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Asus ZenPad Z8s review: An affordable iPad Mini 4 alternative with LTE

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The Good The Asus ZenPad Z8s is a small tablet with built-in cellular service and a stylish aluminum design. It has great battery life and a sharp screen.

The Bad It's only available through Verizon. Capacitive buttons don't light up. Data service has a monthly ongoing cost.

The Bottom Line The ZenPad Z8S is a solid little LTE tablet with a fantastic screen, premium design and long-lasting battery life.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

The small tablet isn't completely dead, at least not yet. The Asus ZenPad Z8s is an excellent little tablet that's, unfortunately, a Verizon exclusive, meaning it's not officially available in the UK or Australia, which sucks because anyone shopping for a small tablet with LTE doesn't have a great variety of choices to begin with.

To be fair, many people looking for a device like that have already bitten the bullet and migrated to a big-screen phablet like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 ($451 at Amazon).

The 8-inch tablet costs $249 off contract or $149 with a two-year contract, making it $10.41 a month for 24 months. LTE service is sold separately and cost depends on your plan. If it ever finds a carrier in other territories, that off-contract price would be roughly £190 or AU$320.

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The LTE tablet is sold exclusively through Verizon Wireless.

Josh Miller/CNET

Small, but mighty

The tablet's most impressive feature is its long-lasting battery. After catching up on the two latest episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and checking out the pilot of "The Deuce" on Amazon Video, then streaming a handful of different Chicago Art Ensemble performances on YouTube -- all on LTE -- I found the battery remained at 100 percent. 

Unlike with most tablets, I really had to try to drain the ZenPad Z8s' battery. In streaming video battery testing it lasted an impressive 13 hours.

The Z8s's trim aluminum design is also a highlight. It's casually sleek and portable, with an aluminum back and metal sides with matching buttons. It feels and looks like a premium tablet, even though it's on the affordable side of the tablet spectrum.

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The power button and volume rocker are textured. 

Josh Miller/CNET

One design pet peeve is the lack of a backlight on the capacitive buttons. Located on the tablet's bottom edge, the capacitive buttons do not light up when touched, making them difficult to see in the dark. Additionally, though it charges via USB-C, it doesn't support any type of fast charging.

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