-Highly customizable software
-Dual front-facing speakers
-4 GB of RAM
-Decent camera for tablet
-Software oversharpens picture
-Cannot disable video smoothing
-Lots of bloatware
-No specific apps to take advantage of large display, like dual window
There has been a significant surge of affordable yet high-end devices in the smartphone world, but this trend hasn’t entirely found its way over to the tablet market. A distinct difference between affordable and premium tablets can still be seen, but ASUS is hoping to blur the lines a little bit with their latest tablet offering. Does the company succeed? We find out, in this in-depth review of the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 review!
There are two aspects of the design of the ZenPad S 8.0 that are noticeable right off the bat, with the first being how compact this 8-inch tablet is, and the second being how thin it is, with a thickness of just 6.6 mm. The 4:3 aspect ratio of the display means that the device is a little wider that it would be with a 16:9 ratio display, but it isn’t uncomfortable to hold on to.
There is a brushed metallic finish throughout the back, bordered by a shiny metallic edge that gives the tablet a nice elegant look, but helping with the grip is a soft, leathery material that used along the bottom of the tablet when holding it in the landscape orientation, which feels really nice, and prevents the tablet from easily slipping from your hand. Also aiding the grip is a soft rubbery material that borders the entire tablet. Its sleek profile and build material choices not only make for a great looking device, but also makes it that much more portable and easier to use.
Going around the device, the camera can be found on the back, the headphone jack is up top, and on the left side is a flap that allows for access to the microSD card slot. The volume rocker and the power button are on the right, and the buttons are unfortunately quite stiff and hard to press, more so in the case of the power button, which does help to avoid accidentally triggering them, but can be confusing as to whether you’ve actually pressed the button or not without the tactile feedback you’d expect. The tablet does come with the double tap to wake feature however, so you won’t find yourself reaching for the power button that often.
The ZenPad S 8.0 also comes with a USB Type-C port at the bottom, and its great to see OEMs slowly start to adopt the new USB standard with their devices. Up front, on either side of the display, is the dual stereo speaker setup, which is of course the best implementation when it comes to the placement of speakers, especially in the case of a tablet, a primary use of which for a lot of people is media consumption.
The ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 comes with an 8-inch IPS LCD display with a 2048 x 1536 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 320 ppi. Quad HD is all the rage in the smartphone arena, but makes much more sense with the larger displays of a tablet, allowing for great viewing experience. Text is very clear and sharp, viewing angles are fantastic, and the color reproduction, with the default settings, is very accurate. If you are looking for a touch of more saturation, you do have the option to change it, with preset options including Balance, BlueLight filter, and Vivid, as well as the ability to manually adjust the settings.
A small amount of sharpening does appear to be going on throughout the display, which can make text appear a little fuzzy, which is especially noticeable in certain scenarios, like with black text on a colored background. As good as looking at still images on this high-resolution display is, viewing videos may lead to some disappointment. The software tries to smoothen the video out, similar to the Soap Opera effect available with some HDTVs, so if a movie you’re watching is intended to be shot at a cinematic 24 frames per second, the tablet will try to smoothen the video to make it look like it was shot at 60 frames per second, making it seem very strange looking.
You do have the option to adjust this “Blur Motion Free” setting to either high, medium, or low, or even completely disable it. However, it has to be mentioned that even when it is disabled, this effect is still very noticeable. The issues with sharpening and the smoothing of videos can, and will hopefully, be fixed with future updates, but for now, these questionable software implications put a damper on what is otherwise a gorgeous display.
Under the hood, the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 packs a quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor, clocked at 2.3 GHz, and backed by the PowerVR G6430 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. This is the configuration of this particular review unit, but there is a cheaper version available which comes with an Intel Atom Z3560 processor and 2 GB of RAM as well.
The processing package allows for a very smooth and lag free experience. Animations are incredibly fluid, and opening, closing, and switching between apps is quite fast. It has to be said though that a contributing factor to this stutter-free performance is the stock-like software experience, that keeps everything smooth and snappy. When it comes to gaming, you may notice a few hiccups with graphic-intensive games, but the device handles gaming very well for the most part. Gaming is also the only time you may notice the device getting warm, but never uncomfortably so.
The ZenPad S 8.0 comes with 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of built-in storage, which can be further expanded via microSD card by up to 128 GB. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, but a version of the device with a SIM card slot to take advantage of mobile data isn’t currently available. As mentioned, the tablet comes with dual front-facing stereo speakers. This is not only the best placement for speakers on a tablet, but the sound these speakers provide is also very crisp, clear, and loud, which will make media and gaming-centric users very happy.
This ZenPad S 8.0 packs 4,000 mAh battery, which might be a bit smaller than the battery capacity available with other high-end tablets, but the software optimization allows for some pretty decent battery life. I was able to get up to 6 hours on screen-on time when using the tablet to watch videos and browse the internet, and if you are somebody who is not going to watch videos all day long, you should comfortably get a full day of use out of this tablet, if not more.
Tablets aren’t well known for their prowess in the camera department, and most pack mediocre camera packages at best, and the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0, with its 8 MP rear camera and 5 MP front-facing unit, only somewhat changes that impression.
The rear camera is capable of taking good pictures, but only in very specific situations, and it does tend to overexpose the shot a lot. Even when setting the focus on different areas of the picture, and with multiple attempts, there was always some form of overexposure to be seen. There are instances when you get a great looking photo however, but there are more misses than hits. Images are also sometimes lacking in detail, and the software does have trouble processing some bright colors.
The story goes along the same lines when it comes to front-facing camera as well, with it capable of occasionally taking some good shots with a lot of detail, as long as the lighting conditions are ideal. Even if the lighting deteriorates slightly, your selfies will start to look grainy. When it comes to the camera app, it is packed with a lot of features and camera effect, such as Low Light mode, which bumps up the brightness and tones down the noise you’d see with a normal low light shot. Detail is still lacking however, but this mode does help take low light performance from poor to just about average.
The camera package of this tablet is likely not going to match up with what is available with your smartphone, but this is definitely good enough to manage a good shot in a pinch, and overall, the camera of the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 is actually one of the better ones we’ve seen on tablets thus far.
On the software side of things, the ZenPad S 8.0 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, with the Zen UI on top. This is one of the more minimalistic takes on Android out there, and a lot of the Material Design elements of Lollipop are retained, and can be seen in areas like the notification drop down and recent apps screen, even if aspects like the on-screen navigation keys are a little dated. On the lockscreen, you can set up to 3 shortcuts to launch your most used apps which is very handy. By default these are camera, mail, and browser but you can change these to whatever apps you’d like or just disable them all.
The device comes with a slew of customization options and gesture-based additions, that can prove to be very useful. For example, by holding down or swiping up on the homescreen, customization options like icon packs, scroll effects, and launcher fonts show up and can be changed to better suit your liking. With Touch Gesture, you can draw letters while the screen is off to launch certain apps, like C for Camera, or E for Email, and as mentioned, the device also comes with a double tap to wake feature. In Motion Gesture, you can do things like, shaking the tablet to take a screenshot.There’s even a “Kid Mode,” where you can turn your tablet into a protected environment for a youngster set with parent controls and a timer.
It’s a little disappointing that something like dual window or having small versions of apps running side by side is not available, but that might not be that big of a deal for some people. It’s also worth mentioning that the device is, unfortunately, packed with a lot of bloatware than cannot be uninstalled. That said, there are far more positives with this software experience than negatives, and overall, things remain smooth and snappy, which is the most important part.
|Display||8-inch IPS LCD display
2048 x 1536 resolution, 320 ppi
|Processor||2.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 (4GB RAM),
1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 (2GB RAM)
|Storage||16/32/64GB, expandable up to 128GB|
|Camera||8MP rear camera
5MP front camera
|Software||Zen UI, Android 5.0 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||203.2 x 134.5 x 6.6 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The base model of the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 starts at just $199, but the 64 GB storage and 4 GB RAM version will set you back only an additional $100. ASUS managed to impress everyone with the pricing of its Zenfone 2 smartphones, and the company has brought over that same fantastic pricing policy to its latest tablet line as well.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0! This tablet offers everything you’d expect from a high-end device in 2015, with its Quad HD resolution display, 4 GB of RAM, and front-facing dual stereo speakers. Additions like the extremely customizable UI make the experience even better, and the device doesn’t need any help from a third-party applications to create a great tablet experience. Thankfully, the only flaws in the ZenPad S 8.0 are software related and can likely be fixed at some point down the road. This tablet manages exceeds all expectations, and with a price point of just $299, is definitely worth picking up.