Asus ZenPad S 8.0 tablet review: We test out the ZenPad S 8.0, a compact Android tablet boasting slick design, strong battery life, crisp visuals and smooth performance at an affordable price.
The ZenPad S 8.0 is very much an iPad Mini rival, with its slender 6.6mm frame that weighs just a shade under 300g. We’ve seen a fair few compact Android tablets in the past few months, with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 boasting an 8-inch model that’s impressively slim and light, but the ZenPad is a lot more wallet-friendly at just £170, comparable to Acer’s eyebrow-raising Predator 8 tablet.
That feather-light build means the ZenPad S 8.0 is seriously comfortable to clutch in one hand for an hour or two, while you get stuck into an ebook or enjoy a movie on the go. It’s a good-looking tablet too, with a brushed metal backing that cuts off to reveal a leathery edging.
Screen and media
Considering the ZenPad S 8.0’s low price, we’re seriously impressed by the 8-inch IPS screen. The crisp 1536×2048 resolution keeps images super-sharp and the refresh rate is strong, so HD movies look bloody fantastic. Sure, it isn’t the brightest or most vibrant panel around, but for under £200 you’ll struggle to find better.
We like the dual front-facing speakers too, which sacrifice power for clarity. Sound quality is surprisingly good for watching movies, but as usual we recommend plugging in to enjoy your music.
Asus’ Android tweaks allow for greater personalisation and simpler control over your device. So for instance, you can quickly change the tablet’s fonts, icons, wallpapers and scroll effects just by pressing your finger on any desktop.
You also have lots of system apps to play with, including the Auto-start manager which can prevent your apps from kicking into life on their own accord, thus saving valuable memory. There’s also a power saver app, designed to prolong the ZenPad’s battery life, and a file manager that can be used to free up some storage space. Meanwhile the handy kids mode means parents can hand the tab to Wee Jimmy or Jenny, without worrying about them accessing hardcore pornography or draining the Google Play account.
Our only gripe is that there’s an awful lot of crapware pre-installed on the ZenPad S 8.0, most of which we wouldn’t touch with yours. The likes of Omlet Chat, Puffin, Mini Movie and Mirror are little more than filler, which take up an awful lot of space – our review tablet only had 25GB of usable space, with 7GB monopolised by Android and these random additions. Worst of all, many of them can’t even be deleted.
It’s a good thing you have a microSD memory card slot to expand the storage, or we’d be proper cheesed off.
Performance and battery life
Asus usually stuffs one of the latest Intel Atom processors into its Android tablets and the ZenPad S 8.0 is no different. We’ve got no problem with that as the 64-bit Atom Z3560 processor handles the latest games with ease and provides a smooth everyday experience.
The ZenPad didn’t show any signs of overheating, even when blasting through fast-paced action titles for an hour or two at a time. And battery life is also strong, giving over seven hours of media streaming per charge. That’s not quite on par with the iPad Mini, which can keep on going for ten hours at a time, but it’s as good as pretty much any Android tablet out there.
It’s good to see the ZenPad use Type-C USB too, so you can jam the charging cable into the tablet as heartily as you like, without worrying that it’s the wrong way around.
The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 is one of the best compact Android tablets you can buy for less than £200, thanks to its impressive portability, comfortable user experience and dependable performance. It’s a shame it’s bogged down in crapware, but at least you can slot in a microSD card to boost the built-in storage.