TAIPEI: ASUS UNVEILED a number of something-in-1s, an update to its ZenWatch wearable and even a phone dedicated to selfies at Computex this week, but what stood out among the crowd - perhaps for all the wrong reasons - were two 8in ZenPad tablets.
Replacing the MeMO Pad series launched at Computex two years ago, the ZenPad family of tablets are aimed at the more fashion conscious among us. They feature Asus' fresh Zen UI user interface design alongside a series of fashion cases and accessories, such as the "ZenClutch" - a pastel coloured leather case aiming to make the tablet more desirable as a fashion accessory.
During its keynote, Asus execs even went as far as to demo just how fashionable they can look by parading the tablets around on stage in a catwalk manner with some gaunt and pasty looking models.
The 8in ZenPad devices come in two variants: a ZenPad 8.0 and a ZenPad S 8.0, the latter being the more powerful of the two, which we got some hands-on time with.
With a 4:3 aspect ratio display, the shape of the ZenPad takes a boxier look than Asus' previous MeMo tablet releases, going head to head with the iPad Mini, which features the same ratio display. While this makes it harder to hold with one hand in portrait mode than a 16:9 tablet, it's much easier to hold with two hands as well as being better for productivity tasks, such as working on word documents.
The ZenPad S 8.0's 298g metallic edging means it also feels much more premium than the previous plastic MeMo series. Its slim design, measuring just 6.6mm thick, also makes it much lighter and thus more portable than the 7.5mm predecessor.
Overall, we were big fans of the updated tablet design by Asus this year. The company has given it a much needed overhaul and made it appear more desirable, being a little different to the standard 16:9 plastic-coated Android tablet that the market seems saturated with at the moment.
The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 features a 2K 2048x1536 resolution IPS display, which looked brilliantly vibrant in our hands-on. This could be thanks to the firm's True2life Plus technology, which it says offers a sharper display for smoother, non-blurry playback of video.
We found that it operated fluidly and appeared bright, too, thanks to the IPS panel, which helped to keep blacks dark: a much welcome addition, which will most likely push up the price.
Performance and OS
Both models of the ZenPad tablet will feature chips based on Intel's latest Silvermont microarchitecture, which is aimed at low-power Atom and Celeron branded processors used in systems on a chip.
While the less powerful ZenPad 8.0 features an Intel Atom x3-C3200 chip running at 1.2GHz and 1GB or 3GB RAM, the ZenPad S 8.0 that we tested is powered by a higher spec 64-bit Intel Moorefield Z3580 running at 2.33GHz alongside 4GB RAM.
In our initial tests, the ZenPad S 8.0 ran smoothly on Android 5.0 Lollipop with no lag, though this will be something we will have to test properly in a full review, as installing all of your favourite apps can slow down Android.
Connectivity, storage and camera
The ZenPad S also has an array of advantages over its weaker sibling, such as a USB Type-C port instead of microUSB for more convenient charging, alongside the better screen and updated design.
There's a 5MP camera on the front and an 8MP one on the back. We had a quick test of these and while nothing out of the ordinary stood out, they seemed to function well with relatively fast shutter speeds.
Furthermore, the S version comes with up to 64GB of storage, as opposed to 32GB on the ZenPad 8.0, with pricing increasing depending on storage choice. Asus didn't unveil the storage options for the ZenPads but we can imagine it will be something along the lines of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB for the S version.
Pricing and availability
In true Asus style, we don't yet know the prices or availability of the tablets, either, not for the UK, nor the US or any other country for that matter. It did say during the press conference that it will be the first company to ship with the new Silvermont Intel chips "globally", however.
Asus devices launched at Computex usually take around nine months to come to market in the UK, so if you really want one, we wouldn't advise holding your breath. µ