Info-tech

Asus Fonepad review

Sabyasachi Biswas May 8 | Updated on March 12, 2018

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A sub-20k tablet with voice calling, Jelly Bean and a decent processor. Is this tablet a good alternative to more expensive phablets?

Ridiculous though the idea may be, to hold up a 7-inch tablet to your face for a voice call, tablets with voice-calling facilities are quite sought after. All the more so, when it’s manufacturered by the same company that delivered the Google-branded Nexus 7 recently. To add to our curiosity, the Asus Fonepad is also fitted with an Intel Atom processor, making it one of the first tablets to run on a low power consumption chip.

So does this budget calling-tablet have what it takes to take on the more expensive but smaller phablets? It’s time to find out!

Design and build

Prior to the Fonepad, I was of the opinion that most 7-inch tablets look pretty much the same. After using the Fonepad, my opinion stands unchanged. On the face of it, this tablet looks just like any other in the market. Until, you pick it up and turn it over. Although it is primarily constructed of plastic on the outside, the slightly shimmering matte paint treatment to the non-removable back panel does seem to add a bit of class to the tablet. It doesn’t feel flimsy either.

Turns out, the build is very ergonomic. As this is supposed to be used for calling, the tab fits in the palm nicely, but long phone calls might cramp up the thumb and wrist, as I painfully found out for myself. But it is definitely lighter and more comfortable to hold that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. The power button and volume rocker are placed on the left spine – right-handers will find it a bit icky, but southpaws will love it.

The screen, however, is a bit too reflective because of the glass. Not to mention that it is a fingerprint and face-smudge magnet. The bezel too, could’ve been a little slimmer, considering that there are no hardware touch buttons.

Specs and performance

The Fonepad comes with an Intel Lexington-based Z2420 Atom processing chip that clocks in at 1.2 GHz, and is complemented with a 1GB RAM. Together, they perform everyday tasks such as browsing, handling social network and media apps and e-book reading pretty well. I found this better than the choppy processing on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. However, if you play a ‘heavy’ game on the Fonepad, it shows signs of fatigue and becomes very sluggish. A lightly skinned Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS provides a very smooth and responsive interface.

This tablet sports a very rich IPS display that supports a 1280x800 pixels resolution. I could use it comfortably both indoors and outdoors (after wiping the screen free of smudges, though). The screen also offers a good range of viewing angles – except for extreme angles, there is no colour loss or distortion.

Multimedia

Since the UI is only lightly skinned, the Fonepad comes with the stock Android media player. And I’m not complaining because I find it pretty darn good. It’s easy to sort and share media with this native media player. The external speaker volume level is a bit disappointing, but the good news is that it manages to deliver decent audio fidelity. There’s 8GB of internal storage on paper, but only about 4.4GB of it is accessible.

To compensate, you do have cloud storage options and a microSD expansion port of up to 64GB, so that should sort out the average need for music and video file storage space.

What’s truly a delight on this tab is the video experience. This tablet offers a very bright 7-inch screen that supports 720p videos – apt for watching sitcoms during a long, boring commute or stopover at an airport.

Camera

The snapper is a big disappointment. True, I didn’t expect it to pull a Nokia Lumia 920 or HTC One camera, but I did expect better than what it manages to deliver. The 3.1-meg rear camera delivers average results in bright outdoors. And while shooting indoors or in low light, let’s just say I’ve seen fewer grains on the beach. Colour reproduction too, is very shoddy.

Battery Life

With a 4,270 mAh battery, coupled with the low power consumption attributes of the Intel Atom SoC, the Fonepad delivers a good battery backup of up to 11 hours on only WiFi usage, and 9.5 hours on cellular data usage. These tests included switching between 720p videos, YouTube streaming, music, a little bit of Subway Surfers and a few regular calls. That, for a tablet, is a very impressive performance.

Call quality

The call quality is quite decent – the earpiece is loud and clear enough and on full volume you can hear the other person even when travelling in a crowded bus at 10 AM on a weekday. The microphone positioning could’ve been better though, as I had to raise my voice at times. Again, it’s a bit weird having to talk on a tab – a handsfree accessory is highly recommended for the sake of convenience.

Verdict

The price tag that Asus Fonepad comes with is an attractive one, in terms of value for money! The device has voice calling, a good display, performs everyday tasks well, and has an impressively long battery life. The build and functionality are better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 as well. If you’re comfortable using a tab as a phone, and are running on a budget that puts good phablets out of it, I’d definitely recommend the Fonepad for you.

Rs 15,999

Love – Battery life, multimedia, good for everyday tasks

Hate – Disappointing camera, not comfortable for long calls

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on May 07, 2013

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