4. Speaker & Camera
ASUS PadFone S has a rear facing speaker and it is not really outstanding. The speaker is by no means mediocre but it is pretty ordinary, like those commonly found on devices with similar price. First of all, I would prefer a front-facing speaker any day over the rear facing one as I am not using the phone by facing the back. The clarity of the sound produced will degrade when the volume is increased. The speaker is not loud enough to be used in a noisy environment.
ASUS has included AudioWizard for you to switch between preset modes. The audio is really bad if you turn off the equalizer. Anyway if you are an audiophile, I would suggest a pair of earphones as the audio quality from the speaker might not meet your expectation.
ASUS has included a 13-megapixel camera on the back and a 2-megapixel shooter in front. One thing that I like a lot is that the camera app can be opened by double pressing the volume key when the PadFone S is locked. This allows me to capture any precious moments easily. While pixel count does not guarantee image quality, the difference in number does show that ASUS has put much more emphasis on the former. Let’s talk about the rear-facing camera first.
The 13 megapixel sensor does provide a lot of details in the pictures. The images are sharp and the high resolution of the pictures allows a lot of space for editing and cropping later. Just take note that for the highest resolution at 13MP, the aspect ratio is 4:3 and if you prefer 16:9 wide ratio, the highest resolution you can get is 10MP. However, 10MP is still very large so this should not be an issue.
In well-lit places, most of the pictures taken are nice looking. The auto focus, albeit not instant, is fast too. The colours of the pictures are just right without being over-saturated or washed out. There are cases where the images will be over exposed. You can tap on different areas to change the exposure manually. No big deal at all. If you care about doing macro shoot, the closest focus range the PadFone S can reach is around 4 inches. It is hard to get the object to be focused if it is closer than that.
The camera’s viewfinder is very simple yet smart. You have direct access to take photos and to capture videos. Different modes and filters are also accessible. One notable feature here is that the PadFone S will suggest different capturing mode if the lighting condition is less than ideal before you snap the photo. This is really handy as normal users than to use auto mode for all scenes. Making the automatic suggestion will help us to take better pictures effortlessly.
If there is a big contrast in light over different part of the image, HDR mode will be suggested. The HDR mode is really helpful to bring out the colours, especially when the backlight is too strong. If it is too dark, an owl will appear at the bottom and clicking it will bring you to the Low Light mode.
For darker scenes, actually there are two modes that can be chosen, namely Low Light mode and Night mode. The camera app seems to be able to suggest Low Light mode only. So what’s the difference between them?
The low-light mode will produce a 3 megapixel photo and ASUS claims that the light sensitivity can be improved by 400% and the colour contrast can be bumped up to 200% with this low-light mode. The night mode, on the other hand, will keep the full resolution but the improvement will be less significant. You can see the pictures taken in auto, night and low light mode. Low light mode will be the brightest but if you look carefully, the image is full of noise and it is very grainy. The night mode has a more natural output.
With the help of these two modes, the PadFone S is able to capture usable images in dark places. In extreme conditions, a LED flash is there to help. These two modes are useful under different scenarios and if you are in doubt, just take pictures with both modes and choose later. For me, I would choose the photo taken under night mode most of the time.
There are other fun modes such as panorama, time rewind, depth of field, all smiles and miniature. They are not as useful most of the time but you can have fun with them occasionally. For video capturing, there are 2160p (4K)@12-25fps, 1080p@30fps and 720p@60fps modes available. 4K video support sounds great but given that 4K displays are not that popular yet and the frame rate is a little too low, 1080p video is actually better here. The low frame rate is very obvious if you are capturing continuously moving object.
Let’s go back to the front-facing camera. The resolution is actually not the biggest problem here. The biggest trouble I faced is that the angle of view is very narrow. If I stretch my arms out while taking selfie, the picture can only fit in 2 to 3 people at most. Believe me, my arm is not very short. This is quite annoying. In addition to that, the images can turn out a little grainy most of the time. Beautification option is available for enhancing the skin tone, thinning the cheeks and enlarging the eyes and it can be applied before or after the shoot.
Here are some shoots taken by the PadFone S:
In short, the rear camera is quite capable, but the front camera is really disappointing. If you are selfie lovers, you should really look somewhere else. If you are taking pictures of things other than you and your friends most of the time, then the PadFone S should be able to suit your needs. The pictures are of course no match to those taken by premium flagships such as Lumia 930 and iPhone 6 but it is already the best you can get within its price point.