AT&T Padfone X

The PadFone X is finally here, and it may just be the best bang for your buck on the market today. 

It’s finally here. After what seems like an eternity of waiting with baited breath, the Asus PadFone X has finally arrived on AT&T shelves and, in large part, it was well worth the wait.

First introduced back in January, Asus’ smartphone/tablet hybrid was unlike anything else on the market, and today it’s as unique as ever -- combining a powerful, flagship worthy 5-inch smartphone (dubbed the "PadFone") and an equally impressive 9-inch tablet (dubbed the "PadFone Station"), the PadFone X is as good of a two-for-one deal as you’ll find, priced at an affordable $200 on a two year contract.

But as you’ll see, Asus sacrificed form for function, and the PadFone X could take some cues from its fellow 2014 flagships in the style department. But all things considered, its power, usability and cool factor more than make up for its shortcomings.

 

The Good

It's a phone! It's a tablet! It's $200! The PadFone X is a great value with smooth and powerful performance, long lasting battery, and great camera that only sweeten the deal. 

The Bad

There is nothing sexy about the PadFone X: both the PadFone and the PadFone dock suffer from a bulky, uninspired design. Both sets of speakers could be better, and while Asus' software touches are light, a stock Android experience would have been preferable. 

Conclusion

Asus took a concept that Android manufacturers have been playing with (unsuccessfully) for some time now and pulled it off in a really impressive way. The PadFone X is a unique device that offers high-end specs and well performing hardware that rival other 2014 flagships, all for an incredible value: $200 will get you a top-shelf smartphone with an equally impressive tablet that doesn't require an additional data plan. It's simply one of the best bangs for your buck on the market today.  

Inside this review: Hands on | Hardware review | Software review | Camera review  | Usability Test | Conclusion 


Hands on

Hardware review

AT&T Padfone X

Let’s cut right to the chase: Asus took a gamble here, stepping out of the box and experimenting with a concept that companies have agonized over for years. The result is a package that’s bulky, uninspired, and, at certain angles, downright ugly, yet still remains fresh and inspired.

Let’s start with the PadFone. It’s a chubby little thing that at first glance could easily be mistaken for a 2011 model – at just over 172 mm thick and weighing in at 150 grams, this is by no means a sleek and stylish device. But in the same breath, it’s not ugly either. Its black matte plastic removable rear, which houses the phone’s mono, less-than-impressive speaker, has an oh-so-subtle pattern to it that adds an ever-so-slight sense of style. Plus, even at five inches, this phone feels great and is completely usable in one hand.

The PadFone Station suffers from the same ailments. Cut from the same cloth as the phone, it too is a bit overweight and pudgy with a design that’s far from revolutionary. When paired with the phone, which, to be clear, is the only way the tablet will function, it turns into a heavy, bulky slab. But again, this is far from a deal breaker all things considered.

AT&T Padfone X

The displays on these devices win the PadFone X major points. The PadFone sports a 5-inch, 1080x1920 pixel panel at 441 PPI that offers stunning clarity and color reproduction, wide viewing angles, and vivid detail. In a word, it’s gorgeous, as is the PadFone Station. Here, Asus is filling 9 inches with 1920x1200 resolution for 252 PPI -- it’s not quite as sharp as the phone’s display, but it’s nothing short of impressive either. Be sure to spend some time in the preloaded Splendid app, where you’ll be able to tweak things like saturation, color temperature, and more.

The displays on these devices win the Padfone X major points.

My only real beef with the PadFone X’s display is with the tablet’s bezel. It’s incredibly obtrusive and, proportionally, it seems like it accounts for a very large part of the front of the device. To be fair, it does house two front facing stereo speakers that produce admirably rich sound, but even so, we’ve seen this done better elsewhere.

While the smartphone and tablet each have a unique set of outer hardware, they share one set of internals, which means that without the PadFone, the PadFone Station is left powerless. And though the specs might not be the mightiest out there today, they work very well in this setup. The PadFone X sports a Snapdragon 800 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage (expandable up to 64GB), and man, could this thing fly. Performance is super fast and fluid in just about any scenario, even when making the transition from smartphone to the more demanding tablet hybrid. The PadFone X has more than it needs to keep things churning.

One exception to the rule is that the PadFone and the PadFone Dock do not share a battery. With a 2,300 mAh (removable!) pack, the smartphone is capable of powering through nearly 15 hours of moderate to heavy usage. The tablet, with its 4,990 mAh battery, can easily achieve a full 12 hour day, which is fairly typical for my light-to-moderate tablet usage habits. One bit of a bummer on this note: the phone and tablet cannot feed off of each others’ batteries, which means if one component is dead, the other cannot function. The bright side, though, is that you can charge both simultaneously while the device is docked. 

 

Software review

At first glance, the PadFone X appears to operate on Asus’ own custom UI atop Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The good news, however, is that upon further inspection, this is actually very close to a stock Android experience. What Asus has done is skin stock Android, adding a bit of color here, some flair there, to create a more vivid, robust experience.

But TouchWiz this is not. Asus’ edits are topline at best – you’ll best notice them in things like the settings menu, which is identical in layout to stock Android with a blue and grey color scheme. You’ll also notice it in the app drawer, which despite its selectable categories located at the bottom of the screen is also identical to stock Android. There are things that Asus took more liberties with, like the now-pastel notification drawer or the bit cluttered lock screen, but all things considered, Asus’ touch is light at best.

Most importantly, though, is that nothing of what Asus has done gets in the way of Android's speed and fluidity.

Bloatware is a completely different story. The PadFone X is riddled with AT&T’s suite of junk, including the carrier’s FamilyMap, Locker, Mobile Locate, and DriveMode to name a few. But the device also has some slightly more useful pieces, like a trial of Beats Music, Wildtangent’s Game Portal, and Isis Mobile Wallet. Plus, some of Asus’ custom software, likes it AudioWizard profile manager, its Splendid display enhancement app, and its Usage Manger, which keeps track of your battery, data, and storage, are actually quite useful.

Most importantly, though, is that nothing of what Asus has done gets in the way of Android’s speed and fluidity. This is the ultra smooth, ultra powerful KitKat we’ve grown to know and love.

Camera review

AT&T Padfone X

Asus chose a 13 megapixel shooter for the PadFone X, and despite relatively low expectations going in, I was pleasantly surprised by how well these optics performed. The PadFone X is capable of producing some really stunning shots, especially outdoors and in well lit situations.  Colors are vibrant and accurate, noise is minimal, and details are rich. In low light conditions, quality takes a hit, but not a fatal one.  

What’s more, the PadFone X’s camera is a joy to use. Shutter and focus speeds are lightening quick, which means it’s dead simple to catch your shot before it passes. And with a ton of customizable options and shooting modes, the PadFone X is equipped to shoot in all sorts of conditions.

For selfies, you'll have a choice: the PadFone packs a 2MP shooter, while the PadFone Station has its own 1 MP front facer. Both are more than adequate for doing their job. 

Usability Test

AT&T Padfone X

So we know the PadFone X performs admirably as both a phone and a tablet, but what else in your digital arsenal can it replace? Like many, my first thought upon seeing the device was whether or not it could be a one-stop shop for all of my computing needs. The answer, after a week of using the PadFone X, is a disappointing no.

It’s no fault of the hardware: with the optional Asus Bluetooth Keyboard, available for $99 at AT&T, the PadFone X transforms into a fully functional clamshell computer. While the keyboard adds weight and girth, the device still remains portable and highly comfortable to use. That’s not to mention how well the PadFone X’s processor and software can handle more intensive computing.

The problem lies within Android. A fine (dare I say superior) mobile operating system, Android simply doesn’t have what it takes to be the sole system for all of your computing needs. It lacks the sophistication and usability of both OS X and Windows for tasks that demand PC-like advanced multitasking, document production, and graphics-intensive manipulation. Android-powered hardware might be inching closer to PC-like performance, but for now, the OS is still a way’s away from being an ideal solution.

Conclusion

AT&T Padfone X

What a journey it’s been for Asus and the PadFone X. After what seems like years of hype and anticipation, its arrival on AT&T’s shelves is ridiculously overdue. But once you put the PadFone X to good use, you’ll agree that it was well worth the wait.

Asus makes up for the points it lost in the design and form factor categories with a perfect 10 in novelty and function. It’s a pudgy, heavy device, but a unique and exciting device nevertheless. Alone, both the phone and tablet look dated and tired, and even when docked the duo look obtrusive, but their faults are outweighed by a refreshing dose of forward-thinking functionality.

It may not replace every device in your arsenal, but it comes pretty darn close.

The PadFone X is a powerful smartphone with the chops to compete with the likes of the HTC One, Galaxy S 5, and just about any other flagship on the market today. What makes it stand out, though, is that for the standard $200 flagship price tag, you also get a capable, unique 9-inch tablet that doesn’t require an additional data plan. It’s when the two components pair together that the PadFone X really shines --performance is fast and fluid, battery life is superb, and the camera is admirable – all of from one of the first fully functional hybrid Android devices to ever reach mainstream notoriety.  It may not be able to replace every single device in your arsenal, but it comes pretty darn close. Asus deserves a pat on the back not only for thinking outside of the box, but also for doing so remarkably well. 

 
There are 41 comments

Clak says:

When i read "the bad" I thought Steve Jobs had risen from the grave for a moment there lol.

icyrock1 says:

It's an interesting form factor, though I wish they had focused more on design. But, you can't always hit every mark.

DWR_31 says:

Tmobile should've picked this up.

jacksonxp says:

I think .it's good and not very good..
http://goo.gl/TLOqrR

eszklar says:

This Padfone concept/design has arrived way too late in North America. The chunky phone/tablet/dock design doesn't help either. ASUS should also have talked as well to Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical/Ubuntu to bring Ubuntu for Android/Mobile or even ported Ubuntu for ARM as this form-factor is perfect.

I was excited about the Padfone two years ago. Now with products like the International Note 8 and the GSM/LTE enabled Sony Xperia Z2 tablet which also can do real telephony I simply don't care anymore. ASUS had a shot of bringing in a new paradigm to mobile computing and simply didn't execute on it in a timely manner in my opinion.

etnpnys says:

Seriously. I was so excited about Ubuntu project doing well on devices like these.

thatguy97 says:

I was too but that came and went VERY fast

Sent from my Nexus 7 2013 or iPhone 5

WolfpacDAR says:

I'm not sure how a talk with a ficticious character from He Got Game would've made this device suck any less... plus, he's a little busy right now in the NBA Finals.

blackbyrd says:

That would be Jesus Shuttleworth

Posted via Android Central best phone available: moto x

smccloud says:

I just wish it was available on Verizon.

etnpnys says:

It just occurred to me that one major thing going against this model is that there's almost no real way to protect the phone with a case, unless you want to remove it every time you dock it...

Right?

aitt says:

There is a case ASUS makes for both that are compatible with each other, but it's horrendous.

Posted via Android Central App

LB LB says:

200$ isn't the real price. you should put the full price without contract, since each company has its own contract and prices.
You should show an unlocked, no-contract price.

mhmmdy123 says:

$ 549.99 without contract... $22.95 a month no contract.

TKL74 says:

$550 is actually not bad for such device... it's just too ugly =.=

Bobby Henris says:

They quoted the off-contract price @ $549.00 last week I believe

Posted via Android Central App

tdizzel says:

Bezel?

Bobby Henris says:

Obviously the Station bezel is incredibly and horrendously too thick, but the phone bezel is really too thick as well, huh?

Posted via Android Central App

shamatua says:

i see no reason to get this phone now when there are better phones now and later on. Even with 200 plus 2 year contract man. You aren't very smart if you buy this now.

GMwz says:

Examples of comparably priced products that hit the niche of someone in the market for a solid phone/solid tablet without additional service fees?

numetheus says:

At&t is moving away from two year contracts. My bill went down by a couple of dollars becawse my son got the padphone. They take off the $25/month for the 2 year subsidy and replace it with $22/month Next installment plan where he can get a new phone after 12 months. All after paying only $44 for taxes. Why would I do a two year contract and pay $199 for the phone that includes a baked in $25 subsidy when I can just pay taxes and change phone out every 12 months without paying $199?

zackmack7 says:

I wouldn't buy one (primarily because I am not on AT&T), but this is still a very cool device

tokuzumi says:

Not allowing the phone to be charged by the docking station battery was a mistake. If you can charge both at the same time, why can't the battery in the dock charge the phone?

And I agree on Android not being quite there as a full fledged computer solution. You can get 90% of what the average user needs, such as web browsing, YouTube videos, (low-tech) gaming, email, facebook, twitter, etc, but multi-asking isn't at the computer level just yet. I listen to music via YouTube on my computer, and browse the web at the same time. I can't do that in Android. At least not with the native apps. Or if the screen times out, bye-bye YouTube. But someone has to be first. This will only get better over time, and we may be using our phones to do everything we would with a computer, and then some. I can't wait to see how this segment develops, if it does.

Every other place I've read about this device at says that the station can change the phone, but not the other way.

Its a mistake they DID NOT make, this article is actually wrong in saying they wont share power, in the settings you can adjust which way the power flows "phone to tablet or tablet to phone", you can also set it so it charges the phone before the docking station when they are docked and charging. Im charging my phone right now in an unpluged dock, streaming SiriusXM radio and downloading/installing ten updates, so rest assured it will multitask like a Desktop PC!

I can charge my "fone" twice from the station if not using the tablet mode or charge once if using it "takes upto 2 hours to charge it if you use it while charging though", so I have 30 hours of talk time and 200 hours of standby before I need a power outlet again, this article falls way short of a good review of this Phone/Tablet combo!

John Grabb says:

It is NOT a superior OS, you should NOT dare say. But it IS a great idea. And I like this system set up

scaots says:

Amazing how everyone liked to make fun of the padfone in the past and now it's a great proposition for some folks. The on contract price definitely helps, but 550 is pretty reasonable off contract. I think you really need the keyboard to make it really useful, so would be nice if that was a more reasonable price since it doesn't even have a battery. I'm going to try to talk my wife into it. I think it would work really well for her, if I can get her away from the blackberry keyboard.

CKalikiano says:

I used to think something like this would be a good idea (before I found out that Asus was going to make this) but when I saw photos while ago I changed my mind. It's actually more practical and freeing to have phone and tablet as 2 devices that fully function on their own, separately. Plus it's easier to resell either device when moving to something newer as well.

NYRbeezer says:

Why not just get a phablet?

Posted via Android Central App

This combo gives the option of being able to carry a normal size device without looking, frankly, absurd while on a hip, yet having the option when stationary to upgrade to a 9 inch screen for video and tablet usage.

Zarathu5tra says:

I'd buy this if I wasn't in the middle of a contract, not to mention perfectly happy with my M7. Here's hoping they release an even better version next year.

patstar5 says:

Should I get this, oneplus one or sony xperia z2?

thatguy97 says:

2 on your list you actually can get

Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 or Samsung galaxy S5

HellcatM says:

I like the design, looks better than anything apple could have thought up. I wouldn't doubt it if apple stole this then tried to sue Asus. Its second best to a Windows 8 device. I could see Asus making something like this for Windows Phone and you plug it into the tablet and it makes it an RT tablet.

lags1610 says:

Look up ASUS' upcoming 5 in-one. They took that idea one step further. Full fledged windows 8 for laptop and tablet dual booting with android for phone, tablet, and laptop.

b22ri22an says:

I spoke with AT&T after a long exhaustive chat the only way to get this on T-Mobile is to agree to 90 days of service with AT&T after purchasing the device outright before they will unlock the device. However I did check with T-Mobile and all the bands match for LTE service with the Padfone X on their network. So if you really want this device on T-Mobile it is possible with $549 to buy the device outright, $135 in service fees for 3 months at the cheapest plan possible and a 90 day wait. Was too much to hassle for me but figured I would pass along my findings.

False_Aesop says:

I want this to be awesome... But sadly I don't think this is what I want it to be.

Posted via Android Central App

lags1610 says:

I wonder why they went with this design when releasing on ATT. The padfone infinity and family all looked superb, complete with ASUS' signature brushed metal ring finish...

deeb215 says:

I still reserve some hope for this type of device.

The result is a package that’s bulky, uninspired, and, at certain angles, downright ugly, yet still remains fresh and inspired.

How can it be inspired and uninspired in the same sentence?

Posted via Android Central App

I'd get a Google Edition (or Nexus) of this. But stock is a must for me.