BARCELONA: TAIWANESE HARDWARE OUTFIT Asus announced the Fonepad on Monday at MWC along with its third generation Padfone, a 7in tablet that can make phone calls.
Following its announcement, we were confused, and questioned whether a 7in tablet should double up as a smartphone. However, we got our mitts on the Asus Fonepad on Tuesday, and the device might have convinced us otherwise.
The first thing that struck us about the Fonepad was its design, in particular its similarities to the Nexus 7 tablet built by Asus. From the front, you'd be forgiven for confusing the Fonepad for Google's tablet, since its glossy black bezel and dimensions are almost identical to those of the Nexus 7.
However, when you flip the device over the Asus Fonepad starts to show its uniqueness.
Unlike the plasticky Nexus 7, the Fonepad features a metallic back panel, which will be made available in both silver and gold hues. Although it's not quite as easy to grip as the textured back panel of the Google Nexus 7, it certainly delivers a more high-end feel, despite the tablet's budget price tag. Not to mention it looks great, especially the silvery hued model.
A 7in 1280x800 screen sits within this metallic casing, and for us this is one of the device's highlights. The IPS screen technology that Asus has used means that the device offers excellent viewing angles, and text was legible even when we held the device under the bright MWC lights.
Not only that, the 7in multitouch display also delivers extremely vivid colours, and despite the similar screen specifications it easily outperforms the Nexus 7 display.
The Asus Fonepad is quite responsive too, thanks to the 1.2GHz Intel Atom processor under the bonnet. It''s not a fancy quad-core chip, but it certainly offers an all-around slick and fluid experience.
The latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is onboard too, which Asus has supplemented with its own custom software shell. However, unlike the user interface that you'll find on a Samsung or HTC device, Asus' skin is very stripped back, a feature that should appeal to those who prefer a vanilla Android experience.
Of course, the most quirky feature Asus has added to the device is its ability to make calls. Much like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, you can make calls straight from the device - a feature that will confuse some, including us. However, when we used the Fonepad's dialpad we immediately recognised the the thought process behind it. Sure, we wouldn't walk around London with a 7in tablet pressed against our face, but the device boasts a built-in speakerphone and can be used with headphones.
There's also the ability to make video calls, thanks to the Fonepad's front-facing camera. This has a 1.2MP sensor, and while it doesn't produce high quality images, its good enough for video calling.
That's not all the Asus Fonepad has to offer. It also comes with 16GB of internal storage expandable to 32GB via microSD, alongside a large 4,270mAh battery. We'll be sure to give this a thorough testing in our full Asus Fonepad review.
Overall, our first impressions are good. However, we still have one problem - is it a smartphone or is it a tablet?
With the launch of the ZTE Grand Memo and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 at this year's MWC also, we're clearly seeing the thin line between the two products blurring. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ