Those sentiments get tempered a little when it comes to shooting video. Footage recorded at 1080p was perfectly adequate, though colors didn't pop as much as I would've hoped for, and there was still a bit of noise creeping in where it shouldn't have. Oh, the Padfone X records video in 4K too, though it's not like the screen will actually show you your footage in all its glory. As you might expect, audio quality left much to be desired too -- things were hushed and none too impressive (though the speaker situation doesn't help). For the majority of people, smartphone photo and video quality is perfectly adequate unless it falls below a certain lousiness threshold. The Padfone X's shooters are far from the best I've ever met, but they manage to clear that low bar with plenty of room to spare.
Performance and battery life
If cellphone stores were casinos, flagships like the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 would be those big, elaborate slot machines that lure you in with a sense of spectacle and big promises. The Padfone itself (sans tablet dock), would be that rinky-dink machine next to the cheap buffet line -- your chances of coming away satisfied might not be that different, but you'd never know it from sight alone.
Pardon the metaphor -- long story short, the X has power in spades thanks to the 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 ticking away in that woefully unimaginative shell. It's not Qualcomm's newest bit of silicon magic, but make no mistake: The Padfone X runs like a champ. Part of that has to do with ASUS' mercifully light touch with software, letting KitKat's natural snappiness shine through as you flick past home screens and dive into menus. All that horsepower really makes itself known when you're taking corners in Need For Speed: Most Wanted -- there's nary a visual stutter or dropped frame to be seen.
The tale of the tape only confirmed what I already knew: the Padfone will easily tackle whatever you throw at it during your day-to-day grind. If only things were as peachy after you plop the phone into that tablet dock. What once was snappy and responsive becomes very slightly less so -- it's a little jarring to feel that shift when it happens, but I seriously doubt most people would pay it much mind.
Since there are two different screens and two different batteries to work with, I've had to rejigger our standard video rundown test a bit. Normally we'd fire up a 720p video file, set it to loop indefinitely at 50 percent screen brightness and let 'er rip. Under those circumstances, the Padfone hung in for eight hours and 24 minutes before finally giving up the ghost. From there, I popped the thing into the fully charged Padfone Station and cued up the video on that bigger screen, a gauntlet that lasted another six hours. Purely as a phone, the Padfone X falls short of the battery bar set by devices like HTC's One M8 and Samsung's Galaxy S5, but that's a forgivable sin. Video stress testing aside, it still consistently ran for more than 12 hours as I emailed, snapped photos and snarkily tweeted my way through the work day, and quick battery top-ups from the Padfone Station only helped stretch my productive hours even further.
No other device tries to bridge the smartphone/tablet divide the way the Padfone does. Its closest evolutionary cousin would probably be the phablet, and there's no shortage of those taking up space on store shelves. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 sports a 5.7-inch screen, so it doesn't always feel like a tablet, but its slew of S Pen features makes sure it feels fresh compared to less ambitious competitors. The silicon inside is awfully similar to what's ticking away in the Padfone X, too -- there's a quad-core Snapdragon 800 running the show, though it'll generally cost you about $100 more with a contract than the Padfone will.
Sony's Xperia Z Ultra might fit the bill too, since it doesn't try to hide its tablet ambitions. It's got a hefty 6.4-inch display, making it one of the biggest phablets you could try and squeeze into your skinny jeans. It too packs a Snapdragon 800, but the biggest thing to remember is that the only way you're going to get one in the States is unlocked from the Google Play Store. That means you'll be shelling out $449 since there are no contracts involved. On the off-chance that something slightly smaller might fit your bill, the HTC One M8 could work well with its top-tier spec sheet and impeccable design. At $199 with a contract though, it'll cost you just as much as a Padfone without the promise of extra flexibility. Choose wisely.
If I've seemed unduly harsh on the Padfone X, it's because I still think there's a place in the world for a hybrid like this. Sadly, despite years of tinkering with the same formula, ASUS couldn't completely stick the landing this time around. For all the gripes I've leveled at this thing, though, I've had to mentally repeat one sentence like a mantra throughout my weeks of testing: all of this is just $200 with a contract. For the same price as a single, shiny top-tier handset, you could nab yourself a very respectable smartphone and a tablet that (while flawed) still works. I'd wager there's a decent number of people out there who'd embrace that math wholeheartedly.
But are you one of them? If you've got the means, you'll almost definitely be better served by buying separate phones and tablets. The promise of seamless syncing is a tempting one, and one worth getting right. ASUS hasn't done that here. To be honest, I hope it gets another chance at cracking the brutal US market -- the right sort of design and software tweaks could turn the next-generation Padfone into a gadget worthy of our collective drool. For now, though, ponder the arithmetic and see if you can do better.