Asus has a good reputation in the Android tablet market, leading the charge on both the first and second generation Nexus 7 tablets. Its tablet portfolio is vast, but it the ambitious company also had the rather intriguing and bizarre idea of powering a tablet with your smartphone, giving birth to the Padfone family.
The latest entry into the phone/tablet hybrid is the Padfone X, which is set to launch on AT&T and will be available for pre-order on June 6th for $199.
I got to spend some time with the Padfone X recently, and these are my initial impressions.
My, what a pretty screen you have
The Padfone would be nothing without the brains of the operation: the smartphone. With all the makings of a flagship smartphone, the Padfone is a solid option as a standalone device.
With a 5-inch 1080p HD display that's nice and bright, as well as a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, the performance on the Padfone is buttery smooth, and from the initial testing, performance isn't affected when docked into the tablet dock. Rounding out the specs, the Padfone rocks a 2,300 mAh battery, 2GB RAM, 13 megapixel camera, and 2 megapixel front-facing camera.
The body of the Padfone is on the clunky side. It's a bit too thick and wide to be held comfortably, with bezels that are just slightly larger to what we're used to seeing on a high-end smartphone. Its design is simple and to the point, but Asus luckily did some nice things with detail work. A brushed metal strip lines the sides, giving a premium look and giving way to the black plastic battery cover.
Great camera so far
In my short time with the Padfone, I've managed to take some pretty nice photos with the 13 megapixel camera, though more testing will be needed to get a final verdict. Autofocus was snappy, and pictures generally come out pretty crisp.
Asus doesn't skimp on the features of the Padfone's shooter, and you'll find the standard assortment of camera modes, like Beautification, HDR, Smart remove, Low light, Night, and All smiles.
The camera also comes with a nice helping of advanced photo and video tweaks for the tinkerers out there. ISO, white balance, exposure value are all present if you want to dive deep into the settings of the camera.
A serving of simplicity
Asus' software skin that runs on top of Android 4.4 KitKat is very toned down, making it more approachable than some custom user interfaces. Outside of just a few tweaks to the app drawer and home screen panels, Asus has done little to differentiate itself from stock Android.
Pull down the notification panel, and you'll also be reminded of something you've seen before, but it's not stock Android. It's the Samsung Galaxy S5. The flat circle motif is seemingly catching on like a plague, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't like it.
Presto chango, you now have a tablet
Like the name suggests, docking the Padfone X to its companion tablet device gives you a 9-inch tablet at your disposal anytime you want. That said, the Padfone station isn't just a skeleton and has a few nifty features of its own.
Not only does Padfone station have a bumped-up screen resolution of 1920 x 1200, it also sports its own 4,990 mAh battery that will charge the phone's battery while it's in place. It also supports wireless charging as an added bonus.
Unfortunately, there's nothing elegant about the setup. The weight of the two when connected is definitely on the hefty side. Another annoyance is that the tablet doesn't sit flush against a surface, leaving it raised off a table, and wobbly.
The Padfone X may well be one of the most interesting devices on the market today, but whether or not it really catches on remains to be seen. Stay tuned for the full review after AT&T's latest hybrid is put through its paces.