PadFone lives again: Asus returns to tablets with phones inside, and phones in general

Asus seems to be one company that loves to experiment, what with the combination desktop-laptop-tablets, dual-screened laptops, and tablets with phones inside. That last one is getting a new entry, too, as the PadFone goes compact in 2014.

Small tablets seem to be the rage at the moment, what with both Apple and Google doing well with their iPad Mini with Retina and Nexus 7 devices, respectively.

But Asus has been in this area for some time, and has had some experience crafting small tablets.

In fact, the Google Nexus 7 is built by Asus, as was the Fonepad, a 7 inch Intel-based Android tablet that could be used to make phone calls, in what was essentially the biggest phablet of last year.

This year, though, Asus is planning on throwing a phone inside a 7 inch tablet, and it won’t just be so that you can make phone calls by holding the big tablet to your ear.

Like what Asus did in the PadFone — which gave you both a phone and a tablet in one package, but only ran the tablet when the phone was docked inside the tablet — the PadFone Mini will comprise of a 7 inch tablet that switches on when the 4 inch PadFone handset is docked inside.

The phone side of things will take care of most of the grunt, with an Intel Atom Z2560 1.6GHz processor, Android 4.3 “Jelly Bean” with an eventual upgrade to 4.4 “KitKat,” 8GB storage with expandable microSD memory, 1GB RAM, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and 3G connections. Sorry people, but 4G LTE doesn’t look to be a part of the package, here.

All of this will sit under the screen in a design that looks like a slight refinement on what the PadFone handset has had in the past, with the 4 inch screen running a 800×480 resolution.

When docked with the tablet section, however, the PadFone Mini will become a 1280×800 7 inch tablet that can not only access the phone’s files, but also take advantage of the internet connection on the smartphone, eliminating the need for two separate mobile plans for each the phone and the tablet.

There are also two batteries here, a 1170mAh in the phone and a 2100mAh in the tablet, the latter of which will recharge the phone while it’s docked.

Our last experience with the bigger PadFone was an interesting one, and while the idea intrigues us with a smaller version, we’re a little surprised Asus hasn’t opted for 4G LTE, especially since the speed differences between 3G and 4G are pretty noticeable.

The omission of 4G, though, is something that Asus seems to have throughout the other phones announced at CES, though, and include three models in the new ZenFone range.

Asus calls the ZenFone its “high value smartphone series,” ranging across three different screen sizes.

There’s the ZenFone 4 with its 4 inch 800×480 screen, the ZenFone 5 pushing up to a 5 inch 720p screen, and the 6 inch ZenFone 6 with its 720p display and a whopping 3230mAh battery.

All three of these will run Intel Atom chips, Android 4.3, and 1GB RAM, with the different cameras between them (5 megapixel on the ZenFone 4, 8 megapixel on the ZenFone 5, and 13 megapixel on the ZenFone 6).

As we mentioned previously, 4G LTE is missing in action across the range, though Asus has made the screen extra special, with a screen technology called “Asus PenTouch” that allows anything to be used as a stylus on the screen, such as a pencil to draw with.

Asus hasn’t mentioned availability or pricing for any of these locally, but given the lack of 4G in either the ZenFone or PadFone Mini models, we’d be surprised if Australia was on the roadmap at all for 2014, at least until Asus updates the handsets to support the faster LTE connections being pushed by all three major telcos.