Chances are when you hear the name Asus, you think of motherboards and computer components, or the Eee PC laptop, and probably not smartphones. However, the company is hoping to change that with its latest crop of handsets, including the subject of this review: the Asus P527. And while it certainly got our attention, it was for all the wrong reasons.
At first glance, the P527 looks to be a dream with a long laundry list of features--Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, Windows Mobile 6--and a compact design. Asus also does a nice thing by throwing in a number of helpful utilities and applications for the mobile professional. However, it is simply underpowered and suffers from horribly slow performance. The frustration isn't worth the extras, and it's definitely not worth the $499 unlocked price (plus, we want 3G support, too). If you're willing to drop that kind of cash, you're way better off getting the Nokia N95.
For all the features that it offers, the Asus P527 is an amazingly compact smartphone. It measures 4.4 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and weighs 4.5 ounces. This makes it look and feel like a regular cell phone, and you'll be able to comfortably slip it into a pants pocket. The overall shape of the P527 reminded us of the Sony Ericsson P1i, but it has a brushed aluminum face that's attractive, and there's a soft-touch finish on the back that makes the handset easy to grip.
On its front is a 2.6-inch diagonal touch screen with a 65,000-color output and 320x240 pixel resolution. In general, text and images are easy to read but the colors tend to wash out in brighter environments. Asus also provides an alternative Asus Launcher screen that aggregates frequently used applications and menus in one place.
Below the display, you'll find a familiar navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Start menu launcher, an OK button, and a joystick. The latter is fairly small and stiff, so we had a quite a number of mistaken presses. In addition to the alphanumeric keypad, Asus includes a handful of eight other shortcut buttons for one-click access to applications, such as GPS, Bluetooth, Messages, and the voice recorder. We appreciate these keys since Windows Mobile devices aren't exactly the easiest to operate, requiring a lot of menu digging and extra steps.
For easier one-handed operation, the left spine holds a jog wheel/volume rocker and an OK button, while there's a lock switch, a reset hole, a camera activation key, and a microSD/SDHC expansion slot on the right side. On the bottom, you'll find a 2.5mm headset jack and a mini USB port. A power button sits on the top, and the camera and speaker are located on the backside.