In a world dominated by Samsung, the Asus Padfone 2 stands out. Samsung phones are without a doubt, still the cream of the crop. But the last year saw many other Android manufacturers producing increasingly better phones. Asus was one of the smaller Android manufacturers that make great strides through its hardware.
From this review of the Asus Padfone 2, one thing is absolutely clear. If ever there’s going to be a manufacturer who has the capability to take down Samsung, Asus has got to be it.
The Asus Padfone 2 is an engineering marvel, not because it’s both a phone and a tablet, but because this is one device done right. The first Padfone was nothing more but a tiny ripple in the ocean, but the second generation of Asus's product has changed so much. And, although Asus has probably not sold as many phones as they might have desired, their innovation and courage are worthy of respect.
The Asus Padfone 2 evokes a certain kind of confidence. It’s sturdy and solid, unlike Samsung’s somehow flimsy Galaxy S3. The aluminium frame gives the user a sense of durability unlike any other Android phone, and you just know it will survive a drop.
Case in point, during a media launch of the Padfone 2 here in Kuala Lumpur, an Asus spokesperson accidentally dropped their Padfone 2 on the floor. The phone survived unscathed. Thanks to that aluminum frame, the Padfone 2 will take an immense amount of punishment before breaking, which is not something you can say about more popular competitors.
One thing I particularly like about the Asus Padfone 2 is the long battery life. My Samsung Galaxy S3 generally lasts me about 14 hours a day on moderate usage, while the Padfone 2 lasts me more than 24 hours. That is by any standards, a really long battery life. However, the Padfone 2 has a non-removable battery, and this means that, once the battery is empty, you’re either stuck with using the Padfone 2 Station for a long time or you’re hunting for a wall charger (which uses an Asus 13-pin dock connector).
Overnight charging will bring your Padfone 2 & Padfone 2 Station battery to 100%, which is more than enough for most people, even road warriors.
That said, the Super IPS+ display really does stretch the battery as compared to an AMOLED screen. The display of the Padfone 2 is brilliant; at the minimum brightness, it is as bright as an AMOLED screen on 50% brightness, which makes a lot of sense for color accuracy.
The Asus Padfone 2 has a quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor under its hood and scores about 7500 on the Quadrant benchmark. Not only is this score impressive, it also puts the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 to shame.
I find the scores obtained by the Padfone 2 extremely surprising, considering that it runs Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box (Jelly Bean promised to arrive in January 2013).
But it's not just benchmark scores — the Asus Padfone 2 also walks the talk. The interface of the device is absolutely smooth, both in phone and in tablet mode. For some reason, it felt to me that Asus had Project Butter nailed at the Ice Cream Sandwich level.
App switching is a breeze thanks to the 2GB of LPDDR2 RAM that Asus has put on the Padfone. It is by far, the smoothest device I have seen and used. It could be the way the launcher was designed, but that alone is good enough to create a lasting impression and respect for the device.
As far as the user interface of the Padfone 2 is concerned, it does feel Pure Google. Although it is not, every element about it screams a very Pure Google appearance and functionality. This means that getting used to this device will take some time if you’re switching from a HTC or a Samsung.
The Asus Padfone 2 has a massive 13MP rear camera. This camera unit is supposedly a Sony part, and is a 5 element lens with f/2.4 aperture with BSI sensor. I do like the photos taken with this camera, particularly the low light shots. The 5 element lens do cut down a lot of unwanted light flares and does the job well.
Nevertheless, I am unconvinced that this is any better than the 8MP camera on the S3 or the Note 2. Surprisingly, photos taken with a Galaxy S3 and Note 2 (strangely) look much better than the ones taken with the Padfone 2.
Unfortunately, he phone camera automatically scales down to 5MP when docked in the Padfone 2 Station. This seriously limits the full potential of the camera in tablet mode.
Unlike the S3 or Note 2, the Padfone 2 is a straight up shooter. It doesn’t carry many modes like Samsung’s “best photo”, but the Padfone can burst up to 100 shots at 6 per second, which is faster than the S3 or Note 2.
Apart from being an awesome tablet, the Padfone 2 Station is also a battery tank for the Padfone 2. On its own, the Padfone 2 Station does nothing, but with the Padfone 2, it allows users to switch to tablet mode.
The ability to use your phone as a tablet is really powerful. It’s not just something that lets you impress your friends. Having more real estate for work and entertainment really makes this device something to lust after.
That said, it can be “complicated” to manage your apps in phone mode as many of your apps will not scale and adopt the tablet format when the Padfone 2 is docked in the station. Other times, it is quite frustrating to see that some apps don’t scale, or sometimes “lose” tablet full screen when the app is updated in the Play Store. For example, the YouTube app, once updated from the Play Store will no longer be able to play videos full screen in Padfone 2 Station mode.
This can be quite frustrating if it happens to every app that gets a new update. Granted, this could be something that Google messed up, but from the YouTube app comments it does seem that even Asus Transformer tablets are having the same issue. Such a problem might just deter consumers away, as it would require extreme apps micromanagement to use the tablet.
Your homescreen on the phone also doesn’t transfer over to tablet mode, forcing you to micromanage your phone and tablet homescreens separately. It would be nice if there were a feature that would give you access in both modes.
The Padfone 2 seems like a great device. Getting the Padfone 2 could mean huge savings for users who need both a phone and a tablet. However, the software doesn’t offer much edge to those who are new to Android. Those who love the Pure Google experience might love this device.
Make no mistake, this is a huge leap from the original Asus Padfone. However, as polished as the Padfone 2 is, it isn’t exactly feature packed as I had hoped it to be. What it lacks in software, though, it does make up very well in hardware.
At the end of the review, this Asus experience has left me with a positive feeling. The Padfone 2 fully convinced me of one thing – if ever there's gonna be an Android manufacturer to take on Samsung, it's not gonna be HTC or Sony or LG, it's gonna be Asus.