I never ever imagined that we would become a six-tablet household so fast (it doesn’t seem all that long ago that I remember chuntering away to Mr LittleStuff about what an utter waste of time they were. I mean – they couldn’t do anything that my Mac couldn’t, which was under my fingertips for 12hrs a day… *hollow laugh*)
But each of us uses our tablets in different ways, and a tablet is only as good as the function you want it for. The husband uses his most while travelling, rarely touching it when at home (he pinches mine). Mine is in use ALL the time; as a family go-to entertainment addition, paired to the television for family viewing, recipe finding, shopping, Facebooking, checking facts of Mr LittleStuff’s that I am SURE are wrong (Oxford isn’t next to Wiltshire? Since when??)… But the kids use them as their own personal entertainment consoles.
We’ve all naturally ended up with tablets fitted for our individual needs (and yes, none of us would be without them!). So when Asus asked if I’d like to give the new Zenpad Z380 a spin, I was happy to oblige. Come on – there’s always room for one more tablet, right? ;)
So – the ASUS ZenPad 8.0 is an 8-inch tablet which retails at around £100. But actually, the screen feels bigger than the 8″, thanks to the fact that ASUS have reduced the body size around it as much as is possible. So there’s less tablet, but more screen, if you see what I mean.
Set up was so quick and easy; be sure to check for updates straight away, performance can be a bit lag-filled until you’re up to date on system and app updates. But in an astonishingly short time you’re good to go – if you’re familiar with Android it’s a breeze. All the basics are pre-installed for you; Googledocs and Kindle included.
The build quality feels good – it’s a solid little tablet, with a metal bezel that adds to the well-designed, well-built impression. And the strength against accidental droppage, obviously. The Zen Case leather-effect cover feels great in the hand, and stops the slippery-plastic feel of so many tablets at this price point.
It’s a nice feature that ASUS have released a variety of cases which not only customise the Zenpad’s appearance, but also add additional functions – the Audio Cover, which contains 6 speakers and folds out to prop up the ZenPad while you’re listening to music, and a Power Case which extends the ZenPad 8’s battery life to a full 15 hours.
But the reason I was interested in the Zenpad is for its entertainment experience; my children all principally use their tablets for reading on the kindle app, or watching videos/movies. YouTube and Netflix are the permanently-running apps any tablet needs to handle.
The 8″ screen is 1280×800 IPS LCD, and ASUS declare that the Zenpad comes with ‘VisualMaster – a suite of exclusive visual enhancement technologies that combine hardware and software to optimize all aspects of the display‘. I’m not one to fall for pretty words from a manufacturer, so I had the teens test the tablet as they would normally use it (y’know, watching Netflix from the comfort of the duvet, streaming League of Legends World Finals on their desk while they’re supposed to be writing about Othello…) and they were both pleasantly surprised by the clarity, depth of colour and sharpness of the display – even on tricky colour-rich fast-moving scenes in action movies and music videos.
Even if you’re an entertainment-sucking teen and spend your time with the tablet constantly watching movies, chatting, or streaming the battery will easily last a day, and from a flat battery it takes under 2 hours to charge to 100%
No.1 (Head Geek in the house) followed some online suggestions, and installed Google Keyboard and a lightweight Launcher which he said sped up the whole experience – though he really likes the ASUS “boost” feature, which lets you clear memory.
If you’re looking for a smaller tablet for your pre-teen or teen this Christmas the Asus ZenPad will be an excellent choice for your list; it’s a great price point, it has the screen to handle their entertainment needs, the storage is good (and expandable with a microSD) and the sound quality is fine. Add in the ASUS Audio Cover and you’ve got cinematic, 5.1-channel surround sound which they’ll love you for.