Asus Padfone 2 vs Asus FonePad: Which should you buy?
4th Jul 2013 | 15:22
Phone-tablet hybrids with similar names
While Android smartphones continue to thrive and Android tablets - but for a few exceptions - continue to flounder, Asus has come up with a novel way to capitalise on the former and circumvent the latter.
Mash them both together.
However, Asus doesn't quite seem to have decided on a definitive format. Both the Asus Padfone 2 and the Asus FonePad combine key elements of the smartphone and tablet form factors, but they go about it in very different ways.
The Asus Padfone 2 takes the mash-up idea quite literally, presenting you with a decent upper-mid-range smartphone that slots into a 10-inch tablet dock when you want to go large. The FonePad, meanwhile, is an altogether subtler blend, offering a sleek 7-inch tablet that happens to accept a smartphone SIM for 3G calling.
Join us as we take a look at how these two Android phone-tablet hybrids compare, and ultimately try to establish which you should buy.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Contacts
Both the Asus Padfone 2 and the Asus FonePad use Google's stock People app for managing your contacts, so navigating through to make calls is a pretty similar experience across the two devices.
However, when it comes to the experience of placing calls, the difference is pronounced.
The Padfone 2, when in its default phone state, is a thoroughly pleasant device to make and receive calls on. Its 4.7-inch display and relatively slim 10.4mm body make navigating its interface easy even while out and about, and lifting it up to your ear looks and feels normal. The odd circular groove pattern on the back even makes it quite comfortable to grip.
The FonePad, by contrast, is unavoidably a 7-inch tablet rather than a phone, so holding it up to your face feels faintly ridiculous. In fact, scratch that - it's hugely ridiculous.
Bear in mind that many people scoff at the idea of holding the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 2 up to their noggins, and hopefully you'll see where we're coming from here.
Of course, there's always that Bluetooth headset or those mic-equipped earbuds you've been holding onto, but still...
As a pure phone for making and taking calls, the Padfone 2's flexibility and fit-for-purpose design makes it the clear winner.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Messaging
Again, the messaging experience is nigh-on identical from a software perspective between these two devices. Both feature the same default Android messaging app, and the same native email application too.
We've got mixed feelings about Asus's custom keyboard, but regardless of your preference there are plenty of fine alternatives on the Google Play Store. It's also another thing the Padfone 2 and the FonePad share, so it's hardly a deciding factor between the two.
We're left, then, with the differences between the actual physical process of messaging on each phablet device. It's undoubtedly the toughest area to call.
On the one hand, the Asus Padfone 2 offers the two extremes of messaging on the go - the potential for one-handed typing with the phone element and the potential for a full-sized two-handed typing option with the tablet peripheral engaged.
However, the Asus FonePad's 7-inch display appears to strike a fine balance between the two. Held in portrait view in one hand and typing with the other, we found messaging on the FonePad to be an error-free process. It's just got that extra bit of breathing space that makes texting and emailing a solid experience.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Gaming
After a slow start, gaming has become an increasingly prominent part of Android devices, and with Google's planned social and achievement integration it's only going to get bigger.
Beyond that, comparing the gaming performance of the Padfone 2 and the Asus FonePad acts as a fine barometer for their relative hardware merits. After all, nothing puts a phone's innards to the test like a modern 3D game.
A performance comparison is especially interesting because the Asus Padfone 2 and the Asus FonePad, despite being produced by the same company at around the same time, could scarcely be more different internally.
While the Padfone 2 is built on a fairly typical - though also very capable - quad-core Qualcomm CPU and Adreno 320 GPU combo with 2GB of RAM, the FonePad takes a very different approach.
It's built on an Intel Atom Z2420 processor, which uses PC-like Hyper-Threading rather than multiple cores. It's backed by the slightly creaky PowerVR SGX540 GPU and a relatively meagre 1GB of RAM.
Comparing the two using the Antutu benchmarking tool, which provides a number of graphics-intensive (both 2D and 3D) tasks for Android devices to run through, there's a clear winner. With an average score of 21,607, the Padfone 2 more than doubled the 9,208 average score of the FonePad.
This apparent doubling in performance is understandable. While the Qualcomm chip is a premium component, the Intel processor is intended for relatively low-cost devices. Sure enough the FonePad can be had for about a third of the price of the Padfone 2.
If you're after something that will be able to run high-end games both now and into the future, the Padfone 2 is a better bet - if you can spare the £600/US$720/AU$750 it will take to obtain it.
Otherwise, the FonePad will run pretty much anything currently available reasonably well - even advanced 3D games such as Real Racing 3 - and you'll pay just £180/AU$315 (around US$275) for the privilege.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Multimedia
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The first thing to note is that both devices name the Google Play Store as the main source for their media. Through this increasingly impressive online media library you can get access to thousands of cheap video rentals and the comprehensive Google Books.
We'd prefer to watch a video and read a book on the Asus FonePad than on the Padfone 2, though. It's down to the difference in screen dimensions.
The FonePad's 7-inch 1280 x 800 display simply makes for a clearer and more engaging experience than Padfone 2's 4.7-inch equivalent.
The latter may be a little brighter and sharper, but the extra two inches of screen real estate more than makes up for that when watching a widescreen blockbuster or settling down to read a sprawling novel.
Obviously the Padfone 2 also has that 10.1-inch tablet adaptor, but with no increase in resolution and an inferior picture, both video and text can look a little grainy and washed out when blown up to such a size. It really offers little advantage.
Storage is another issue here. While the FonePad is only available with 8 or 16GB of internal storage compared to the Padfone 2's 16, 32, or 64GB, the former has the massive advantage of a microSD card slot. Not only does this open up the possibility for an extra 64GB of cheap memory expansion, it also offers another way to get media onto your tablet from other devices.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Internet
Once again, Google provides the default arrangements for internet software here in the shape of Chrome. It's a brilliant mobile browser, with its minimalistic interface, intuitive use of multiple tabs and ability to sync bookmarks with the desktop equivalent.
The respective screens play a big part in deciding which internet experience is preferable here. Once again, the Padfone 2's sub-par tablet component lets it down somewhat, compromising the full-size internet experience with its fuzzy, dim picture.
However, the phone's vibrant 4.7-inch display really shows off the increasingly mobile-optimised web nicely, and the phone's speedy CPU and GPU loads content up just as fast as its internet connection will allow it.
There's the sense with 7-inch tablets such as the FonePad that you're getting an internet browsing experience that's caught somewhere betwixt and between - neither small enough to make the stripped-back mobile-optimised versions of websites feel natural, nor big enough to display full web pages comfortably like, say, an iPad can. Not without some vigorous zooming and panning, at least.
There's not much in it, but browsing the web feels a little less forced on the Padfone 2 - and there is something to be said for a full-sized tablet web browser, no matter how low-res.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Music
Listening to music is pretty much identical on both devices. Both have access to the marvellous Google Music service, which enables you to upload 20,000 tracks to the cloud for free, as well as to listen to your music through a stylish UI and to shop from Google's reasonably priced music store.
It's also about to go full-on Spotify on us, so watch out for an extra subscription-based incentive to opt for an Android smartphone or tablet (or both) in the near future.
It's considerably more wieldy listening to music on the go with the Padfone 2 thanks to its more pocket-friendly size, but then the FonePad has the benefit of that microSD slot for loading up even more music locally.
Back in the Padfone 2's favour, however, is the fact that it comes with a half-decent set of earbuds (the proper in-ear variety) packed in, while the FonePad has none.
Yes, any music fan should really be investing in a decent set of third-party earphones, but the fact remains that only one of these devices enables you to listen to music out of the box - at least without relying on a tinny speaker.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Battery
Both of these Asus phone-tablet hybrids impress when it comes to battery life. The Padfone 2 has a slightly larger than average 2,140mAh battery, which is technically removable if you don't mind performing minor surgery on your phone (that's what it feels like, at least).
Combined with the famously power-efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, we were easily getting through a full day of moderate to heavy usage without running out of juice.
But that's not the biggest plus point in its battery life box. That comes from the unique tablet dock, which doubles as a back-up charger.
If you carry this around with you, the tablet portion's 5,000mAh battery can be used to completely recharge the phone section three times over. When you're away from a power point for a prolonged period, this could be a massive plus.
The FonePad, for its part, has no such gimmicks to rely on, but that's not to say its 4,270mAh battery doesn't sport impressive stamina.
We clocked around eight and a half hours of continuous usage - which involved whacking the screen brightness up to full and repeatedly looping an HD video - before the battery died. Impressive stuff.
Whichever Asus device you opt for, you won't have a problem with battery life.
Padfone 2 vs FonePad: Verdict
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As we've hopefully made clear, the Asus Padfone 2 and Asus FonePad are far more different than their shared heritage and similar names would suggest.
This means that when it comes to deciding which is the right Android phone/tablet hybrid for you, your mileage may vary.
If you're after a capable smartphone first and foremost, with a competent tablet experience considerably lower down on your list of priorities, then the Asus Padfone 2 is the device for you. It's nicely proportioned and very powerful, while its 4.7-inch display is very impressive.
Sure, its tablet dock provides a sub-par full-sized tablet experience, but it does the job. This component also acts as a portable recharger for the phone, which could prove very useful for the frequent traveller.
If the tablet side of things is more - or even equally - important to you, then the Asus FonePad is probably the better buy. It's a superbly well balanced device with a sharp display, exemplary build quality and an irresistibly low price tag.
Indeed, it's the Asus FonePad's sheer value for money that nudges it over the line for us when weighing the two against each other. At a third of the price of the Asus Padfone 2, this competent all-rounder is firmly in impulse-buy territory - and few will be disappointed with such a snap decision.