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Asus unveils dockable PadFone Mini

The Asus Padphone Mini, a 7in hybrid tablet-phone, has debuted at CES

Asus has announced a smaller version of its dockable PadFone X. As with the PadFone X, which was unveiled at CES on Monday, the PadFone Mini will slot into the back of a Asus tablet. Whereas the PadFone X pairs with a 9in Asus tablet screen, the PadFone Mini partners with a 7in tablet. The 7in tablet screen for the PadFone Mini will have a fairly average 1280×800-pixel touchscreen display. When docked, the pairing has a combined weight of 380g – just 50g more than Apple’s iPad Mini on its own.

Part-phone, part-tablet, all strange.

The dockable PadFones are intended for everyday email, text and calls. The PadFone owner can pull out the accompanying tablet screen and slot the handset into its rear when they need a more detailed view of something or simply want to use their mobile gadgetry for entertainment.

The 4inch-screened Android 4.3 PadFone Mini is powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z2560 processor, sports an 8-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel front camera and has an 800×480-pixel IPS+ display. It will be able to record HD video at 1080p. Its Sony sensor will support HDR and low-light levels. The IPS tablet screen doesn’t have a camera.

The PadFone Mini will have dual SIM card slots, making it usable in different countries on local networks, and will support 3G but not LTE. This is in contrast to the PadFone X, which will launch on US phone network AT&T and will offer LTE connectivity. An operator has not yet been announced for the PadFone Mini.

The idea behind the hybrid phone-cum-tablet is sound. If you simply dock your phone into your tablet screen there’s no need to worry about syncing content between your devices because you’re simply using the tablet as a larger display for what’s on the phone. The larger capacity battery of the tablet – 2,100mAh compared to 1,170mAh in the PadFone Mini handset – means it can also be used to replenish the power of the docked phone.

Last month, Asus unveiled a Qualcomm-powered PadFone Mini (now known as the PadFone Mini 4.3) with a 4.3in screen and a superior 960×540-pixel phone display. The PadFone Mini shown at CES is set to launch in worldwide markets in the second quarter of 2014.

The Asus hybrid PadFone isn’t a new idea. Motorola’s Atrix phone of 2011 took a similar approach – to a not very favourable response. However, the modest specifications and plastic casing for the PadFone Mini suggests it’s aimed at the budget end of the market. If the price is right, it could appeal to consumers keen to get their first smartphone and tablet all at once.

Rosemary Hattersley

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