The Asus Zenpad 3 8.0 is a superbly capable performer that tries to get the better of its pricier competitors. Affordable, effective and beautiful, it can quickly warm a place into your heart if you are willing to overlook some design shortcomings and trade-offs.
Don’t know if you like tablets, but I do. What’s not to love with a mighty big screen that is just perfect for in-your-face gaming and endless watching of funny YouTube memes and videos. As well as a bigger and better battery life than most smartphones my bank account can comfortably support without getting a stroke. So, over the years I have acquired quite a collection of tablets, and my tailor is forever engaged in widening the pockets of my varied clothing to accommodate the big and beautiful fellas. Imagine my delight therefore when Asus released its latest tablet featuring specs a plenty to sate the thirst of most users, while still being pretty affordable. The new Asus tab provides most of the latest goodies we all have come to expect on mobile devices in an easy to use, fun package that is a definite sight for sore eyes and itchy, twitchy, demanding fingers.
For starters, the exterior is plastic. While feeling less premium than most other elite competitors, it does ensure a securely comfortable grip without slipping when being held. And I presume that Asus was more engaged with packing the interior with expected goodies than in slathering the exterior with suede and sheepskin leather, so kudos to them. The QHD screen is a 7.9-inch design that glimmers with truly eye-popping vivid colors and a mighty resolution of 2084 x 1536. On the back of the device, you get an 8 MP main camera, which is complemented by a 2 MP selfie maker staring back at you on the front end. OS is the Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with Asus customizations slopped on top with a rather heavy hand, which occasionally threatens to ruin a rather good experience with the tab.
Under the sleek hood, you get 4GB of RAM, and a capable 1.8ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 that keeps things merrily humming along nicely over most workloads, while an Adreno 510 pitches in by providing support for graphically intensive tasks. Internal storage is a reasonable 32GB, with external SD cards of up to 128GB supported, so no worries about lacking space to store your extensive Game Of Thrones movie collections. The sealed onboard battery is a non-removable 4,680 mAh monster promising and delivering seemingly endless hours of blissful entertainment. The Asus Zenpad 3 8.0 additionally supports 4G LTE via an included sim card slot, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-fi. But sadly not the latest rage – a fingerprint or iris scanner or NFC. Also present is a convenient micro-USB Type-C for ultra-fast charging up the sexy beauty as well as enabling light-fast data transfer with other devices. Weight is a feather-light 320g, ensuring all day usage without growing biceps, while size is 205 x 136 x 7.6 millimeters, which is about average for the class.
So, lucky me got gifted a unit to test. The Asus Zenpad 3 8.0 feels swanky and premium looking enough to compete with the top bad boys from the stables of either Apple or Samsung, while costing considerably less with rather excellent build quality. The bezels are rather thick and reduce the screen real estate, but not unforgivably so. On the dizzy top, you get a 3.5mm jack and the aforementioned USB Type-C in conjunction with a mic on the bottom. Similarly, the left side of the tab rocks the sim/micro SD card slot, while on the right you get the power and volume buttons.
The display is the first thing that catches and stubbornly holds the attention and is unbelievably rich and colorful, easily rivaling the best tablet displays ever to have graced our haloed office. Movies are an absolutely true delight to watch and get so captivating that you barely notice time flying past or the numerous missed calls from your spouse. The screen too is impressively responsive to commands and comes armored in Corning Gorilla Glass 3. While performance is pretty impressive out of the box should you wish to you can self-calibrate the screen further via lever controls which change the default color saturation and other effects. Outdoor usability though is rather average, and the device best shows off its goodies indoors.
The onboard cameras are good under excellent lighting conditions, making for some rather great footage and silly selfies aplenty. If you do want to take pictures or movies under overcast skies or near dark, expect to get very disappointed with the result. Apart from possessing numerous camera options, the camera app additionally offers a manual mode in which you can fine-tune camera values to your picky heart’s content. Unfortunately, that was beyond my capability to test out considering my lack of photography expertise.
The sound is provided by two stereo speakers, one at the top and another at the bottom. With sound quality additionally being rather average no matter the volume level or audio played. And oh, the volume was so-so, so don’t expect ear-pounding bass rhythms from this beauty. Call making with the device was a breeze, and you can’t believe how silly I looked with that giant tab held up to my tiny ears yakking away, or the very mystified and bemused looks I received from passersby. If you don’t feel like holding up a giant billboard to your ear, the hands-free feature awaits and performs well enough. Audio while making calls is excellent, and no major issue was present. Still audio quality tends to distort at higher levels so beware. Not that you would need it though because the lowest volume setting is enough for most people in any quiet environment.
The gaming performance of the Asus Zenpad 3 8.0 is pretty decent, and the Adreno 510 GPU makes a convincing attempt but does not quite succeed. Frame rates on games played will therefore vary, and to assure better playability I often found it necessary to drastically adjust the settings downwards. The onboard battery on its own proved capable of standing up to a day of mixed heavy use, and nearly ten plus hours playing my kick-ass Kungfu videos. Charging it up though takes near 3 hours, which is a rather longish chore.
Lest we forget, Asus unforgivably loaded its latest tablet flagship with its own apps, most of which are merely copies of popular Google Play store versions and are undeletable. These can be intrusive, frustrating and plain old annoying, apart from resulting in an occasionally buggy performance and system crashes. The best thing you can do about this is just to grin and bear it like I did.
Price is $499, with the available color being only swanky black at present. The Asus Zenpad 3 8.0 is an affordable beast totally capable of bewitching you. For the price, it is rather an excellent choice and certain to provide endless hours of entertainment and joy if you can bear some shortcomings.