Asus FonePad review

Reviews Paul Briden 19:15, 29 Apr 2013

We review Asus' FonePad, a tablet which thinks it's a phone and looks good while doing it

Rating: 
3.5
Typical Price: 
£179.99
Pros: 
Excellent build quality, Useful 3G connectivity, Good storage, Reasonable performance overall
Cons: 
Serious Wi-Fi problems, Some performance hiccups, Display shininess
Verdict: 
A really fantastic budget tablet offering let down by a few key problems

The Asus FonePad is a curious device. It's a 7-inch tablet, much like the Nexus 7 Asus made for Google as a standalone tablet, but this slate can also make calls and use 3G.

The retail price is competitive as it sells for £179.99 SIM-free.

Asus FonePad review: Design

It’s generally pretty hard to fault Asus’ approach when it comes to design and aesthetics. The company has a particular flair for making good-looking devices and a penchant for working with aluminium.

The FonePad, like other Asus products, is thin, lightweight, well-balanced and sports flattering proportions. There are immediate comparisons to be drawn with the Nexus 7, the tablet Asus built on Google’s behalf. Indeed, in terms of scale the FonePad has exactly the same measurements as Google’s own 7-inch device, but the execution is very different.

Instead of a textured rubber back panel, Asus’ FonePad features a smooth aluminium finish which gives a much more rewarding and premium feel in the hand. It’s a solid piece of kit and there’s no give or flexing to the bodywork.

Because the tablet doubles up as a smartphone, Asus has gone for a standard microUSB charging and data port at the base of the device, rather than anything proprietary. This is useful and it also opens up the use of docking stations, if you’re that way inclined. The 3.5mm headphone jack is also on the bottom, while at the top is a contrasting and slightly rubbery panel housing the micro-SIM and microSD cards.

This can be removed by pushing with both thumbs – it’s a bit tricky at first but once you get the hang of it there are no problems. At the very least it’s been made quite secure and you don’t need to worry about the cover popping off in your bag or anything like that.

One of our few gripes with the build is the positioning of the power key and volume rocker towards the top of the left-hand edge. We say edge, but bear in mind the device doesn’t really have edges as the back panel curves straight into the front, so Asus has done the only thing it really could under the circumstances and placed the buttons on the curve at a slight angle. We found these were not particularly easy to access or use, which is a shame. The feedback is rather nice though.

In terms of portability, remembering that this is supposed to be your phone as well as your tablet, it’ll fit in a jeans back pocket (although it’ll stick out a bit) or the inside pocket of a coat/jacket, but there's no chance fitting it inside trouser pockets - you might even find a bag is the most convenient way to carry it.

Asus FonePad

On the handling front, as a tablet it’s fine, but for phone use things are quite bizarre. It’s not unmanageable, but we found ourselves rejecting calls a couple of times just because we were amongst friends and didn’t want to put the massive slab up to our face. Perhaps that says more about us than the Fonepad, who knows, but regardless it’s a factor.

Our main use for calls involved using the speakerphone at home, away from prying eyes. Admittedly, we can conceive of it working well with hands-free kits and headsets if you’re someone who uses such things, but that’s not something we’re in the habit of doing and it presented us with too much hassle for normal use.

Specifications

Length 196.4mm
Width 120.1mm
Thickness 10.4mm
Weight 340g
Screen Colours 16 million
Screen Size 7-inches
UK Launch April 2013
Phone Style Tablet
Typical Price £179.99
Website http://uk.asus.com/Tablet/Fonepad/ASUS_Fonepad/
Designer Lens No
Camera Resolution 1.2-megapixels (front-facing only)
Video Resolution 720p
Flash No
Music Formats MP3/WAV/eAAC+
Music Player Yes
Song Storage Yes
Speaker Yes
Radio No

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