Review by Sunetra Chakravati,8/20/2014 12:29:30 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Phone and tablet in one | Android KitKat | Attractive design | Solid battery life
Average screen | Very big and heavy for a smartphone |
We all know phones are getting bigger by the day, but while Samsung and LG are weary of going beyond 5.5-inches, Asus has decided what we need is a tablet which doubles as a phone.
The Fonepad 7 LTE has, perhaps unsurprisingly, a 7-inch screen making it an Android tablet similar to many other on the market - but a SIM card slot and 4G LTE connectivity means this also works as a phone. Yes, you can hold this behemoth of a handset to your face. But should you? Can the Fonepad 7 replace your tablet and smartphone with one massive alternative?
On first inspection I doubt many people would think the Fonepad is a phone at all. It looks like any other 7-inch Android tablet, with its sleek matt plastic back, front and rear cameras, speaker grills, and slightly chunky bezels.
It’s not thin and light by any means, but broadly delivers on our expectations for what a £200 tablet should be. The handset has a footprint of 197 x 120mm, is 10.5mm thick and tips the scales at 328g. Our white review sample looks good, with an attractive (but sadly plastic) silver strip around the outside edge and over the speakers above and below the display.
Finished in what Asus calls Ceramic White, the rear cover has a matt finish which reminded us of the first HTC Windows Phone 8 handsets launched in late 2012. We like it a lot. There’s a SIM card slot on the left and an exposed microSD card slot on the right.
Finally, the Fonepad has a 1.2-megapixel camera on the front and a 5mp camera on the back. Both are fine and do the job they’re there for, but as with all tablets cameras you’ll be better off using your phone.
Although the back of the Fonepad looks and feels great, it quickly picks up dirt; ink from a newspaper in my bag found its way onto the tab with little effort and required a decent scrub to be removed.
The Fonepad’s 7-inch screen has a resolution of 1280 x 800, making it HD, but not the Full-HD and beyond of some of its rivals. No matter, because the screen is actually quite decent. It doesn’t have the sharpness of an iPad mini or Samsung Galaxy Tab S, but nor does it have the £300+ price tag. Some elements - like the time and signal strength in the menu bar - look a little fuzzy, but it’s otherwise good, plenty sharp enough to read small fonts comfortably.
Colours appear slightly faded and washed out, but personally I prefer that to them being overly saturated to the point they look fake, as is often the case with Samsung screens. Brightness is limited with the Fonepad though, and I reckon using it outdoors (as you would more so than a regular tablet, it being a phone too) would soon be a pain. There are a lot of reflections, as with most glass-fronted tablets, but the Asus doesn’t quite have the backlight to eliminate them.
The display is also on the warm side, meaning white looks slightly yellow. These complaints, although numerous, are small and the kind of thing you quickly get used to - but bare in mind that the excellent Google Nexus 7 is also £200, and although it doesn’t have a SIM card slot, it does have a much better screen.
The FonePad 7 LTE is powered by a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The tablet (or is it a phone?) runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean but can now be updated to 4.4.2 KitKat and the new Asus ZenUI, also seen on the company’s Memo Pad 7.
Aside from a few custom widgets and icons, Asus has done little to modify Android, which is fine by me and makes for a refreshing alternative to the heavy modifications made by Samsung and others.
Asus includes a folder of its own apps, including a do-to list manager, file manager, note-taking app and more.
Performance is mostly sound, with apps opening quickly and the tablet generally feeling sharp and responsive. It won’t rival an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab S, but then for half the price I wouldn’t expect it to. That said, it takes a fair amount of work to knock the Fonepad off balance - and don’t forget this is the LTE model, so super-fast 4G browsing is possible.
The FonePad comes with the option of eight or 16GB of storage, but thanks to a MicroSD card slot accepting up to a further 64GB, picking between the two is a non-issue.
Finally, Asus claims the Fonepad can run for 11.5 hours continuously and we’d generally agree with this claim. It will easily survive a weekend of heavy work, or Monday to Friday if you’re just using it for the commute and over lunch.
The Fonepad is never going to be a mass-market device which appeals to the masses - most people will be happy keeping their smartphone and tablet separate. But to a small group who value convenience, the Asus could work well for them. It’s far from the best of both worlds, but for just £200 you get a decent small tablet which does everything your phone can.
There’s a lot to be said for a small and (almost) pocketable tablet which can handle calls and texts, and certainly I can see some people enjoy two devices becoming one. Yes, holding the Fonetab to your face will make you look ridiculous, but connect some earphones with a mic and you’d look no different to anyone else taking a hands-free call.
An enormous phone for the few, but also an affordable and capable tablet for the many.