ASUS Padfone Review: User Experience
Chester Tan offers a consumer perspective of the ASUS Padfone.
It is a privilege to be one of the first in Singapore to review the ASUS Padfone complete with the tablet Station and keyboard Dock, way before its official sale. Unlike most review sites where they attempt to tear the product apart - figuratively speaking - I am offering a consumer perspective.
Ever since my post last week, I have received numerous comments on the product, and I replied to them diligently. What I want to share with you after one week of usage is: how does this unique product fit into my lifestyle?
If you are familiar with ASUS Transformer tablets, then you would feel at ease with the phone interface. It is basically running on stock ICS with some ASUS customisations. The usual Transformer features can be found in this phone: long-press the "recent apps" button for screen capture, notification screen contains additional icons for quick access.
I like some new apps pre-installed on the Padfone. App Locker lets you select specific apps to be locked, and requests for a password before you can access. Great parental control tool. Block List lets you block contacts. The apps drawer allow includes a "Pad Only" section for you to specify the apps that should only be run on the tablet mode. It doesn't stop you from executing, but if the app is completely incompatible, it would force close.
All the hardware buttons protrude slightly, a rarity in today's smartphone design. But I like it, because my fingers can feel the buttons better, thus less tendency to miss them.
The phone generally runs very smoothly, and I have not experienced any horrific incidents when used on its own. Some apps appear to load slower, like under the Phone app, the calls history sometimes take a while to load the list.
Although there is a micro-HDMI port, plugging a HDMI cable does not mirror the display to an external device. It is used for connecting to the Padfone Station. While many high-end ICS phones sport large 4.7-inch HD screens, the Padfone is a mere 4.3-inch qHD resolution, identical to the Samsung Galaxy S2. I like the smaller form: after all, I can always use the device in tablet mode if I wanted a larger higher-res display.
Battery life is normal, and perhaps due to my over-enthusiasm in trying the phone, I seem to use up the battery faster than when on my Samsung Galaxy S2. It does gets heated up when using processor-intensive apps like camera or games.
The speaker is soft and unimpressive. If you lay the phone flat on the surface, the sound is blocked. The rear camera quality is slightly above average and I will use it for general shots, but again not impressive compared to the lagfree shutter of Galaxy Nexus and the continuous shot feature of the HTC One X. Auto white balance fails to correct warm lighting. The front camera is out of focus and of disappointing quality. Decent self-portraits for online sharing are impossible.
The tablet Station
The tablet comes alive only when the Padfone is docked. Wasted as it may sound, it probably keeps the cost low. It only takes on average 5 seconds to switch from phone to tablet. The Station starts charging the Padfone when docked, and when my phone battery runs low, I would dock it for a couple of hours to juice up the Padfone. The speaker audio is powerful and clear, similar to the Asus Transformer range.
The tablet experience is smooth and feels identical to the Asus Transformer tablets, with no indication of any processor lag. In this age where competitors are trying to make tablets thinner and lighter, the Padfone Station feels bulky. It is possible to keep the Padfone in the Station and use it entirely as a tablet without even realising that this device is made up of 2 components. To answer phone calls, you either need a wired earpiece or bluetooth headset, or the multi-purpose Asus Stylus Headset.
I do find occasional glitches when I dock and undock the device too frequently over a short period of time. And the major bugbear is that the device kills all third-party apps every time you dock and undock. That means your Whatsapp, TweakDeck, even third-party input methods like Swiftkey X all stop running, except for third-party widgets, which gets automatically loaded with the launcher. You would have to manually restart them again after switching modes, but I'm sure someone will create an app to workaround this inconvenience. For other "official" apps like internet browser, the phone process will restart the app and restore the previous session.