When I think of ASUS and Android, the first thing that comes to mind is their past portfolio of Android tablets. ASUS has been making Android tablets since the first wave of Android Honeycomb tablets hit the market. Back then, ASUS's point of differentiation from all the other Android tablets with essentially the same Tegra 2 hardware platform was their attachable keyboard dock. One could argue that ASUS really pioneered the 2-in-1 tablet form factor with their Transformer tablets.

While ASUS continued to release a number of additional Transformer tablets with updated specifications for some time, it has been a while since we've seen any new high end tablets from the company. Recent offerings have usually been more budget oriented devices like the MeMO Pad series, or the hard to find ASUS PadFone, with the spot for a more standard tablet being left unfilled.

Today's review takes a look at a tablet that doesn't pick up where the Transformer series left off, but instead kicks off a new line of tablets from ASUS under the ZenPad brand. There are a few different ZenPad tablets on the market, with multiple SKUs for each product creating even more versions. The tablet I'm looking at today is the ASUS ZenPad S, and more specifically, the ZenPad S Z580CA, which is ASUS's most high end tablet offering. Since the ZenPad S comes in two different versions I've laid out both of their specifications in the chart below so you can get an idea of how the two devices differ from each other.

  ASUS ZenPad S 8 (Z580C) ASUS ZenPad S 8 (Z580CA)
SoC Intel Atom Moorefield Z3530
4x Silvermont @ 1.33GHz
Intel Atom Moorefield Z3580
4x Silvermont @ 2.33GHz
GPU PowerVR G6430 @ 457MHz PowerVR G6430 @ 533MHz
NAND 32GB + microSDXC 64GB + microSDXC
Display 7.85" 2048x1536 IPS LCD
Dimensions 203.2 x 134.5 x 6.6mm
Mass 298g
Camera 2MP Front-facing
5MP Rear-facing
5MP Front-facing
8MP Rear-facing
Battery 15.2Wh
OS Android 5.0 Lollipop with ASUS Zen UI
Other Connectivity 802.11b/g/n + BT 4.1, GNSS, 3.5mm audio 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, GNSS, 3.5mm audio
USB Connector Micro USB USB Type-C
Price $199 USD $299 USD

There are two versions of the ZenPad S. The less expensive model is priced at $199 USD, while the more expensive model that I am reviewing is $299 USD. This is not unlike the price split between the two versions of the ZenFone 2. However, while the two versions of the ZenFone were differentiated only by their RAM, NAND, and included charger, the two models of the ZenPad S have more differences than similarities as far as their specifications go.

What's shared between both devices is the 7.85" 2048x1536 display. ASUS advertises it as 8.0" but measurements of the display's diagonal show that there is some rounding going on. In addition to the display, both devices have a 15.2Wh battery. At $100 more, the ZenPad Z580CA doubles your RAM and storage to 4GB and 64GB respectively, increases the resolution of both cameras, bumps the max CPU clock by 1GHz and max GPU clock by 76MHz, and adds 802.11ac support.

The one thing that sets the ZenPad S Z580CA apart from most other devices is its use of the new USB Type-C connector, along with support for USB 3.0 speeds of 5Gbps (Superspeed). While we have seen USB 3.0 featured on some past devices such as the Galaxy Note 3, the large size and unsightly appearance of the USB 3.0 Micro-B connector resulted in it receiving almost no market adoption. It's important to note that just because a device uses the USB Type-C connector does not mean that it supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Superspeed+) along with all the USB alternate modes for networking or display interfaces. With the ZenPad S Z580CA only supporting USB data, you cannot do video out or use any other USB alternate modes. Such features will have to wait for future SoCs and controllers with USB 3.1 and USB alt mode support.

As for the connector, Type-C is slightly larger than your standard Micro-B port in all dimensions, but it's reversible, more durable, and maintains a much stronger connection to a device. You can insert it in two orientations, and when you push it in there's a click to let you know that it connected. Some users will see the adoption of USB Type-C as a nuisance, as it will prevent them from using existing cables to charge the tablet or transfer files. I personally recognize this as an unavoidable transition period, as there's no chance of every vendor and user in the world deciding to move to Type-C all at once. It's obviously a bit of an annoyance to be unable to use existing Micro-B cables, but I believe the advantages are worth it.

The ZenPad S uses ASUS's ZenUI skin for Android. It's basically the exact same UI as on the ZenFone 2, but with some layout and app design changes to work better on the larger display. For a look at ZenUI I recommend looking at the software section of my ZenFone 2 review, as I won't be discussing it in this review due to it being mostly redundant.

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  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - link

    They get enough loaners to keep the review queue in a constant backlog (see periodic comment rage about the review of X, Y, and Z being delayed). If ad revenue ever got to the point that they could hire enough reviewers that they didn't have anything to review at times a shopping trip might make sense; but they don't and probably never will.

    Even if that did happen, Sony probably wouldn't be the recipient because they've almost entirely abandoned the US market. If you're bound and determined to have one you can get it; but for 99% of the consumers who read the articles and let the ads load (aka the people who actually make the site money) Sony is irrelevant because it's not something they can find in the store.
  • MrSavage - Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - link

    Interesting Dan. Thanks for the insight!
  • Michael REMY - Thursday, September 3, 2015 - link

    well, i can believe what i read. you wait for the brand to provide you the device that you review. it is a leak of independence, don't you think ? can't you just buy it on amazon, try it, write your review then get your refund and return the product ?
    Seriously, for your own knoewledge, you should have test for yourself the last model of sony tablet to win&earn another point of view (better) on samsung tablet or asus zenPad.
  • IanHagen - Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - link

    I'm really glad 4:3 aspect ratio won the battle. It's so much more useful in a tablet.
  • 911electronic - Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - link

    Nice specification but still i dont know what about battery. It is important for most of the users.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - link

    Page 8 Battery Life and Charge Time. 7 hours on the wifi browsing test is a very poor result.
  • aldenf - Friday, September 4, 2015 - link

    Maybe I need to turn in my geek card. I see no benefit whatsoever of such resolutions in an 8" form-factor. The way I use tablets, I prefer the 4:3 ratio. So this is great. I spend far too many hours sitting 30" from my 24" 19x12 IPS, calibrated with a ColorMunki, working in Photoshop and Premiere. With an 8" display, at an 18" distance, I see no benefit above 1280x1024. On the contrary; brightness, performance and battery life suffer significantly. I've used most of what is currently available on the market and don't get the insistence of pushing higher resolutions at 8". I own two 8" tablets; an 800x600 Android and 1024x768 iPad Mini. 800x600 is borderline rough but 1024x768 is pretty good. 1280x1024 seems ideal. Why do we suck up all the marketing baloney? Bigger isn't always better. More isn't always more. It's not the resolution that we discern as better, it's simply that they're usually higher quality displays. Drop the Asus' resolution to 1280x1024, keep the high quality, do a reasonable calibration from the factory, drop the price to $250 and you have a darned nice Android tablet to last a couple of years. Really, what more do we want?
  • nitram_tpr - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    Another vote for widescreen tablets for me, it is all I've ever used (still using a transformer prime). I do watch a lot of medie on my device while I'm travelling / commuting. I tried it on the wife's iPad and got fed up with the huge black bars. Full screening it is like watching an old CRT, so I'm glad there are still the widescreen options out there.
    To all the people whining and bitching about this tablet, are you actually pissed off because you wanted to buy it, or are you just joining in with the bitch fest?
    If it isn't 4:3 don't buy it, end of.
  • er0k - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Hello: My Zenpad 8.0 S is only two days old, out of the box. I cannot seem to charge it. I charged it for many hours yesterday only to find it with a dead battery. I moved it to several different outlets, tried different cables and chargers that work with other devices and worked with it previously, to no avail. It will show the battery charging icon, but does not appear to actually charge. Any ideas? Thanks.
  • System Optimizer - Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - link

    Did you ever get your charging issue solved. Did you try connecting to charge off a computer (if you have USB ports that charge, and the appropriate wire)? Did you hold in the power button and one of the volume buttons to force a reset on the device? (I have an old Archos 80 Titanium tablet, and once I thought it wasn't charging, and was dead, but in reality it was charged and was reporting improper information and the forced reboot resolved the issue). I don't know the z580's reset process, but I expect its something similar.

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