Smartphones

Asus PadFone docking smartphone hands-on

The Asus PadFone is an Android 4.0 smartphone that docks into the tablet-like chassis of the PadFone Station. Paul Mah weighs in on whether the phone is practical.

Asus earlier this month placed the PadFone and PadFone Station for sale in Singapore. The PadFone is a full-featured Android Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone with a 4.3-inch screen. What is unique about the PadFone is that it docks into the PadFone Station tablet for up to 64 hours of extended usage. The PadFone Station comes with its own keyboard accessory (Asus Transformer style) aptly called the PadFone Station Dock. With the PadFone Station docked, the entire laptop-like contraption offers a staggering 102 hours of use and the flexibility of USB ports and a card reader found in the dock portion. (The PadFone Station does not come with its own microprocessor and will not work without a docked PadFone smartphone.)

Figure A shows the battery meter as seen on the PadFone Station, and Figure B is a photo of a docked PadFone with the back cover open. Figure A

The PadFone Station's battery meter (Photo credit: Paul Mah)
Figure B

A docked PadFone with the back cover open (Photo credit: Paul Mah)

Specs

The PadFone smartphone weighs 129 grams and is as slim as the iPhone 4S and slightly taller and wider in order to accommodate the larger 4.3-inch display. In my limited hands-on with it, the device performed as you would expect of a modern Android smartphone; I was impressed with the PadFone's crystal-clear Super AMOLED display. In Figure C, I summarize some of the PadFone smartphone's key specifications. Figure C

PadFone smartphone's key specifications (Photo credit: Paul Mah)

The PadFone Station has a 10.1-inch capacitive touch screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800. It is protected by the same Gorilla Glass with HCLR film as the PadFone, and has a 6,600mAH Lithium-ion battery tucked away under the hood. The tablet does not have mobile data capabilities by itself - it incorporates a phone and GPS antenna system to help a docked PadFone maintain its reception. According to Asus, the PadFone Station weighs 724 grams, which means a docked PadFone smartphone will tip the scale at a rather hefty 853 grams.

The PadFone Station Dock has its own battery too. Asus also touted the availability of a PadFone Stylus Headset, which is a Bluetooth headset in the awkward shape of a stylus that allows for calls to be made with the PadFone smartphone when docked. There is no reason why an ordinary Bluetooth headset will not work for this purpose.

Asus claims its Dynamic Display technology allows for a seamless transition between standalone and docked modes for the PadFone smartphone. Essentially, the app (this includes running movies and games) currently in the foreground of the PadFone will automatically appear on the larger display of the PadFone Station upon docking. In practice, Dynamic Display must first be enabled at the individual app level, and suffered hiccups with some apps during demonstrations - for example, when the PadFone is inserted into the landscape PadFone Station with an app running in portrait mode.

Bottom line

The concept behind the Asus PadFone is an interesting one, though it's not necessarily practical. No one can accuse Asus of skimping on hardware (the PadFone Station has its own set of front and back cameras), but a PadFone with PadFone Station and docked with the PadFone Station Dock keyboard is bulky and heavy. I am left wondering if a travelling executive would be better off with a separate tablet and smartphone or a laptop and a smartphone.

Based my conversation with an Asus representative, it is my understanding that Singapore is the first country outside of Taiwan in which the PadFone is being launched. It remains to be seen if the PadFone will be made more widely available.

The Asus PadFone sells for $800 (US$625), the PadFone Station costs $328 (US$256), and the PadFone Station Dock costs $228 (US$178). The PadFone Stylus Headset pricing is $128 (US$100).

More about the PadFone

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

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