Asus Fonepad

30th Apr 2013 | 16:21

Asus Fonepad

Asus flexes its hybrid muscle once again with a 7-inch tablet that makes calls

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

As a smartphone, its use is negligible. But as a tablet, the Asus FonePad shines just as brightly as its Google-branded cousin, and while the small-tablet market is crowded the FonePad stands out. It's well made and offers a good selection of features for a good price.

Like:

Great LED-backlit screen; microSD storage; Premium metal chassis; Good battery life;

Dislike:

No rear camera; Poor speakers; Nexus 7 cheaper; Impractical for calls;

Introduction

The latest creation rolling off the production line at Asus is the Asus FonePad: a 7-inch Android tablet that can make and receive phone calls.

Arriving with an extremely friendly £179.99 price tag when it launches on April 26, the FonePad is here to compete with the likes of the Google Nexus 7 (also developed by Asus), the Kindle Fire HD and the all-conquering iPad mini for your affections.

Interestingly, the Asus FonePad is notable for coming armed with an Intel processor rather than the Nvidia Tegra chips favoured by the majority of Android devices. The Intel Atom Z2420 on board clocks in at a speed of 1.2GHz and has a separate PowerVR SGX540 GPU for backup.

There's 16GB of storage space as well as the unbridled benefit of Android Jelly Bean arriving out of the box. But it's the smartphone aspect of the device that Asus is hoping will entice you.

Asus FonePad review

The Taiwanese company believes the device is "ideal for people who value both the voice communication features of a smartphone and the entertainment opportunities afforded by a tablet".

It's not exactly wrong either. Once the 3.5-inch display of the iPhone 4S was considered sufficient, but the sales of devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and the recently revealed Samsung Galaxy Mega suggests we're getting happy with bigger screens.

Asus Fonepad review

That doesn't necessarily mean you're happy to walk around with a 7-inch slate clasped to your ear - but that's missing the point of the FonePad. You can use a headset when walking down the street, or prop it on a stand at your desk and use the speakerphone.

It's an attempt to answer the age-old dilemma of one general device or multiple specific devices.

Asus Fonepad review

We're going to go out on a limb and suggest the FonePad probably won't replace the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5, Sony Xperia Z or HTC One you carry in your pocket every day.

But Asus has tucked plenty of tech into the device and kept the price low enough that it certainly stands as a respectable tablet in its own right.

Asus Fonepad review

When tablets first started arriving back in 2010, it was the lesser known manufacturers that turned in cheaper options - usually by cutting every conceivable corner when it came to features and design. Now though, the big boys of the tech world have become very good at keeping those aspects alive at wallet-friendly prices.

The Asus FonePad features the accepted 7-inch screen and, from the front at least, looks the conventional Android tablet.

Asus Fonepad review

Jelly Bean's soft-touch navigation keys mean the face of the FonePad is devoid of physical buttons, leaving simply the black bezel with the Asus logo and camera lens on the top.

The rear of the tablet has more in common with Apple's iPad mini than the Asus-produced Google Nexus 7 thanks to a smooth metallic finish. Available in either "titanium grey" or "champaign gold", the metal adds an undeniably premium feel even if the grip isn't as good as the dimpled rear surface of the Nexus 7.

Asus Fonepad review

Asus has located the power button and the volume rocker on the left edge near the top of the tablet. The edge of the device is tapered and the buttons are set fairly close to the chassis, so hitting them in a hurry isn't always easy. Similarly, given the smoothness of the back, it can be a bit tricky adjusting volume with your thumb if you're holding the tablet one-handed with your left mitt.

The FonePad's 16:9 aspect ratio means its easy to grip around the back for anyone with small or medium sized hands. You'll be able to curl your fingers around the edge and hold it comfortably, rather than having to resort to holding it by one corner and obscuring part of the screen.

Asus Fonepad review

Naturally though, the tablet works best when gripped with both hands in a landscape mode. If you're gaming or watching the latest Game of Thrones, chances are you'll be holding it this way and the FonePad sits very nicely in a two-handed grip.

We mentioned that tablet manufacturers cut corners in the early days and some of that still survives - cost is cost, after all. The FonePad doesn't feature a rear-facing camera, so the back of the chassis is completely clean. By way of markings, you'll find an embossed Asus logo and the familiar Intel Inside mark at the bottom of the tablet.

Asus Fonepad review

If there's one thing as bad as holding a tablet up to make a phone call, it's holding a tablet up to take a picture. We feel fairly safe in saying here that the omission of a rear-facing camera is no great loss. If you're absolutely desperate for one, pick up the US version of the FonePad - that's got a 3MP rear-facing camera built in.

The only two ports on the device are the micro USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack. These are both found on the bottom of the tablet with the headphone jack to the left of the charging port.

Asus Fonepad review

Weighing in at 340g, the FonePad is slightly heavier than Apple's 308g iPad mini - but in day-to-day terms this slight extra bulk is barely noticeable. Part of the attraction of 7-inch tablets is undeniably the lighter load and you'll have no trouble holding this tablet one-handed while watching videos, or indeed, making a call.

If Asus does want to best Apple's effort, it can point to screen resolution as one way of doing that. The 1,280 x 800 resolution panel on the FonePad display benefits from an LED backlight with IPS technology and is exceptionally clear.

Asus Fonepad review

It won't usurp the 10-inch tablets for screen clarity but the contrast ratio and colour balance certainly looked all right to us and is more than serviceable for enjoying a movie or game on the move.

Unfortunately, the problem with premium metallic finishes and beautiful TFT-coated screens is the susceptibility to dust and scratches. It's no different here and the FonePad is certain to come off worse against keys and loose change if you leave it unprotected in your backpack. Our advice? Invest in a case.

Interface and Performance

Tablet aficionados have watched Android grow and mature with each new iteration. Slowly, Google's open-source platform has evolved to become a speedy, reliable OS with an attractive and remarkably smooth response.

Interface 1

Jelly Bean continues this evolution and the FonePad reaps the benefits from the moment you power it on and begin swiping through menus and settings controls.

Following the example set by the Nexus 7, Asus has left the UI as Google intended. Rather than trying to add to the experience as Sony, HTC and even Samsung are wont to do, you'll find the FonePad rocking vanilla Android.

You're greeted with the customary seven homescreens and can fill these as you see fit, either with widgets, or shortcuts, or both.

The FonePad fits six app shortcuts across each row and these can be grouped into folders to name, compartmentalise and obsess over.

There are six apps anchored to the base of the screen at all times, split evenly either side of the familiar Android app drawer button that zooms you out to a 6 x 3 grid of all the apps on the tablet.

If you want to add a shortcut to a homescreen, a long press on the icon will let you place it.

Widgets have been a staple of Android since the very beginning and the FonePad comes with all the regulars we're used to seeing: email, task manager, weather, calendar, maps and the rest are here and ready to go.

Interface 7

When you place a widget on a homescreen, the rest of the apps will move to make room and you can also resize the widget itself by pulling on a blue outline that appears after a long-press.

The widgets that come pre-loaded on the FonePad are from the Google stable, but there are plenty more to be had in the ever-expanding Google Play store.

With Jelly Bean, Google has introduced new features that aren't immediately obvious but help navigation immensely, the most important of which is Google Now.

If you swipe upwards from the any of the homescreens (or the lock screen) you're greeted with a card-based notification service that acts like your personal assistant.

The service relies on GPS to figure out where you are and act accordingly. Over time, the service learns to predict what you need - whether it's a traffic report before you drive to work or a weather forecast before the weekend.

Due to its use of cards and tiles, Google Now is primarily image and text-based, but you can talk to it Siri-style if you want to exercise your vocal commands. An added benefit of the FonePad's 3G data connection is you'll be able to use Google Now while you're out and about.

Interface 4

As ever, swiping down from any part of the OS will bring you the notifications bar, letting you see at a glance not just the recent email alerts or app upgrades, but also the state of your battery, the strength of your Wi-Fi or 3G signal, and the screen brightness.

Asus has given the notifications panel a nice purple and blue trim that gives it a cool, slightly futuristic look. We approve.

On a slightly more intangible level, the performance of Android has been slicked up with the arrival of Jelly Bean. It touched down with a great deal of fanfare around Project Butter - Google's attempt to keep the inner processes streamlined to reduce lag.

Of course, this also has a bearing on the hardware tucked inside the FonePad and Intel's Atom Z2420 processor isn't a slouch. Bad news is, it's also not the quickest we've seen Android run.

We generally found that scrolling through menus and jumping into apps was a cinch. However, backing out again - especially from the tiled app drawer to the standard homescreen, brought a perceptible judder.

The single-core Intel processor runs and 1.2GHz and has been developed specifically with low power consumption in mind. While it plays nice with the battery life, it does mean there are snappier tablets out there.

Interface 6

Asus seems to be dipping a toe in the different processor pools though, the company's Nexus 7 runs on an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip while the Padfone Infinity opts for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600.

Importantly, we didn't notice too much lag when we began multitasking. One of Android's strengths is the way in which you can jump in and out of apps and use the History button to quickly find your way around recent programs.

The FonePad stayed reassuringly constant when we had several windows open and began switching between them.

An area where the FonePad could conceivably improve is in the boot-up time. The tablet takes around 26 seconds to arrive at the homescreen from a complete power down. It takes time to run through two separate versions of the Asus logo while it warms up.

Admittedly, we're nitpicking somewhat. and for the majority of users the day-to-day performance here is certainly up to snuff. If you're making the leap from a Honeycomb or even Ice Cream Sandwich tablet, then you're going to appreciate the change in pace.

Messages and Contacts

If you've used an Android smartphone before, you'll immediately be familiar with the layout and style of the contacts book. If not, then the FonePad isn't a bad place to start, because it's pretty much just stock Android.

Contacts 1

The address book is one of the six anchored shortcuts at the bottom of the screen that arrives when you load the FonePad up. It takes you to an alphabetic list of your contacts that can be imported from either a Gmail account or stored on the tablet proper.

Swiping left or right takes you to either Groups or Favourites; two different ways of organising your friends and family into those you want to talk to, and those you don't.

If you're particularly popular, then you can tap the magnifying glass icon to begin a search of your expansive address book for one contact in particular.

The usual information, such as email, phone number, birthday and favourite breakfast cereal can all be stored under the contact card and the FonePad will give you a choice of calling or messaging that person when you jab their picture.

Although Jelly Bean allows you to link contacts together under one card, or even place a contact directly on the homescreen, there isn't any kind of social network integration. You don't have the ability to send a Facebook message or tweet a contact directly from the address book. Instead, you'll need to install the relevant app and do it that way.

Contacts 2

One area of the operating system where Asus has had some input is the keyboard. Rather than the stock Android option (available in Settings) the FonePad fires up the Taiwanese company's own version when you want to send an SMS or an email.

The layout is similar to the stock Android version, although the Return and Backspace keys have been moved to the bottom level alongside the Space, and there's a Caps Lock key on either side - something useful if you're using the tablet one-handed.

Rather than have numbers as alternates on the top line of QWERTY keys, Asus has added an extra row for numbers 1-0 and, as a result, the keyboard is slightly larger. It takes up just under half the screen in portrait mode and expands to exactly half when you turn it portrait.

The keys themselves are well-sized and there's enough space between them that you're unlikely to suffer a miss-hit too often.

Predictive text is accurate, but neither the Asus keyboard nor the stock Android option offer swiping as a means of input. This is a feature that arrived in Android 4.2 and features on a number of smartphones - so it's a surprise to see it left out here.

One excellent part of the FonePad's text input is the haptic feedback. Although left out of the Nexus 7, it's been included here and you get a firm, comforting buzz with each key jab.

All-in-all, we much preferred Asus' own keyboard to the Google Android version - but of course, if this isn't to your liking then there are plenty of others waiting for you on Google Play.

Internet and Connectivity

Much of what Asus achieved with the Google Nexus 7 appears to have been replicated on the FonePad when it comes to perusing the nets. Along with the traditional Android browser, Chrome is preinstalled and the clean interface is a welcome sight on the 7-inch screen.

All the options from Chrome's desktop counterpart are included, such as tabbed browsing, going incognito and - if you're synced with your Google account - all your bookmarks and favourite sites.

Asus Fonepad review

The 1,280 x 800 resolution keeps web pages looking crisp and readable, even when you zoom in or out with a quick pinch or double tap. Of course, when you're loading a particularly complex webpage, the zooming can be erratic and a little slow as the GPU plays catch-up.

General browsing is handled with aplomb and we aren't able to jump on the Intel processor and point to any serious sluggishness.

Again, we were also impressed with how the browser handled multitasking. It proved reliably capable until we really pushes it with several tabs streaming video and several others browsing image-heavy sites. It's unlikely that you'll run into a performance wall when browsing day-to-day with the Asus FonePad.

Asus Fonepad review

Many sites offer mobile versions and the FonePad's browsers will give you the option to select which you'd rather see. The browser opts for the mobile version in most cases, but this can be avoided by ticking the "request desktop version" option in the browser's drop-down menu.

Other usability options, such as saving passwords or auto-filling forms, can also be checked in the browser's settings menu. It all contributes to keeping the experience as simple and uncluttered as possible.

Bookmarks are recorded with the customary star on the right hand side of the URL bar and are displayed as small thumbnails of the page itself. There's no Flash support on the FonePad's browser, as Adobe itself announced that ICS would be the last Android OS to support the format.

As ever with Android, if you don't fancy Chrome then you can dip into the Google Play store and find a replacement. Opera, Firefox and Dolphin are all available as alternatives.

Asus Fonepad review

The FonePad isn't going to leave you short of connectivity either. The built-in 3G HSPA+ means that even when you can't find a Wi-Fi signal you can still keep browsing. The quoted speeds are 21Mbps for download and 5.76Mbps upload, which means streaming audio and video is easily handled - although bear your data tariff in mind before settling down to stream the Star Wars saga.

Of course, you're not going to be stretched finding a Wi-Fi signal about these days, and the FonePad features 802.11b/g/n for cost-free wireless activities.

Bluetooth is also included as an extra method for wireless connectivity and will be vital if you plan on using a wireless headset for making and receiving calls. Unfortunately, it's Bluetooth 3.0 rather than the newer 4.0 version but for the majority of devices this won't matter.

Asus was happy to include NFC in the form of Android Beam on the Nexus 7 but has neglected to bestow it on the FonePad. By no means a crucial feature, we do feel that NFC is growing in popularity and will soon be expected alongside Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Movies, music and books

The expansion of the Google Play store has been unstoppable over the last year or so, and the Asus FonePad can take full advantage of it when it comes to entertainment on the move.

At first Google's store concentrated on apps, games, books and movies, but recently music and magazines have been added to the line-up so you can get hold of just about everything in one place.

Long past the point of competing with iTunes on numbers alone, Google has recently taken steps to ban lower-tier apps and games from the Google Play store in order to, well, smarten it up a bit. Chances are, if you want to find a particular movie, album or book, the FonePad has you covered.

Movies

The Google Play movies app is your one-stop-shop for video based content delivery on the FonePad, but it doesn't come pre-installed. Once up and running, you can use this app to buy or rent movies and TV shows at fairly standard online prices. The latest blockbuster, for example, will typically be £3.49 to rent and £9.99 to buy, with older films going for less.

There's a choice of either streaming or downloading outright, and the app also includes a player to you watch your new purchase on. Anything downloaded from the Google Play store will run on the app, as well as separate video files stored on the FonePad's hard drive.

Asus Fonepad review

Common file extensions like .mp4 and .mkv play fine, but if you need wider support covering the lives of .avi or .wmv there are other players available on Google Play that should do the trick. MXPlayer is one such example, but you'll need to put up with adverts when you're not playing video.

If you don't fancy going down the Google route, then the Asus Studio app will let you play content stored on the FonePad's hard drive - but there's no option to purchase directly from the device.

Watching movies on the FonePad's screen is improved thanks to the TFT coating on the screen. This improves the contrast ratio, particularly with darker colours like black or navy. Unfortunately, it also means you encounter irritating reflections when watching in a brightly lit environment.

The 7-inch screen isn't going to provide as much of an immersive experience as a larger device like the iPad 4 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. But its certainly good enough to watch for an extended period of time and the smaller screen size trades viewing experience for portability.

The 16:9 aspect ratio means the FonePad displays in widescreen, but unfortunately the black letterbox bars are noticeable on the 7-inch screen. Even so, the FonePad can definitely match other 7-inch tablets when it comes to kicking back with a movie or TV show.

Music

Music 1

Like Play Movies, Google's Play Music is a well-stocked, full-featured app that lets you select and buy your favourite tracks as well as compile playlists and adjust the sound with an equalizer.

It's very easy to navigate, and the clear, concise layout lets you easily find albums, artists or playlists.

The only downer is that it isn't as attractive as iTunes when it comes to layout – although you'll still find all the album artwork present and neatly displayed when you skip through songs.

Again, the music app is compatible with different file types and you'll also be able to take advantage of Google's cloud storage service. This lets you upload up to 20,000 songs for free and stream them back to the FonePad whenever you want.

Music 3

Alternatively, if you're a Spotify subscriber or a SoundCloud user, you can find both these services on the Google Play store. Streaming is possibly the wiser course of action with the Asus FonePad as the meagre 16GB of internal storage will soon get eaten up by an expansive record collection.

Where the FonePad does suffer is with the rather tinny internal speakers. Asus isn't a manufacturer that skimps on sound. The Asus UX31 Ultrabook, for example, blew us away with the integrated Bang & Olufsen speaker system.

Unfortunately though, space is a premium on a 7-inch chassis and while the speakers aren't too bad quality-wise, the volume leaves something to be desired.

The balance of sound is also heavily skewed to one side when holding it in landscape mode because of the single speaker at the base of the tablet when held portrait style. If you're not in a quiet environment, we'd recommend a decent pair of headphones.

Books

Books 1

Because of its size and weight, the Asus FonePad makes for a solid ereader. However, the display isn't nearly as comfortable on the eyes as the e-ink displays of Amazon's Kindle or the Kobo Arc series.

You can use either the Kindle app or Google Play Books app to download tomes to the FonePad, and if you've used either service previously, you can sync with other titles you've purchased. The selection on both services is comprehensive and both offer classics for free.

When you fire up a book, the resolution means the text is clear and readable and you can zoom in or out to find your perfect font size. The LED backlit means you won't need to find a reading light when it's dark but obviously this will take its toll on your eyes after a while.

A quick swipe across the screen turns the page either backwards or forwards and is accompanied with a nice turning page animation in Google Play Books.

Books 2

If you're not into novels, you can get magazines either through Google Play itself or the Zinio app that comes pre-loaded onto the FonePad.

You can download particular issues or pick up a digital subscription to most of the UK's prominent mags, and the app divides by genre so you can easily pick up on your favourite subject.

We reckon reading books and magazines is where the 7-inch form factor has the edge on its larger cousin. If you're a regular reader on the bus or train and don't already have an ereader then the FonePad will slot into your commute nicely. You can easily read one-handed and it's second only to a dedicated e-ink reader in our opinion.

If you've already got mountains of content on your hard drive at home, then it's absurdly easy to load up the FonePad rather than purchase online. The open source Android OS lets you simply cut and paste movies, books or music into the relevant folder on the FonePad and access it directly on the tablet.

Asus has included a file manager app to help organise and keep track of files once they've been added. And, as we said, if none of the aforementioned apps will play the file type, then a quick trip to Google Play should equip you with something suitable.

Apps, maps and gallery

Apps

The Asus FonePad comes with plenty of pre-loaded apps including Google stablemates you'd expect to see such as Google+, Calendar, Gmail, Voice Search, Movie Studio and Google Earth. Along with this, Asus has thrown in a couple of its own apps for good measure.

Apps 1

Asus Studio is your go-to alternative for movies and photos. The movie player is similar to Google's own, but the photo part of the app lets you catalogue your photos into albums and add in geotagged locations.

This works nicely with Asus Story, an app that lets you create collages of photos and flip through them like an ink-and-paper photo album.

You can factor in social networks by sharing your albums on Facebook, Google+ or Picasa. It has a distinctly iOS-like appearance as the homescreen is a wood-panelled bookshelf holding your albums ready for inspection.

Apps 2

App Locker and App Backup are two apps designed to help with security. The first allows you to password protect each of your app shortcuts while the latter creates backups for app data on your local storage.

You're given a social network aggregator in the form of the Asus BuddyBuzz app.

This appears as a large widget on one of the homescreens and collects your Twitter and Facebook feeds in one place.

You can organise the updates either by status updates, photos, videos or links, or just have everything thrown at you at once. BuddyBuzz is also useful for posting to your own profiles and uploading images.

Maps

When it comes to Maps, the FonePad offers the latest version of Google's service, with plenty of features including free turn-by-turn navigation. This works exceptionally well with the FonePad which can rely on its 3G connection to make sure you're travelling in the right direction.

Stuck for something to do round your local area? Maps will pull up nearby restaurants, attractions and, most importantly, pubs for you to check out.

Apps 4

The suggestions are either recommended via reviewers or flagged up from Google+ posts by your friends.

As usual, there's the option to choose layers on Maps and Google has added in traffic and public transport lines that can make navigating a city like London a great deal easier.

You can still add markers, known as "My Places", to the map, which are then saved for quick access during navigation.

Maps is easily one of the stars of Android and Google has responded to the controversy surrounding Apple Maps by keeping its own service fluid and innovative.

Given the portability and 3G capabilities of the FonePad, having Maps on board is incredibly useful when you're out and about and need to find the nearest watering hole.

Gallery

The gallery app is a quiet but useful addition to the OS and will collect together your photos from different locations. Subdivided into folders with a cover image, gallery will pull in photos from the 16GB internal storage as well as from the microSD card and Picasa or Blogger accounts. Videos are stored separately and will play directly from the app.

Of course, the apps loaded on the FonePad are the tip of the proverbial iceberg as Google Play offers you the choice of over 800,000 third-party creations to enjoy. And recent news that Google is clearing out 60,000 low-grade apps means things can only get better.

One of the biggest criticisms of Google Play is the free-for-all approach that Mountain View has taken with regards to submission. There are plenty of shoddy apps knocking around and Apple fans are right to boast about the quality control that Cupertino levies over its developers. However, there are no shortage of games and personalisation apps that will allow you to tweak and alter Jelly Bean.

In terms of gaming, the PowerVR SGX540 GPU comes in to help the Intel Atom processor when you start using graphics-heavy 3D titles like Grand Theft Auto III. The result is that it easily competes with the smoothness of its Tegra 3 counterparts when you start gaming.

The smaller chassis means it's not unwieldy in your hands, and for games where movement is necessary, the FonePad works well. While most of the big-name games (such as GTA) are present on Google Play, the overall choice still doesn't quite measure up to Apple's App Store.

Camera and video

The lack of a rear-facing camera means anything other than video messaging and selfies with the 1.3MP front-facing snapper is pretty much a non-starter.

The US version of the FonePad features a rear-facing 3MP camera, so all the standard effects are included on the OS for the European model. Unless you particularly want to use sepia tint or greyscale on your own face, there's not a great deal of value in these effects.

Nevertheless, you can adjust the white balance, exposure or scene as well as setting a timer on the shutter.

Asus Fonepad review

When it comes to video, the FonePad will shoot 720p HD footage which comes in handy for video calls. Skype is available free on Google Play and when we tested out the video calling facility the FonePad managed well.

There weren't any issues with lag and the image wasn't as grainy as some other lower-priced tablets we've seen.

There are plenty of camera-based apps to download from Google Play, but the lack of a rear-facing camera means you probably won't be taking advantage.

In all honesty, the lack of a rear-facing camera is far from a deal breaker. Asus' other budget tablet - the Google Nexus 7 by Asus also dispenses with the camera and the omission hasn't hurt the sales of that device.

Asus Fonepad review

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Asus Fonepad review

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Battery

Asus has packed the FonePad with as many features as possible, all of which would be rendered moot if the battery life fails to live up to expectations.

The Taiwanese company has fitted the FonePad with a 4270mAh battery. It's a larger model than the Nexus 7 and is calculated to take into account the 3G usage of the device.

Asus claims you'll get up to nine hours of use from the tablet with 720pHD video playing with brightness up at maximum and both 3G and Wi-Fi enabled.

Battery 1

The Li-polymer 16Wh battery is sealed in to keep the chassis as thin and light as it is. This means there's no option to prise off the cover and insert a replacement when you're spent, but considering how rare this option is on tablets, it's not a huge surprise.

One of the pre-loaded apps that arrives with the FonePad is the battery-bolstering Power Saver app. You can choose from three modes: ultra-saving mode, optimised mode and customised mode.

The first and second will eke out as much from the battery as possible by lowering screen brightness (still the biggest draw on the battery) and powering down apps. Ultra-saving mode will also disconnect from the network where possible to cut down on 3G drain.

Customised mode alters the power plan of the tablet depending on which scenario you're using. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any indicators of what scenario we were on, let alone how to change it.

Slightly more useful is the Power Usage Chart - found in the settings menu - that breaks down exactly which parts of the Asus FonePad are drawing the most power.

Our own usage testing of the FonePad pretty accurately mirrored Asus' 9-hour claim. We activated all connectivity (except 3G) and put brightness and volume to maximum then looped HD footage until the battery died. The FonePad managed 504 minutes (just under 8.5 hours) - an impressive result.

One of the biggest reasons to opt for a 7-inch tablet over a larger alternative is the portability, and battery life plays into this in a big way. The FonePad doesn't have any problems in this department and we recommend it if you want a bumper battery life.

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Verdict

There's a lot to like about the Asus FonePad. It's clearest competitor is the similarly-priced, similarly-specced and similarly-crafted Google Nexus 7. There are a few tweaks and a slight change of materials for the chassis, but the big change is the addition of 3G telephone capability.

The use of an Intel processor rather than Nvidia doesn't have a noticable effect on the performance, so what you should consider first about the FonePad is whether you want your tablet to be able to make and receive phone calls.

Considering the vast majority of us already have a smartphone in our pockets, we don't feel this is quite as vital a feature as Asus seems to think it is. It might be a nice option as a secondary line for anyone that requires a device for the office, but for the man on the street, we expect one telephone is enough.

So, as a smartphone, its use is negligible. But as a tablet, the Asus FonePad shines just as brightly as it's Google-branded cousin. Asus has priced the FonePad very nicely - it's cheaper than both the 3G Nexus 7 at £239 and the iPad mini at £269, which many see as the two ruling devices of the 7-inch market.

We liked

The build quality is first class (as in so many recent Asus products) and the metallic finish gives it a premium edge not found on the Nexus 7. Likewise, the screen is excellent and the fact that you've got 3G on board means you can be connected without a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Lifting the Asus FonePad above other budget offerings is Google's Jelly Bean OS. It works with Intel's Z2420 processor to keep the Asus FonePad incredibly responsive, with only slight judderings when returning to the homescreen.

Finally, Asus has corrected one of the biggest problems with the Nexus 7 by adding microSD support. So although the FonePad only has 16GB of native storage, you can add up to 32GB to hold even more content.

We disliked

The quality of apps for Google Play is still behind Apple's App Store. So although you'll find all the big-name applications in Google Play, chances are that new releases won't arrive as soon as they do on the iPad.

We felt that watching video on the FonePad is hampered slightly by the poor quality of the internal speakers. If you've got a good pair of headphones then you'll want to use them with this device as the audio performance struggles.

The lack of a rear-facing camera isn't a reason to discount the FonePad, but we flag it up here because the Americans get one in their model. Hardly fair, is it?

Final Verdict

The 7-inch tablet market isn't short of choices by any means. Big-hitters like the iPad mini and Nexus 7 grab most of the limelight, but there are solid choices like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD or BlackBerry PlayBook. Another option is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, which also features 3G and has the same screen resolution as the FonePad.

Drop down a gear and you've also got budget choices like the Archos 70 Titanium vying for your pennies.

This means that Asus has to work very hard to make the FonePad a solid choice in the face of all this competition. Largely, it rests this on the ability to make phone calls from the device. If this is what you're looking for, then you're sorted - but for the majority, this might not be enough.

You're more likely to spend an extra £20 to pick this over the Nexus 7 because of the microSD compatibility, premium feel of the chassis, battery life and the 3G option. The Intel chip doesn't measure up to Tegra 3 on paper, but in performance terms we felt it was perfectly serviceable.

In summation, the Asus FonePad is a very accomplished Android tablet and offers amazing value-for-money. If you're not planning on spending a fortune, but still want a tablet with a wide choice of apps and features then you could do a lot worse than picking up this one in particular.

Asus Fonepad Asus Fonepad Android Jelly Bean tablets techlife
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