Garmin-Asus A10 and A50 Launch: Take a Walk with Garmin-Asus

[Event Report] [Hands-On] Following the introduction of A10, we finally laid hands on the actual retail set at the ultra-interactive launch event. That’s right, we got to walk around Fullerton One, ride on the Hippo Bus and toy with the mobile phones along the way. And then, there is the element of surprise; Garmin-Asus A50 also made its debut at the event and incredibly retails at a lower price than A10 despite boasting a bigger screen. Yep, there is one whole load of stuff I took away from a packed 1 hour event and I have cut and highlighted them for a busy you to know A10 and A50 like your long lost friends in 5 minutes.    


The Maps in the Brain

Garmin-Asus A10 and A50 is all about maps and navigation. Some thing along the line of carrying a PND (Personal Navigation Device) with you. And it is more like adding the phone function to PND than adding PND function to the phone.

Preloaded with the NAVTEQ® map of Singapore and Malaysia, Garmin-Asus’ game plan revolves around Garmin’s professional 1690 car navigation software and that means both models come with standard PND functions such as turn-by-turn navigation and more advance features such as Lane Guidance and Junction View.

To show these features, the host told us to go Saint Julien from One Fullerton where the conference is held. The thing is, they aren’t prepared to lead us there; instead we were told to find our way there with the latest Garmin-Asus phones.

My experience for the short walk? It is harder to lose my way to the destination than ending up there.

First, key in the destination. The phone automatically finds my current location and gave me the directions to the end point. I didn’t know where Saint Julien is but the A10 in my hand vibrates when I am suppose to make a left. The only gripe I notice is that there is some lag to inform when I was already at the destination.

Next, the hosts brought us up onto the hippo bus.

I personally have never own a PND, mainly because I am not Peter Lim (the guy that bid for Liverpool FC), meaning I couldn’t afford the four wheels on our precious roads. I have a class 3 license though, so I am also not exactly David Beckham holding on to a basketball either.

But I knew these Garmin-Asus phones are really simply PNDs that are not called PNDs. While on the hippo bus, again we setup the destination of the phone and for the next 10 minutes, all I hear are the programmed voice to tell me to turn left and right and all I see are lanes instructions and speed limits on every road we turn into. Plain simple.

I am pretty sure the host checked the phones to ensure that all the features work during our short trip, so as far as I see, the map are updated and the ability of the phone to consistently discover my current location is accurate.

All in all, it looks like a premium version of Google Maps which is also installed on the phones. Including other features such as the Point of Interest database updated by Garmin-Asus and street views feature via Google Maps.

The navigation is brilliant but throughout my time with the phones, I just wished the screen on the A10 is sharper and larger than it is. It will no doubt improve the experience of using the maps.


The Twins with Strengths of their Own

The physical sizes of the phones does not differ too much. It is the screen size that you probably want to zoom in on. And to give you an even better breakdown, I have highlighted the areas in which the respective phones is stronger in. In the game of A50 and A10, Garmin-Asus is going against the market trend; to put a larger screen on your premium product (think Samsung Galaxy S or HTC Desire). And so, a Garmin-Asus customer will have to decide between have a speeder phone with better camera and battery life against a bigger screen. A difference of 0.3” might theoretically seem small, but holding them up tell a true story. I can’t harp on the screen since it is still a matter of personal preference though it is hard to imagine anyone in for a smartphone settling for anything less than 3.5” (incidentally, the screen size of an iPhone 4). Other specifications puts both models right in the bracket of the Mid-range Android smartphones.

  Garmin-Asus A50 Garmin-Asus A10
Networks HSDPA  downstream :7.2Mbps upstream: 384kbps HSDPA DL:7.2Mbps UL: 384Kpbs,UMTS 900/ 2100
Operating system Android 2.1 (Eclair)  Android 2.1 (Eclair) 
CPU Qualcomm 7227 600MHz Qualcomm 7227 600MHz
Memory 256MB SDRAM + 256MB ROM, 4GB eMMC flash 512 MB SDRAM + 512MB ROM, 4GB eMMC Flash
Connectivity Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, USB 2.0, WLAN 802.11b+g Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, USB v2.0, WLAN 802.11b+g
GPS Qualcomm GPSOne – Gen7 (AGPS supported) Qualcomm GPSOne – Gen7 (AGPS supported)
Display 3.5 HVGA TFT with capacitive touch , 65K colors 3.2 HVGA TFT with capacitive touch , 65Kcolors
Camera 3 megapixel, autofocus 5 megapixel, Auto Focus
Battery 1150mAh lithium 1500mAh Lithium
Standby time Up to 18 days (2G/3G)* 530-660 hours(2G/3G)
Talk time Up to 9 hours (2G/3G)* 560-710 minutes(2G/3G)
Expansion microSD ™ (supports SDHC, up to 32GB) microSD (supports SDHC, up to 32GB)
Browser HTTP/Google browser HTTP/Google browser
Messaging SMS/MMS/email/push email SMS / MMS / Email / Push email
Video Video playback: MPEG4/H.264/H.263/WMV @ 30 frame per second VGA Video recording: MPEG4/H.263 @ 24 frame per second VGA Video Playback: MPEG4/H.264/H.263/WMV @ 30fps VGA Video Recording: MPEG4/H.263 @ 30fps QVGA



Holding Them like Babies

The A10, the pricer product of the two, is a compact phone. Only the front side is glossy while the back portion is setup with matte texture. It feels extremely solid with a little bit of weight. The curvy sides makes holding on to the A10 (the first of the two images below) a joy. The A50 is somewhat more economical in terms of the build quality. The black plastic casing feels a less solid than expected and the 5 way navigation pad is a little loose. But in general, A50 looks a lot like LG Chocolate Series; Simplistic black glossy design. Comparing the two purely on the terms of outlook, they are probably design for two different market segment in mind. But I personally prefer A50 with the larger screen. There I said it again.

Garmin-Asus A10

Garmin-Asus A50


Signing Off…

The launch conference of the Garmin-Asus A10 and A50 clearly shown the strengths and weaknesses of the phones. The navigation functions are excellent but the specifications of the phones are perhaps on the underwhelming side. Which to an extent, affects the core function of these devices; to be a smartphone.

Yet for the prices, Garmin-Asus A10 and A50 for $598 and $568 respectively (SRP without telco contracts), they represent value for your cash. The prices also reveals the indecisiveness of the engineers and designers to make which of these two a premium product. A mere S$30 dollars meant that A10 wins by a whisker. But I won’t bet on the consumers making the same decision. A 3.5” screen is particularly attractive to me (For a 3rd time in this post).

There are other details to cover but they shouldn’t go beyond the materials in this post in general. With the exception of the Android experience which should, navigation software which I will spend some time trying out, take the central stage in my A10 full review. I have gotten my review set. So if you wanted any particular information on the phone, I am probably able to provide some ideas.

Otherwise, enjoy your Sunday. Because Monday is sneaking up on us…

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