Crisp, bright, colourful display; Connecting to tablet dock is simple and offers extra battery life; decent 13-megapixel snapper with plenty of features.
Rather dear; Wobbly back when handset is docked; back panel is plasticky.
The Asus Padfone 2 proves to be a powerful smartphone with plenty of desirable features, as well as a useful tablet dock when you want a bigger screen and extra battery life.
The Asus’ Padfone 2 has a dual personality. One minute it looks like your average mobile, the next, you can team it with its own special ‘station’ dock and you’ve got a 10in tablet, with the added bonus of 3G/4G connectivity.
Back to black
A first glance at the Padfone 2 and you’ll see a business-like black chunk of handset that features the usual Asus concentric circles on its reverse and a silver edge. Unlike the Asus Zenbook laptops, which we love, the phone does not have a metal back panel. Despite this it still feels quite solid and weighs a suitably hefty 135g.
You can’t prise off the back panel – instead there’s a pin-hole SIM card slot on the top of the handset and the power and volume keys sit on the right edge. At the bottom of the handset is an odd proprietary USB port into which you can plug your usual Micro USB cables, although we found them rather wobbly. It’s best to use the funky custom USB cable provided by Asus.
The docking station is your average tablet with a black border (it looks rather like the Asus Transformer Prime). Team it with the phone and weight-wise you’re looking at something similar to the iPad. It has a rubber back that helps you to keep a firm grip on it. We only have one grumble – and that’s that when they’re joined, the phone/tablet combination has an uneven back, so if you place it on a table it wobbles rather – you’ll need to hold it to use it successfully.
However, the tablet and phone connect easily and quickly – the tablet fires up as soon as you connect them – and the phone sits safely inside the dock without any fear of falling out.
Two become one
Once the Padfone 2 and the dock are connected you have several benefits to enjoy. First and most obvious you get a bigger display for playing games, watching films and viewing and editing snaps. You can also use the 3G/4G connectivity of the phone to get on the internet – great for streaming TV and movies.
Battery life is extended thanks to the station’s built-in battery – Asus say you’ll get 36 hours of life out of the phone and station together.
On the handset itself we managed to stream video for a decent seven hours – but once it was connected to the station we got nearly a day’s worth of streaming. Even with heavy use with the display brightness cranked up we still got a day of battery life – the power save mode helps with this.
So what happens if the phone and station are connected and you get an incoming call? The Station interrupts whatever you’re doing and lets you choose to reject, answer or reply using a text message. You’ll want to use a headset to reply to calls – otherwise you’ll have to lift the rear of the tablet up to your face to speak into the mic. Or just pull the handset out of the dock and use the handset as normal.
The only pity is that the dock doesn't work on its own – we’d have liked to see it becoming a simple web browser or digital photo frame. But then, as we always have our phones with us, it’s probably not really an issue.
The Padfone 2 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which has been given some Asus tweaks and looks good. There are custom widgets for weather/clock, battery status and so on – all of them can be re-sized. There is quite a lot of bloatware included but we still found we had usable storage adding up to 25GB – and to be fair it’s easy to delete anything you don’t want. The notification bar has benefited from some nice tweaks – there a quick button to change settings such as Wi-Fi, and a sliding brightness bar.
Under the hood a quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm chip ensures the Padfone 2 runs smoothly even if you’re firing up some demanding apps, we did see one browser crash – but it seemed to be a one-off. LTE support and NFC ensure it’s future proof.
Asus has included an onscreen keyboard that is more complicated than the usual Android one. There’s a full row for numbers and the most used punctuation. It does mean some of the keys are somewhat cramped though.
The keyboard is clever too – start typing in the web address field and .com and @ buttons appear. The keyboard can be exchanged for a handwriting recognition pad – which works well – or your choice of Android board.
On the back of the handset sits a 13-megapixel snapper. To take a shot almost instantly just hit the volume button on either the phone or tablet. Daytime shots proved sharp with good colour reproduction – even when we looked at them on a large screen. Auto-focus works well, although our macros pictures suffered from some blur. In low light our snaps proved too dark to be used, but there is a good flash that manages to light up a small room, without overexposure.
There are lots of manual options for tweaking, along with burst shot and panorama mode. A front-facer takes crisp self-portraits. The photos can be edited and you can add in some fun adjustments should you wish. It’s easier to edit pictures using the station than on a phone – and you don’t have to fiddle about with transferring or cables. You just plug and play.
Pleasure and business
The Padfone 2 is a great business device but is also good for entertainment. The display measures 4.7 inches and is bright enough to withstand glare and has great viewing angles. Games, websites and films look great on the 1280 x 720 resolution screen – zoom in on a website and you’ll still be able to read small text. The extra thin glass also makes it look like the screen is right on the surface.
The Asus Padfone 2 is rather dear at £599, but if you were planning on buying a tablet and phone, you’d probably spend about the same. The Padfone 2 is a great smartphone and the addition of the Station dock gives you the benefit of being able to view films and surf the net on a bigger screen – and an extended battery life.
|Type of device||Smartphone|
|Operating System||Android 4.1 Jelly Bean|
|Dimensions||138 x 69 x 9mm|
|Weight||135g (514g with tablet)|
|Processor speed||1.5GHz quad-core|
|Screen size||4.7 inches|
|Resolution||1280 x 720|
|Display type||16 million colours|
|Internal storage||25GB usable|
|Memory card slot||Yes|
|Secondary camera||13 megapixels|
|Special camera features||Flash|
|FM Radio description|
|Handsfree speaker phone||Yes|
|What's in the box||Charger, Station dock|
|Battery life multimedia|
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