ASUS Padfone X Mini Hybrid Smartphone / Tablet Review

Article Index

User Experience, Software, Call Quality

The key to this phone/tablet hybrid device is smooth transitions between using one or the other. ASUS' Dynamic Display software handles the hand-off, and when it works you can pick up right where you left off with an app when you dock or undock the phone. Most of the apps that come pre-loaded on the Padfone X Mini are designed to handle that transition. Not every app will.

Chrome is one of the notable pre-loaded apps that doesn't work. Each time you switch between the devices the browser has to restart. You don't lose open tabs but you will lose your place on the page. In other apps you'll end up back on the first screen or they just won't load at all. A notification will pop up letting users know what will happen.

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It's not the most convenient thing ever. Still, ASUS deserves some credit for making this work as well as it does. Programming it so apps restart automatically is better than making users open them all up again manually. And in the ASUS customized settings owners can control which apps restart and which keep running. A few we downloaded from Google Play worked just fine without a reboot, though they tended to be ones that don't have distinct layouts for smaller or larger screens.

Some apps have tablet-specific layouts. In such cases, the Padfone will load whichever is appropriate for the screen you're on. In fact, the layout of the Home screen also changes depending on which device mode is in use. On the tablet you get access to different widgets and can re-arrange icons to suit the larger canvas. In this way ASUS gives all the advantages of both tablet and phone, and that's a big plus in the Padfone's favor.

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Aside from tweaks specific to the dual nature of the device, the ASUS Zen UI over Android 4.4 is the same as you'll find on the company's other tablets and phones. Zen is a light touch Android skin that changes some of the underlying operating system's aesthetics, but it's not an invasive as heavy skins like Samsung's TouchWiz or LG's clone of TouchWiz. It's closer to HTC's Sense, where UI changes are most often geared toward efficiency. The notification shade is better looking than stock Android's and has better quick settings options.

ASUS doesn't overload the Padfone with too many pre-loaded apps (AT&T, of course, can't help but add far too many), and the apps on offer are fairly useful overall. File manager, Memo, Do It Later (tasks), and weather are all well designed, if basic. The Splendid app for tweaking display properties such as color warmth and hue/saturation is also a nice touch.

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The tablet portion of the Padfone can do anything the phone can, including make and take calls. No, you won't have told hold a giant 7-inch screen up to your face in this situation--it defaults to speakerphone mode. Or you can use a Bluetooth headset. Call quality on AT&T's GoPhone network is the same whether using the phone or tablet. Volume coming in is fine, though voices could be clearer. Callers on the other end reported the same as regarded voice quality, though background noise was not an issue.

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