Asus Padfone 2 review

Asus Padfone 2

The Asus Padfone 2 is a high-end smartphone which comes with a dummy 10in tablet docking station. Read our Asus Padfone 2 review to find out more.

The Padfone 2 isn't your typical smartphone since it comes with the Padfone Station – a dummy 10in tablet with its own battery which comes to life when the smartphone is plugged into it. Asus calls it a 2-in-1 set.

The Padfone 2 is the first proper smartphone launch for Asus in the UK so read on to find out what the firm has to offer.

Asus Padfone 2: Price – is it a good deal?

At £599, the Padfone 2 and the Padfone Station seems like a great proposition. But let's make some comparisons to see if it's as good as it sounds. See also Group test: what's the best tablet PC?

On the whole, this really is a good deal. If you were to buy the iPhone 5 and iPad 4 you're going to spend at least £928 in total and around the same if you opted for the Sony Xperia Z and Xperia Tablet Z.

However, go to Google and the Padfone 2 doesn't look so great. The Nexus 4 and Nexus 10, both excellent devices come to a total of £558 which is a hard to overlook. Swap the Nexus 10 for the smaller Nexus 7 and the price drops to just £398 – a bargain if ever we saw one.

What the Padfone 2 offers though is some unique features like the way the tablet can charge the smartphone when it's docked. There're lots of other advantages we can think of too, like only having to log into your accounts once and avoid multiple notifications across device for the same alert. You also only have to pay for and download for apps once - your progress in games is then the same across phone and tablet.

It really depends what you want but in our minds the Padfone 2 is a great option which should be considered for those wanting a smartphone and tablet.

Asus Padfone 2 preview

Asus Padfone 2: Design and build

As you can see, the Padfone 2 has a unique design thanks to the Padfone Station. It's a much better implementation compared to the original model where the phone had to sit underneath an awkward flap. You can use the smartphone as normal but when you want a bigger screen simply plug the Padfone 2 into the Padfone Station and you've got a 3G tablet. See the original Asus Padfone review.

When the smartphone is docked you can still send and receive calls and text messaged but it's simple to pull the device out of its slot if you wish.

The Padfone 2 smartphone looks reasonably nice. Our review sample came in white but a black version is also available – we prefer the latter. The front looks like any other smartphone really but has a slightly larger 'chin' than most where the touch sensitive buttons reside. We like the metal band which runs around the edge and the tapered shape which means the Padfone 2 in thinner at the bottom.

Asus Padfone 2 docked

The device comes with a proprietary version of microUSB but we managed to use a regular connector with the Padfone 2 anyway. Take a look at Group test: what's the best smartphone?

The Padfone Station, or tablet section, looks like a typical 10in tablet with a wide bezel around the display. The main different is of course the huge hole in the back where the smartphone is docked. This has a clever design involving what are best described as barbed rubber grips which hold the Padfone 2 in place. You can shake the device without the smartphone falling out, but you don't have to fight hard to pull it out when you do want it out.

Build quality is the biggest let down with the Padfone 2. The phone feels solid but we don't like the textured plastic rear cover, though. The docking station has a contrasting smooth plastic finish to the rear which feels nicer but it doesn't feel particularly well built. It's too flexible for our liking and the plastic rear cover unclips and comes away too easily when it shouldn't. This is a surprise considering the usually high standard we see from Asus.

It doesn't feel as premium as other device on the market, namely the Sony Xperia Z, HTC One and Apple iPhone 5.

Asus Padfone 2 video review

Asus Padfone 2: Hardware and performance

The core specifications of the Padfone 2 are the same as the Nexus 4's – a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. We expected decent performance and the Padfone 2 certainly delivered it.

In our GeekBench 2 test, the Padfone 2 scored an impressive 2196. This would have been our new record holder beating the Nexus 4's score of 2009 if it weren't for the HTC One which managed a scorching 2721.

The Padfone 2 continued to impress with a best ever result of 43fps in GLBenchmark beating the Nexus 4 and iPhone 5 by a few frames. When docked the framerate only dropped to 40fps.

The results of the SunSpider JavaScript test weren't so favourable with an average of 1865ms. The fastest phones we've tested manage lower than 1000ms. The score roughly matches that of the Nexus 4 and Sony Xperia Z and although it's not the best web browsing we've seen, it's certainly not awful.

The £599 price for the Padfone 2 will get you 32GB of internal storage – double what we usual see. However, there's no microSD card lot and after only installing a handful of small apps our Padfone 2 says there's 25GB of available space. This is worth bearing in mind. Asus redeems itself slightly by offering 50GB of free Asus Webstorage for two years.

The Padfone 2 has a 4.7in Super IPS+ display. Its resolution of 720 x 1280 can't compete with the Full HD phones which have been arriving this year but's it's still a respectable pixel density of 312ppi. The Padfone 2's screen is one of the brightest we've seen and has a specific outdoor mode which works very well.

Asus Padfone 2 screens

As we've mentioned, the Padfone Station has a 10.1in screen. It's also an IPS display with the same 1280 x 800 resolution found on the Asus Transformer Pad 300. Both the smartphone and tablet parts of the Padfone 2 use Gorilla Glass with a welcome anti-fingerprint coating.   

The Padfone 2 is packed with the kind of connectivity you’d expect from a high-end smartphone. There's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, aGPS and support for both 3G and 4G LTE networks.

Next Page: Asus Padfone 2 cameras, software and battery life.

Asus Padfone 2: Cameras

The Padfone 2 has three cameras in total since there are two on the smartphone and one on the Pad Station. It's like this because once the smartphone is docked, its front facing camera is blocked but the rear can be used like normal.

Asus has revamped the camera app with plenty of different modes (including HDR), effects (aka filters) and settings including white balance, ISO up to 800, shutter modes, guideline grids and more. It's a nice setup which we found easy to use. There's no separate video mode, just hit the big red button to start recording.

The 13Mp rear camera performed well and we have no major complaints. We like the touch to focus feature and in general out photos looked good with the settings on auto across the board. The shutter speed isn’t quite as fast as other phones and noise becomes a bit of an issue in lower light but this isn't uncommon. Video footage can be taken at 1080p at 30fps but the default is 720p at 60fps. Our test footage at the prior setting was pretty good. See below for a test photo and test video footage.

Asus Padfone 2 test photo

Click to enlarge

After you've taken your snaps, Asus Studio is on hand for editing before you upload to social networks or email them round. You can crop, rotate, add borders, fix brightness and more.

Both font cameras are pretty standard – 1.2Mp on the phone and 1Mp on the pad. They are ok for video chats which is primarily why they are there.

Asus Padfone 2: Software

The Padfone 2 comes pre-loaded with Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean but an update has been made available to the more up-to-date 4.2 version. The user interface is largely vanilla Android but there's Asus customisations here and there.

Asus Padfone 2 Android interfaceThe dropdown notification bar is modified but this is no bad thing. There's access to lots of quick settings such as Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. Furthermore, there're icons for Wi-Fi, sound and general settings and even a screen settings and a brightness slider. We like it.

The Padfone 2's lockscreen is more basic than most with no quick access to apps and strangely you can't pull the notification bar down to check your alerts. You can simply choose between unlock, camera and Google Now with an unlock circle.

These are the main differences to point out. Smaller things include a 'pad only' section of the app menu for app which only work when the Padfone 2 is docked.

On top of the usual pre-loaded content are a lot of additional apps and a few extra widgets. Pre-loaded apps include Amazon Kindle, Polaris Office 4.0 and Zinio as well as Asus own brand ones like Asus Studio, AudioWizard, BuddyBuzz and Webstorage. Whether you want these apps is up to you but it's worth pointing out that you can't uninstall them.

Like some phones we've reviews there is both a default web browser and Chrome installed which is confusing.  We're not particular fans of the Asus keyboard, mainly down to its tiny space key but it does have a nice freehand mode and at the end of the day, it's pretty easy to change which keyboard you use.

Asus Padfone 2: Battery life

This is an interesting area for the Padfone 2 since not only is there a battery in the smartphone, there's one in the docking station too. This means, according to Asus, a total of 36 hours talk time between the two.

We were thoroughly impressed with the Padfone 2's battery life. With a combination of using the phone on its own and in the docking station the Padfone 2 lasted us a whopping three days and we still had 20 percent left in the smartphone.

Asus Padfone 2 battery life

There are different battery modes you can choose from including a balanced mode which lets the two go down evenly or smartphone priority which means the pad will always charge the phone when it's docked.

Furthermore, there is an Asus optimised mode which aims to extend battery life, we left this switched on during our tests. There's also a 'power saving by senario' mode which lets you choose how to save battery life. Examples of setting here are adjusting screen brightness and limiting CPU speed for different tasks.

Battery life is one of the best features of the Padfone 2 for us. It's worth pointing out that the Padfone Station can't function once its battery had run dry, regardless of how much power the smartphone has got.

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Asus Padfone 2: Specs

  • 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Krait (quad-core Cortex-A15)
  • Adreno 320
  • 4.7in (720x1280), 10.1in (1280x800)
  • Super IPS+, IPS
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 32GB
  • 2GB
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
  • 4.0
  • 3G/4G
  • aGPS & GLONASS
  • 13Mp rear, 1.2Mp/1Mp front
  • 1080p
  • 1 x mono
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • microUSB (modified)
  • NFC
  • 10W USB adapter
  • 7.9Wh, 19Wh
  • 69x138x10.4mm, 181 x 263 x 10.6mm
  • 316g, 510g
  • 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Krait (quad-core Cortex-A15)
  • Adreno 320
  • 4.7in (720x1280), 10.1in (1280x800)
  • Super IPS+, IPS
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 32GB
  • 2GB
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
  • 4.0
  • 3G/4G
  • aGPS & GLONASS
  • 13Mp rear, 1.2Mp/1Mp front
  • 1080p
  • 1 x mono
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • microUSB (modified)
  • NFC
  • 10W USB adapter
  • 7.9Wh, 19Wh
  • 69x138x10.4mm, 181 x 263 x 10.6mm
  • 316g, 510g

OUR VERDICT

The Asus Padfone 2 is an interesting and unique offering. For £599 you get both a phone and a tablet in one although this has its limitations. Good hardware and excellent battery life are the standout features while build quality is a bit of a let-down. We really like the Padfone 2 but if you're looking to a smartphone and a tablet on the cheap then we suggest Google's Nexus devices.

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