Monday, November 9, 2015

Asus ZenPad S 8.0 (Z580C) Review

**UPDATE (09/18/16): Asus has finally released an update to Marshmallow (6.0). This is major news as no one expected Asus to release a Marshmallow update. Initially indications are that battery life has improved and performance seems to be the same or slightly better. The only thing that the update is not via OTA. You must download the file from Asus (http://www.asus.com/US/Tablets/ASUS_Z...) and install it to your main directory. When you restart, it should give you the option to go through the update/upgrade.

Asus has been in the tablet business for several years. In 2012, Google introduced its first Nexus tablet, Nexus 7, at its I/O Developer’s Conference.  Google chose Asus, a leading Taiwanese computer and electronics company, to manufacture its first Nexus tablet.  At that time, the Nexus 7, as our review stated, was “the best value Android tablet currently on the market.”  Asus then followed up with the second generation Nexus 7 which again proved to be an excellent low price Android tablet.  Asus has a line of different tablets from its Eee Pad Transformer series to its Memo Pad series in addition to its Vivo Tab series. Around August 2015, Asus released its latest series of Android tablets.  So is this device worth it?  Read on...

     The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 (ZenPad going forward) comes in two flavors: $199 with 32GB of storage, 2GB RAM & Intel Atom 1.3GHz Quad Core processor and $299 with 64GB of storage, 4GB RAM & Intel Atom 2.3GHz Quad Core processor (Z580CA).   Our review tablet is the Z580C version. 


Exterior
The ZenPad is larger size than other 8” tablets mostly due to its 4:3 screen.  The ZenPad’s dimensions are 8.0” (l) x 5.3” (w) x .27” (h) compared to the Kindle Fire of 7.5” (l) x 4.7” (w) x .45” (h).  For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 dimensions are 8.2” (l) x 5.4” (w) x .29” (h).  The ZenPad weighs about .70 lbs which is light.  However, the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 comes in slightly less at .69 lbs.  The more expensive Sony Xperia Z3 comes in at .60 lbs.
     
     The body is light and made of plastic (obviously to reduce cost) but does not feel “cheap”.  It has a premium “look”.  The rear of the tablet has a rubberized back along the bottom of the length which allows a better grip.  The ZenPad has a micro-USB port, headphone jack, and micro-SD port.  Asus has done well and addressed a pet peeve of ours.  There are TWO external speaker located on the front of the device.  This allows sound to travel easily to our ears.  More on the speakers in our Multimedia section.  Overall, the exterior quality is very good for this price range.

     The ZenPad does include a 2MP front-facing and 5MP rear-facing camera.  We do not believe in taking pictures with your tablet but if you must, it takes fair pictures. Below are comparisons between the ZenPad and my old LG G2 smartphone which has a 13 MP rear-facing camera (yes, it is not a fair comparison). [These pictures have not been edited or altered in any manner.]



You can see the G2 (top) pic shows brighter, more vivid yellow & sharper picture of the yellow mum.


 Same with the orange mums. The G2 pic (top) shows brighter especially the red mulch in the background. The ZenPad shows duller colors.



This last picture was taken at night using indoor lighting.  The G2 pic (top) is sharper although the colors are almost identical.

There is a power button on the right side with the Volume Up & Down button above it.  This is one complaint as the buttons are flushed and difficult to press especially if you have the tablet in a case.  However, you can activate the tablet by double-tapping the screen (similar to LG’s knock-on feature).  This is a nice plus as I love that option.

     The only included accessories are the USB cable, and DC power adapter/charger. 

Internal
Under the hood, the ZenPad has a 64-bit Intel Atom quad-core processor (Z3530) running at 1.33 GHz and 2 GB of RAM which again is not typical for this price range so definitely a big plus.  This version has 32GB of internal storage memory although about 24GB is usable (the rest is for Android & ASUS’ bloatware).  [You also get 100GB of Google Drive storage free for 2 years. Must redeem by 4/1/18.]  The tablet has a built-in GPS, light-sensor, digital compass, Bluetooth (V4.1 with Bluetooth Smart) and G-Sensor.  The ZenPad does include an IMG PowerVR Series 6 (G6430) GPU which was an excellent GPU… back in 2013.  Guess this is one way ASUS kept cost low.  We’ll note the performance later below.

     The Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) performed without any issues and performed on par.  Connection never dropped and no significant slow down in connection although some users have complained of dropped connection.  Unfortunately, it only uses 2.4GHz frequency rather than the faster 5GHz.

Screen
Most manufacturers cut cost by using low resolution screens but not ASUS.  This screen is what you would find on higher-end tablets.  The screen is 8” with a high resolution of 2048x1536 giving a pixel density of 324ppi.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab A, for comparison, has a 1024x768 resolution while the Acer Iconia Tab 8 has a resolution of 1920x1200.   The viewing angles are excellent.  I would recommend turning off the auto-brightness.  However, I have experienced the screen dimming on occasion for no apparent reason.  It happens randomly and hope Asus addresses this in an update.  The side bezels are incredibly thin which may make holding it in portrait mode a little more difficult. 

Multimedia
As our video demonstrates, the ZenPad S 8.0 works well with all multimedia (pictures, music & videos) types.  The only issue we had was playing a 4k video (MP4) which would freeze.  We tried this on both MoboPlayer and the stock video player but to no avail. 

Another area where Asus did not skimp is the dual front speakers.  These speakers feature DTS-HD premium sound.  It is common sense to have the speakers on the front as you want the sound to project towards you.  The speakers are loud so you may not need a Bluetooth external speaker to listen to music.  However, don’t expect to hear deep bass coming from these speakers.  That is asking for too much.

Overall, the multimedia experience was overall excellent.

Software/Applications (Apps)
This being ASUS, the ZenPad includes its ZenUI with a boatload of bloatware [28 non-Google pre-installed apps of which 23 are Asus apps].  It does run Android 5.0 (Lollipop) but ASUS is not the best manufacturer in upgrading software.  We reached out to ASUS to find out if they will release Android 6.0 (the hardware can support it) and the response was “After consulting related department in TW [not sure what TW stands for], up till now, they still have no schedule for next update but we will transfer customers' wishes to them for further development.”  So it is probably doubtful they will update to Android 6.0.  On the bright side, Asus has been releasing frequent updates to fix bugs [including Stagefright patch] and to add features.

Because the ZenUI and the Asus can take up an entire article, I will write an article/do a video just on that.  Many of the included ASUS apps are duplicates of Google apps or other better apps.  For now, just know that you can disable and uninstall only some of the included apps.  Unless you root your ZenPad (not recommended unless you want to void your warranty & risk damaging your tablet), you are stuck with those apps. 

Benchmarks
We ran some benchmarking apps for comparison purposes against the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0, the Asus Iconia Tab 8, and the Nexus 7 (2012) since the ZenPad is not meant to compete against more expensive tablets. Overall, the ZenPad held its own in both GPU & CPU benchmarks. 


We also played Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 7 and never experienced any lag. 

   (Benchmarking apps do not necessarily reflect real word usage.  Different benchmarking apps may test different aspects of the CPU and GPU which would account for variance.  One cannot look simply at one set of benchmark scores.)

Battery Life
Our standardize testing consist of two battery tests:  1) played a movie that looped until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned on); and 2) played a movie that looped until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned off).  Both tests had the brightness at 50%.  The battery averaged 9:53 with WiFi on and almost 10:04 hours without WiFi.  Battery life is very good overall although we have heard complaints.  Of course, actual battery life will vary by user.

Conclusion

Overall, the ZenPad is the best value Android tablet currently on the market.  For its price, you are getting great hardware.  So what are the strengths: 1) 2048x1536 HD screen; 2) $199 price tag; 3) dual front speakers; 4) 32GB of storage which may be enough for most individuals; and 5) very good battery life.  As for the negatives: 1) annoying power button that is too flush to work properly; 2) possibly no upgrade to Android 6.0 (Marshmallow); 3) bloatware and 4) unable to play HD AVI and MOV videos natively.  There is no denying that the ZenPad S 8.0 is the best $200 tablet on the market for now.  The ZenPad is not meant to compete with tablets costing $300-$500 so there are certainly better Android tablets out there but ZenPad wins in the $150 - $250 market.  Will another manufacturer offer a quality tablet for less than $200?  Possibly not in the immediate future.



6 comments:

  1. Cool review! Thanks! I was waiting for the Apps to come. They are a bit modified, aren't they? Waiting was the hardest part of my task.

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  2. Wonderful review asus zenpad tablet.. Can you tell us how much price this tablet. Clipping Path Outsource

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  3. Asus is always great! I like it's current models for its unique design. Carry on boss and lift it up.

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  4. Really good, in depth review. Asus products are mostly always good quality and reliable. Two of the brands that I've had products for over 10 years, and they are still working today, are Asus and HP. Oh, and the camera on ZenPad is pretty good!

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  5. Awesome post that tablet so nice and butiful.then ios is better than other.Thanks for sharing

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  6. Amazing article with photos. Very informative. I like your posting. Thanks

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