en Samsung came out with the first gen Galaxy Tab that can make phone calls, everybody mocked the idea of having phone call functionality in a tablet, even Steve Jobs said that 7 inch tablets are DOA when launched, just look at how many people around you are using an oversized smartphone to make phone calls, and you’ll know how successful such concept is. After divorcing with Garmin, ASUS went its way to release Transformer tablets and their Padfone, and now they’re joining the phablet game, by releasing the first Intel Atom powered Android phablet – the Fonepad.

Finally, a phablet that looks good

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We’ve been pretty sick of plastic devices recently, and have been on the lookout at a decent looking tablet that we are able to use it for work and play. ASUS has got the design of the Fonepad right, it shares a very similar design language with the Nexus 7 andHTC One S, the aluminum back of the Fonepad makes it look executive like, it looks sleek from the side and the curved edges make the tablet comfortable to hold and take, the Fonepad will have people looking at you when you are holding it with your hand.

The ASUS Fonepad may have a good build quality, however the hardware specifications isn’t the most amazing one that you will find in today standards, well, except for the Intel Atom processor. Here are the specifications.

Intel Atom Z2420 1.2GHz Single Core with Intel HyperThreading

1GB RAM

8GB built-in storage, expandable via microSD

7” WXGA (1280×800) IPS LCD

3 Megapixels AF Main Camera

1.3 Megapixels Front Facing Camera

GSM/HSPA+ 21mbps

GPS/Bluetooth 3.0/WiFi B/G/N

4270mah battery

As you can see, the specs sheet sits between mid range and entry level Android devices, which we didn’t put our hopes to high on it when using the device.

Display

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The Fonepad’s IPS display is certainly a joy to look at with its accurate color reproduction and good viewing angles, the WXGA resolution isn’t going to wow you like a Full HD display but sufficient for the majority to read text, watch videos and pictures. The 7 inch display is fitted with a plastic panel, which is a fingerprint magnet and can get scratched if not taken care of, we are disappointed that ASUS has choose to sacrifice the quality of the display panel while the body of the Fonepad is of premium material. We definitely recommend buying a screen protector when you purchase the Fonepad. Under direct sunlight, the display has good visibility and sufficient brightness level. Touch sensitivity is fine but can be greatly affected if it is dirty.

ASUS Software

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“Easy to learn, easy to play, easy to use”, that’s ASUS’s tagline for Eee PCs, the Fonepad should really have this tag line although it doesn’t belong to the Eee family. ASUS has packed a lot of useful software into the Fonepad and we really enjoyed using them, those apps are definitely out of the bloatware category.

Instant Dictionary

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One of the most useful app on the Fonepad is the instant dictionary that is able to help translate text immediately to your desired language, it is available throughout the user experience and we find that the translation to Chinese quite accurate. There are about 40 languages to choose from and users will definitely find this feature handy especially if you are stuck with language. Of course, we wished ASUS would allow us to switch translation languages with just a button or swipe instead of going into the Instant Dictionary app every time.

App Locker

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Everyone should love this as a standard feature in Android phones unfortunately you will either have to root the device or purchase an app to support locking apps on your device. Applocker works perfectly when activated, it requires user to enter the password when an app is locked. Additionally, it also supports locking files and folders in your storage. One thing we just hate to see is the icon on the status bar which will obviously tell people that App Locker is active, no stealth at all.

App Backup

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Another app that can only be purchased or requires root if you want it, App Backup supports backing up apps and their data so you don’t need to lost your game save data if you were to send your Fonepad for repair or performing a system refresh. It works perfectly.

ASUS Splendid

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Those who use ASUS laptops should know this feature in tuning the display. We find this a useful tool especially watching movies on the Fonepad, as we can tune the contrast and saturation of the display to our expectations.

ASUS Studio

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We seriously wished that this is the default Gallery app, ASUS studio arranges your photo in an iPhoto method, which we really love to use as it also provides some nice features for editing the picture.

MyPainter

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If you love drawing or your kids want to have fun, MyPainter is a nice app to have in here as it has lots of templates and brushes.

So there you go, lots of useful apps in the Fonepad that you don’t feel like removing them, trust us, you will want to use them.

Multimedia Capability

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The ASUS Fonepad is no slouch in terms of video playback, the Fonepad is able to support video playback up to 1080p resolution without any issues. Road warriors would love to know that the Fonepad also supports USB OTG (on-the-go), a great feature on the Fonepad as users will be able to carry lots of contents with them in a USB pen drive instead of relying microSD storage.

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ASUS includes AudioWizard, which helps enhance the listening experience on the Fonepad and is effective throughout the whole user experience. Sadly, AudioWizard doesn’t create much differenceScreenshots_20130927_013824in our listening experience except a little better in surround sound, and it is not supported when headphones are plugged in which we find it an irony as this should not be happening if ASUS intends to have a consistent audio listening experience throughout the usage of the Fonepad.

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Camera

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Camera performance on the Fonepad is pretty disappointing, we wish ASUS could have included at least a 5 Megapixel sensor on the back as 3 Megapixels is slightly on the low side in today’s standard, pictures lacked detail with washed out colors, check out the sample shots below.

Performance, Benchmarks, Battery Life

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Single core processor – Yes, a single core processor, an x86 chip with Intel’s HyperThreading technology. The Atom processor on the Fonepad demonstrates better real world performance than entry level dual-core processors and we have to give credits to Intel for this, application launch times is quite decent and we don’t face any lags in an application, web browsing performance is also surprisingly smooth. There will be a few instances of refresh in which the system will attempt to free up memory at times and recovery of speed is pretty fast. Gaming is fine but we are not able to get smooth frame rates in many games, the performance of the PowerVR SGX540 GPU seems to be limited by the Atom processor. Therefore, we have to conclude over here that the Intel Atom processor is good at application processing, not a gaming CPU, which fits the Fonepad as a productivity device.

In Benchmarks, the ASUS Fonepad scores 9185 and 2789 points in Antutu and Quadrant respectively, pretty much a single core performance but trust us, performance isn’t really that bad on the Fonepad.

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Battery life is reasonable, lasting up to one day of usage based on light to mid heavy usage such as receiving IMs via HSPA+, streaming a few Spotify songs, web browsing, light gaming, and five phone calls.

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Verdict

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We at KLGadgetGuy always love gadgets that is given to us for review, including the ASUS Fonepad, it is capable, reliable and possesses a great ASUS design. ASUS has definitely taken a brave attempt on releasing a phablet product category and using Intel’s first mobile chip on it, fortunately the Intel chip doesn’t disappoint us in executing most tasks. Intel has taught us that you don’t necessarily need that much of cores to make a device usable with its HyperThreading technology. The ASUS Fonepad is priced at RM849, a reasonable price tag for its grade if you are not particular about performance and just want a 7 inch Android experience with phone call functionality. Here’s a quick summary of the good and bad.

The Good

+ Great build quality and design

+ Surprisingly good application performance for a single core processor

+ Good call quality via earpiece and with dual cancellation microphones

+ Reasonable battery life

+ IPS Display

+ ASUS Apps

+ Great multimedia capability and USB OTG

The Bad

– Screen is prone to scratches and gets dirt easily

– Poor camera performance

– Audio performance leaves much to be desired

– Poor gaming performance

We rate the ASUS Fonepad at 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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