ASUS Padfone X Mini Hybrid Smartphone / Tablet Review
Design and Build Quality
As far as smartphones go, the ASUS Padfone X Mini is a decent enough device. It's a budget phone, so the plastic casing, somewhat thick body, and lack of any distinctive design or aesthetic elements is not a huge surprise. The removable back piece has a curve to it that makes holding it comfortable. And though the matte surface doesn't provide much grip, the Padfone doesn't feel like it will slip away when using it one-handed. That's due to it being smaller than most new smartphones--the display is 4.5 inches instead of 5 or more--and because the power button and volume rocker are well placed: right under where the index finger falls naturally.
As with most Android phones the headphone jack is up top and the microUSB port is on the bottom. Pop off the back and you get access to the SIM and microSD card slots plus the user removable battery. Both back and front are nondescript and without much adornment. Other than an understated Padfone logo on the back there's just the 5MP camera, the flash to the right of the lens and a small speaker grille to the left. Around front the smooth glass surface is only interrupted by the earpiece and a 2MP camera. Buttons for Home, Back, and Recent Apps appear on screen.
It may seem odd to call a 4.5-inch display small considering that it wasn't so long ago when 4.3 inches felt big. But the physical size isn't as much of a limitation as the resolution: 854 x 480 pixels. At this resolution even some mobile websites will require you to scroll side to side (or switch to landscape mode) to read all the text on a line. In other apps text and images are crisp and readable for the most part. Still, a 720p resolution would improve things greatly and isn't unreasonable to expect on a budget phone. Anyone with fading eyesight will object to doing much more than briefly checking email or texts on this screen.
This is where the Padfone X Mini's tablet sleeve comes in handy. The 1280 x 800 resolution on the 7-inch display is much easier on the eyes and greatly improves the reading experience in all apps. Neither the phone's display nor the tablet's is very bright at 100%; both look good with minimal distortion when viewing them off center with no major darkening or color distortion.
The X Mini's tablet component (the Pad) is longer and thicker than other 7-inch tablets you'll run across since it has to accommodate a smartphone and an extra battery. Compared to the 10-inch version of the Padfone X, holding and using this Pad is less awkward due to the overall smaller size. The phone dock protrudes out from the back, but it takes up so much of the overall space it just ends up feeling like a chunky tablet in the hand and doesn't wobble when using it on a flat surface. Design-wise, the execution of the phone + tablet dock works at this size. As long as you're not invested in the thinnest, lightest 7-inch (together they weigh just under a pound), the Padfone works as a tablet.
The only major complaint we have on the Pad's design is the placement of the power button, which sits in the center on the right edge, exactly where you're likely to grab the tablet to pick it up. We often had to clear the Power Off prompt because we accidentally long-pressed the button.
The Pad doesn't have functionality separate from the smartphone. It does have a few components of its own: an extra battery that will charge the phone's battery when they're together, a microUSB port, and a 1MP front-facing camera. It can't do anything without the phone docked except charge up, though. The whole point of this device is that users get the same apps, files, and connectivity whether they're using the phone or the tablet.