These days, almost all major smartphone makers are coming out with big sized Phablet devices. Those smartphones that are bigger than regular sized phones but smaller than tablets. The reason for the increasing popularity of phablets is that users want the big screen viewing pleasure of a tablet as well as the comfort of easy to hold regular sized smartphones. And Phablets act as sort of compromise between the two and can serve both purposes. However, as popular as the Phablet devices are getting, they are usually high-priced and never quite comfortable to hold and use with a single hand.
Recently, I got the chance to check out quite a unique device that offered a different solution to users’ difficulty in choosing between a tablet and a smartphone. The solution is, have both!
Yes, the device is ASUS Padfone Mini. The model that I checked out was T00E. And what it does is that it attaches a detachable smartphone to a tablet sized display. The convenient to hold 4 inch touchscreen smartphone is docked at the back of the tablet or Station as it is called. When docked, the smartphone brings to life the big tablet display and you can conveniently use the larger display for viewing media, reading books and articles or just surfing the web. And when you are going out or just want to make a call, simply slip out the smartphone from the back and use it.
The Padfone Mini Station is only a large display, not an independently functioning tab:
The smartphone can be used on its own. However, the Station cannot be used without the smartphone inserted in its back. The station has a battery that powers it, but it has no processor or RAM of its own. And so, you can’t use the two displays separately. Either you use the Padfone Mini as a tablet or as phone. You cannot use it as both simultaneously.
However, the two displays sync automatically. Whatever data you input while using the larger screen of Station can be accessed from the smartphone. And whatever you store on the smartphone, you can view it on the larger display of the Station. The Station is actually just that – a large display. All the data is stored on the smartphone and all the functions happen on the smartphone. The Station doesn’t even have a camera. But you can still use it to click pictures. You can access and operate the camera app from the larger display of the Station, but the picture is clicked from the camera of the smartphone docked at its back. That also means that the front camera becomes unusable on the Station and you can’t use it to click selfies or view yourself in the Mirror app that comes pre-installed on the device.
I felt that the Padfone Mini offered great value for money. Priced at just INR 16,999, it gives the user a Dual SIM smartphone AND a tab. The specifications are quite decent and the features handy and useful.
Let’s talk about the Specifications first. ASUS Padfone Mini has Intel® Atom™ Z2560 ( 1.6 GHz ) processor. The device has Android JellyBean 4.3, to be updated to KitKat. The device I checked had Android 4.4.2. And of course, being an ASUS device, it has ASUS ZenUI interface which I find quite calming and pleasing to use. The smartphone has 4″ TFT LED Backlight display with 800 x 480 WVGA IPS resolution. The Station has a larger 7 inch TFT LED Backlight display with1280 x 800 WXGA IPS screen.
The smartphone is powered by 4.5 Wh, Typ 1200mAh, removable polymer battery and the station is powered by 8.3 Wh, Typ 2100 mAh, non-removable polymer battery, Both can be charged with the same charger. The Padfone Mini is a Dual Micro SIM device and so one can say that it can give the users not one but three devices in one!
Web Storage accessible from Flle Manager:
It has 8 GB internal storage out of which 4 GB is system reserved and so only 4 GB is available for the user to store apps and data in. However, that is plenty of memory for most users. The storage can be increased using MicroSD card of upto 64GB.
The users of Padfone Mini can make a free account and use the Asus WebStorage which gives to user 5GB of free web storage for life. And this web storage and all other web storage accounts like Google Drive etc can be accessed right from the File Manager. I personally really like this feature of ASUS smartphones. It practically allows the user to have and access unlimited web storage right from within the File Manager.
Padfone Mini has 8 MP Pixelmaster rear camera and 2 MP front camera. However, the front camera can be used only in the smartphone. You can’t use it when the smartphone is docked in the Station. You can use the rear camera on the smartphone as well as the station. The device has several camera modes like HDR, Selfie, Miniature, Depth of Field, Night and the Low Light Mode that can give superior photo results even in very poor lighting conditions. The video modes include Auto, Low Light, Miniature and Time Lapse. Several Filters can also be applied right from the camera while clicking a photo. More cool effects can be applied to the photos by opening them for editing from the Gallery. These effects include Beauty Effects and more filters and cropping, adding frames etc.
In terms of looks and feel, the 4 inch smartphone feels quite light and comfortable to hold. The station however feels a little bulky as it has the added width and weight of the smartphone at its back. Both the devices have soft touch back that makes them feel surer and less slippery in hand but doesn’t do much to enhance to looks. There are no Soft Keys on the Station. It only has the Power Key and the Volume Rocker on its right side. The Smartphone which looks exactly liek ZenFone 4 has the Power and Volume Rocker on its right side too. it also has three Soft Keys below the display.
Now let’s come to another important part – the features. ASUS Padfone Mini has many of the features that can also be found in ASUS ZenFone smartphones. These include the brilliant note taking apps like SuperNote (a comprehensive note taking app with ability to insert images, audio, video and handwriting etc), Quick Memo (a quick note taking app that allows pinning of note to all screens) and Do It Later (which helps in quickly noting down and setting reminders for tasks to be done later like responding to a message or a missed call)
Padfone Mini also has several useful sharing apps like Share Link (for quicker transfer of data to other devices), Party Link (for simultaneous sharing of photos from camera to connected smartphones) and PC Link and Remote Link. It also has several handy utilities like Mirror app, Data Transfer wizard and Dictionary and Instant Dictionary which can be activated to be accessed from any screen and helps in translation. And yes, it also has the useful Reading Mode, Power Saving modes.
I also like the looks of ASUS widgets like Calendar and Contacts. These widgets aren’t just handy but also look good. And also, the Padfone Mini too has the ASUS What’s Next Widget which makes available useful information like upcoming events, things to do and the weather forecast on the Home Screen as well as the Lock Screen.
Talking about the lockscreen, besides the What’s Next info displayed on it, it also provides three customizable shortcuts which can be set as required for a quicker access to three favourite apps.
The device also enables the user to quickly switch on the camera just by double pressing the volume rocker.
As I said, the features are nearly same as those of ZenFone smartphones. So you can check out my post about the ZenFone to know more details about the features.
While using Padfone Mini, I did mind not being able to use the front camera while the smartphone was in the Station. I quite liked the display of the smartphone. It was comfortable on the eyes. But the screen of the tab seemed to cause some strain on the eyes due to its glare. There’s no Automatic Brightness setting in the device. Also, removing the smartphone from its dock is a work of two hands. It’s not quite easy or convenient to slide it out using one hand. But I suppose that is essential to prevent its accidental slipping out and falling down.
But overall, I found Padfone Mini quite an interesting device. Decent specification, nice user interface, useful features, apps and widgets and the facility to easily alter between a smartphone and a tablet. The apps that are running on the big display continue to run on the smartphone if you remove it from the Station while using the app. For example, if I’m viewing a photo in Gallery when I remove the phone from the Station, I will find the same photo open in the smartphone. For a price of just Rs. 16,999, Padfone Mini is really a value for money. Call it a tablet with a smartphone or a Dual-Sim smartphone with a tablet attached, it can give you the benefit of carrying three devices in one!
For your review, here are the important Specifications of Asus Padfone Mini T00E once again:
- Dimensions: Phone : 124.42 ( L ) x 61.44 ( W ) x 6.3-11.2 ( H ) mm / Station: 199.85 ( L ) x 119.43 ( W ) x 13.91 ( H ) mm
- Weight: Phone : 116g / Station : 260g
- Processor: Intel® Atom™ Z2560 ( 1.6 GHz )
- Operating System: Android JellyBean 4.3 ( will update to 4.4 KitKat ) with ASUS ZenUI
- Storage: MMC 8GB / Micro SD Card Support (up to 64GB) / Asus WebStorage 5G/Lifetime
- Display: Phone : 4″ TFT LED Backlight / 800 x 480 WVGA IPS / Station : 7″ TFT LED Backlight / 1280 x 800 WXGA IPS
- Camera: Main Camera 8 MP f/2.0 / Front Camera2 MP
- Battery: Phone: 4.5 Wh, Typ 1200mAh, removable polymer battery / Station: 8.3 Wh, Typ 2100 mAh, non-removable polymer battery
- Ports: Headphone jack / Micro USB / 24 Pin connector / Dual Micro SIM
- Color: Charcoal Black / Pearl White / Cherry Red / Sky Blue / Solar Yellow
- Price: Rs. 16999