Asus Padfone released & reviewed

Image credit: The Verge

The Asus Padfone has finally been released for sale in Taiwan, four months after its big reveal at the Mobile World Congress.

The transforming mobile computing device is really quite weird - it starts out as a smartphone, but it can be fitted into a number of different modular accessories that can radically transform its abilities. The idea is that you’ll use the Padfone in different
forms depending on your needs.

The main accessory is a tablet with a compartment for the Padfone. Slide in the phone, and the tablet comes to life - the Android operating system switches from phone to tablet mode, keeping all of your apps and settings but rearranging the UI to suit the  larger screen. The process takes only a second or two, although some apps won’t like the change and will have to be restarted. The tablet also includes an extra 6600 mAh battery, which extends the battery life considerably. There are other accessories available too, although these will drive up the price of the unit considerably.

One is a keyboard dock, essentially the same as the one provided with the Transformer Prime. This makes the unit into almost a laptop and is ideal for writing or working for longer periods, as the dock includes yet another battery.

Another is a stylus. It looks simple enough and works as you’d expect to make drawing and taking notes on the screen much easier, but it has a secret power: it doubles as a Bluetooth headset. This means instead of taking phone calls with a tablet to your face, you can take calls with a stylus on your face. An improvement, but still weird as heck.

Finally, we’ve got an accessory that was only recently unveiled at Computex this week - a 24″ monitor that includes a dock for the Padfone. The monitor isn’t touch enabled, so it’s not really that different than plugging a tablet into any other monitor via HDMI. Still, it’s a cool addition and really underscores the modularity that Asus have been pushing with the Padfone.

So that’s all of the accessories available - but how does the Padfone stack up? Well, as a phone itself it’s powerful but not bleeding-edge - there’s a Snapdragon S4 dual core CPU running at 1.5 GHz and a 4.3″ qHD display. In phone mode it’s as slick as you like running Android 4.0, but in tablet mode there’s more stutter and lag. Due to the modular design, both the tablet and the phone number are a fair bit chunkier than is normal, but it’s still lighter than non-Ultrabook laptops.

Ultimately, it’s hard to recommend the Padfone as it stands now. This definetely seems like the future of mobile, but the transition between phone and tablet isn’t as seamless as it could be and the cost of the whole kit and kaboodle is pretty monstrously high - almost $1000 for the phone, tablet, stylus and dock.

I hope that we see a Padfone 2, because it really feels that this concept is  very close to being realised - it just isn’t here yet.

In the mean time, you’re probably better off going with a new iPad with some iPad accessories if you desire a keyboard, stylus or Bluetooth headset - you’ll save a bit of money and get a much more convincing tablet experience.

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William Judd has written 51 articles on this blog.

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