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Posts tagged ‘Asus’

23
Jul
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Android 4.4.2 update heading to the Asus Transformer Pad TF701T



I can remember a time when we all talked about and wanted an Asus Transformer Pad. It was an Android tablet, with a detachable keyboard, that made its self into a laptop. It was pretty amazing when Asus first put them out. Now the line has come down a notch and other OEM’s have started to do even bigger things. Nvidia and the newly announced Shield Tablet comes to mind. Asus was always fairly good about keeping the Transformer line updated and squashing bugs though. The higher-end Transformer Pad, the TF701T, is picking up an update that owners will be happy to see.

Asus Transformer Pad TF701T


In a typical staged roll-out owners should all start to see a pop up to let them update the wonder tab to Android 4.4.2. You can head into the device settings and hit that software update button if you want to. If you happen to be impatient, you can also visit the Asus website and look for your devices SKU and side load it. Although they don’t offer any documentation on how to install it. AndroidPolice recollects that you tossed the file on an external SD card and popped it into the tablet to trigger the update process. You may want to do some research on the matter before hand and be sure you get the right file as well.

Any Transformer TF701T owners out there seeing the update on their devices today?

Source: Android Police


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The post Android 4.4.2 update heading to the Asus Transformer Pad TF701T appeared first on AndroidSPIN.

19
Jul
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Get a new look on the cheap with these customizable phones


Deep-pocketed power users may buy new smartphones once a year or even every few months to take advantage of improved displays, better cameras and faster processors, but the majority of owners are more likely to tire of their device’s appearance long before its outdated specs. A few manufacturers have taken a new approach when designing their handsets, opting to include not only replaceable batteries, but also swappable backs, that let you change the look of your phone for only a few bucks. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and LG’s G3 are two recent flagships that you can change up after purchase, but there are a few other options to consider, too. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could even replace the backplate on, say, an iPhone 5s, but such an undertaking requires precise work, pricier parts and a voided warranty. Click through for our customizable picks that keep things simple (and cheap).

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, ASUS, LG

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18
Jul
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ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C review: a speedy budget tablet with a few sacrifices


ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C

When it comes to ASUS, buying a full-size Android tablet has usually meant venturing past the $300 mark; even the Transformer Book T100 set you back $349 when it first came out, and that was considered a steal. That’s no longer a problem in 2014. ASUS’ new Transformer Pad TF103C costs $299 with the company’s signature keyboard dock included, or as much as some smaller mid-range slates. While that’s potentially a hefty bargain, it begs a few questions: Just what are you giving up to get that price? And is it worth the trade-off when you could likely snag a smaller, but more powerful tablet for less? As I’ve learned, you’re making quite a few sacrifices in the name of a better deal. This is still quality hardware, but you have to know what you’re in for.

Hardware

Don’t expect a revolution on the outside. Aside from the smooth matte finish on the non-removable back and some cosmetic tweaks to the speaker grilles, the TF103C will seem awfully familiar if you’ve used a Transformer-series tablet like the T100. Not that I’m grousing much about it. That still makes for a comfortable grip, and the tablet alone is light for its size at 1.2 pounds — not as svelte as the 1.07-pound Galaxy Tab 4 10.1, but on par with LG’s similarly sized G Pad. About the only step backward is the overly smudge-prone casing on the black model. You’ll want to track down the white variant if you insist on keeping the case looking pristine.

Of course, that also means the same drawbacks have returned. The tablet’s 16:10 aspect ratio is fine for landscape viewing — arguably where you’ll spend most of your time — but not so hot for reading books in portrait mode. Moreover, the combination of dock and tablet is relatively thick (0.78 inch) and heavy (2.43 pounds) considering the energy-efficient technology you’re getting. I’m not expecting something wafer-thin, but it would be nice if the TF103C were easier to tote around than far more powerful devices like the 11-inch MacBook Air or Surface Pro 3, you know?

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C from the side

A closer inspection reveals a few of the more conspicuous reasons why this Transformer Pad is so cheap. You’ll once more find a microSD storage slot, a micro-USB port and the volume rocker within easy reach on the left side. However, ASUS has yanked the micro-HDMI video output seen on other tablets — you’ll have to make do with streaming technology like Miracast if you want to put movies on your TV. You will find a 2-megapixel rear camera where there was no such cam at all on the T100, but the front camera is a basic 0.3-megapixel unit that rules out any HD video chats. There’s also a single USB 2.0 port on the dock instead of the T100′s USB 3.0, although that isn’t a big deal when Android doesn’t make much use of the faster connection standard.

You won’t find a lot of future-proofing inside, either. The starter Transformer ships with ordinary 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless, and my test unit carries a modest 16GB of built-in storage. There’s an 8GB version, too, but you’re not likely to find it in the US. That’s just as well, since you’d run out of space very quickly with that model; even my device had just 10.3GB free before I started piling on the apps. You will find built-in GPS and GLONASS positioning, though, so you won’t need to splurge on a cellular-ready tablet just to navigate through an unfamiliar city.

Keyboard dock

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C keyboard dock

As always, the keyboard dock is why you’re looking at a Transformer tablet in the first place. That’s especially true for the TF103C, which has very little keyboard-equipped competition in its price range. Thankfully, ASUS hasn’t skimped on the quality just to get that $299 sticker. This is the T100′s dock rejiggered for Android, and that’s mostly a good thing. Although the keys are too small for me to type at a breakneck pace, the keyboard as a whole is supremely helpful for drafting long emails and controlling basic settings like brightness. The touchpad, meanwhile, is a slight refinement over the T100; it has the same tiny surface and hidden buttons, but none of the jumpiness. Android admittedly doesn’t make nearly as much use of mouse input as Windows does, but the pad is convenient for quickly selecting text or other moments when you don’t want to lift your hands.

Having said that, all the quirks from recent ASUS docks remain intact. The buttons are a bit noisy, and some of them (especially the arrows and function key) are too tiny to find by feel alone. It also took some time to get used to the inherently top-heavy nature of the docked combo. Mind you, that’s partly due to what’s missing in the dock this time around — a secondary battery. While you won’t find one in the higher-end TF303CL or many other dockable tablets, the absence is disappointing given that earlier Transformers often made use of a spare cell.

Display and sound

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C showing a purty picture

If the dock is why the TF103C’s price is so alluring, the screen is a big reason why the tablet costs so little in the first place. A 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 display is no great shakes in an era when 1080p or higher is quite common, even on small hardware like the G Pad 8.3 or Nexus 7. The low pixel density (149 ppi, to be exact) isn’t terrible, but it was noticeable whenever I was reading or playing a visually intensive game. At least the overall picture quality holds up. The IPS-based LCD produces rich colors, shines brightly at 400 nits and only loses a moderate amount of that brightness when viewed from sharp angles. If all you’re looking for is a reasonably true-to-life image, you’ll be happy with what this Transformer has to offer.

Audio is another story. The two rear-firing speakers are barely loud enough for a quiet environment, even if you cup your hands around the speakers to direct the sound forward. Bass is equally weak — playing dance music will leave you without the satisfying punch you get on the G Pad 8.3 or recent iPads. While the output is clear, I just couldn’t get engrossed in movie dialogue or music without plugging in some headphones. Should you want a mobile media center, you’re better off giving up the TF103C’s screen real estate to get something with a fuller sound and a sharper picture.

Software

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C

If you’ve tried the Padfone X or other ASUS devices circa 2014, you’ll have a good sense of what to expect from the Transformer Pad’s ZenUI interface — minus the phone part, of course. The company has given Android 4.4.2 KitKat just enough of a makeover to make it distinctive, with trendy “flat” (read: textureless) icons and bright colors. It’s otherwise a very hands-off approach, though. While you’ll see useful upgrades like quick access to settings and more polished media galleries, aspects like multitasking have largely gone untouched. I won’t deny missing out on some advanced features that require more customization, like Samsung’s multi-window support. Nonetheless, there’s a certain refreshing simplicity to ZenUI. It’s easy to find your way around, and it’s blissfully free of unnecessary effects and transitions that might slow you down.

ASUS doesn’t go overboard with preloaded apps, for that matter. Most of what you’ll see are lightweight utilities that fill in a few gaps in Android’s stock interface, like Splendid (display calibration) and Do It Later (to-do lists). Some are deeper, if not always useful. I most appreciated SuperNote, which lets you jot down a mix of typed and drawn notes; Story, on the other hand, is the classic diary app that you try once and quickly forget. I found the third-party software more practical. You’ll have Flipboard, Kindle and Zinio apps for reading, while eMusic gives you another means of downloading tunes beyond Google Play.

Performance and battery life

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C ASUS Padfone X Samsung Galaxy Tab S ** Apple iPad Air ***
Quadrant 2.0 18,921 22,032 18,591 N/A
Vellamo 2.0 1,873 2,308 1,672 N/A
SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms)* 611 906 1,109 393
3DMark IS Unlimited 14,171 19,523 12,431 15,328
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 8.2 12 5.5 12.7
CF-Bench 22,586 32,937 31,695 N/A

*SunSpider: Lower scores are better.

**Average scores for the 8.4- and 10.5-inch models.

***Not all of our Android benchmarks are cross-compatible with iOS.

Intel-based Android tablets like the TF103C are nothing new, even if they’re still rare. However, the quad-core, 1.33GHz Atom Z3745 processor found here is very much up to the job of powering Google’s mobile platform. If anything, this budget hardware regularly punches above its weight class. It’s typically speedier in benchmarks than an Exynos 5 Octa-based tablet like the Galaxy Tab S, and it’s not all that far off from Snapdragon 800 devices like ASUS’ own Padfone X.

That’s borne out by the real-world performance. I’ve already touched on the zippy interface, but the Transformer Pad doesn’t act like an econo-slab when running apps, either. Web pages pop up quickly, and even a graphics-heavy 3D game like Real Racing 3 runs smoothly regardless of what’s on the screen. To some extent, the lower-resolution display helps keep things quick; there aren’t as many pixels to push around, after all. Even so, it’s apparent that this Transformer Pad has more muscle than you’d expect, and our offscreen graphics test (GFXBench) shows that it wouldn’t be a slouch with a 1080p display.

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C up close and personal

Just don’t plan on juggling many apps at the same time. While the TF103C’s 1GB of RAM was generally adequate, there were a couple of moments when it balked; even after purging the device’s memory, I couldn’t run one benchmark until I’d rebooted. I wouldn’t say that’s a dealbreaker for Android gear this cheap, but it does make me worry about software performance in the long run, when operating system upgrades and next-generation 3D games put some extra strain on the memory. If I were running the show, I would have kept the T100′s 2GB of RAM just to guarantee a hiccup-free experience.

Keeping the 11-hour battery life would have been nice, too. The Transformer Pad’s 19-watt-hour lithium cell is officially rated for a less ambitious 9.5 hours when playing non-stop 720p video, and that’s assuming you both keep the screen relatively dim (100 nits) and avoid social networks. In Engadget-grade stress testing, which upped the brightness to the halfway mark (200 nits) and allowed for updates from Facebook and Twitter, the tablet conked out after eight hours and 26 minutes. That’s not terrible by any stretch, but it’s a far cry from the 10-plus hours of the T100, the Galaxy Tab S and most iPads.

Tablet Battery Life
ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C 8:26
Microsoft Surface 2 14:22
iPad Air 13:45 (LTE)
Apple iPad mini 12:43 (WiFi)
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10-inch) 12:30
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8-inch) 12:22
Apple iPad mini with Retina display 11:55 (LTE)
Apple iPad (late 2012) 11:08 (WiFi)
ASUS Transformer Book T100 10:40
Apple iPad 2 10:26
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 10:04
Apple iPad (2012) 9:52 (HSPA) / 9:37 (LTE)
Acer Iconia W4 9:50
Nexus 7 (2012) 9:49
Microsoft Surface RT 9:36
Toshiba Encore 8:45
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 8:40
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet 7:57
Nexus 10 7:26
Dell Venue 8 Pro 7:19
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7:18
Nexus 7 (2013) 7:15
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 7:13
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 6:55

Most people don’t watch that much video, though, and the good news is that you won’t have trouble getting through a full day of less demanding uses that include web browsing, social networking and small bursts of gaming. If you need to go further, there’s also a special energy mode that will drop the internet connection when you leave the device idle. No, that’s not really practical in most circumstances, but it might save your hide if you need to check your email after a long trip.

Camera

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C camera sample

You might have gathered that the TF103C wouldn’t be a photography champ from the specs… and you’d be right. The 2-megapixel rear camera isn’t the worst I’ve seen on a device — that dubious honor belongs to the ZTE Open — but it produces drab-looking photos and videos even in good lighting. Low detail, blown-out highlights and lots of noise are commonplace. In darker conditions, the results are downright ugly. Meanwhile, the front 0.3-megapixel camera is only properly useful for video conversations. It’s slightly ironic that the shooting interface includes a full range of filters and settings (including ISO and white balance), since you’re rarely, if ever, going to get a masterpiece. Really, the cameras are more utilitarian than anything. They’re here to make sure you can capture a whiteboard or say hello on Skype, and not much else.

The competition

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C showing a flower

It’s tempting to argue that there isn’t any real competition for the TF103C, at least not in the most literal sense. How many budget 10-inch Android tablets come with their own keyboard docks? There is one obvious parallel, however: Archos’ 101 XS 2. Mind you, it’s not much of a contest. The XS 2 does ship with a healthier 2GB of RAM, but its quad-core, 1.6GHz Rockchip processor isn’t even in the same ballpark as the Atom in the Transformer Pad. It’s also not as elegant, since you can’t just fold things shut when you’re done; you have to detach the keyboard cover every time you’re ready to pack up. Archos’ hardware does have front speakers and mini-HDMI, but you’re making way too many compromises just to get those features.

But what if you don’t need a keyboard? That’s where it gets complicated, and where ASUS has some reasons to be nervous. As mentioned earlier, Android fans have a lot of options around $300, and what you get depends on how much you crave a 10-inch display. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 doesn’t fare well here. For $50 more, you’re both ditching the keyboard and taking a performance hit; you’d have to be a huge fan of multi-window support or better cameras to splurge. LG’s G Pad 10.1 delivers more value at $250, but it’s still underpowered. And it may be smarter to forego some screen area if raw power is what you’re after. LG’s G Pad 8.3 now sells for the same $299 with a much nicer 1,920 x 1,200 LCD, a fairly nimble Snapdragon 600 processor and superior cameras. As I write this, you can also shell out $40 more for Amazon’s 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX to get many of the G Pad’s features in a bigger body, provided that you’re okay with missing out on Google’s app ecosystem.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on a couple of Windows alternatives, in case you aren’t wedded to Android. HP’s Omni 10 officially sells for $400, but it’s easy to buy for much less — you can pick one up for as little as $250 from Amazon. You’ll lose the keyboard, but you’ll get an extra-sharp screen along with heaps of additional storage and memory. ASUS loyalists, in turn, will want to consider the Transformer Book T100. It costs a reasonable $350 if you play your cards right, although you may end up buying through smaller stores (such as Newegg’s affiliates) to score that kind of discount.

Wrap-up

ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C backside

Spend enough time with the TF103C and it’s patently obvious why it only costs $299. ASUS has whittled the dockable tablet down to the essentials, with just about every luxury tossed aside; you won’t find a breathtaking display, good cameras, long battery life or video output. What’s left, though, continues to be tempting. This is a brawny tablet for the money, whether or not you use the netbook-like functionality all that frequently. If you do, it might even be an ideal laptop substitute. The Transformer Pad is more expensive than the cheapest Chromebooks, but it’s slightly faster and carries an abundance of native apps.

You do have to ask whether you need the keyboard at all, though, and that’s the real dilemma — many people don’t. If you’re no fan of the Transformer concept, the TF103C won’t change your mind. The savings from passing on the keyboard can be rolled into a tablet that may not be as good at productivity, but could easily be superior for books, games and movies. Give the Transformer Pad a close look if you’re at least mildly curious about the dock; just be sure to keep its competition in mind before you take the plunge.

Filed under: Tablets, Mobile, ASUS

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15
Jul
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[DEALS & STEALS] Get a refurbished Nexus 7 (2013) 32GB on eBay for $160 (54& off)


nexus_7_new_720

Nexus 7 (2013) is definitely not the newest tablet, a year has passed since Google announced it. Not only that but we’ve been seeing a lot of rumors on its successor, we might even see it announced rather soon. All this aside, Nexus 7 (2013) is still a great device and it will serve you like a champ.

If you’re not waiting to see what will Google bring with its refresh, you can get this device rather cheap on eBay. Refurbished 32GB model is on sale now for $160 (54% off) with free shipping for U.S., although it is available all around. If you’re interested in getting one of these you might want to hurry, we don’t know how long will this last. You can pick one up by following the source link below.

Source: eBay

The post [DEALS & STEALS] Get a refurbished Nexus 7 (2013) 32GB on eBay for $160 (54& off) appeared first on AndroidGuys.

10
Jul
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PC shipments appear to flatten out after two years of steep decline


Both Gartner and IDC appear to have some good news for the PC industry — the seemingly never-ending death spiral may have come to an end. While the two research groups don’t agree completely on the numbers, it does appear that after two years of stead and sizable declines, the PC industry is seeing shipments flatten out. In total, according to Gartner, 75.8 million computers were shipped in the second quarter of 2014, a negligible 0.1 percent drop from the same quarter a year ago. While IDC saw a much more sizable 1.7 percent fall in PC shipments, that’s still a far cry from the 7.1 percent decline it anticipated and the smallest it’s measured in two years.

Two years ago the netbook market imploded and tablets started eating into laptop sales. Since then shipments of traditional computers have been falling at an alarming rate. IDC doesn’t necessarily expect this to indicate a longer term trend towards flat PC sales. Basically, the worst may not be over yet. Despite impressive growth from major players like Dell, HP and Lenovo smaller companies are still seeing tremendous drop off. And the declines are particularly steep in markets like India where the most potential for growth is. Instead the improvements during the quarter were carried primarily by the US and Western Europe, which might not be able to keep the industry from declining further in the long run.

Filed under: Desktops, Laptops, Apple, ASUS, HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo

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Source: Gartner, IDC

28
Jun
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ASUS is reportedly making the cheapest Android Wear smartwatch yet


LG G Watch running Android Wear

If the first crop of Android Wear smartwatches falls just outside of your price range, don’t fret — ASUS may soon come to your rescue. TechCrunch claims that the Taiwanese firm is developing Google-powered wristwear with a target price between $99 and $149, or at least $50 less than LG’s relatively frugal G Watch. There’s no mention of what if anything would make this wearable truly special, but it would have an AMOLED screen like that in Samsung’s Gear Live. ASUS had also hinted that it could use gesture controls in a smartwatch on top of the usual taps and swipes. The device would show up in September (possibly around Europe’s IFA tech expo) if the scoop is accurate, so it won’t be long before you find out whether or not an affordable Android timepiece is in your future.

Filed under: Wearables, ASUS

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Source: TechCrunch

27
Jun

ASUS reportedly working on budget friendly Android Wear Device


It has been about 24 hours or so since the first two commercially available Android Wear smartwatches made their appearance in the Play Store. The LG G Watch hit with a price tag of $229 in a traditional black or the in a white/gold offering. The other was the Samsung Gear Live. Very similar to […]

23
Jun
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Engadget giveaway: win a MeMO Pad 8 tablet courtesy of ASUS!


ASUS has certainly been making a name for itself delivering sleek and slim computing devices, and it’s not showing signs of stopping. The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 tablet is one of its latest, which packs a quad-core Intel Bay Trail processor into a super-portable 0.7-pound package. The company’s so psyched about the slate, it wanted to share the love and give three Engadget readers one of their own to enjoy. The CPU is said to deliver lightning fast speeds, and paired with its 8-inch HD display and stereo sound, it should help pleasantly pass the time on long flights or lazy couch sessions. The tablet’s new Zen UI also adds easy-to-use scheduling, file sharing and gallery tools. Plus there’s a series of photo features to help eliminate photo-bombers from your snaps and capture the perfect groufie group selfie. This slim device is also up-to-date on Google’s latest sweet treat: Android 4.4 Kit Kat. Don’t miss out, there’s up to three chances at winning one of these ASUS Pads via the Rafflecopter widget below. It’ll only take you seconds, and you won’t even have to stay up all night just to get lucky!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. Three (3) winners will each receive one (1) ASUS MeMO Pad 8 (K011/ME181C).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email or Facebook login. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. ASUS and Engadget / AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until June 27th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

Filed under: Announcements, HD, Mobile, Alt, ASUS

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19
Jun
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ASUS Padfone X review: A phone to replace your tablet? Not quite.


I doubt ASUS knew it was carving out a place in Android history when it revealed the first Padfone back in 2011. That’s not just because it starred in an amazing product unveiling, either — the resulting Padfone line might be the last surviving example of the “phone-as-brain” movement that fell out of vogue a few years back. In all that time, though, there’s one thing US fans could never do: walk into a store and actually buy one. That changes now.

After three years and three Padfones, ASUS has finally brought its curious phone/tablet hybrid to the US in the form of the $200 Padfone X. You’d think years of iterating and refining would result in the finest, kookiest model yet, and on paper that certainly seems to be the case. But what is it like to actually use? Has ASUS managed to put its best foot forward for the Padfone’s American debut?

Hardware

The sad truth of the Padfone is that the phone itself — quite literally the brains of the operation — is the most attractive thing about it. Why’s that sad? Because its design is dull to the point of inducing ennui. That’s a shame too, especially considering this newer, faster version of the Padfone doesn’t look nearly as handsome as last year’s model, the Padfone Infinity. Your taste may differ, but the Infinity featured cleaner lines and a handsome brushed-metal finish that stands in stark contrast to all the bland, dark, chintzy-feeling plastic featured on the X.

So yes, the Padfone X isn’t what you’d call a looker. The sole standout here is the 5-inch 1080p display. As you’d expect, the speaker and front-facing, 2-megapixel camera sit just above that satisfying screen, while a shiny ASUS logo greets you from below. Taking a little tour around the rest of the phone yields precious few surprises: You’ve got the sleep/wake button and volume rocker nestled on the phone’s right edge. In fact, the only real hints that the Padfone aspires to something bigger (literally) are two holes on the phone’s bottom, on either side of the micro-USB port. They’re meant to anchor the phone firmly into the Padfone Station, the beefy exoskeleton that converts ‘fone to pad.

That’s not to say the Padfone X is completely bland, though. Peer a little closer and you’ll see its removable backplate is flecked with tiny silver specks. It’s perhaps the most minute concession to style I’ve ever seen on a phone, if only because the effect is so subtle you’ll outright miss it most of the time. The rest of the X’s rear isn’t nearly as subdued — a 13-megapixel rear camera lives just left of center, with the LED flash and speaker grille sitting to the east and south of it, respectively. Once those are out of the picture, all that’s left to capture your eye are AT&T and Padfone logos emblazoned prominently on the back. Assuming you manage to pry off that rear plate, you’ll find the microSD reader (which was notably absent in last year’s model) and microSIM card slot parked next to a 2,300mAh battery.

Thankfully, that old cliché holds true here: It’s what’s inside that counts. In this case, “what’s inside” is one of Qualcomm’s 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chips along with 2GB of RAM — a combination that runs the show admirably. Alas, things get considerably less charming when you dock the device into the Padfone Station. The frame the phone slides into is an unwieldy, chunky thing that creaks and groans even when you apply light pressure to it. And those bezels? Oh my. There’s close to a full inch of black nothingness bounding that 9-inch display on all sides, which only serves to make the tablet look like a cheap digital picture frame from holidays long past. In fairness, the bezels aren’t all bad — they provide plenty of room for meaty thumbs to rest, and they house a pair of (sadly lacking) front-facing speakers.

The back of the tablet dock is swathed in the same silver-flecked plastic as the phone, but there’s no way you’ll notice that before you spot that gaping maw where the Padfone is meant to slot in. It’s impossible to screw up the process: The Padfone slides in with its screen facing inward, and once in place, it’ll start sipping on a larger 4,990mAh reserve battery. You’re also left with a tablet that has a very conspicuous hump on its rear, but at least the edges of that hump provide a place for your fingers to sit when you’re grasping the tablet with both hands. This does make holding the Padfone vertically just a little awkward, though it’s hardly a dealbreaker.

Oh, and if you’re really into the idea of the Padfone as a true all-in-one machine, you can pick up a specially designed Bluetooth keyboard to go with it. It makes the combined device much heavier thanks to a sizable built-in battery (which can’t be used to charge the tablet, unfortunately), and the dearth of space ASUS had to work with made for some frustrating design decisions. Consider the layout: It’s about as cramped as you’d expect a keyboard this size to be, and certain critical keys like the apostrophe are only accessible by way of the Function key. That’s not to say it’s all bad, though. The trackpad? An absolute joy to click. You’ll also get days of use out of the thing, though whether or not you’ll want to is another story entirely. Trust us: Pass on this unless you’re absolutely desperate.

Display and sound

ASUS’ designers may have been half-asleep when they crafted the Padfone X, but someone along the line made sure it at least got a solid pair of screens. Ironically enough, it’s the smaller display that shines the brightest here — the 5-inch 1080p panel is the crisper of the two since it packs nearly twice as many pixels per inch as the tablet’s screen does (449 ppi versus 214, if you’re curious). Colors on both the big and small displays are vibrant and have just the right amount of pop — no seared retinas here, thanks very much. A preloaded app called “Splendid” lets you muck around with color hue, saturation and balance in case you’ve got some especially persnickety eyes. Viewing angles are more than respectable, too, with hardly any color distortion even when you peer in from the most awkward angles. My only real niggle is that maximum brightness for both screens is lacking once you take the Padfone outdoors.

Considering the whole point of buying a Padfone X is to have a hot-swappable duo of displays, ASUS gets kudos for not skimping on those Super IPS+ LCD panels. That said, it’s earned itself a few demerits for some depressing speaker quality. The phone itself has just the one largely wimpy speaker on its back, and the lackluster sound it puts out is right in line with my low expectations. You’d think that with a pair of front-facing speakers, the Padfone X’s tablet form would be able to pump out jams with at least a little more panache. Not so, sadly. My usual suite of test tracks sounded airy and insubstantial through those drivers; the mids and highs of Sutton Foster’s jaunty crooning were well-rendered, but there was a distinct lack of support in the low end that left me wanting much more. Trust me: You’ll want to run your collection of drum n’ bass tracks through a pair of headphones instead.

Or maybe you shouldn’t, since the review unit ASUS provided me occasionally did something a little ridiculous. You see, when you’re playing music or watching a movie with the Padfone docked in tablet mode, the audio gets routed through the Station’s two front-facing speakers. Makes sense, no? One time, though, when I plugged headphones into the proper jack, I heard audio through the headphones… and through the phone’s rear speaker. So much for privacy. To be fair, it hasn’t happened since, but I’ve reached out to AT&T anyway for comment. I’ll update this review if I learn more. For now, it’s possible the issue had something to do with the fact that I was testing a pre-production (read: not-final) unit.

Software

With the Padfone being as downright kooky as it is, it’s a bit surprising to see how little ASUS fiddled with Android 4.4.2. There are splashes of paint here and there — a rejiggered launcher that lets you sort and hide apps, a circle-heavy notification shade that looks like it came from the Galaxy S5, a slightly cramped default keyboard — but they never completely obscure the rich flavor of KitKat that lurks below the surface.

Seems like AT&T was more than happy to pick up where ASUS left off. You guessed it: The Padfone X is just packed to the gills with AT&T bloatware, from account-management apps to game portals like WildTangent to Beats Music. If you’re anything like me, your blood pressure starts to rise at the first sign of carrier intrusion — thankfully that cruft can be easily uninstalled from the device’s settings. In fact, you don’t even need to go that far if all you want is to remove the offending apps from your sight.

The Padfone X has two distinct personalities, but its software sometimes seems ill-equipped to handle both of them. A handful of the applications that come preloaded on the Padfone just don’t work the way you’d expect once you slot the phone into its tablet dock. You see, everything hinges on ASUS’ Dynamic Display mode, which essentially helps you manage the apps that should and shouldn’t switch into tablet mode when you dock the phone.

Unless you’re running one of a small number of supported apps when you dock, you’ll be prompted to make a decision: Should you restart the app in Pad mode? Or add it to the Dynamic Display list, where it will run with a blown-up version of its usual, phone-centric interface? Some apps (like YouTube, for one) don’t give you that option at all, so you’re forced to restart it each time you dock or undock the Padfone. The whole thing is a lot less odious than it sounds — it’ll take an extra tap or two to jump back into things — but we can’t help but yearn for something more seamless.

Camera

We’ve already established that the Padfone X doesn’t stand out much — did you really think the camera would help matters? Surprise: It’s much better than you’d think, if not quite on par with other flagships. Images captured at full resolution during the day with that 13-megapixel camera were sufficiently vivid (if a tad noisy), and were detailed enough to reassure me that I wasn’t missing anything crucial.

But crafting a camera that works well in the day is a relative cakewalk. What about when the sun goes down and things really start to get interesting? As it turns out, the Padfone X is a surprisingly capable shooter in dim conditions, too. ASUS likes to talk up its PixelMaster imaging mode, which lets that rear camera capture up to 400 percent more light than a less sophisticated sensor. The results are cut-and-dry: In spite of more noise to contend with, you’ll wind up with an image that’s much brighter than you’d see otherwise. Are they print-worthy? Maybe not, but they’ll make for some nifty Instagram shots.

Those sentiments get tempered a little when it comes to shooting video. Footage recorded at 1080p was perfectly adequate, though colors didn’t pop as much as I would’ve hoped for, and there was still a bit of noise creeping in where it shouldn’t have. Oh, the Padfone X records video in 4K too, though it’s not like the screen will actually show you your footage in all its glory. As you might expect, audio quality left much to be desired too — things were hushed and none too impressive (though the speaker situation doesn’t help). For the majority of people, smartphone photo and video quality is perfectly adequate unless it falls below a certain lousiness threshold. The Padfone X’s shooters are far from the best I’ve ever met, but they manage to clear that low bar with plenty of room to spare.

Performance and battery life

If cellphone stores were casinos, flagships like the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 would be those big, elaborate slot machines that lure you in with a sense of spectacle and big promises. The Padfone itself (sans tablet dock), would be that rinky-dink machine next to the cheap buffet line — your chances of coming away satisfied might not be that different, but you’d never know it from sight alone.

Pardon the metaphor — long story short, the X has power in spades thanks to the 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 ticking away in that woefully unimaginative shell. It’s not Qualcomm’s newest bit of silicon magic, but make no mistake: The Padfone X runs like a champ. Part of that has to do with ASUS’ mercifully light touch with software, letting KitKat’s natural snappiness shine through as you flick past home screens and dive into menus. All that horsepower really makes itself known when you’re taking corners in Need For Speed: Most Wanted — there’s nary a visual stutter or dropped frame to be seen.

ASUS Padfone X HTC One (M8) Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Quadrant 2.0 22,032 25,548 23,278
Vellamo 2.0 2,308 1,804 2,501
3DMark IS Unlimited 19,523 20,612 18,828
SunSpider 1.2 (ms) 906 782 537
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 12 11.2 9.3
CF-Bench 32,937 40,223 33,785
SunSpider: Lower scores are better, compiled on Chrome.

The tale of the tape only confirmed what I already knew: the Padfone will easily tackle whatever you throw at it during your day-to-day grind. If only things were as peachy after you plop the phone into that tablet dock. What once was snappy and responsive becomes very slightly less so — it’s a little jarring to feel that shift when it happens, but I seriously doubt most people would pay it much mind.

Since there are two different screens and two different batteries to work with, I’ve had to rejigger our standard video rundown test a bit. Normally we’d fire up a 720p video file, set it to loop indefinitely at 50 percent screen brightness and let ‘er rip. Under those circumstances, the Padfone hung in for eight hours and 24 minutes before finally giving up the ghost. From there, I popped the thing into the fully charged Padfone Station and cued up the video on that bigger screen, a gauntlet that lasted another six hours. Purely as a phone, the Padfone X falls short of the battery bar set by devices like HTC’s One M8 and Samsung’s Galaxy S5, but that’s a forgivable sin. Video stress testing aside, it still consistently ran for more than 12 hours as I emailed, snapped photos and snarkily tweeted my way through the work day, and quick battery top-ups from the Padfone Station only helped stretch my productive hours even further.

The competition

No other device tries to bridge the smartphone/tablet divide the way the Padfone does. Its closest evolutionary cousin would probably be the phablet, and there’s no shortage of those taking up space on store shelves. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 sports a 5.7-inch screen, so it doesn’t always feel like a tablet, but its slew of S Pen features makes sure it feels fresh compared to less ambitious competitors. The silicon inside is awfully similar to what’s ticking away in the Padfone X, too — there’s a quad-core Snapdragon 800 running the show, though it’ll generally cost you about $100 more with a contract than the Padfone will.

Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra might fit the bill too, since it doesn’t try to hide its tablet ambitions. It’s got a hefty 6.4-inch display, making it one of the biggest phablets you could try and squeeze into your skinny jeans. It too packs a Snapdragon 800, but the biggest thing to remember is that the only way you’re going to get one in the States is unlocked from the Google Play Store. That means you’ll be shelling out $449 since there are no contracts involved. On the off-chance that something slightly smaller might fit your bill, the HTC One M8 could work well with its top-tier spec sheet and impeccable design. At $199 with a contract though, it’ll cost you just as much as a Padfone without the promise of extra flexibility. Choose wisely.

Wrap-up

If I’ve seemed unduly harsh on the Padfone X, it’s because I still think there’s a place in the world for a hybrid like this. Sadly, despite years of tinkering with the same formula, ASUS couldn’t completely stick the landing this time around. For all the gripes I’ve leveled at this thing, though, I’ve had to mentally repeat one sentence like a mantra throughout my weeks of testing: all of this is just $200 with a contract. For the same price as a single, shiny top-tier handset, you could nab yourself a very respectable smartphone and a tablet that (while flawed) still works. I’d wager there’s a decent number of people out there who’d embrace that math wholeheartedly.

But are you one of them? If you’ve got the means, you’ll almost definitely be better served by buying separate phones and tablets. The promise of seamless syncing is a tempting one, and one worth getting right. ASUS hasn’t done that here. To be honest, I hope it gets another chance at cracking the brutal US market — the right sort of design and software tweaks could turn the next-generation Padfone into a gadget worthy of our collective drool. For now, though, ponder the arithmetic and see if you can do better.

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, ASUS, AT&T

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6
Jun
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Computex 2014 wrap-up: Intel and co. usher in the future of computing


For the last few years, we’ve travelled to Computex in Taiwan to see the latest flock of Ultrabooks, with the latest and greatest models providing the biggest news of the show. This year, though, the highlight of the show wasn’t one particularly great notebook or even one company — though ASUS did steal the show with its mile-long list of new products. Rather, it was a prototype from Intel that teased the next generation of ridiculously thin and light PCs.

You think your Ultrabook or iPad Air is thin, but you have to see Intel’s reference design to grasp the skinniness of 2-in-1 devices powered by the Core M-series of processors. We’ll start to see products integrating Intel’s new line of chips later this year, but just imagine how much slimmer high-powered laptops will be a few Computexes down the line. At a certain point, devices will reach peak thinness, and then the focus will shift to improving battery life and performance in such a compact package — and that’s when everybody wins.

Intel’s look at the future of mobile computing is probably the most significant announcement at a show that’s traditionally all about PCs, but this year’s Computex also shined the light on wearables. True, we didn’t see any hardware that rivals Google Glass or Pebble in features or sophistication, but several prototypes from smaller companies boast clever designs for gadgets that live on your head or wrist. A flexible-battery manufacturer demonstrated a strap design that doubles the life of your smartwatch, offering a solution to one of the biggest complaints about the most popular models. E Ink’s wraparoud-display prototype is also an interesting approach to the next generation of wearables, giving you a ton of space to display info on your wrist.

Computex may not be the “CES of Asia” in terms of high-profile product announcements, and much of the new tech we saw here in Taipei was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of cool stuff to see. We’ve made it easy for you by breaking down our coverage just below — enjoy!

ACER

ASUS

DELL

HP

INTEL

TOSHIBA

OTHER HANDS-ONS

Filed under: Laptops, Tablets, ASUS, AMD, Intel, HP, Dell, Acer

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