LAS VEGAS -- Shortly after AT&T said that it will bring the Asus PadFone X smartphone/tablet hybrid to US customers, Asus announced that it has manufactured a junior-sized version of it as well. Aptly named the PadFone Mini, this device still enables users to plug their handset directly into their tablet, but in a smaller package.
The Mini comes in five colors: black and white, as well as very vibrant shades of red, blue, and yellow. It sports a sheen, soft-touch coating that lends a premium feel to them. During my brief time with it, the smartphone did indeed feel small, and I could easily navigate it with one hand. I was also impressed with its build quality, as it felt like a solid handset and tablet. Though small, it felt dense in the hand, and together it weighs 0.82 pounds.
The smartphone includes a 4-inch IPS+ display with an 800x480-pixel resolution. As for the tablet, it's equipped with a 7-inch touch screen, and has a 1,280x800ppixel resolution. You can use the display with gloves on, as well as a regular pen (as supposed to a stylus) to navigate through the screen.
On its rear side is a 24-pin connector dock, which is used to hold and connect the accompanying smartphone in its place. The tablet can also be used to juice the handset's battery while docking as well.
Key components and features
The Mini runs Android 4.3 (which Asus reported will be upgradable to 4.4 KitKat at a later time). Powering the device is a non-removable 1,170mAh battery. Though this handset doesn't include LTE, it does include dual SIMs for those who travel frequently or desire two separate phone numbers.
Along with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, the device features an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera. This five-element lens shooter packs a backside-illumination sensor from Sony, as well as an f/2.0 aperture. It is capable of recording 1080p video, and a few photo editing options include HDR shooting and a low-light mode.
It's powered by a 2,100mAh, bringing the entire power capacity of the PadFone Mini unit to 3,270mAh. There's an option to charge the phone through the pad as well.
The docking station on the rear side of the PadFone Mini's tablet.
In addition to running Android, the unit will sport Asus’ new user interface. Dubbed "ZenUI," it will feature coordinated color themes and redesigned icons and menus. Software features include a "face detection" module that let's you know when the rear-facing camera detects a face for a selfie.
Moreover, Asus added a "What's Next" feature. Supposedly "better" than Google Now (as an Asus rep told us) the app syncs your calendar, e-mail, and the weather, and consolidates them in a sleek, easy to read to-do list.
Though Asus has yet to release availability information, the Asus Mini will be sold for $249. It is possible that the US may never get its hands on it, similar to how the PadFone (2013) is available only in Europe and Asia. However, given the news that AT&T is bringing over the PadFone X, the Mini may find its way to our shores after all.
Whatever the outcome may be, the concept of having a two-in-one smartphone/tablet kit is unique, and consumers who prioritize consolidation and efficiency may find Asus' PadFone line compelling, if not convenient.