Review

Asus ZenPad 3 8.0, an excellent tablet with great battery life, but bloated software

The Asus ZenPad 3 8.0 ran for about 91/2 hours in a video-loop battery test, outlasting the iPad mini 4 by two hours.
The Asus ZenPad 3 8.0 ran for about 91/2 hours in a video-loop battery test, outlasting the iPad mini 4 by two hours.PHOTO: ASUS

New Android tablets have been few and far between in the past year. I can count on one hand the slates launched this year by established brands.

Joining this list is the new Asus ZenPad 3 8.0, which is also the first Android tablet I have tested this year.

Despite the ZenPad running Android 6.0 compared with version 5.0 on my previous Android slate, the Android tablet experience feels largely unchanged, which is disappointing.

Most apps still feel like their smartphone versions, but stretched.

Few developers have created tablet-specific apps to fully utilise a tablet's larger display.

Google threw Android tablets a bone by introducing a split-screen mode in the recently-launched Android 7.0 Nougat that lets you run multiple apps side by side.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $499

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 (1.8GHz)

    RAM: 4GB

    DISPLAY: 8 inches, 2,048 x 1,536 pixels

    CAMERA: 8 megapixels (rear), 2 megapixels (front)

    STORAGE: 32GB, microSD expandability up to 128GB

    BATTERY: 4,650mAh

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

But the ZenPad is unlikely to receive Nougat soon, because Asus would need to update its custom ZenUI user interface to support the newer Android software.

The ZenUI feels bloated, with Asus duplicating standard apps and tools, such as a file manager and a calculator, instead of using the stock Android apps.

In addition, the ZenPad is preloaded with unnecessary third-party apps, such as TripAdvisor and Lazada.

However, I did find some useful gems among the bloatware, like Asus' proprietary Splendid app that lets you adjust the display's colour temperature.

While ZenUI feels fluid during page transitions and is quick to open apps, I encountered occasional stuttering, often during typing on the ZenUI virtual keyboard.

The ZenPad's hardware is above average. Its 8-inch 2,048 x 1,536-pixel display has an identical screen resolution as the Apple iPad mini 4.

The screen is very bright at its maximum setting, and viewing angles are good.

A motion blur reduction feature kicked in automatically when I streamed videos from Netflix. While useful for action and sports videos, this feature may not be everyone's cup of tea.

With its 4:3 aspect ratio and light weight (320g), the ZenPad is easy to use with one hand. Its textured back also provides a better grip than the metal-clad and slippery iPad mini 4.

Powering this tablet is a Qualcomm hexa-core processor and 4GB of system memory. The ZenPad was quick to launch games like the racing title Asphalt Airborne 8 and the graphics looked good.

Asus has replaced the microUSB port with a new USB Type-C version for charging.

Hidden under a flap are the microSIM and microSD card slots. The ZenPad also supports LTE speeds of up to 300Mbps.

The ZenPad scored very well in our video-loop battery test. It lasted around 91/2hrs with the screen brightness and volume both set to maximum.

This is about two hours longer than the iPad mini 4.

Vincent Chang

•Verdict: The ZenPad is affordable and well-made, but is let down by its bloated software.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Excellent tablet with great battery life, but bloated software'. Print Edition | Subscribe