Asus PadFone.


BARCELONA, Spain
–Announced last year at the Computex show in Taiwan, the prototype version of the Asus PadFone was the logical conclusion of the Motorola Atrix Lapdock design. While it is not the first hybrid device, it’s likely the first to run Android 4.0 with the intriguing idea of transforming a phone into a tablet.

Prototype devices, sometimes don’t make the cut and get killed–Microsoft’s Courier is a prime example of this. Luckily, Asus seems to have pushed ahead with the PadFone concept. Here at Mobile World Congress 2012, the Taiwanese company has announced that the product is now retail ready. Here’s an early sneak preview that we got of the unit before its official launch.

Asus PadFone
Meet the Asus PadFone and the PadFone Station tablet dock.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

Upside

The prototype PadFone feels finished–from its sturdy plastic build down to the operating system, the Ice Cream Sandwich device, by itself, would have made for a great standalone handset. Animations felt smooth, thanks to its dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm 8260A (Cortex A15) processor. We also liked the vibrant colors of its 4.3-inch AMOLED qHD (960 x 540) display. We did notice some issues with the 8-megapixel camera being unable to launch while in phone mode, but it’s likely such kinks will be worked out by the time it hits retail.

Asus PadFone
The rear 8-megapixel camera of the Asus PadFone sits right at the center of the handset.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

If you think about it, the Asus Transformer Prime was a hint of what the PadFone would be. Instead of just docking the PadFone to the 10.1-inch PadFone Station, Asus has leveraged the concepts from the Transformer and added a PadFone Station Dock (which has a keyboard). While we didn’t get to actually see the dock during our sneak early hands-on with the unit, we do have some press materials from Asus that show a very similar design to the Transformer.

Asus PadFone
Docking the PadFone is a breeze.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

Sliding the PadFone into the PadFone Station tablet was a simple affair, just aim the phone toward the connectors and push down till you hear a click. Because the PadFone Station has no rear camera, the phone actually doubles as the camera, too, as you can see from our picture below. In case you’re wondering, Asus would not comment on whether future Asus handsets would be able to connect with the PadFone Station.

Asus PadFone
The PadFone Station rear cover has holes for the PadFone’s LED flash and camera.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

While in mobile mode, the PadFone’s UI looks similar to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Once plugged in, however, the PadFone’s UI changes into the tablet version that any Android slate user should find familiar.

Asus PadFone
The familiar looking Android slate UI.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

Lastly, similar to the Motorola Atrix’s Lapdock, the PadFone Station also serves as a battery charger. Together with the PadFone Station Dock keyboard, which has a built-in battery, all three devices have a total charge of 6,600mAh. That’s, quite frankly, more than enough to last you at least two days unless you’re a incredibly heavy user.

Downside

We’re not sure how much of a hassle docking the PadFone into the PadFone Station would be every time you need a bigger screen. Furthermore, answering calls can be a hassle if you don’t have a Bluetooth headset for answering calls while in tablet mode. Asus did mention that there is a PadFone Stylus Headset accessory that uses Bluetooth to solve this problem, but the company couldn’t say whether this would be available separately.

Lastly, we aren’t sure if sliding the phone in and out of the tablet dock is a good idea, especially if it could get your screen scratched. Asus did tell us that it wouldn’t be a problem, but it might be a good idea to get a screen protector for the handset if you’re considering the PadFone.

Conclusion

The Asus PadFone is an interesting proposition for those who want to have their cake and eat it. While there are viable hybrid devices in the form of 5-inch phone/tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note and the recently announced Optimus Vu, the Asus PadFone and its companion 10-inch PadFone Station and PadFone Station Dock feels like the most practical solution. Especially if you were already thinking of buying a tablet to complement your smartphone.

Asus PadFone
This PadFone looks like a classic case of “Shut up an take my money!”.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)
Via CNET

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