Tablets with data connectivity (read which can accommodate SIM cards and calls) are not new. However, calling has been a secondary function of most tablets, thanks to their relatively bulky form factors.
Relying totally on Bluetooth headsets is not convenient and holding a large, weighty device to your ear can be a pain in the palm, especially if the Lord intended you to wear small-sized mittens in winter. So when Asus unveiled the FonePad -- very different from the PadFone we saw last year -- and labelled it a tablet designed for handling calls too, we must confess that our foreheads bore more than the odd crease of cynicism.
No, we did not doubt that the device represented very good value for money for someone seeking to invest in a tablet without breaking a bank. For Rs 15,999, the FonePad comes with a seven-inch display with a 1280 x 800 resolution, 1 GB RAM, Android 4.1, dual cameras (including a 3.2-megapixel one at the rear), 8 GB onboard storage (expandable using a microSD card), Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS and Bluetooth -- all of this driven by an Intel Atom Z2420 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. It looks very smart too, with the display being impressively bright and rendering colours very well, and the back being made of metal. At 340 gms, it is however, heavier than the bigger screened iPad mini. At 10.4 mm, not the thinnest tablet we have seen either. Still, even if you do not brandish this tablet in public, you are unlikely to hide it in your backpack at the first sign of company -- it actually feels more solid than the all-plastic Nexus 7.
The Asus FonePad is, for the moment at least, more tablet than phone -- or in Asus-speak, more pad than Fone. If you are looking for a tablet with a seven-inch display and 3G connectivity, this is perhaps one of the best options around. No, it will not get automatic Android updates like the similarly-priced Nexus 7 (although an update to Android 4.2 is expected shortly), but on the flip side it comes with inbuilt 3G and expandable storage. And the calling function, while not its primary strength, is certainly handy to fall back on. Purely as a tablet with data connectivity and decent multimedia, though, we think it is a bargain.
Asus Fonepad: 7 inch 1280 x 800 display, 1.2 GHz Intel Atom Z2420 processor, 1 GB RAM, 8GB storage (expandable), Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, Bluetooth, Android 4.1 (upgradeable to 4.2)
Price: Rs 15,999