News Column

PadFone makes an odd couple

June 10, 2014

Edward C. Baig, ebaig@usatoday.com, USA TODAY



You've seen portable computers that with a bend or a twist can be transformed from a laptop into a tablet. You've seen "phablets" that are so named because the screens on these mobile phones are big enough to think of them as smallish tablets.

And now with the arrival of the $199 (with contract) Asus PadFone X that AT&T just started selling in the U.S., we have a new kind of hybrid, a modular design that weds a smartphone with a tablet.

Actually, the smartphone part of PadFone X is just that, a 5-inch, full-HD, 5.3-ounce handset. It runs the KitKat version of Android, has a quad-core processor, 2-gigabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of storage (expandable via Micro SD) and decent cameras on the rear (13-megapixel) and front (2-megapixel). The phone supports NFC wireless and the Isis mobile wallet. You can pretty much use it like any Android smartphone and never be the wiser.

What makes PadFone different is a docking station that is part of the package that effectively turns your phone into a tablet.

That's accomplished when you slide the phone into a compartment on the back of this companion accessory. It's a breeze to slide the handset in and out.

A moment or so after the phone is docked, the 9-inch, full-HD display on the docking station comes alive with whatever you were viewing on the phone. Your phone has been transformed into an Android tablet, albeit one that's a little chunky, a little heavy (nearly 1 pounds) and not the most elegant. You can also snap on an optional wireless $99 Bluetooth keyboard; just be prepared for the extra 1.7 pounds.

While Asus has hardly achieved perfection, there are some impressive feats. If you're browsing a Web page on your phone and slide it into the dock, you're taken to the very same page on the tablet. If you're on a call and dock the handset, you can resume the conversation using the larger component as a speakerphone.

Through technology Asus refers to as Dynamic Display, PadFone is supposed to recognize the proper proportions for the smaller and larger display, and adjust accordingly. But not every app supports Dynamic Display, including YouTube.

Keep in mind that while the PadFone phone is a phone, the docking station is useless when the phone isn't docked. It does provide a very nice 9-inch display. You can also significantly bolster the all-day battery life on the phone when the handset is docked.

By now you're probably asking the most pertinent question: Why do I need this thing? Let's take it as a given that all of us carry a phone, and many of us also carry a tablet. Buying PadFone doesn't suddenly reduce your travel load.

Asus and AT&T are playing up the convenience factor, and it's certainly a cinch to insert and remove the phone from the dock, making it easy to go big for watching video, playing games or banging out a text or e-mail on a touch display virtual keyboard.

Arguably the biggest selling point here is the attractive price: You get both the handset and PadFone Station for $199. Plus, you only have to spring for a single AT&T LTE data plan and don't need to sync the two devices.

But if economics aren't your chief concern, you're probably best off choosing the finest stand-alone phone and finest stand-alone tablet you can buy to meet your budget. PadFone X is a strained solution looking for a problem.


For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel



Source: USA Today


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