Earlier this month, ASUS Malaysia has made the ASUS Fonepad 7 (FE375CG) officially available in Malaysia. The Fonepad 7 is a 7″ tablet with dual sim capability and given that we had just reviewed the cheaper Fonepad 7 FE170CG which is surprisingly solid for its price, we are excited by the arrival of its upgraded version. Also, ASUS Malaysia is kind enough to send us a unit for this review and we really want to thank them for their support.
Now I have been using the tablet for some time and it is time for us to see what is great and not so great about this tablet! You can jump to the conclusion for the whole impression if you are in a hurry.
What’s In The Box?
The packaging of ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is very similar to the FE170CG. Their boxes are almost identical except that the picture in front is different and there is a model number at the bottom right hand corner. Nevertheless, the packaging is simple yet attractive.
Opening up the box will unveil the Fonepad itself, which is wrapped by plastic film securely. Apart from the plastic film, the front display is also covered by a screen protector with the features printed on it which gave me chance to carry out my favourite part of device unboxing, removing the screen protector.
What else comes along with the tablet? ASUS has packed in a 1.35A charger, a USB cable for charging and data syncing and some documents for warranty and introduction. The 1.35A charger is not the fastest of its kind, but I appreciate that the current rating is bigger than the usual 1A as charging the tablet with a larger battery will take more time. As usual, there are no headphones given for the tablet.
Design & Feel in Hand
The Fonepad 7 FE375CG has 4 colours, namely red, gold, silver and black. The unit we received is the black unit. Although black might seem a bit dull for a lot of people, it is my favourite out of the four choices. ASUS has also added a golden edge at the front, giving the black model some much needed flavour in terms of design. The colour of the golden edge is not the striking, cheesy gold but is of champagne gold with matte finish which really gives the tablet an elegant look.
The front of the tablet is black in colour and covered by one piece of glass. The glass itself is very reflective. ASUS claims that there is an anti-fingerprint coating on the glass. Although the glass is not totally fingerprint-proof, it is can be cleaned effortlessly and the smudges cannot be seen when the display is turned on. Most of the time my pocket will do the cleaning job very well for me. There are 2 speakers in front, one at the top and one at the bottom. The front facing camera is placed beside of the top speaker. The speaker holes are nicely grilled and the speaker sits somewhere deeper in the hole.
The silver ASUS logo, which is very reflective under light, is placed between the display and the bottom speaker. ASUS has packed in proximity and ambient sensor in this Fonepad 7 and they are almost invisible. You can only see it under a certain angle or if you look for it. Most of the time, they are well hidden and I just forget their existence. If you are considering the white or gold model, which has a white front, then both of the sensors will be visible to you.
The back of the phone is made of rubberized plastic, which feels great in hand. When I held the device for the very first time, I was really shocked by the build. One of my friends even told me that the tablet feels like something worth over RM 1,000. The rubberized back is nice to hold and great to touch too. I noticed that started to get into the habit of rubbing the back of the tablet when I am holding the tablet just because it feels so nice in hand. The rubberized back also gives enough friction and I never worry that the tablet might slip from my hand. It also does a good job of keeping fingerprints away.
The back of the tablet houses the main camera, the ASUS logo, the Intel Inside markings and the certifications wordings. The camera slightly protrudes at the back, which I really do not like. Although there won’t be any scratches on the camera glass, the hump will make the tablet slightly unstable when it is placed on table. ASUS has also placed the power button and volume rockers at the right hand side of the tablet. The buttons are faced slightly backwards instead of totally sideways which is the typical design. This decision makes the buttons accessible in most of the ways you hold the tablet.
There is a flap on the left of the tablet which covers the micro SD card slot and two of the micro sim slots. The flap itself is flexible and there is no need to worry that it would break. The micro USB port is on the top of the tablet and the 3.5mm audio jack is placed at the bottom end. As this is a tablet and the user interface can be rotated, you can use the tablet upside down if you prefer the ports to be at the opposite orientation.
Again, ASUS has tried to slim down the side bezels so that it is more comfortable to hold it. Almost all adults, guys or girls, will have no problem holding it in one hand. Of course, there is no way you can use it with one hand. The Fonepad 7 FE375CG can fit into the pockets on most of my pants. However, I found it a bit uncomfortable to walk when the tablet is in my side pocket, especially when I needed to climb up the stairs. It is best to carry it in a bag.
This tablet weighs 299g, which is acceptable for a 7″ tablet. I have no problems holding it with 2 hands for an extensive period of time. However, I do have to change my holding hand when I have a phone call longer than 30 minutes. It is a little too heavy to hold it up for a long time.
The ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG has a 7″ IPS display. The resolution of the screen is 1280×800, which brings the pixel density up to 216 pixel per inch. The display is not very sharp and you still can tell between individual pixels if you look at them very closely, especially you have things with round edges on your display. But this is a 7″ tablet and naturally we will have a longer viewing distance. 216 ppi on a tablet is actually not as bad as it is on a phone. I would say 95% of the time I would not notice that the images are pixelated.
Although the sharpness might be just above average, I feel the colour of the display really stands out of the crowd. The colour saturation suites my taste, which is vivid enough but not oversaturated. Not once did the display look washed out and the colours always looked natural. However, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. If you like popping colours, ASUS has preloaded Splendid for you to adjust the colour saturation and temperature of the display so that you can adjust the display to your own personal taste.
As the Fonepad 7 FE375CG has an ambient light sensor, there is an option to use auto-brightness instead of changing it manually. With auto-brightness settings turned on, I had no problems looking at the screen in most indoor situations. Speaking of brightness, the display has a very limited range of brightness. By this I mean that at minimum brightness, the display is too bright for me and at maximum brightness, it is not bright enough. Given that it is an IPS panel, I did expect that it cannot get too dim but what surprises me is the low maximum brightness. Typically IPS displays will do well in this sector. So I had problems reading in the dark comfortably and seeing the screen clearly under the sun outdoors. Both of these can be done, it’s just that they did not give me any pleasant experience. But if you are more to an indoor person, the brightness of the display will be suitable.
For indoor conditions, the viewing angle is good thanks to the IPS display. This is useful for sharing the screen or watching videos together with friends on the large screen. However, the glass in front is very reflective and the view will be affected if the light is coming from sideways, like sitting in car or sitting by a window. Things are worse when I have to tilt the device especially playing games like the Temple Run series and car racing games. I could not remember how many times my character died or I wrecked my car because I cannot see the screen properly due to the reflection of light from my surroundings. Maxing out the brightness will help a little but it is still not perfect.
I have mixed feelings for the display of ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG. Although the display is far from the best, it is also miles away from an eye-sore. Given that the tablet has such an affordable price, I am more than pleased to accept it. To be fair to it, I have seen much worse display on devices with similar price tag.
The ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is powered by the Intel Atom Z3560 processor with 1GB of RAM. The processor has 4 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. What is special about this processor is that the processor is a 64 bit processor. So what advantages does a 64 bit processor brings over a 32 bit processor typically found in mobile devices? Making it simple, a 64 bit processor can process more data at once and address more than 4GB of RAM. Typically a 64 bit processor will have more robust design too.
However, there are conditions to be met to enjoy all of the benefit. First of all, the operating system and applications need to be written and compiled for 64 bit machine. Up to version 4.4 Kit Kat, Android is still running on 32 bits and almost all applications are running on 32 bits too. Android will have 64 bit version in next Android “L” update but ASUS has promised nothing about the update when it is available. For applications, since most devices are running on 32 bits, most developers will not have the motivation to adopt 64 bit very soon. Secondly, this Fonepad 7 has only 1GB of RAM so it is useless for the processor to be able to address more than 4GB of RAM.
Therefore, for the time being, there is not much advantages for Fonepad 7 FE375CG to pack a 64 bit processor over a normal 32 bit processor. However, if ASUS would provide the 64 bit Android software update, then the software can take full advantage of the hardware and theoretically the performance should have a boost, at least in the OS if the developers do not update their applications accordingly.
So with the 32 bit software, how well does the Fonepad 7 FE375CG perform? It turns out okay. It can handle most day-to-day task like browsing the web, sending emails and social networking smoothly. For the majority of the time, there is no lag when I navigate through the user interface. It can play 1080p videos flawlessly too. However, after I quit some graphics heavy games or having too many Facebook Messenger chat heads around, there is noticeable lag in the UI. There is latency of response after you press on the home button and the home screen will take some time to load.
The 1GB of RAM does not help much on multitasking. Browsing the web while chatting with friends on Facebook Messenger chat heads can be slow sometimes. You probably need to clear some RAM first if you plan to perform multitasking or playing heavy games. Luckily ASUS made it easy to clear the RAM. You just have to pull down the Quick Setting menu from the top of the screen and press on the Boost button. I really hope that I can have 2GB of RAM here even though the price might goes up a little. It will be worth every cent paid.
The ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is not really capable of handling graphics heavy games. In the highest graphics setting, Asphalt 8 tends to lag and the app loading time takes quite long too. The graphic effects rendered is far from the best too. Graphics demanding games such as Prime World Defenders also crashes very often, especially when there are a lot of minions on the screen. While it excels in benchmarking, the sad truth is that it does not do so well in real world. This is the reason why I do not trust benchmarking. Simpler games such as Temple Run 2, Candy Crush and Real Basketball do run smoothly without any hiccups. On the other hand, the tablet never really heats up even though the processors are working hard to run the game.
The performance for ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is acceptable although not great. In my opinion, the hardware should be able to perform better and I feel that the software is letting the hardware down. Luckily ASUS has a good record on providing software updates to its devices, which is much needed by this tablet to improve the stability and fluidity. In my relatively short review period, I have received a software update. It managed to improve the situation and I hope more will be on the way. More important, I hope that ASUS will provide 64 bit Android update to this tablet. If that comes true, the tablet should have a performance boost.
This Fonepad 7 is available in 8GB and 16GB variants, although it seems that the 16 GB model is not here yet at the moment. The unit I received is the 8GB model with 4.21 GB reserved for system use and you are left with 3.79 GB for everything else. There are a lot of preloaded applications that cannot be uninstalled.
3.79 GB might seems small but you can expand the storage via micro SD card. Up to 64GB is supported and that is actually very sufficient. You can move your apps and media to the external storage. Given that the resolution of the camera is not very high, you can store lots of photos and videos here. For me, the 8GB model is actually enough as I moved everything possible to the micro SD card. It should be the same for most of the users. ASUS also provides free cloud storage for customers. 5GB will be free for life and an extra 11GB will be free for the first year.
Battery life is one of the most enjoyable things when I use a tablet as my daily driver. ASUS has packed in a 3950mAh battery, which is huge. For normal use, it would last 2 days. If you are a very light user, the tablet might survive more than 3 days with a single full charge. Even when I tried very, very hard to empty the battery by gaming extensively, I have problems finishing it in a day. It is just that awesome. If you want to extend the battery life further, ASUS has included a Power Saver option for you to make every bit of juice count.
ASUS has packed in two speakers in front. Having front facing speakers makes much more sense than its rear facing counterparts as we face the display all the time, not the back. What about 2 speakers in front? It is incredible. Even though the speaker holes are not very big, it is impossible to cover up them with your fingers. I can still hear the audio quite well even when I purposely placed my thumbs on each of the speaker. Sound coming from both sides will provide a more immersive experience in playing games or listening to music.
The position of the speakers are perfect, but what about the quality of the sound? The sound is typically crisp and clear even at maximum volume. The bass is slightly light for my taste. The speakers are quite loud too. You can hear it in most situations. Unless you are in a very noisy environment, you should be able to hear it with no problems. The speakers here is one of the best you can get from a tablet. To further improve the experience, ASUS has packed in AudioWizard which can be accessed easily through Quick Setting Menu. You can choose between different modes for different scenarios.
Phone Call & Connectivity
Being a Fonepad, it can make phone calls and send SMS as well. 2 micro sim cards are supported with dual sim dual stand by. Data connection up to 3G HSPA+ is supported. Understandably, 4G LTE is not included. I have not lost any signal in places it should not. Phone calls are clear from my end and also the other end. Putting phone calls on speaker phone is a nice experience thanks to the front facing camera. However, only the top speaker will be used in speaker phone calls.
ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG supports WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. Both connections work as expected. Wireless casting is possible with Miracast supported. You can use PlayTo to connect to external display to stream 720p content at 30fps. However, NFC is not present here.
ASUS has packed in a 5MP shooter at the back and a 2MP front facing camera in front. Taking photos with a tablet is weird and its weight make it difficult to avoid hand shaking while taking photos. However, there are a lot of things that worth capturing in our life so why not take a picture with anything you carry?
The camera app is packed with a lot of things yet the app itself is still easy to use. You have settings, filters, and front and back camera toggle buttons on the top. The software effects are accessible at the bottom left corner and the gallery is on the right corner. You can snap a photo or shoot a video with tapping on each button without having to change between these modes. You can turn on turbo for fast capturing but the quality of the photos are mediocre. You can access to the camera from lock screen by swiping from the right edge or with the button on lockscreen without unlocking the tablet. The third option is to double press on any of the volume button. It would wake the device and jump to camera immediately.
Taken with a 5MP shooter, there are not a lot of details in the pictures. While the resolution is enough to be uploaded to social media, there is not much freedom to crop and edit. Zoom in a little and the photos will be unusable. While the photos will look okay on smaller device, viewing them on a 7″ screen is not enjoyable. The colour capture are generally accurate except for red, which tends to become pink like the photo above. Just keep in mind that this is very common in budget devices and ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is not the only device with such problem. The camera is not great at taking macro photos but still managed to provide a little depth of field.
Exposure sometimes will be a little off. The auto exposure will be following the focus point but it swings way too much when you try to focus at slightly brighter or darker areas. For example, three of the photos above are taken by focusing at different part of the balloon monkey. Three of them have very different exposure level despite the point of focus not being far away and the colours are not that distant too. This might be a problem for you to capture a good photo with first shoot.
There are different modes included, including HDR, night mode, Time Rewind, Smart Remove and others. Some of them are useful but the others are not. In HDR mode, the difference is not really that much. Although the pictures with HDR will be brighter and have more popping colours, they looked a little over exposed and they are more grainy if you zoom in a little. Both indoor (above) and outdoor (below) will have the same trend.
The night mode is for us to take better pictures in low light condition. However, the effect with night mode on is not really significant. The camera performance under auto mode is acceptable under moderately dark conditions and the night mode will not help that much. However, in extreme conditions, the photos are unusable. It is just a mess of darkness, with or without night mode on.
Panorama mode performs quite well. You do not have to pan the tablet very slowly yet the pictures can be stitched together quite well. The picture quality is there and there is no weird distortion found in the image. More importantly, it works every single time if there is no moving objects around.
Below are some pictures taken by this Fonepad 7 under different conditions. Although they are not mind-blowing and will not win you any awards, at least the photos are usable. We can see that in well-lit situation at outdoors, the camera is actually quite solid. However, things typically get sour in indoor or low light photography. The images are very grainy and the camera tends to have a long exposure time. You have to make sure your hands are steady in such conditions. You can open up each photos to view them in larger size.
For the 2MP front facing camera, it is actually quite bad. The images look dull and very grainy if there is not enough light. Although there is a selfie beautifcation mode which works quite well for us to make the eyes bigger, the cheek thinner and to adjust the skin tone, but the software trick is not enough to save the day. If you are a selfie lover, this is not the device you are looking for.
The Fonepad 7 FE375CG is running ASUS ZenUI on top of Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat out of the box. As mentioned earlier in the performance section, the software is not perfect here. It seems that ASUS has not completely optimized the Android Kit Kat software to the tablet. This leads to some instability of UI and slightly more often than not the running application crashes. We hope that ASUS will bring software update to fix the issues as soon as possible.
However, the software in Fonepad 7 FE375CG is still one step forward compared to what we have in the lesser sibling, FE170CG. There are some worthy new features being introduced in the new software. The look of the ZenUI is being kept here. ASUS kept the skinning minimum so what we see is very close to stock Android. The simplicity brings fluidity and consistency. Navigation through the UI is simple and much expected if you have used any smart devices before. The design for native apps are very close to Google application suite too. The consistency in appearance is eye-pleasing.
Shortcuts at Quick Settings
At the Quick Settings menu where we can toggle settings like WiFi, Bluetooth and others, ASUS has added in 4 shortcuts for different purposes. The buttons are Boost, Calculator, Quick Memo and Audio Wizard. Tapping the Boost button will free up the RAM and the calculator button is a no brainer. Audio Wizard, as mentioned earlier, is for users to change between different audio modes.
Quick Memo is for users to jot down short notes quickly by handwriting or by typing on keyboard. The notes can be pinned on top of the screen and it can be moved around. Keeping the note available on glance will be very helpful to remind of important things. It can be use as clipping board when you want to copy different parts of text and store in somewhere temporary. You also can add it to Do It Later too.
Although ASUS has not added much to the user interface, they did preload a lot of applications in the Fonepad 7 and unfortunately, no freedom is given to uninstall them. Besides the usual Google applications, ASUS has packed in its own browser calculator, clock, music player, mirror, SuperNote, Do It Later, What’s Next, Weather, Share Link, Remote Link, PC Link and Party Link. Some of them are quite useful.
The SuperNote is another app for you to add notes to it but with the Quick Memo accessible at the Quick Setting Menu, I did not use SuperNote as it is harder to reach. Share Link and Party Link are easy ways for you to share things with your friends. Remote Link is an application to control a PC remotely from the tablet via Bluetooth. You can use the screen as touchpad, control media playing, typing and also control presentation slides.
What’s Next is present on the lockscreen and homescreen widget. It pulls all your appointments from your calender and provides you with an overview of your schedule. You also will be informed if there is bad weather on that day. Do It Later is a reminder app that integrates nicely to the other native apps. You can add items to Do It Later from message app, browser, contact or others to remind you of anything. This is handy as you do not have to go to the reminder app itself. I have covered these features before on the Fonepad 7 FE170CG review so if you are interested you can read more about these apps there.
There is an app called AwareHub in the list when I first got the device. It is an app for you to do some action on the tablet after some condition is met. For example, you can set from 10PM to 7AM, place the device into Flight mode or lift up the phone while receiving a phone call to answer it. However, some actions are not responding well, especially those which involves movement. In the latest software update, ASUS has removed it from the list, maybe due to the inconsistency in response.
While Remote Link is for you to control your PC on the Fonepad 7, PC Link works the opposite way. You can control the tablet with your computer via an USB cable. So how do you use PC Link? What you need is to enable USB debugging in the Developer Options. The Developer Options are hidden in default. You have to go to Settings>About>Software Information and look for Build Number. Tap it for 7 times and the Developer Options will be turned on in the main settings. Then go to Developer Options and check USB debuggin. For your computer, you have to download the PC Link software from http://pclink.asus.com.
After you connect both devices via USB cable and open the PC Link app on both of them, you can click to connect your devices. In the process you may see windows prompting for your confirmation so just accept it accordingly. Then you can see the contents of the Fonepad 7 on the computer. You can use your mouse or your touch screen to control the screen and do anything you want with the larger display. You have access to its power button, volume, screen rotation and screenshot on your computer. The resolution is lowered down so the frame rate is okay and there is not much lag even videos are played. So what does PC Link do you any good? Well who does not love a larger display? Reading text or sharing the photos are simply better on a larger display.
Story is an album application for you to create photo collages easily. You can create a new ‘Story’ and insert photos to it. Then the app will automatically arrange the photos for you. Of course, you can edit each photos, change the design or swap the position of the photos according to your taste. After that, you can choose to share single page or the whole “story” to your friends via social networks or emails.
The ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is a mid range tablet with a low price. The tablet itself is packed with anything you’d expect from a tablet plus the dual sim support. The design and feel in hand really stands out of the crowd. I have never seen any tablet under RM700 which has better look and build quality than this. The appearance is not the only major selling point here. The dual sim capability and 3G support will help you stay connected all the time. The battery life is amazingly long and a single charge will last for days. If the 8GB or 16GB internal storage is not enough for you to store the important things, you can insert up to 64GB of external micro SD card to expand the storage.
This tablet is good for enjoying multimedia content too. The 7″ display is quite good considering the price. However, the front glass is quite reflective and it might affect the visibility of the display under certain lighting conditions. The dual front facing speakers is one of my favourite features. They can provide immersive audio experience to you due to their positions and I would say they are one of the best speakers you can find on tablets. The cameras found in this tablet is average. You will need some patience to take good photos but it should be able to serve you well for simple photo taking.
The performance of the tablet is a little complex here. It is running a quad core 1.8GHz 64 Bit Intel Atom processor, which should be quite decent for a budget device. However, it is still running 32 bit software and the ZenUI running on top of Android 4.4 is still a little unstable. So the software has let the hardware down. In most normal conditions, the tablet runs smoothly. The problems only arise when I try to run games with heavy graphics. Things are better after the software update despite still not being perfect. We just have to hope that ASUS would provide further updates to fix the issue. The next generation Android version will be available in 64 bit and we hope that ASUS will provide the update as well as it will bring some performance improvement.
In short, this is a very competent tablet and ASUS checks almost every box for a budget tablet like this except for the software. With the RM649 price tag, ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is not asking for more than what it is worth.
- Affordable price
- Great design and build quality
- Amazing battery life
- Support dual sim dual standby and 3G connection
- Impressive dual front facing camera
- Software needs improvement
- Performance unsatisfactory for graphic heavy games
- Front glass is too reflective
One thing to be aware of is that there a few generations of ASUS Fonepad 7 and we are referring to the FE375CG model. Make sure you are getting the correct device. The experience of using a 7″ tablet as a phone is not everyone’s cup of tea. You need to think and see if you can accept that or not. If you cannot, then one of the major feature will be useless for you. However, sans the telephony capability, the ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG is still a very good tablet. If you can accept it, its amazing battery life and large display are things you do not get in normal phones.
It will be great for serious work and entertainment, as long as you are not a big fans of gaming. This tablet has problem to cope with games with demanding graphics. You also need to be patient and hope for update to improve the software too. ASUS has a good reputation for providing software fix so there is a good chance that it will be improved. You also need to cross your fingers to hope that the 64 bit Android OS will come to the tablet in the future to make full use of the 64 bit processor in it. If you can accept all these, I do not see there is any reason not to get this tablet except that you have higher budget for better and more expensive option. For the price, it is one of the best choice we have in the market.