Many of us have both a smartphone and a tablet. We use our smartphones in our daily lives, but sometimes it make sense to use a tablet since it has a bigger display with more screen real estate. For some of us though, it’s not possible to afford both. For many users it’s either a phone, or a tablet. ASUS has an idea of how to solve that though, the PadFone. Over the past two weeks I’ve been using the ASUS PadFone Mini X. This combination brings a small 4.5 inch phone and a 7 inch tablet into one. The duo is exclusive to AT&T here in the US and for a pre-paid option, it’s a pretty decent option. Since this product includes both a phone and a tablet, I’ll be splitting some parts of this review to cover each part of the device.
- 4.5” Inch 854×480 Display (Phone)
- 7” Inch 1280×800 Display (Tablet Dock)
- Dual-Core Intel Atom Z2560 1.6 GHz Processor
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB Internal Storage (microSD up to 64GB)
- 5MP Rear Camera
- 2MP Front Camera (Phone)
- 1MP Front Camera (Tablet Dock)
- 2,060 mAh Battery (Phone)
- 2,200 mAh Battery (Tablet Dock)
The PadFone Concept
Before we get into this iteration of the PadFone, I want to spend a moment talking about the concept of a PadFone. It’s something many of us have thought of, and ASUS has brought it to reality. The entire PadFone lineup is built around the idea that your phone and tablet should be one, but you should be able to separate them when you need to. To accomplish this ASUS has built a tablet dock to fit a phone. All of the processing power is found inside the phone, but the tablet adds an extra battery and it’s one display. There are several PadFones on the market, but few come to the United States. The first PadFone X made it’s way here earlier this year and now the PadFone X Mini has followed as a lower cost and smaller option.
Since this is a budget device, the ASUS PadFone X Mini is definitely not a premium feeling device. There’s no metal to be found here, but that’s not really a bad thing. Instead we have a pretty nice feeling soft touch plastic. It comes in any color you like, as long as it’s black. The phone and tablet feel pretty much identical in the means of the materials used. They both feel pretty solid without the traditional annoyances of some other budget phones. The phone itself is very easy to hold in one hand. It’s refreshing to have a phone that can’t replace a tablet. It does however become a tablet. The phone slips into tablet dock with a pretty seamless experience. Everything fits snugly and works well. My only complaint when the two are together is the weight. The phone is docked on the top half of the tablet dock making it very top heavy when holding. It also made it pretty thick. This was especially noticeable compared to other small tablets. Taking the phone back out of the dock is a little harder than I’d hope, but at the same time it adds a sense of security that the phone simply will not come out of that dock without some force. To wrap up the hardware, it feels pretty good in the hand and everything is built well, but it’s a bit thicker and heavier than I’d prefer.
The display is a huge part of the PadFone X Mini as there are two to choose from. First let’s talk about the phone. We’re looking at a 4.5” inch 854×480 display with a pixel density of about 218ppi. That’s certainly not bad and to be completely honest I never once missed the fact that this wasn’t a 720p or even 1080p display. It’s an LCD panel using IPS+ technology which provides surprisingly good quality with decent color reproduction and viewing angles. The tablet’s display however is a 7” inch display with a much better 1280×800 resolution. That’s what we’re used to seeing in mid-range 7” tablets and it’s definitely a good resolution for that form factor. This display uses the same LCD IPS+ display which again results in decent color reproduction and viewing angles. Overall there’s not much to complain about when it comes to the display on this device(s). It’s definitely not amazing, but for the price, it’s pretty good.
ASUS quite obviously has to make quite a few under-the-hood changes to Android in order to get this whole concept off the ground. Their skin isn’t bad, but it’s definitely not great. Out of the box you’ll have Android 4.4.2 with ASUS’ skin on top. It definitely looks OK and would be pretty functional, but unfortunately this device lags just a bit too much to appreciate it and that’s my biggest gripe. Under the hood this device is powered by an Intel Atom processor which doesn’t mean anything bad at all. In fact this device is the first Intel powered LTE device to hit the States. Unfortunately though the fact that this device has a lot of work to do to get it to work like it does does not mix well with the single GB of RAM on board.
Most of the time doing anything more than just the most basic tasks takes noticeably longer than it does on other devices. It’s been proven in the past with devices like the Motorola Moto G that 1GB of RAM is plenty for Android, but when added with a skin and tons of under the hood changes, it’s simply not enough. I feel like this device would really benefit from the addition of more RAM. Talking more about the software however it definitely doesn’t look bad and has a lot of great functionality. Added features like “What’s Next” and added quick settings toggles are great additions, it’s just unfortunate this phone doesn’t have the power to run them reliably or quickly.
On the back of this phone we have a 5MP camera. While it’s not great, it’s not bad. When the price is a consideration this is definitely not the worst camera in the devices price class. Pictures are to put it in just one word, OK. Colors are decent, video is OK, and it’s really only when you zoom in that things look bad. It’s definitely a fine camera for posting to Facebook and Instagram, but I wouldn’t use it for much more. The front facing camera is a 2MP sensor on the phone and a 1MP sensor on the tablet dock. I used both during video calls (sorry, I’m not a selfie guy) and quality was again, OK. Below is a gallery of pictures taken outdoors with this phone.
Battery life on the ASUS PadFone X Mini is to put it plainly, OK. Inside the phone is a 2,060 mAh cell that gets through the day on light use. On more regular use you’ll need to plug in around 5PM. On a heavy day, you won’t last long at all. However there’s an upside. The tablet dock contains an additional 2,200 mAh battery which can not only charge the phone up when it’s not being used, but also give you some extra time on the tablet itself. In the end though I was never impressed with the battery on this device. If you pick one up, I’d plan on grabbing a spare charger or two for it as well.
The ASUS PadFone X Mini was an interesting device to spend some time with. At first I was intrigued just at the whole PadFone concept, but then the speed of the device kept me away for a bit. In the end though this is how I chose to look at it. This is an extremely good price for the amount of hardware you’re getting, but you better not planning on doing a lot with it. For only $199 without a contract on AT&T’s GoPhone pre-paid plan I’d say this is a solid option for anyone looking for a phone and a tablet for a low price, but I wouldn’t recommend it to the average person. I would only recommend this to anyone who needs both devices on the cheap, but doesn’t need to play games or do anything like that. For watching videos, sending messages, and even minor social networking however, this is not a bad option, it’s just not a great one.