Asus launches the quirky but powerful PadFone 2

Asus Padfone 2Asus has announced the PadFone 2, the follow-up device to its quirky PadFone, which first appeared in 2011. The launch event was an international affair, with two almost simultaneous conferences taking place in Milan and Taipei, which were also streamed to audiences online. It’s fair to say that Asus really wants you to know there’s a new PadFone in town.

Asus is focusing on the PadFone’s intuitive design to sell it this time around, and promoting it to people who may not want the bother of purchasing two separate devices, with two network agreements, but still want the convenience of a smartphone and a tablet at all times.

While the original PadFone had a door on the rear of its tablet dock, in which to hold the smartphone, Asus has replaced this with a slot for the PadFone 2. It’s not only more attractive, but far simpler to quickly connect and disconnect the phone. This is important, as the sharing of content from phone to pad is a big thing on the PadFone 2.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves though, so let’s talk about the hardware. The smartphone has a 4.7-inch Super IPS+ touchscreen, covered with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution and a pixel density of 312ppi. The tablet’s 10.1-inch screen is almost identical, with a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, but the pixel density is considerably less at 149ppi.

As the tablet is a brainless dock — or Station as Asus calls it — it relies on the smartphone’s processor and power to make it work, so it’s a good thing Asus decided to use Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz, quad-core APQ8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro chip. The phone comes with either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal memory, plus a hefty 2GB of RAM, and a black or white finish.

The PadFone 2 has a 13-megapixel camera with 1080p video recording, a 100-shot burst mode that takes six shots per second and an f2.4 aperture. Because the PadFone 2 sits screen-forward in the back of the tablet, the camera can be used when it’s docked. There’s a separate video call lens above each screen too.

Padfone 2 PhoneStrong battery, high price

Keeping the PadFone 2 up and running is a 2140mAh battery inside the phone, plus a 5000mAh battery inside the tablet. When docked, the tablet recharges the phone, and can do so three times before the battery expires. Asus quoted the phone as providing 16 hours of 3G talktime, but 48 hours when docked along with 27 hours of video playback.

Despite all this technology, Asus has made sure the overall weight hasn’t spiraled out of control, as the phone weighs 135 grams on its own, or 649 grams when mated with the tablet dock. As a comparison, the new iPad weighs 652 grams and the Galaxy Note 10.1 600 grams.

Back to the sharing for a moment. Slotting the phone into the tablet will see certain tasks and apps instantly transfer over to the big screen, with no input needed from the user. This was demonstrated with the gallery, browser and streaming video.

Other features include NFC, LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, plus a speaker system with Asus’ own SonicMaster enhancements, handwriting recognition, dual-language support and an instant translator too.

Asus says the PadFone 2 perfectly embodies what it calls Customer Experience 2.0, as it combines beauty inside and out, plus a great display, audio and performance.

So, you probably want to know how much and when you can get one? If you’re in the USA, it’s almost certainly not going to be this year, as according to Asus, it’s still in discussions with networks. In Europe, release is likely to come between January and March 2013, but there’s hope for a last-minute launch before Christmas too. Asus will release the PadFone 2 in Taiwan at the end of October.

The price? It’s 799 euros for the 32GB model and 899 euros for the 64GB PadFone 2. That’s $1040 and $1175. Those are very big numbers, but take a moment to consider how much a Galaxy S3 and a Galaxy Note 10.1, or an iPhone 5 and new iPad cost together. Do this, and it doesn’t sound so bad.