Asus makes no big secret of who inspired them for their Fonepad Note 6: the 6-inch phablet with stylus follows the same concept as the Samsung Note series to a T. Though the implementation is similar in many ways, the Fonepad version isn’t just a cheap copy of the original phablet. What makes it special, why it is still outshone by the Galaxy Note 3 and finally, why it’s worth the money that you would be paying for it will all be revealed in my test below.
The Fonepad Note 6, first seen at the Asus press event during the Berlin IFA, looks quite bulky despite its rounded back. With its rubberized plastic surface it feels more like a small tablet than a large smartphone. The new device also presents a few understandable similarities to the Nexus 7, also manufactured by Asus. While the body’s shape is similar to the first model of the Nexus phablet, the matte plastic finish is the same as the second. The impression that it gives off of being less compact is enhanced by the relatively wide bezel.
With a width of almost 8.9 centimeters, it’s definitely hard to operate with one hand, but since it’s been designed to work with a stylus anyway, two handed operation is acceptable here. The digital pen is inserted into the bottom right corner of the case, exactly where Samsung placed the S Pen in the Note series.
The Note 6’s camera lens is located smack dab in the middle at the top on the rear and is lacking an LED flash. The hardware buttons for volume and power, found on the right side, are difficult to press when holding the Note 6 with one hand, though as mentioned before, this isn’t a huge issue if you are planning on using the device with two hands for stylus operation.
The front is dominated by the stereo speakers situated above and below the display. Otherwise the only other accents are a small Asus logo and front camera. The workmanship is impeccable, free of inaccurate gaps, rickety or creaking parts.
The display on the Fonepad Note 6 is made of an IPS LCD panel with full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) and a pixel density of 367 ppi, which makes the individual pixels disappear to the naked eye. That being said, the display brightness is not enough to match other LCD smartphones and in direct comparison with the Sony Xperia ZL, the Fonepad Note 6 is much weaker. The Note 3’s display is also a lot brighter. However, some particularly striking features are the high color saturation, the strong black and a slightly greenish tint, which is reminiscent of the AMOLED displays from Samsung.
The camera app Splendid allows you to adjust color saturation and temperature individually, while the color cast is easily adjustable via a slider. A nice extra is read mode in which the display format for either images and text or text only can be optimized.
The 6-inch diagonal screen offers plenty of space. In practice, however, the amount you can actually use is greatly reduced due to the nearly 1 centimeter wide area used for the on-screen buttons found under the display, which always remain on-screen even in landscape mode.
Software and stylus
The software is mostly pure Android and comes with version 4.2.2, complemented by a few Asus applications like a nicely implemented weather widget. Among the Asus apps, you’ll also find a file manager, a dictionary, a separate backup solution as well as App Locker, which allows you to protect individual apps with a password. There’s also an included calendar, scheduler, energy saver and the books app called MyLibrary, an app to incorporate the Note 6 into your home network, like the Story app where you can create virtual books from images and text using individually adaptable layouts.
The digital pen is the icing on this Note 6 cake. Asus uses the same technology as Samsung in the Note family and packs some similar functions. Pulling out the pen automatically opens the note app called Super Note, where you can choose from various layouts, create notes, memos and drawings and primp with images, video, audio or timestamp as desired.
From what I could tell during my test, the button on the stylus only has one function. When circling an area on the screen with the button down, it will cut that area out which can then be saved or shared via various channels. What I found to be quite practical was when pulling out the pen, a little blue box will appear on the left side of the screen which can be pulled to the right. This pulls a grid over the current screen on which you can make notes.
The hover feature can also be found on the Note 6, which is something we’ve become familiar with from the Note series. By holding the pen just above the display, a blue dot appears on the screen. The functionality of this touchless navigation is restricted however: if you press the point of the stylus on an icon, an explanation of the symbol is displayed (for example, pointing to the Camera icon in the gallery will open a dialogue box saying "Go to Camera"). Using the pen’s hover function in your list of albums, you can scroll through the thumbnails of the pictures in each folder.
You can also complete touchless scrolling by moving your pen to the top or bottom side of the page. Handwriting recognition worked generally well and entries appeared without any significant delay. I did however occasionally have trouble with the manual input of web addresses: the device often recognized only the last part of a word.
Another handy feature was that when the pen isn’t snug in its slot, a reminder will appear after a few minutes. There’s also a shortcut in Google Maps in which you can check the location of where the pen was last used.
All in all, the Asus stylus is a useful extension which serves well in expanding the operating scope, mainly for easy navigation through menus and pages and for entering handwritten notes and sketches. That being said, the functionality is limited compared to the Note 3.
Processor and power
The Fonepad Note 6 packs an Intel chipset with two cores and a clock speed of 2 GHz. Even though the Intel chip cannot really compare to the quad-core Snapdragon 800 found in the Note 3, the Note 6 works well for everyday use and operates just as quickly as the Note 3. When compared to TouchWiz, among other Note 3 features, it also has a trimmed down user interface.
The camera found on the Fonepad Note 6 provides an aspect ratio of 4:3 with 8 MP resolution, and in 16:9 format at 6 megapixels. The lack of LED flash makes it virtually useless in low-light situations, while in daylight the results are acceptable, but nothing more. Colors sometimes look dull and washed out, while in HDR mode the results tend to receive an exaggerated color saturation.
The camera apps’ menu design is once again reminiscent of Samsung, however Asus omitted some of the newer Samsung presets. However, the application gives off a very well thought out impression and offers important and helpful setting possibilities at a glance.
The battery is appropriate for a 6-inch device, however the Fonepad with its 3,200 mAh is no endurance miracle. During my test, I cranked the display up to full brightness, downloaded various apps, snapped some photographs, ran a few benchmark tests and completed a background sync of my Google Account over Wi-Fi. The battery lasted throughout without problems and lasted until the following afternoon, at which point it was finally begging for its next charge.
Specifications and price/performance ratio
The Fonepad Note 6 is not a technical monster, however the equipment is sufficient enough to fulfill the needs of the target group envisioned by Asus (this is what we call "generalists," who have no demanding needs and ‘’mobile socializers’’ who mainly use the internet and social networks). The Note 6 comes with an attractive price for this group of smartphone users of 349 Euros, which would be around 480 US dollars. The Galaxy Note 3 currently costs about twice as much.
|Asus Fonepad Note 6|
|Display||6-inch, IPS LCD, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 Pixel), 367 ppi|
|Processor||2 GHz, Dual-Core, Intel Atom Z2580|
|Internal storage||16/32 GB, expandable via microSD|
|Connectivity||HSPA; WLAN, Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi Direct|
|Camera||8 MP (back), 1,2 MP (front)|
|Dimensions||164.8 x 88.8 x 10.3 mm|
|Price||349 Euros, circa 480 US dollars|
One thing is clear: the Fonepad Note 6, despite its similar name, isn’t a Note 3 competitor. It's too big and bulky and the range of operation for its stylus is more limited in comparison. The camera and display cannot keep up with the most recent member of the Galaxy Note family, and LTE and NFC support are also missing. In fact, the Fonepad Note 6 isn’t a direct rival to Samsung’s phablet on purpose: the Asus phablet is aimed at a different audience and consciously positions itself in a different league. For a 6-inch smartphone with stylus though, you really couldn’t get anything much better for the same price.
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