The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 is one of the best Android tablets I've ever seen. However, in a world where the word, "tablet" is synonymous with "iPad," does it even matter?
The iPad (and for the sake of comparison to the ZenPad, the smaller iPad Mini) is like the Adele of tablets. Its excellent track record feeds the fervor around its name brand appeal, and that popularity makes it easy for its universal acclaim to go mostly unquestioned by those looking for a new tablet. But, what if there's something out there that you might like just as much, that requires a little bit more digging to find? The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 is like a charming, fresh-faced soul singer from Texas you discovered last week on Spotify -- not the best ever, but just as enjoyable and accessible.
Arguably, Apple's dominance in the tablet category is stronger than its powerful presence in phones and computers. With the long and wide shadow of the iPad's influence, it's hard for any tablet to stand out in its own light. The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 is worthy of its own special spotlight. It's a stylish Android tablet with swift performance and a $200 price that's just right.
Like an iPad Mini, but cheaper
Most people I describe my job to (I review tablets) are stunned to hear that tablets other than the iPad actually exist. That's unfortunate for the Android-based ZenPad S 8.0. It's a great tablet with a $200 price tag (£200 in the UK, Australia availability has yet to be announced, but the domestic price converts to AU$278); that's $70 (£20, AU$70 converted) less than the Apple iPad Mini 2 (unless you're picking up one this week) and half the starting price of the $400 (£320, AU$570) iPad Mini 4.
For comparison's sake, we're juxtaposing the ZenPad with the iPad Mini 2, since they're both within the same price range and have similar specs. The iPad Mini 4 offers a faster processor, better display, sharper camera, Touch ID fingerprint sensor and Apple Pay features. And that's why it costs $400. It's in a league of its own -- you can read more about it in its review.
Despite the price difference, the Asus's screen is just as sharp and colorful as the Apple tablet in a side-by-side comparison, and the ZenPad offers double the amount of internal storage -- 32GB opposed to 16GB, (it's also available in a 64GB model for $300 or £250; AU$417 converted) with a built-in microSD card slot; the iPad doesn't support native storage expansion. It's also thinner and lighter than the Apple iPad Mini 2 and delivers similar performance. Simply put, the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 is real competition that's priced to sell.
Comparing the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 and the Apple iPad Mini 2 results in the type of conversation that two future best friends might have when they first meet; they have so much in common it's almost easier to just point out where they differ. The Asus runs Android 5.0, houses 32GB of internal storage that's expandable up to 128GB via microSD card and packs 4GB of RAM. The iPad runs on iOS 9, holds 16GB of internal storage with no native storage expansion, and includes 2GB of RAM.
Both perform swiftly when checking email, loading Web pages and streaming video. Even 3DMark gaming benchmark scores were pretty close. When it comes to the casual tasks most tablets are meant for, I didn't notice a difference in performance that would warrant more money for one over the other.
The industrial-chic aesthetic mirrors the high-brow meets low-brow spirit of the Asus tablet; its distinct, classy design gives no inclination that its price ranks it amongst the contemporary ocean of mediocre "budget tablets" -- a term usually reserved for tablets $200 and under. It's also one of the skinniest and most lightweight tablets around. Whenever I carried it around in my bag, it consumed so little space I constantly forgot I had it with me. However, as evidenced by The Dress, aesthetics are subjective, so I'll let the photos speak for themselves.