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Asus ZenPad 3S 10 review: This tablet is a fantastic portable video watcher

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The Good The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 has a sharp, clear HD screen and its design is both comfy and cool. The fingerprint scanner adds extra security. Comes with a good amount of storage for its price.

The Bad The speakers are easy to block when holding in landscape orientation. Games take their time to load.

The Bottom Line The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 is a fantastic portable video watcher with enough storage to get you through long flights at a reasonable price.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

The iPad Air 2 is one of the best tablets you can buy. And it's a better tablet than the Asus ZenPad 3S 10. But if the iPad Air 2's $399 (£379 or AU$719) starting price is too rich for your blood and you're a fan of the Android OS, you might want to give the Asus a try.

The $299 (£300) Asus is cheaper, great for watching video and comes with twice the amount of storage as the base level iPad Air 2. That means twice as many Netflix TV shows to download. It's not officially available in Australia but its price converts to about AU$535.

It also has a microSD card expansion slot to increase its storage and a sleek, compact feel that makes it pleasant to hold for long binge sessions. I'm not going to tell anyone to make the Asus their first choice, but if you have simple needs and are looking to save some cash, the ZenPad 3S 10 is a smart buy.

Here's what's good

  • Build is comfortable, compact and sleek
  • Smooth performance
  • Large, sharp HD screen
  • Expandable microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
  • Charges quickly via USB-C
  • 10.7 hour battery life
  • Comfortable to hold

An great screen for a great price.

Josh Miller/CNET

Here's what's bad

The stylish, compact design is one of its best feature.

Josh Miller/CNET

Screen screening

The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 has the same screen resolution as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and iPad Air 2, and while they all compare favorably in sharpness, there is notable difference in color.

The Samsung tablet's display is vividly saturated with rich colors and deep blacks. While that makes for a more dramatic image, it's almost too colorful-- like it went a little overboard with the Instagram filters. In comparison, the Asus's range of color is more subdued and lifelike, similar to the iPad Air 2's screen.

asus-zen-pad-5993-001.jpg
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There's a USB-C port in-between the two speakers.

Josh Miller/CNET

Speaker trouble

The crisp HD screen on the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 is perfect for HD video, but its speakers are a different story.

This is where the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 has a slight edge up. The Asus and Apple tablets have speakers on one edge, making them easy to block or muffle, depending on how you're holding the tablet, while Samsung's are on both its left and right edges, ensuring sound is equally distributed to both sides.

It's a small detail, but if you're going to primarily use the tablet as a portable TV and don't use headphones 100 percent of the time, it's something to keep in mind. Otherwise, the Asus speakers are loud and clear when it comes to dialogue in movies. They are disappointingly lacking in bass, so most music genres sound rather flat.

The Asus tablet is more prone to reflections than the iPad Air 2.

Josh Miller/CNET

Decent gamer

The Asus Zen Pad 3S 10, like the Galaxy Tab S2, falls short in gaming performance in comparison to the iPad Air 2. It takes more time to load big games and fell behind the Apple tablet in benchmarks.

3DMark IceStorm Unlimited

Apple iPad Air 2
22008
Asus ZenPad 3S 10
14730
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
11759
Acer Iconia One 10
6177

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

N.O.V.A. 3 (Level one load times in seconds)

Asus ZenPad 3S 10 13.2
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 13
Apple iPad Air 2 4.84

This isn't to say it's bad at gaming. Once games like N.O.V.A. 3: Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance and Asphalt 8: Airborne loaded, they ran without a hitch and their graphics rendered smoothly.

The fingerprint scanner is located on the home button.

Josh Miller/CNET

Should I buy it?

The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 is a great affordable tablet for anyone interested in a sharp portable video-watcher. It's no bargain basement doorbuster, but its $299 price is cheap in comparison to the $399 Apple iPad Air 2 and $499 Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. Which both come with 32GB at those prices, in contrast to the Asus's 64GB.Should I buy it?

More expensive tablets, such as the Google Pixel C and Apple iPad Pro 9.7 Pro have sleeker designs and faster performance, but if you just want a tablet for checking emails, lurking Facebook and watching a lot of video, the Asus perfectly fits the bill at a competitively low price.

Specs

  • Android 6.0
  • 9.7-inch screen
  • 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution
  • Hexa-core CPU (2.1GHz dual-core+1.7GHz quad-core)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB of internal storage
  • Micro-USB C port
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • microSD card slot expandable up to 128GB

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