At a time when relevancy of tablets is being questioned, Asus is amongst the handful few OEMs who bother to churn out new tablet models from time to time. The newest ones in their kitty (at least for India) are the Asus ZenPad 8.0 and ZenPad 7.0. These mid-range tablets were unveiled at COMPUTEX in July this year and have now been made available in India, at a pretty competitive price of Rs 14,999 and Rs 11,999 respectively. We have been using the bigger (and better) Asus ZenPad 8 for a week now, and below are our first impressions.
The ZenPad 8.0 (Z380KL) is an 8-inch tablet with LTE voice-calling enabled. The first thing you’d notice when you unbox is the attention to detail in packaging. Asus has taken enough pain to make the whole package look much more premium than it actually is. The ZenPad 8.0 follows the design philosophy of other ‘Zen’ devices like the ZenFone 2, although the back has a nice textured finish which we don’t usually see on Asus devices. Asus calls it ‘elegant leather pattern’ and it does provide a nice grip to hold the tablet. The rounded edges along with metallic frame running round the sides add to the premium look and feel of the tablet.
Unlike most tablets in its price range, the ZenPad 8.0 has very minimal bezels and that adds to the viewing experience. The tablet has been designed for reading and multimedia consumption, and the 8-inch WXGA (1280×800) seems to do a decent job at it. Asus claims that their VisualMaster technology combines hardware and software to deliver realistic visual experience, and we do agree to an extent. The screen is vivid and has nice viewing angles, but the pixel density of just 189PPI made us cringe a bit when browsing web. We should blame the eyes spoilt by QHD and FHD screens on our smartphones, maybe?
Asus, who also made the first two generations of Google Nexus 7, obviously knows a thing or two when it comes to tablet UI experience. They have taken that experience in this modified ZenUI based on Android Lollipop 5.0.2. The screens adapt beautifully to both portrait and landscape modes – this includes the lock screen, homescreen, settings etc. The look and feel is very similar to the ZenUI you must have seen on the ZenFones. As always, Asus has pre-loaded tons of apps which you’ll hardly ever use. Thankfully, there are some useful ones as well – including Kindle eBook reader and Photo Collage. The Kids Mode is extremely handy for young parents who can pick and choose selected apps before they hand over the tablet to their kids. Parents can even block incoming apps if needed.
The ZenPad 8.0 is powered by the octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. Out of that 16GB, just around 9.3GB is available for the user. Thankfully, it does come with a microSD slot which can expand the storage by up to 64GB. For folks who somehow don’t find it odd to snap pictures on their tablets, there’s an 8MP camera on the rear along with 2MP camera on the front for video calls (hopefully not for selfies). In our limited usage with the tablet, we found ZenPad to perform rather well for the intended use cases – eReading and multimedia consumption, but it does tend to heat up more than usual. We suspect the Snapdragon 615 to be the culprit here, but have to wait for extended and varied usage to quantify and analyze if this in fact an issue for normal usage.
The USP of ZenPad 8.0 is the customization it offers. Asus has designed the tablet in such a way that users can interchange the back cover to add extended functionality, something like we saw on the Lenovo Vibe X smartphone last year. Asus has a Power case for extended battery (of up to 16 hours), an audio cover for immersive 5.1 channel surround sound and a Zen case for varied colors. We got to try the audio cover which will cost you an additional Rs 3,000 if you choose to buy it. The accessory doubles up as a case, but adds an additional weight, thanks to those heavy speakers. But the idea is neat. The ZenPad can be used for watching videos or listening to music. Asus has provided different modes for different use cases like movies, music, gaming and speech. With our limited usage so far, we found the audio cover to enhance the clarity and volume of the audio, but wait for the detailed review to know if it’s actually worth the extra price and weight.
For now, the Asus ZenPad looks like something which tries to add zing and bling to the boring tablet market by enhancing the functionality through those interchangeable back cover accessories. We shall be testing it out for another week or so before we come back with a detailed review. Till then, let us know if you want to know anything in particular about this tablet that you’d like us to test and answer in our review.