ASUS ZENPAD S 8

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Cheap Android tablets aren’t so great anymore. Three years ago, I rethành viên rushing lớn Adorama here in New York City (along with several other Verge editors) to buy the first Nexus 7 when the store put it on sale early. That tablet, made by Hãng Asus, was pretty good. And then Asus came baông xã the next year with an even better cheap Android tablet. The second Nexus 7 was $229 and, aside from an annoying 16:10 aspect ratio, had few obvious faults. It was great. Fast forward to lớn today, & we’re looking at Asus’ lademo inexpensive tablet, the ZenPad S 8.0. But this is a much different tablet than the Nexus you may still have on your coffee table or tucked in a drawer somewhere. In some ways that’s good, but it’s mostly a regression. We’re somehow moving backwards.

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The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 tries to reproduce what was so appealing about the ZenFone 2. It’s impressive hardware being sold at a very low price ($199 or $299 depending on specs) with few gotchas khổng lồ be found. But this is no Nexus, and left khổng lồ its own devices, Asus is a company that struggles with software kiến thiết. Whether the rest of what’s here can compensate for that will depover entirely on how you use a tablet.


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From a kiến thiết perspective sầu, the ZenPad 8 S earns big points — again, especially for the starting price. It"s very thin & noticeably light at 0.66 pounds (Samsung’s 8.4-inch Tab S weighs 1.2 pounds). The baông xã features a combination of etched aluminum và faux leather. That sounds more gaudy than it really is, và the materials make the ZenPad plenty comfortable to hold. This feels just as good as those old Nexus tablets, though the way everything’s laid out tells me Asus wants you khổng lồ hold the device in landscape. But it’s 4:3, so the choice is all yours, and the bezels are easy enough to lớn ignore when you’re staring at the display.

For what you"re paying, this is pretty good hardware

That screen is a QXGA (2048 x 1536 pixel) IPS LCD. It"s sharp, but also shares some unwanted traits with the ZenFone 2: it won"t get terribly bright & the colors skew on the cooler side. Neither of those things will ruin your Netflix or gaming experience. Most of the time you probably won’t notice, but the screen is clearly one area where Hãng Asus cut costs.

Unfortunately, there are also some pretty bad software gimmicks that tie into the display. A thing that Asus calls "Tru2Life+" is easily the worst offender; Asus claims this đoạn Clip processing feature leads to smoother motion, but all it really does is bring the soap opera effect I hate seeing on TVs lớn tablets. It comes enabled by mặc định, but thankfully you can turn it off with a quick trip to settings.


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Another improvement over the fabled Nexus 7 is sound. The ZenPad S 8.0 features dual front-facing speakers. They"re not revelatory, but Netflix and YouTube videos sound a touch better than what you"d get from Amazon"s Kindle Fire 8.9. Seriously, every tablet should have sầu front-facing speakers by now. The tablet’s cameras (8-megapx on baông xã, 5-megapixel up front) are adequate only when your phone is far out of reach, though, which isn’t exactly a huge surprise. Depending on which mã sản phẩm you get, the ZenPad includes 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of built-in storage with tư vấn for microSD cards up to 128GB. For charging, Hãng Asus opted to go with USB Type-C, a choice that’s more hassle than convenience for the first smartphones that’ve sầu made the same leap. But I’m more forgiving of tablets here; you don’t charge them nearly as often (và rarely away from home), and you’ll be all phối when your next điện thoại thông minh (or the one after it) inevitably uses the same port.

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Powering the ZenPad 8.0 S is a quad-core, 64-bit processor from Intel &, in our Review unit, 4GB of RAM. (The less expensive sầu, $199 ZenPad has a slower chip và 2GB of memory.) The tablet zips around & hops between apps with no noticeable stutters or lag. It’ll load games quickly, but I’ve seen some concerning issues during extended sessions. The ZenPad seems too cautious about overheating, and as a result it’ll sometimes hijaông chồng control of screen brightness lớn keep things in kiểm tra. But it never really felt overly warm when these warnings popped up, so I’m hoping Asus will address this with a software update. The ZenPad doesn’t offer quichồng charge, nor can you top it off wirelessly. But its endurance matched the 8 hours that Asus is promising, & it’ll go way longer with intermittent or casual use. That’s how most people tend lớn use tablets, after all.

But the company’s overall grade on software remains very mixed. Asus’ ZenUI bares little resemblance to stock Android, và it’s not for the better. There’s some good stuff; swipe up on the home screen & you get access to lớn a ton of cool, nerdy customizations that let you choose new animations, icon packs, và fonts throughout the system. The software’s appearance is colorful & I wouldn’t label it offensive or unusable. It works, but it’s a far cry from Google’s vision for Material Design.

There"s an ungodly amount of bloat và useless apps crammed into lớn the ZenPad

And then there’s the bloat. The amount of unnecessary software that Hãng Asus crammed onlớn this thing is a truly shameful accomplishment. There’s a "Mirror" phầm mềm that does nothing but open the tablet’s selfie camera, for instance. And even tools that are supposed lớn be helpful prove sầu incredibly annoying & overbearing. It’s well established by now that Android runs just fine without memory management tools or anti-virut apps, and yet the ZenPad comes bundled with Clean Master và an obnoxious battery assistant that constantly wants you to know the game you’re playing is affecting battery life. (Obvious much?) The company even pesters you to lớn reviews its keyboard in Google Play. Seriously?


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Most of this crud can be disabled or uninstalled entirely, & even if you leave sầu the unwanted extras alone, the ZenPad still performs strongly. But this is where Android tablets really splinter with Google’s own products like the Nexus 9, which comes with apps that people actually enjoy using. You’ll never open half the stuff loaded on the ZenPad, & it’s an ugly situation I assume is mandated by Asus’ business partnerships.

Android has become stagnant as a tablet operating system

But let’s not let Google off too easy. Android tablets — regardless of cost — have sầu progressed at a snail’s pace in recent years. Android Lollipop remains an underwhelming tablet OS now just as it did when the Nexus 9 shipped last year, và nothing new has been brought to the table. Google’s priorities are clearly smartphones và Chromebooks, & tablets (even the good ones) seem to lớn be languishing by the wayside. Sure, the ZenPad will run Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and YouTube just fine. And Google Play Newsstvà or Flipboard make for a decent way of scrolling through the day’s news. But so many other apps remain unchanged from what you’d get on a phone. When it comes lớn multitasking và productivity, companies like Samsung have sầu had lớn devise their own solutions lớn st& out. As you might expect, Asus didn’t bother with any of that for a tablet that starts at $199. There’s little that’ll wow you here, but we’ll at least give Asus credit for meeting an impressive sầu bar for performance và tốc độ.

The question is whether that’s good enough. For tech enthusiasts willing khổng lồ tinker, it might be. Like the ZenFone 2, this new Asus ZenPad S 8 can be a decent-to-good purchase, but getting it there takes legitimate work that regular consumers probably wouldn’t bother with. They shouldn’t have to. Once you rid it of the bloatware và annoying notifications, the hardware you’re left with scores higher than most other devices at this price point. Install another launcher and it’ll even be pleasant to lớn look at. But if you’re willing lớn spover even $100 to $200 more, you’re better off with something from Samsung or even Dell. And if media consumption is your main interest in owning a tablet, put your money toward Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX line or an Máy tính bảng iPad instead. If Apple isn"t your flavor and $300 is your absolute ceiling for spending, the ZenPad S 8 is likely the best you can bởi. But the tablet market is stalling hard for a reason, & if you’re looking for one compelling reason why you need this in your life, well, it probably doesn’t exist. And that"s pretty disappointing, seeing as this is the very same company that made those great Nexus tablets.

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Correction: Article originally referred to the ZenPad S 8.0"s processor as an octa-core Hãng sản xuất Intel chip. It is a quad-core processor.