An ageing OS and relatively brief battery life don't stop this being a fine little 8in tablet, with an excellent 2K display, compact design and surprisingly high-performance hardware.
Very thin and light, great screen, nimble performance, flexible storage, cheap price
Few enterprise features, below average battery life, runs an older version of Android
Processor: Intel Atom Z3560 (1.83GHz quad-core)
Display: 8in LED backlight QXGA (1536x2048) IPS
Storage: 32GB SSD, up to 64GB microSD
Camera: 8MP rear, 5MP front
Connectivity: WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system: Android 5.0 Lollipop
Battery: 15.2Wh Li-polymer
The low-priced Asus ZenPad range has been expanding rapidly, and the past few months have seen the release of the £90 ZenPad C 7.0 Z170C, the dual SIM-equipped ZenPad C 7.0 Z170CG and the customisable ZenPad 8.0 Z380C.
Now we have the ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA, the most powerful and expensive of the lot, although at £200 it's still toward the lower end of tablet pricing. Despite this, it comes with a 2K display, next-generation USB-C port and no fewer than four places to store files. It all sounds promising, so let's find out whether this mini-sized slate can deliver.
Weighing an airy 299g and measuring 203x135x6.6mm, the ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA is well suited to one-handed use, and can barely be felt when carried around in a bag. Notably, it's thinner and lighter than the iPad Mini 3, although not quite as skinny as the 10.1in Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet.
In any case, this tablet is a pleasure to hold, partly thanks to the premium-feeling metal backplate and faux-leather trim along the edges. Such decorations can look tacky when applied to what is essentially computer hardware, but the ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA looks great in general, particularly with the subtle cross-hatching effect on the back. It's durable, too, resisting flex and easily weathering two weeks of frequent use, including a trip abroad as luggage.
This is the first tablet we've reviewed that includes a USB-C port. This isn't all good news as the rarity of USB-C compared with microUSB means that it'll be much harder to track down spare cables, which could result in getting caught out with a dying battery. That said, we did appreciate the speedy file transfers and fast charging that the port allowed, so we'll count it as a net benefit.
Connectivity-wise, the only other feature of note is a microSD slot - there's no SIM port for mobile connectivity, just WiFi. This would have been a good fit for the ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA's ultra-portability, although its existing range of connectivity options will still suffice for everyday use.
The 8in, 2048x1536 display on the ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA is impressively sharp, not surprisingly for a 2K tablet, but good to see nonetheless. Whites aren't the brightest we've seen, but colours are otherwise very well balanced. This, combined with the crisp 320ppi, makes for some extremely good looking images.
An anti-fingerprint coating helps keep the screen clear, to an extent, and gentle taps and drags don't leave any visible marks at all. However, gripping the device, even simply to pick it up or put it down, will leave the glass covered in light smudges.
A video smoothing effect, which gives the impression of videos playing at a much higher frames-per-second than usual, is enabled by default. We quite enjoyed using the effect to give videos a bit more sheen, although we can see it being a controversial feature - like certain films being filmed at 48fps instead of the usual 24fps. Fortunately, buyers can choose whether to keep, lessen or turn off the effect via the settings menu.
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