In my opinion, phablets are too big to be used as a phone (without the general public laughing behind your back), and too small to really be considered a tablet. Advantages they do have however, are price and functionality. If you’re looking to kill those two birds with one stone, there’s no denying that a phablet combines both with ease. The Asus fonepad 7 is one such device, even if it does have some minor drawbacks.
How does it look and feel?
As much as I moan about the Fonepad 7 being too big to serve as a phone (good luck finding pants with pockets big or deep enough), it certainly passes as a standard tablet, albeit a little more compact. Holding the device for long periods of time will not give you the stiffness akin to a long gym session. It’s light, weighing in at just 280g, and comfortable to hold in both portrait and landscape positions with a single hand.
Hold your thumb over the Asus branding and you’d think you were holding an iPad mini with a narrower screen.This applies only to the front though. The back of the Fonepad 7 feels a little cheap with its plastic finish, yet it still looks great overall. I’m definitely not the strongest person in the world, but I attempted to bend the device with some real force. I have to admit, I’m impressed with how solid it feels.
The first real weakness of the Fonepad 7 becomes apparent when powering the 7” screen on. The lack of good quality is immediate. Like the rest of the world, I’ve become used to seeing only the crispest of menus and images, which made the Fonepad 7 display (1024 x 600) come across as a little bland. This does not make it terrible or unbearable, not by any means. Reading through websites, blogs, and books, or watching videos on YouTube and Twitch all get ticks of approval. Just don’t expect crystal clarity or brilliant vibrancy.
What’s under the hood?
Everything chugs along nicely on the Fonepad 7 thanks to the Intel® Atom™ Multi-Core. It’s not the beefiest of processors, but it’s power efficient, which is why the Fonepad 7’s has some darn magnificent battery life. I only had to charge the thing once during my review time, after about 9-10 hours of use.
Where the little Intel chip falls short is in the video processing department. Outputting 1080p is a complete no go. I tried to watch some high quality footage I captured with my DSLR, only to be met with stuttering picture and audio. Lower resolutions however, seem to play perfectly fine.
With regards to everyday performance, menus were fluid, and switching between applications is a relatively smooth experience. I do feel that some sluggishness may occur after several months of use though, assuming you’re the kind of user who downloads loads of apps and doesn’t bother to clear cache or optimize anything.
Android enthusiasts may be disappointed to find that Kitkat is the driving force of the Fonepad 7. I personally don’t think it’s anything to cry over, as Android 4.4 seems like a good fit. If it’s a sore point, I don’t see why flashing the device to Android’s latest OS isn’t an option.
And all the other stuff?
When it comes to image capture, both the front and rear camera on the Fonepad 7 are, sadly, horrendous. Every picture I snapped came out dull and grainy. If you’re dreaming of becoming an Instagram celebrity, this is NOT the device to shoot with – no number of hipster filters will make your pictures look great, I promise.
Audio performance on the Fonepad 7 is more commendable at least, even if the bass is lacking somewhat. This is expected, as not many devices, regardless of price range, seem capable of producing much of an oomph. That being said, the front speaker is definitely capable of outputting a respectable volume.
I wouldn’t really consider this a proper Lazygamer review if I didn’t at least test some games on the Fonepad 7. My first choice was Hearthstone, obviously, as it is the perfect tablet game. It works, and is definitely playable, but ONLY if you’re okay with the text on your cards being illegible in your hand (they’re only readable if hovered over). The poor resolution of the Fonepad 7 really does Blizzard’s card title little justice. It’s not a problem across the board at least. Other titles like Batman Arkham Origins for example, ran with no issue whatsoever.
There’s no escaping it – making calls of the Fonepad 7 is guaranteed to make you feel silly. I sure did, even though I tested the call functionality in the safety and privacy of my own bedroom. One glance into the mirror made me blush at the thought of walking around in public with the Fonepad’s 7” screen glued to my ear, yapping away into the bottom of it which extended well past my chin.
Still, it’s not a feature that should be written off. The Fonepad 7 comes with dual slots for SIM cards, making it the perfect companion for those who travel often and need to make phone calls frequently. If like me, you find the idea of holding the large device to your ear for calls a silly notion, you can make use of the speakerphone instead. I tried out both call methods and have no complaints – both I and the person on the other end could hear each other fine. The only difference is only one of us had smouldering cheeks.
Having a built in cellular functionality gives the Fonepad 7 another advantage I feel many will overlook – access to the internet by means of HSPA or 4G. Anyone looking to purchase the device needs not worry about a wifi-only version, or paying extra for the cellular edition. It’s all there, straight out of the box. This is most welcome when you consider all the back and forth power issues that Eskom have been so graciously providing.
Dimensions and Specifications
Here’s what is nestled deep within the Asus Fonepad 7. I had the FE171CG version for review:
- RRP: R1999-R2499 (depending on model)
- Dimensions: 110.6 x 196 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 280g
- Colour: Black, White, Gold, Red
- OS: Android 4.4
- 7” LED Backlight WSVGA (1024×600) Screen
- IPS Panel
- Multi-touch Support
- Anti-fingerprint coating
- CPU: Intel® Atom™ Multi-Core Z2520 Processor up to 1.2 GHz
- 16GB eMMC
- 5GB Life Time Asus Webstorage Space; additional 11GB for 1st year
- Micro SD Card Reader up to 64GB
- Battery: 11.5 hours 15Wh Li-polymer Battery
- High Quality Speaker
- 1 x 2-in-1 Audio Jack (Headphone / Mic-in)
- 5 MP Rear Camera
- 2MP Front Camera
- Cellular: Dual Micro SIM Card Slot
- Network Standard: HSPA+; 3G; 2G
Please note that there are some variations in the specifications of the FE171CG version of the Asus Fonepad 7. Mine for example, had a 5MP rear camera, whereas others may come equipped with 8MP.
Would I buy the Fonepad 7 for myself? No, I wouldn’t. That’s only because I already have a tablet that is more expensive, and thus, better in terms of performance and actual quality. Had I found myself without a tablet (and possibly without a phone) and on a tight budget though, I would gladly consider Asus’ offering. Sure there are minor annoyances here and there, but overall, the Fonepad 7 offers solid value for money.
Last Updated: April 30, 2015