BARCELONA, Spain--It may be early days yet, but I'm really liking what I'm seeing so far of the Asus Padfone and Padfone Station. Or, as I like to call it, the turducken of mobile devices.
The Padfone essentially mashes up the concept of the Asus Transformer Prime tablet with its docking station, and the concept of the phone-in-empty-laptop-dock (like the Motorola Atrix 4G and laptop dock) to create a zany triple-play that has you snapping your shiny Padfone into a tablet shell to get a slate, then sliding the phone-powered slate into a docking station for a keyboard (it doubles as a stand).
The illusion is that you get three portable devices with one, but the reality is that you only have one device that can fully function on its own--the Padfone itself.
Asus may not be a typical manufacturer of high-end smartphones, at least not in the U.S., but at first glance, the Padfone design strikes me as solid.
As expected, the Padfone is an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich experience with little extra tampering, plus it's outfitted with respectable high-end features--a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED qHD display, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, and an 8-megapixel HD camera, to name highlights.
Then there's the slate itself, which sports a 10.1-inch screen with 1,280x800-pixel resolution, Corning Gorilla Glass 2, and the same Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor you find in the Transformer Prime.
Don't forget, all that can slide into a docking station that can store extra power and adds a keyboard too.
I also appreciate the Super Note note-taking app that takes on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1--though unless you pick up an accessory like a Bluetooth stylus pen that can also answer calls when your phone rings--while snapped inside the dock--you'll be using your fingers to doodle and regular Bluetooth headset to answer calls you don't want to go to voice mail.
Asus clearly put thought into connecting the Padfone and dock, but you do need to know the tricks for inserting and releasing the elements, and the sequence of events does matter.
An ecosystem like this can certainly multiply the utility of your smartphone exponentially, by stacking it into a larger screen and a keyboard dock. Think of the movies you can watch, notes you can take, e-mails you can draft, and Web sites you can surf from your choice of three different form factors, but only one source of content.
The benefit is keeping your stuff in one place (the Padphone) is clear, but there are drawbacks that include battery drain (the docks will store some extra charge though), pricing for the bundle (it'll be expensive), and the limitations of a tablet for processing tasks versus a full-fledged laptop. It'll be great for taking notes during a meeting, but if you're trying to store large amounts of data or process video from a video camera, forget it.
I still haven't ever tasted turducken 'round the dinner table, but I'm already looking forward to a second helping of the Asus Padfone clan when it comes out in the U.S. in the upcoming months.