Whoever said "bigger is better" has clearly landed a job in Asus' design department and has been working hard on the Fonepad. It's a 7-inch beast that has a microphone, speaker and a SIM card slot, making it a fully operational phone.
At 7 inches, it's definitely more tablet than it is phone though. It's running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, has a 1,200x800-pixel display and has a 1.2GHz single-core Intel Atom processor. It doesn't have the raw power of the otherwise similar, but do its phone skills make up for it?
It's available now from Amazon for £180.
Should I buy the Asus Fonepad?
Asus genuinely seems to believe that the Fonepad is a sensible choice for a main phone. In reality, it's not. At 7 inches, the Fonepad is unquestionably a tablet, not a phone. Squeezing it into your pockets is a challenge and holding it up to make a call in public will rightfully make you feel embarrassed.
Having a phone the size of a tablet does mean you only need to pay for one contract. Unless you have hands the size of small planets though, the Fonepad is just too big to make it a viable option for everyday use.
As a tablet, it's not all bad. It's portable, runs Android Jelly Bean and has a good battery life. It's let down by its unimpressive power and a lacklustre screen though.
If you only have £180 and really can't decide if you want a phone or a tablet, it's worth a look. If you just want a tablet though, go for the. It has a more powerful processor and you can always tether it through your existing phone contract if you need Internet out and about.
Design and build quality
Asus is the company behind the excellent Nexus 7 tablet, so it's not surprising that the Fonepad looks extremely similar. It's a 7-inch slate, with almost exactly the same dimensions as the Nexus 7.
It's 196mm long, 120mm wide and 10mm thick. For a tablet, that's a good portable size -- you can just about fit it into a wide pocket. For a phone you'll be carrying around all day every day though, that size will quickly become a nuisance. Stashing it in the pocket of your winter jacket when it's cold out won't be a problem, but try to squeeze it into some slim jeans, or some smart suit trousers and you might start to regret not getting a smaller phone.
There's no question either that you will look utterly ridiculous making a call on it. I felt foolish enough making a call on Samsung's whopping, and that's only 5.5 inches. The Asus Fonepad is in a whole other league of humiliation.
Your best bet then is to leave it in your pocket -- or, more likely, your bag -- and make calls using a Bluetooth headset. Asus evidently agrees with this as it provided a Plantronics Voyager Legend UC headset that worked well, both with the Fonepad and with my more modestly proportioned .
There's a speaker on the front of the Fonepad to make it function as a phone, but other than that there's not much going on. Around the back is where you'll find the most changes from the Nexus 7. Gone is the dotted, rubberised back plate, replaced instead with a matte aluminium panel. I was quite fond of the black rubber of the Nexus 7, but the metal does add a touch of luxury.
There's no flex in the casing, giving it the feel of a sturdy piece of kit. At the top is a darker strip that can be removed, providing access to the SIM card and microSD card slots. It's very difficult to remove and can easily be lost, permanently exposing the delicate internal components to the elements. A fully removable backplate or using smaller, individual card slots might be a better solution.
Around the edges you'll find a power button and volume rocker, with the micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack both appearing on the bottom. You'll get 16GB of built in storage, which you can expand using the microSD card slot.
The Fonepad's 7-inch screen has a resolution of 1,280x800-pixels, which is the same that you'll get on the Nexus 7. The display is crisp and clear, with no fuzziness around app icons. Small text is easily readable too -- good news if you want to use it as an ebook reader. Side by side against the Nexus, there's no noticeable difference in clarity.
There is a difference in brightness and colour tone though. The Fonepad's display is comparatively quite dim and is worlds apart from the retina-searing power of the Asus Transformer Infinity. Its colours aren't great either, with quite muted tones being visible on my favourite test video.