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The ASUS PadFone is a normal looking smartphone with a clever trick - it slots into the back of a dedicated tablet, transforming this from a smartphone with a 4.3" display to a full sized 10.1" tablet.
The idea is that sometimes you need a smartphone, sometimes you need a tablet, sometimes you even need a keyboard. The ASUS PadFone is one way of keeping everything on one device, simply slot the PadFone into the ASUS PadFone Station and you have an Android 4.0 tablet, and you can add an optional keyboard if you wish.
The PadFone itself has a 4.3" 540 x 960 pixel display, a 1GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of internal memory plus a microSD slot, an 8 megapixel primary camera with 1080p HD video recording and a secondary 0.3 megapixel one on the front, HSPA+ support plus all the usual Android features such as WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.
The phone battery is a 1520 mAh cell, quoted as giving up to 8.5 hours talktime and 18 days standby time. The whole package measures 128 x 64 x 9.2mm and weighs 128 grams.
Slot the PadFone behind a cover on the back of the PadFone Station and you have the same internals, but now with a 10.1" 1280 x 800 pixel display, a 6600 mAh battery, external antennas for GPS and wireless, a microHDMI port and a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera. The PadFone Station measures 273 x 177 x 13.5mm and weighs 716 grams.
As you might expect, the PadFone Station isn't as small or light as some of the competition. Compared to the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) it is about 40% thicker, although that's no big deal.. however the ASUS is a whopping 844 grams compared to 588 grams for the Samsung, which is 40% heavier. That's really very heavy, indeed it could be twice the weight of the rumoured upcoming Apple iPad 3.
The weight gain is partly due to the inefficiencies of the system - the tablet part doesn't really use very much of the phone part of the combo except the processor and memory, and on top of they you have to build a physical docking station for the phone part to fit behind the tablet screen, which leaves just a few millimetres to fit in the screen and back cover. You can expect this to impact prices as well, it isn't really going to be much cheaper to make the PadFone Station than a full-blown tablet.
There's another catch here too - the PadFone Station can only be used with a PadFone, and only as long as whatever the current model of PadFone is fits. If you lose or break your PadFone and you can't get another one, then you need another tablet as well. Rivals Motorola have a different but less elegant approach with their Lapdock range of smartphone extenders - the phone just sits in a tray on the back, which is more messy but it means that you can use different models with the same Lapdock.
Reservations aside, this is a clever way of doing things, and if you swap often between an Android smartphone and tablet then this could well be for you. ASUS did not give any indication as to when the PadFone and PadFone Station would be available, nor did they indicate how much they will cost.
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