Asus is showing off a new Padfone mini at CES 2014, and it’s a new low-cost, low-size model. The phone itself features a 4 inch display and when you want to use a larger screen or extend your battery life you can slide it into a 7 inch Tablet Station and use your phone as if it were a tablet.
It’s not clear if this model will be be coming to the US, but after spending a few minutes with the little guy, I kind of hope it does.
The phone’s specs aren’t all that impressive — it has a an Atom Z2560 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage and the display resolution is rather anemic at 800 x 480 pixels. But the build quality is pretty solid and the phone feels really good in the hand. After spending the last few years with 4.7 inch or larger phones, I’d forgotten how nice it is to use a phone that you can operate with one hand.
Better yet, the tablet dock works exactly as promised. Slide the phone into the slot on the back and within a second or two all of your Android apps show up on the larger 7 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel touchscreen display. The tablet dock also has a larger battery, letting you recharge the phone or just extend your run time.
The phone also fits into the dock snugly and doesn’t feel like it’s likely to fall out unless you tug at it. While the phone makes the tablet a bit thicker than a typical 7 inch tablet, it doesn’t feel particularly bulky.
If the Padfone mini had a better screen resolution… and if I didn’t already have a Nexus 5 phone and Nexus 7 tablet, I’d seriously consider buying a device like this instead of two completely separate devices. One of the key selling points of a Padfone-style device is that you only need to pay for a single data plan.
Since the phone handles all the heavy lifting and the tablet is little more than a screen and battery, you don’t have to tether the tablet to connect to the internet and there’s no need to sync your data across devices — everything happens on the phone.
Hopefully Asus will bring its Padfone mini lineup to the US eventually… and hopefully they’ll either spruce up the specs or offer a really competitive price. The company has already announced plans to bring at least one Padfone model to the States. AT&T will offer the Padfone X with a 5 inch phone and 9 inch tablet dock soon.
The smaller Padfone mini currently supports HSPA+ networks as well as WiFi and Bluetooth, runs Android 4.3 software, and will be available in select markets in black, white, blue red or yellow.