The concept of the phablet has very strong roots in the Indian obsession for value for money. People wanted a device that was as large as a tablet,but could also make calls. No need to buy or carry two devices for the same.
But as the phablet became a rage in India and many other geographies,some of these people realised that they were actually using these devices more as tablets and less as phones. That meant it was no longer necessary to keep the size of a voice calling device at something you could hold in one hand. As is customary,Samsung latched on to the idea before most others and made a killing with tablets that could make calls. Extremely awkward when you hold a device as large as a paperback to your ear,but very comforting when you realise that you have bought it for lesser than what you would get a mid-range smartphone for.
There is not much novelty in a tablet that can place calls. But there are newer players in the market. We recently laid our hands on the Asus Fonepad 7,among the first Android tablets to be powered by an Intel processor in India. This is important as Intel is slowly,but surely opening up to the opportunity that is the worlds most popular mobile operating system.
The Fonepad 7 looks like any seven-inch tablet. It just about fits in your hand,provided you are a 35-year-old with decently large hands. It has a good grip,though for a device like this I would have preferred a textured back panel. With this smooth rear I can visualize me with a sweaty,or wet hand,dropping seven inches of tablet onto the hard floor.
You cant remove the rear flap and the micro-SIM goes into a slot on the left. The volume and power buttons are on the right. So is the micro-card slot. There are perforated strips for the speaker and microphone on both ends. Strangely,the bottom end has a magnetic field strong enough to latch on to a pin on the same table. I have never seen that happen with any mobile device. The rear camera is a bit of a pimple on the back,while the front one is neatly hidden. The 800 x 1280 pixels IPS panel is pretty good. Actually,Asus should have reduced the bezel to showcase the screen quality.
Performance is definitely the highlight of this tablet. To start with the UI is slightly different from stock Android Jelly Bean and that makes this device much more easier to use as a phone. The dual-core 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Z2560 processor makes multi-tasking easy and I did not encounter any lag. However,there were times when I felt this could have had better graphics. But then this is not a tablet meant for gamers.
The Atuntu benchmark score of 17049 put this between the Google Nexus 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S3. The Quadrant Standard score of 5605 put this device just above the HTC One X. Both scores show that this is a device that will not let you down as a phone. My experience was also the same.
Yes,it is still awkward to make calls with such a device. But it is definitely possible to do so,though I would prefer doing it with a Bluetooth accessory. The camera however is not a strong point and if you are a shutterbug better look for other options.
What is a strong point is the battery which will easily last a full day of use as a phone. That is a big plus. This is achieved by Asus Power Saver which gives you three modes on how you want to manage power. There are some other good Asus apps too,like the App Locker and App Backup. We did have trouble with apps like SuperNote as the touchscreen is not all that great if you want to scribble on it. The curves and cuts just dont go where you intent it to.
Should you buy it
If budget is a concern and you need a good device that will serve you both as a tablet and phone,the Fonepad 7 is a very good option. Dont think of this as a high-end smartphone and expect it to do stuff such devices would. This is more of a workhorse device that wont let you down with the basics. At a price point of Rs 17,499,this is much cheaper that most mid-range smartphones. So it is a big advantage that it is actually much more than a smartphone.
What is inside: The seven-inch Asus Fonepad 7 is powered by an Intel Atom Z2560 chip clocked at 1.6GHz with 1GB RAM. It has a 1280×800p IPS display and 16GB internal storage with a microSD card slot. The rear camera is 5-MP while the front camera is 1.2-MP. It runs Android v4.2 and has a 3,950mAh battery.