We had the opportunity to spend some time with the ASUS FonePad 7-inch tablet phone, and here are our first impressions: The build quality feels solid, and the metallic body doesn’t weigh much. It didn’t feel ultra-light like an iPad mini, but it did feel better than holding a Google Nexus 7, which is the Android reference in the 7-inch space. I did not have both units on me to do a side by side comparison, but from the front, the display real estate is very much comparable, but the FonePad feels thinner.

From the front, it’s pretty much all-glass, which gives it  classic tablet/smartphone aspect. The phone speaker at the top is probably what gives away that fact it is a cellphone as well. At the bottom, you can find the micro-USB port, and a standard 3.5mm audio port next to it. The right side is completely clean and there no buttons on that side, at all: the Power button and the volume controls are on the left side of the device.

The back has a metallic finish and the Intel branding is quite prominent in the lower-back. Given that Intel has started talking about an upcoming ASUS tablet yesterday, it looks like they may have some stake in this device, otherwise, the Intel logo would not be so prominent in the back. The question is whether Intel subsidizes the FonePad or not, but ASUS has demonstrated its ability to build affordable and profitable devices before, so some financial help from Intel is probably not a requirement to reach the $249 price.

Talking about the Intel processor, some worry that a single-core may be too slow, but our experience with Intel’s Medfield chip has shown that it is often faster than other dual-core chips, so I wouldn’t worry about performance (especially in the $249 class). Also, single-core performance is very important because every single application benefits from it. Multi-core performance requires applications to be written for multi-threading, if possible at all.

I’m very impressed by the quality/price ratio of this device. I know that not everyone wants to use the voice capabilities, but just the data aspect of this 7″ tablet is interesting and the voice is like… a bonus. This is the European model, and I’ve been told that it’s normal that it does not feature a camera in the back. Other variants might.

In terms of usage model, I would recommend using a Bluetooth headset, since I find holding it with one hand to be possible, but not very comfortable. That said, I don’t call often (if at all), so I probably would not mind holding it for 5mns here and there. The 7-inch format is the most productive when it comes to thumb-typing, so heavy texters would be pretty happy with a device such as this one.

The only real downside that have would have with my personal usage is the fact that it’s not pocketable in my pocket pants (I easily carry a Galaxy Note 2 in my jeans pants). It may fit in a vest pocket, although I would double-check that too. In the end, and with the price in mind, I find the ASUS FonePad to be a really good tablet/phone, and while it may not be something for everyone, those who want that kind  of capabilities should seriously consider the ASUS option.

Specifications Highlights

7″ 1280×720 IPS Display
Intel Atom Z4220 single-core processor, 1GB of RAM
Android 4.1
16GB of internal storage
3G and HSPA+ wireless broadband
Glonass + GPS
196.4 x 120.1 x 10.4mm, 340g
9hrs of video playback
$249 or 219 Euros

Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Tablets. Read more about , and .

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