Making hybrids of phones and tablets seems to be in the DNA of ASUS. ASUS PadFone S (PF500KL) is a smartphone that comes with flagship specifications. Sounds ordinary? The special parts of this device do not stop here. It can be slotted into the optional PadFone Station which will convert it into a tablet. You can enjoy the benefits of both phone and tablet with one device. This means that you save the trouble of trying to sync data over 2 devices and share the same data plan. The best thing is that the ASUS PadFone S has a lovely price tag for what it offers.
Previously, the phone and the dock station are sold together. Although the complete experience is ensured, not everyone needs the tablet. This time, ASUS has made the PadFone Station optional. This will be great for people who think that the phone itself will suffice. It is always a good thing where customers have the choice to buy only what they need.
PadFone S has a very simple design and it comes in white and black. The sides are framed by brushed metal and the curved back has a soft-touch matte finish. The design is not bizarre but the phone is definitely elegant. The front of the phone houses the 5″ Full HD display with a resolution of 1920×1080 and pixel density of 441 pixels per inch. The display is covered by Gorilla Glass 3 and with anti-finger coating.
It is powered by a 2.3GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and with 2GB of RAM. Given that ASUS can provide acceptable performance with the less robust hardware in the ZenFones, the PadFone S should not struggle in performance at all. After all it has a very same chipset with great phones like the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z2. It has 16GB of internal storage and can support up to 64GB of MicroSD card expansion. WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and GPS are all supported. 4G LTE also made the cut, providing network speed up to 150Mbps.
For optics, ASUS has chosen a 13MP shooter with F/2.0 aperture and PixelMaster technology at the back. The PixelMaster technology is an ASUS-made technology to make the photos brighter. The camera has the capability to take up to 35 pictures every second in turbo burst mode. The front camera is a 2MP shooter which is not great, but not bad either.
From a software perspective, it is running the ASUS ZenUI on top of Android 4.4 Kit Kat out of the box. After Google announced its Android 5.0 Lollipop, ASUS has confirmed that the PadFone S will receive the update in the future. Given that the new features in the Android Lollipop update are as sweet as the version name, this is a huge plus in my opinion. ZenUI, on the other hand, is clean and packed with useful features like Do It later and What’s Next to improve productivity. These features are not mind blowing but they are extremely handy as they are integrated deep into the OS and supported by plenty of native apps.
The only shortcoming is probably the battery. It has a capacity of 2,300 mAh, which is relatively small in other comparable phones. The fact that it is non-removable does not help at all too. ASUS promises 22 hours of talk time but we cannot tell how long it can last in normal usage. We hope it would surprise us. The PadFone station will have a dedicated battery which can charge the phone while in-use so things might be better there. We will talk more about this later. Qi wireless charging standard is supported here. Like the other brands, the wireless charger is not included in the package.
PadFone S Station
The PadFone S Station is a dock for the PadFone S. The phone can be docked into the back of the Station and it will be converted to a tablet. The switch is instant where the app you are using on the phone will be resumed on the tablet after being slotted in the Station. Things will stay the same if you remove the phone from the Station. The Station will hold the phone firmly so that it will not slip out in any orientation.
The Station itself has a 9″ display with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 with a pixel density of 252 ppi, which is just acceptable for a tablet. It has a 1MP front facing camera too. What about rear camera? Since the back of the phone will still be exposed after being slotted into the Station, the phone’s main camera can still be accessed. The Station itself has a pair of front facing speaker, which is great for entertainment.
The PadFone S Station cannot work as a standalone tablet as it is basically projecting the contents of the phone on the larger display. The processing work is done by the processors in the phone. The Station houses a 4,990 mAh battery, which will charge the phone and power up the display once the phone is being docked. As the phone itself has a smaller battery, the PadFone S Station can provide more juice to the device.
I am not a big fan of the design of the Station. The station itself weighs 514g while the phone weighs 150g. The total weight of 664g is certainly not impressive. The fact that the phone will be slotted on the back means that the centre of the tablet will be much thicker and it will not rest nicely when you are using it on a table. The bezel around the display is way too big too.
So with all these great specifications, how much will the PadFone S cost? The phone itself is priced at RM899 only, which is very cheap for a phone with such capability, at least on paper. The PadFone S Station which is optional will cost you another RM499.
This makes the ASUS PadFone S the cheapest Snapdragon 801 processor powered phone. Except for the battery part, it almost get everything right. With that price, we simply cannot ask for more. It is in the same league with OnePlus One, Honor 6, Xiaomi Mi 4 in the affordable flagship market and it is the cheapest of all. Its design is prettier than the rest too, at least in my opinion. You can easily buy some power banks with the remaining cash to charge it up.
While I myself am tempted by the phone, the PadFone Station is not that attractive. With the price for a larger display, a bigger battery and no other internals, I hope that it could be cheaper. The bezels are also way too thick by today’s standard. Anyhow, I like the idea of having one device for wider usage cases. The seamless transition, sharing of data plan and needlessness of data syncing are appealing. But I still can understand if you prefer to buy the phone alone.
With or without the additional dock, the PadFone S definitely worth every buck you paid for it. ASUS is not asking for more than it should for this. I seriously hope that I can lay my hands on such an interesting device to experience it on my own. You can learn more about the PadFone S and the PadFone S Station here.