ASUS announced its Fonepad at this year’s Mobile World Congress as a 7-inch tablet which can also be used to make phone calls due to its 3G voice and data capabilities, although we’d certainly question the sanity of anyone who would hold a 7-inch tablet up to their ear on a regular basis.
Whether or not you actually use its 3G to make phone calls, the Fonepad looks like it’s a solid 7-inch tablet on paper as it features an HD screen which supports a resolution of 1280 x 800 with an IPS panel, a 1.2GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage with microSD support and a 4270mAh battery. There aren’t many Android devices that are using Intel processors, which means the Fonepad could very well be a pioneer paving the way for future Android devices to consider Intel inside their devices, or a dud that should have used NVIDIA or Qualcomm. That’s exactly what we’re going to find out in our review of the ASUS Fonepad, so without further ado, let’s get right into it.
Using a tablet can differ from person to person, so I’d like to take a moment before I get into this review to let you know how I tend to use tablets in my everyday life. When using a tablet, I tend to consume a lot more than I produce as I tend to browse websites, read stories and partake in Reddit on a regular basis.
When I’m not consuming on a tablet, I’m chatting with friends and family on Google Hangouts, doing some light emailing, and sharing some things on various social media sites such as Twitter, Facbook and Google+.
I also find watching videos on a tablet to be a worthwhile experience if I happen to be traveling or I’m feeling too lazy to watch something on TV. I can spend hours watching YouTube videos on tablets.
ASUS FonePad Specs
- Display Size: 7”
- Display Resolution: 1280 × 800
- Display Type: IPS Display
- Processor: 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z4220 single-core processor
- RAM: 1GB of RAM
- Storage: 16GB of internal storage
- MicroSD: Yes > up to 32GB
- Battery Capacity:4270mAh
- Rear-Facing Camera: 3MP
- Front-Facing Camera: 1.2MP
- Weight: 340g
- Dimensions: 196.4 x 120.1 x 10.4mm
The ASUS Fonepad provides a minimalist design as the tablet has no face buttons whatsoever, and the only physical buttons you’ll find are the device’s power button and volume rocker, located on the left side. After years of using multiple mobile devices, I had to retrain my brain to access these buttons with my index finger, rather than my thumb since the majority of devices I’ve used have had their buttons located on the right side.
The front of the ASUS Fonepad features a black bezel around its 7-inch screen. The bezel looks to be around ½ an inch on the sides of the screen while above and below looks to have a 1-inch bezel. The bottom bezel has the ASUS logo sitting in the middle, while the top bezel is where the Fonepad’s 1.3MP front-facing camera and its speaker for making phone calls.
The back of the Fonepad is where you’ll find its 3MP camera sitting in the middle towards the top of the tablet. The majority of the Fonepad’s rear is covered in brushed aluminum which gives it a nice premium feel, while a small portion of the top area looks to be a rubberized material which is a bit darker gray. Underneath the gray rubber area is where you’ll be able to access the Fonepad’s microSD slot and SIM card slot, although actually opening it could be a bit of a challenge. The lower-right side of the bottom of the Fonepad is where the device’s single speaker is located.
The bottom side of the Fonepad is where the device’s microUSB port and 3.5mm headphone jack are located.
The ASUS Fonepad features a 7-inch IPS display that has a resolution of 1280 x 800 at 216 PPI, which seems to be the standard display type for tablets this size. The Fonepad’s display doesn’t provide a resolution or experience that blew our socks off, but it is able to produce some nice, vivid images when looking at high-resolution pictures or videos.
Including IPS into the Fonepad’s display means you’ll be able to view whatever is on the screen at nearly all angles. In our real-world testing, we noticed the image continued to be visible at extreme angles, all the way up to when the Fonepad was being held nearly completely at its side.
ASUS included an app on the Fonepad called ASUS Splendid which allows you to tweak its display a bit to help improve how it performs, such as its color temperature, hue, saturation and a Vivid Mode. When Vivid Mode is activated, the screen brightens greatly, which makes images pop a bit more.
ASUS Custom Features
The ASUS Fonepad comes with a suite of applications that help improve the overall experience you’ll have with the 7-inch tablet. We briefly touched on ASUS Splendid in our Display section of this review, but we think the additional applications included in the Fonepad are worth covering in our review.
The ASUS Fonepad features an app called BuddyBuzz, which brings your Facebook, Twitter and Plurk feeds into one single location. Not only can you see what people you’re following on these social networks are up to, but you can also send out updates through the app itself. We’re not entirely sure why Plurk was included in the collection of social networks BuddyBuzz would feature, but at least it’s able to support Facebook and Twitter, which are two of the biggest social networks currently. The app can also be called up to one of the Fonepad’s home screens as a widget, making it easier to keep up with social network feeds at a glance.
Storing your data on a cloud service is something we’re sure many of you are familiar with as services like Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Drive have gained in popularity over the years. ASUS Fonepad owners are able to use the company’s own cloud storage service called WebStorage, which is made available on the tablet right out of the box. WebStore gives its users 5GB of free storage to start with, while also making additional storage options available for a yearly and bi-yearly fee.
Photo albums seem to be quite popular these days as it’s now easier than ever to collect photos from a recent trip into a single photobook. ASUS Story is the company’s own photobook application that not only allows you to compile images into a number of photo albums, but the application also gives you a number of editing options that allow you to manipulate each image, a page’s layout and even add text and a Google Map image. Once the photo album is complete, you can sit back and swipe through its virtual pages and reminisce with ease.
AudioWizard & Power Saver
Within a folder called ASUS Wizard, you’ll find two applications which can certainly help you make the most out of your Fonepad: AudioWizard and Power Saver. AudioWizard is an equalizer program which allows you to automatically set what kind of audio setting you’ll need depending on the activity. The application has multiple modes that helps the Fonepad’s singular speaker sound the best it can while you play games, watch videos or listen to music.
Power Saver, on the other hand, helps you manage the Fonepad’s battery through three settings: ultra-saving mode, optimized mode, and customized mode. The ultra-saving mode maximizes the Fonepad’s battery life by disconnecting its network connection when it becomes inactive, while optimized mode helps extend the battery life, but will always keep the tablet’s network connection active. The customized mode lets you pick and choose what kind of power mode you want the Fonepad to run in based on what you’re doing, as well as the screen’s brightness.
Even though the ASUS Fonepad runs on a single-core Intel Atom processor, it’s still powerful enough to allow the tablet to be able to multitask through floating applications. Floating apps can be accessed at any time through a special menu button that will display a variety of floating apps that can be accessed such as a browser, e-mail or a calculator. You can edit what apps are available in the floating apps section by adding or removing certain applications, but not all apps that run on the Fonepad can be used as a floating app, so your dreams of playing Candy Crush in the middle of a Skype call will just have to continue being a dream.
Virtual Keyboard (good): Using a tablet means you’re probably going to type on it every so often when you’re not consuming videos, reading stories or checking your emails. The keyboard featured on the Fonepad is an ASUS-typical keyboard which offers a slight visual tweak to the stock Android 4.1 keyboard. The top row of the keyboard features numbers as well as the typical secondary buttons found on a regular keyboard, although accessing them requires you to hold down the key for one second in order to select it. Holding down the shift key in order to access the secondary keys would have made more sense, especially since holding down a key could kill your typing speed, especially if you’re planning on using a lot of exclamation points in your text. In that case, a second page for symbols is made available, although considering one symbol is used during a sentence, we don’t see many people accessing this part of the keyboard often.
SuperNote Lite (good): Note taking is something most tablet users do with their device, which is why ASUS decided to include a lite version of SuperNote with its Fonepad. SuperNote allows you to write on a number of virtual pages such as a blank sheet of paper, paper with lines and grids. Writing with your finger within SuperNote had a slight delay and the software picked up my writing way too quickly for me to even get my full sentence out before it automatically converted it into the notebook. Aside from that minor annoyance, SuperNote was able to pick up my writing pretty accurately, making it a nice addition to the Fonepad’s suite of included applications.
Facebook (poor): We’ve said it before in our reviews of Android tablets, but we aren’t fans of the Facebook application available for tabs considering it’s just an oversized version of its smartphone application. As a result, Facebook never makes full use of the additional screen size an Android tablet features, with the Fonepad included. Sure – it has a 7-inch display so it isn’t as obvious, but we still feel Facebook could, and should, bring its Facebook for iPad software over to Android in order to make better use of the screen size on Android tablets.
Google Maps (excellent): There really is no better mapping application around than Google Maps. Since the Fonepad has the capability of supporting 3G data and voice service, you can definitely use Google Maps while you’re on the go, that is, as long as you have a SIM card the Fonepad supports. Google Maps also allows you to download a map so you can use the software offline, which makes it easier to be able to throw your Fonepad into a bag and pull up directions if you ever need them.
Video Playback (good): The Fonepad’s screen was able to provide some nice visuals when watching videos, but for some reason, locally stored videos didn’t want to play in landscape mode, no matter how much twisting and turning I did. I decided to turn to YouTube, which allowed me to view videos in landscape mode, and high-quality videos looked pretty good on the Fonepad’s screen.
Gaming (good): The Fonepad doesn’t necessarily have mind-blowing specs, but it was able to play a somewhat graphic intensive game like Smash Cops while being able to breeze through Candy Crush Saga. We noiced with Smash Cops, the game would take some time in order to load, resulting in a “this application isn’t responding” message, but it was still able to run. Keep that in mind if you’re considering on doing any serious gaming on the Fonepad.
Speaker Quality (very good): Even though there’s only one speaker available on the Fonepad, it can produce some nice sounds, especially when combined with ASUS’s AudioWizard app. Having the AudioWizard turned off doesn’t produce as clear a sound, but when it’s used with the proper activity, such as listening to music, watching a video or playing a game, it improves the sound quality greatly.
Digital Imaging (poor)
ASUS included a 3MP rear-facing camera on the Fonepad, which we feel is extremely low these days considering a number of low-end smartphones feature a 5MP camera. Since the Fonepad is a 7-inch tablet, it’s going to be more portable than most tablets, which we feel it should have at least a somewhat decent camera on it since you’re going to be carrying it around more often than not. In addition to its 3MP rear-facing camera, there’s also a 1.3MP front-facing camera, although for the purpose of our review, we’ll be focusing on the rear-facing camera.
Camera Application (average): With a 3MP rear-facing camera, we didn’t expect ASUS to provide an amazing camera software experience, and that’s exactly what we got as you’ll be able to perform the usual laundry list of changing your photo’s size, mode, effects, exposure, white balance, and additional camera settings. A digital zoom is available in the Fonepad’s camera software, but since it’s equipped with only a 3MP camera, we highly recommend you try your best not to use the digital zoom.
Photo and Video Quality (poor)
Our sample image taken with the ASUS Fonepad was taken on an overcast day, which probably made the image look worse than it probably will look on a sunny day. But when you compare the image with what the iPhone 5 was able to produce, you’ll see how low quality the Fonepad’s camera really is as colors look completely washed out and there’s a lot of noise in the image as well.
The video quality of the Fonepad wasn’t any better as not only were the colors in the video washed out, but it also had difficulty keeping its camera focused. As you’ll see in the sample video I took, the majority of the time recording my video was spent out of focus, which I was able to fix towards the end of the video.
The ASUS Fonepad features a 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z4220 single-core processor and 1GB of RAM, which aren’t really impressive specs. Considering ASUS is selling the Fonepad for $249, we can see why they had to skimp on some specs in order to offer a budget-friendly 7-inch Android tablet. With that said, let’s see how the Fonepad performed in our performance tests.
Antutu 3.x is an overall system performance benchmark which takes into account everything the Android device has to offer, including its CPU, GPU, and storage. The majority of Android devices tend to fall into a comparable performance footprint, which means unless you need to do something very specific with your device, like gaming, then you can expect a similar performance across the board.
In our Antutu benchmark, the ASUS Fonepad scored an 8351 which makes it an underpowered Android tablet by today’s standards. We’ve seen current-generation Android smartphones with double, and even triple the scores of what the Fonepad delivered (that’s also because Antutu scales very well with more cores). Again, ASUS created the Fonepad as an Android device aimed at first-time tablet owners or budget-minded consumers, so you shouldn’t go into it expecting some mind-blowing benchmarks.
GLBenchmark 2.7, offscreen 1080p: This benchmark was designed to stress the Android device’s graphics processor by running a game-like demo. Unfortunately, when we attempted to run the benchmark, we were met with “out of memory” and “out of video memory” messages. Being unable to run this benchmark leads us to the conclusion you shouldn’t expect a good experience when it comes to graphic-intense applications, such as games, with the Fonepad.
“Perceived Performance”: As telling as benchmarks are, we feel there’s value in a device’s perceived performance as there’s nothing more important than how you feel when you’re using a device. In terms of perceived performance, the Fonepad was very responsive when jumping from application to application as I was able to fire up Facebook, click on a video link to have it open in YouTube and have the video play after it was done buffering in just a few seconds. Clicking on a notification of an incoming email, then launching Gmail was also quick.
Moderate usage (excellent!): I used the Fonepad moderately throughout my day to check up on Facebook updates, respond to a few emails and instant messages. I also briefly viewed a YouTube video, and after an hour of moderate use, I noticed only a 5% drop in the Fonepad’s battery life. This means if you use the tablet off and on, you can expect around 20 hours of battery life from the Fonepad, although this rate can certainly fluctuate depending on what you spend your “moderate use” doing.
Intense usage (great): For our intense usage test, we streamed a HD YouTube video for an hour with the Fonepad’s display set at 50% of its full brightness, which resulted in a 12% drop in the tablet’s battery. This means you should expect a little over 8 hours of battery life when streaming an HD video to the Fonepad.
Charging time (excellent!): Charging the ASUS Fonepad will take no time at all as within a one-hour period, we were able to charge the tablet from 15% to 70%, which is a 55% increase. This means you’ll be able to charge the Fonepad from 0% to its fully charged state in a little under 2 hours. Considering the Fonepad features a 4270mAh battery, this is a crazy-fast rate.
Even though the Fonepad is able to support 3G calls and data, I only found myself briefly using the feature since I knew I could do so with this Android tablet. I think it’s safe to say a large majority of people will feel more comfortable making calls on their cell phone rather than having to fumble with throwing a SIM card into the Fonepad, and then holding a 7-inch tablet up to their ear for as long as they need for their call.
Putting this gimmick aside, the Fonepad is certainly a capable budget-friendly Android tablet as it performs adequately across all of our tests, and even exceeding our expectations in its battery and entertainment performance as well as the ASUS-specific applications thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, there are better 7-inch tablets on the market and for cheaper, such as the Nexus 7. If you for some reason need a tablet that can double as a phone, then your only choice right now is the ASUS Fonepad. But if you’re just looking for an Android tablet that costs below $300, we think you should take a look at the Nexus 7, Galaxy Note 8 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD as they can offer you a much better experience than the Fonepad can.