Ever wondered what it would be like to use a 7-inch sized mobile phone? We pick up the Asus FonePad and take it for test drive to see how it fares in the practicality department.
Note: This review was based on the Intel Atom Z2460 variant of the Asus FonePad.
FonePad introduction: The complete Nexus 7?
When the Asus FonePad was first shown off at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, a number of features stood out. The Intel Atom processor, aluminum back casing and rear facing camera were some of the key differences that distinguished it from what would easily be mistaken for a Google Nexus 7, also an Asus creation in collaboration with Google. But of greatest intrigue would be the slate’s GSM voice calling capability, which is further highlighted by the presence of a voice speaker located above the display. In this review, we examine the practicality of using such an appreciably sized device as a mobile phone, and whether or not these increasingly common super-7” sized ‘phablet’ devices have a place in the market.
The FonePad: Specification rundown
The FonePad runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with Asus’s custom UI overlay that tries to keep things as stock as possible with minimal modifications — good news for vanilla Android lovers.
In terms of hardware, the tablet houses a 7-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel resolution IPS display, identical to the one used in the Nexus 7. Under the hood, a 1.6GHz hyper-threaded single core Intel Atom processor powers the device with 1GB of RAM. The slate is equipped with a 3.2 megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, both capable of 720p video capture. Storage-wise, the FonePad is available in 8/16/32GB storage options depending on your region. A micro-SD card slot has also been thrown in should you need additional storage – something I’m certain Nexus 7 owners would salivate over. Finally, you get your typical connectivity options like 3G HSPA+, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 — no LTE and NFC there. A beefy 4270mAh battery rounds off the phablet’s relatively modest spec sheet.
Hybrid devices: Convenient or comical?
When the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, the first super-7” sized tablet that offered GSM voice calling capabilities, made its debut last February, we marveled at how it would look like to hold such a large device up to one’s ear to make a phone call. We felt that doing so would simply be too impractical (and hideous) to ever go mainstream. We were also reminded of a similar situation – the addition of a rear-facing camera to the iPad 2 and how ridiculous it would look taking pictures with such a comparatively enormous device as opposed to conventional cameras or mobile phones. Therefore, to validate our point, we picked up the FonePad and used it ourselves. Here’s what we found out:
Thanks to its 16:9 aspect ratio, the tablet could fit in the palm of my hands pretty comfortably. However, do note that this reviewer does have slightly larger hands so it might be a stretch for people who don’t, especially lady users with typically smaller hands. As such, we were able hold the FonePad up to our ears to make phone calls just like we would with our regular mobile phones. But again, we think it looks kind of, odd.
In addition, by virtue of the FonePad being primarily a mobile phone, the issue of pocketability would instinctively spring to mind. While the device does fit into most pants and jeans pockets, it will protrude out quite ostensibly and cause a certain degree of discomfort when moving about with such a massive device in your pocket. So this will be another thing to consider before you decide to make that purchase.
Ultimately, whether or not the Asus FonePad — or any other super-7” sized phablet — is for you really boils down to a matter of preference and compromise. While the FonePad offers the convenience of having both tablet and phone experience in a single device, it does so at the expense of practicality, with it being less pocketable and awkward (and comical) to be seen making phone calls with. Of note, we also wonder why Asus elected not to include a wireless earpiece with the slate to save bashful users the blushes when making phone calls. Nonetheless, if none of the above issues deter you, the FonePad is a pretty decent offering in terms of performance and build quality with no glaring complaints, apart from perhaps the lack of LTE connectivity.