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While Apple’s iPad range has been a major seller since its inception this year 2010, Android tablets have didn’t achieve the same commercial success, despite Google’s early enthusiasm for the idea.
Asus is evidently of the view that if you cannot beat ’em you should join ’em, because its latest slate is a dead ringer for the iPad Pro 9.7 and the iPad 9.7. It has a 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 screen and a design language which is straight out of Apple’s Cupertino offices.
It’s also got fairly beefy specs inside, with power given by a MediaTek hexa-core chipset and 4GB of RAM, while a 5,900mAh battery is readily available to keep things ticking over.
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Asus ZenPad 3S 10 price
The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 landed with a mid-range launch price of $300 (£300, around AU$515), which is well under what you’d purchase a recently available Apple slate.
That was an excellent price, but that was back 2016 even though it has since dropped it hasn’t done so by much, with stores still charging around $270/£270. It is also nowhere near as accessible as it was previously.
That puts it in a slightly tricky position, for the reason that new iPad 9.7 isn’t vastly more costly, and there’s also alternatives just like the Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 competing for your money, therefore the ZenPad 3S 10 has to be more than simply a cheap imitation to stick out.
Design and display
There’s no making your way around it – the ZenPad 3S 10 does indeed look a lot like an iPad.
The ZenPad 3S 10 ignores the widescreen aspect ratio so beloved by Android tablet makers – as Samsung also did with the similarly old Galaxy Tab S2 – and follows Apple’s lead by adopting a 4:3 display, which naturally makes the 3S 10 stick out from a lot of its Google-based rivals.
If you can forget the cheeky way Asus has copied Apple’s concept, there’s too much to like here from a purely physical perspective – that is one handsome tablet. The metal casing has elegant, diamond-cut bezels on the corners, as the edges have a gentle curve to them that makes it comfortable to hold.
The quantity and power buttons can be found on the top-right corner of these devices (assuming you’re holding it in portrait orientation) and the only other physical input may be the home button, which also doubles as a surprisingly fast and accurate fingerprint scanner.
That is flanked by two capacitive buttons for back and multitasking, which illuminate briefly when you connect to the screen or the buttons.
At the top edge, there’s a 3.5mm headphone socket, that may output audio tracks in Hi-Res, as the bottom houses a USB Type-C port and two “NXP Amp powered speakers”.
Like so much else, the positioning of the speakers calls to mind an iPad – however in this case we wish Asus had revised things just a little, as it’s miles too simple to cover among the speaker grilles together with your palm if you are holding the device.
Front-facing speakers – one at each end of these devices – could have been better, although that may have prevented Asus from reaching a thickness of just 5.8mm, that makes it thinner compared to the iPad Pro 9.7 and even the newer iPad Pro 11. The ZenPad 3S 10 can be incredibly lightweight for a tablet of the proportions, tipping the scales at around 430g.
One factor of Apple’s design which Asus sadly was not in a position to replicate is overall construction; as the ZenPad 3S 10 looks and feels as though reduced device – and, to be fair, it really is – there’s a notable flex on the trunk panel when you apply pressure with a finger.
You can also hear the panel moving and pushing against the inner frame, gives the impression that it is slightly hollow inside. The microSD card slot – which is available on the top-left edge and enables you to expand beyond the tablet’s 32GB of memory – rattled quite noticeably on our review unit, too.
The tablet’s IPS screen could very well be its crowning glory, delivering pin-sharp definition, exceptional color replication and striking contrast – thanks partly to Asus’ own VisualMaster technology.
It’s still possible to choose individual pixels regardless of the QHD resolution, but that isn’t unusual on tablets of the size and doesn’t impact the visual spectacle.
Viewing angles are rock-solid and you could tinker with the way the screen looks via the preinstalled “Splendid” application, that provides a blue light filter option not totally dissimilar to Apple’s Night Shift mode. This reduces the display’s blue light emission by up to 30%, which supposedly stops it keeping you awake when used late during the night.
Interface and software
With Android phones, there’s a trend for using near-stock versions of the operating-system, but considering that it’s largely unsuited to tablets, it’s unsurprising that a lot of slate manufacturers tend to customize Google’s software with their own UI – and Asus is no exception.
While Android 6.0 Marshmallow was the initial base software, the business has provided an update to Android 7 that one could download over-the-air. There is no word on Android 8 Oreo or Android 9 Pie though and having gone this long lacking any update we suspect the ZenPad won’t have them.
The software could be predicated on Android 6 or 7 (based on whether you’ve updated) but it’s overlaid with Asus’ ZenUI. But this is really among the better custom skins we’ve observed in the tablet sector, and the business has put some thought into how it could enhance Android with original options and the capability to tinker with how it looks and feels.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the key home screen of the ZenPad 3S 10. Holding your finger down introduces a menu that you have a dizzying amount of control over the way the interface works.
You can transform the scrolling animation, alter the software grid layout, use a custom icon pack to improve the way software work, add iOS-style “unread” notification badges to software that support them plus much more besides.
Granted, many of these features could be put into any Android device by installing a custom launcher from the Google Play Store, but it’s nice to keep these things out of your