Budget tablets group test: Asus Fonepad review

Reviews Mike Jennings Sep 25, 2013

As budget tablets go, this one's our favourite

The Asus Fonepad, as its name suggests, can function as a phone as well as a tablet – the only device in this test to arrive with such a capability. It’s a worthwhile addition, but that’s not the only thing that’s attractive about this tablet – its £184 inc. VAT price looks good too, as it falls right in the middle of this test’s range.

For that modest chunk of cash you get one of the best screens we’ve ever seen in a budget tablet. The contrast ratio of 1,373:1 is superb, and it’s backed up by a black level of 0.23cd/m2 – the lowest here. It results in inky blacks and vivid colours throughout the rest of the range, and their punch is matched by good accuracy.

The glossy IPS panel’s 800 x 1,280 resolution combines with the 7" diagonal to render sharp images and text, and the measured brightness level of 316cd/m2 is good – not the best here, but perfectly acceptable. Viewing angles are great, too.

The Fonepad’s physical design impresses too. The rear is made from smooth, two-tone plastic, the front bezel is unobtrusive, and it feels sturdier than anything else in this test. That’s particularly impressive given its weight of 316g – the lightest here. It’s almost a clean bill of health, but the Fonepad does come with one sting in the tail – the screen doesn’t use Gorilla Glass, so be careful when slipping it into a bag.

Its specification is also the most versatile of any device here. It’s got every sensor you’d expect from a modern tablet, including a light sensor and GPS radio, and it’s got a memory card reader too. The only disappointments are the lack of a camera and single-band 802.11n wi-fi – omissions it shares with a handful of other devices.

The Fonepad is the only tablet here to use an Intel processor. The single-core Atom Z2420 runs at 1.2GHz, and it’s partnered with 1GB of RAM. It returned surprisingly odd benchmark results: its 1,240ms score in SunSpider is the best in this group, but in most of the other benchmarks it lagged at the bottom of the table, perhaps because of the single-core processor’s lack of multitasking ability.

In real-world use, however, these results didn’t seem to matter. The Fonepad felt as smooth as any other tablet here, and it didn’t even struggle with games – high-end 3D titles like Real Racing 3 and Shadowgun played smoothly without dropping any frames.

There’s another distinct advantage to the single-core processor: battery life. The Fonepad’s 4,270mAh power pack is middling for pure size, but it lasted for 12hrs 58mins in our video-looping test – the best result here by a significant margin.

The lack of a camera disappoints, as does the single-band wi-fi, but these are only minor concerns when the rest of the tablet is so good. The Intel-powered Asus has a fantastic screen, it’s powerful enough for games and apps, and it’s got the best battery on test by some distance. It is, quite simply, the best budget tablet on the market right now – and a worthy group test victor.

Details:

• Price: £184 from www.laptopsdirect.co.uk
• Manufacturer www.asus.co.uk

Scores:

Quality: 9/10
Value: 10/10
Overall: 9/10 

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