named FonePad at Rs 15,999. It is not a machine that can set the market afire, but will expand the options for mid-range phablet (phone-cum-tablet) buyers.

At the launch of this device at Mobile World Congress in February this year, the Taiwanese company had said that this device is ideal for those who want a handy device to enjoy movies, ebooks etc, along with calling functionality.

Market leader Samsung has a product in this segment, the popular Galaxy Tab 2 that features a dual-core processor, as compared to FonePad’s single-core Intel CPU. Also in the same price range is Google Nexus 7, while Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite is another tablet with nearly similar specifications, but at a lower price point and build quality. (is it a tablet or phablet??)

To answer the question if Asus FonePad can notch up sales numbers in this crowded segment, we decided to review this Asus product. Here are the results…

asus_fonepad

Hardware and design

Asus FonePad has a 7-inch IPS display 1280x800p resolution with 216ppi pixel density, same as in Nexus 7. It is the only tablet in the world to have an Intel processor under the hood, clocked at 1.2GHz. The Indian market gets the variant with 8GB internal storage, while a 16GB iteration is also available internationally.

However, the device supports 32GB microSD card and features 1GB RAM. For connectivity, FonePad supports 2G, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and microUSB 2.0; this phablet supports GSM-based calls and SMSs. On the back is a 3.15MP camera with auto focus, whereas the front cam is 1.2MP.

Asus has done a great job with the FonePad design. This device is a looker, made using aluminium and featuring a waistline measuring just 10.4mm. The aluminium back with matte finish looks premium and has two parts. The smaller part on top can be removed and houses the microSD and sim-card slots, whereas the bigger part is not user-removable and encases the 4,270mAh battery.

The touchscreen is a fingerprint magnet and easily gets smudged with regular usage. There are no hardware keys on the front; the regular set of sensors and front camera are present above the display. The earphone jack is placed at the bottom, alongside the microUSB port. On the left side are the volume rocker and power/lock buttons, which are made using plastic and are pretty tactile. The rear features the loudspeaker and the 3.15MP camera as well as the logos of Asus and Intel.

Software

The FonePad runs on Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), so the user experience is quite smooth, as expected. Asus has done a decent job with the user interface, which is evident from the home screen itself. You get five home screen panels at all times, which can be increased up to seven. Along with the three-key-layout of stock Android (back, home and tasks), you get an extra key on the home screen, menu and certain apps. This key provides access to 12 widgets that can be moved around or resized; this feature is available in Samsung, Sony and LG devices as well and allows you to open utilities like Calculator, Memo, Video Player, Stopwatch, Calendar etc without going to the menu.

Asus has preloaded apps like App Backup, Dictionary, MyLibrary, MyPainter etc in FonePad. Some proprietary apps included in the device by the manufacturer are Asus Story, Asus Studio, Web Storage (up to 5GB free cloud storage). You also get Press Reader app (a paid service to read daily newspapers, including various editions of The Times Of India), Audio Wizard (to set the sound depending on the usage, such as videos, music, gaming, recording etc). In the Notification Bar, you get one-touch access to features like brightness, Wi-Fi, mobile data, GPS, Bluetooth etc.

Performance

Asus FonePad is not the fastest tablet around, as was evident during regular usage. The device’s 1.2GHz Intel Atom processor is fast, but not enough to handle resource intensive tasks like games. With judicious usage of apps and task-killing every now and then, you are likely to get a largely lag-free experience.

The tablet scored 8054 on Antutu benchmark test, which is a compound test that assess a device’s performance on parameters like display, CPU, storage etc. Rivals Google Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite have posted scores in the range of 12000, 5000 and 2500, respectively, in the same test.

The screen of Asus FonePad is quite good and videos, images and text appear crisp. It is too darn reflective most of the times and sunlight legibility is just about manageable, but certainly not one of its strong points. The IPS display panel used by Asus in the device does a very good job when it comes to viewing angles, but is not scratch resistant.

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