Asus phone-inside-a-tablet PadFone is official: Here’s what it looks like

ASUS Padfone+PadFone Station 01

Having already blurred the line between table and notebook computer with last year’s Transformer, Asus will fold yet another device into the equation with this year’s PadFone: A smartphone that turns into a tablet that turns into a laptop. After teasing the device as far back as Computex 2011, Asus formally announced final details for its ambitious project Monday afternoon at a Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

PadFone+PadFone Station+PadFone Station DockAs with the Asus Transformer, the PadFone will be marketed as one device (a smartphone) with different accessory “docks” to unlock its dual life as both a tablet and notebook. But even before you add those frills, the basic phone is no dud. It sports a 4.3-inch qHD AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass, an 8-megapixel rear camera using a Fujifilm sensor, and 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage, with 1GB of RAM. Interestingly, Asus went with a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor rather than the 1.5GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 powering many of the other superphones unveiled at MWC, like LG’s Optimus 4X and HTC’s One X.

The phone itself looks a bit like an oversized iPhone from the top, thanks to its rounded edges, flat black face and a brushed-metal band around the edges. Further down it deviates from the familiar Apple trope with a tapered chin, while the back features a textured brown plastic.

The PadFone Station — basically just a tablet with no brains — accepts the phone via a trunk in the back, just like in prototypes. Asus’ proprietary Dynamic Display technology allows it to precisely mirror what’s on the screen of the phone on a larger 10.1-inch display with 1280 x 800 resolution. Besides just blowing things up for easier reading and watching, the PadFone dock has a 24.4 Watt-hour battery to extend the life of the phone, and its own speakers. Asus hasn’t yet clarified whether the PadFone station will need a specific dock, or function with the existing dock from the Transformer.

ASUS PadFone+PadFone Station 02

While Asus revealed full specs, the company was not as forthcoming with pricing, which could make or break a three-in-one device that essentially has to undercut all the other devices it poses as in order to make sense. The original dock for the Transformer listed for $160, making it an expensive purchase on top of a $400 tablet. After all, that put it into the same price range as a full-power laptop. With standalone Android tablets like the Kindle Fire selling for as low as $200, Asus will have to price the PadFone aggressively in order to convince consumers they need a phone that turns into a tablet, not just one of both.

ASUS PadFone

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