Our Verdict

With a poor resolution, mediocre battery life and limited storage the Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML is yet another tablet that shows how little these gadgets have moved on in the last 3-4 years. It’s half the price of an iPad, but it's half the tablet too.

For

  • Affordable price
  • Games run reasonably well
  • Stereo speakers

Against

  • Low screen resolution
  • Hardly different to old model
  • Dated software

The Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML is an affordable tablet, which may tell you much of what you need to know about it, as mainstream iPads have barely changed over the past three years, and neither have tablets like this.

Asus even made a very similar model with the same ‘Asus ZenPad 10’ name in 2016. Aside from an altered finish and USB-C charge port, this one is hardly different.

If you have a cheap tablet that is aging, the Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML may not get you the upgrade you are looking for. However, it works well enough and at £159.99 (around $210 / AU$285) costs much less than even an entry-level iPad, so is it worth considering?

Key features

  • Low resolution screen
  • Acceptable performance but shown up by some budget slates
Asus ZenPad 10 specs

Weight: 490g
Dimensions: 8.95mm
OS: Android 7
Screen size: 10.1-inch
Resolution: 1280 x 800
CPU: MediaTek MT8735W
RAM: 2/3GB
Storage: 16/32/64GB
Battery: 4,860mAh
Rear camera: 5MP
Front camera: 2MP   

Cheaper tablets like the ZenPad 10 Z301ML continually disappoint in one aspect: screen resolution. It has a large 10.1-inch screen, but only 1280 x 800 pixels, which may well be fewer than your phone uses.

Obvious pixelation is the result. Text and images look a lot less clear and sharp than the best sub-£200/$250 tablets, or even the 2013 Nexus 7, which was also a budget model.

Other features are similarly low-end, but less distracting. The Asus ZenPad 10 has a humble MediaTek chipset, 16GB of storage, fairly poor 5/2MP cameras and a plastic casing.

This is not a flashy tablet, but it handles most apps and games well enough. However, it is shown up by the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017), which has more storage and power, and a sharper screen.

Design

  • Plastic shell with textured finish
  • 251.77 x 172.17 x 8.95mm, 490g
  • 16GB of storage

Like all 10.1-inch widescreen tablets, the Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML is designed to be held landscape. It’s worth considering if you want something to use on the journey home from work. It’s not what this tablet is about.

Asus used a similar design in its last ZenPad 10. This tablet is plastic aside from the glass on the front of the screen. It is, however, pretty tactile among its entry-level peers, though.

The Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML’s back feels almost like fabric. It’s textured plastic, but a sea of dense, fine nobbles tricks your fingers into thinking it’s something else. Similarly, the front edges are made to look like metal, but are actually just metallic plastic.

We’d rather have aluminum, but it is better than the plain, lightly textured plastic of Amazon’s cheaper tablets.

There’s nothing quite so dynamic elsewhere, though. The Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML weighs an unremarkable 490g, is an unremarkable 8.95mm thick, and thanks to fairly wide screen borders is no more portable or easier to handle than an older 10-inch tablet.

Using it in landscape orientation is most comfortable, preferably with a hand at each end. You can of course also hold it upright, which works well for reading articles or digital comics.

To keep the price low, Asus has left out most hardware extras in the ZenPad 10. There’s no fingerprint reader and the front camera can’t be used to ‘face unlock’ the tablet. You get just 16GB of storage too. However, this will probably be enough for many users, particularly as most of us don’t take as many photos with a tablet as a phone.

There’s enough room for a few data-hungry games and countless smaller apps. The ZenPad 10 Z301ML also has a microSD slot on its bottom, should you want to fill the tablet up with more movies than the internal storage will hold.

Screen

  • 10.1-inch IPS LCD screen with 1280 x 800 resolution
  • Clear pixelation
  • Decent contrast

The Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML has a large 10.1-inch screen. This kind of display really highlights the difference between phones and tablets.

However, it has a significant problem. Screen resolution and pixel density are low, so the Android interface and text in articles will not look as sharp as they do on your phone.

At this size we like to see a resolution of at least 1920 x 1200 pixels, but the Asus ZenPad 10 Z301ML only has 1200 x 800. Text looks scratchy rather than smooth, and sprite-based games appear compromised.

Other aspects of the display are a bit better. Contrast is perfectly solid, and while the image appears slightly recessed, it’s less recessed than the new iPad (2018). Not bad.

Color performance is just okay. The standard color mode is relaxed and natural-looking, which we quite like, but not as rich as premium tablets look.

You can add some energy to the color using the Asus ZenPad 10’s Vivid mode, but it tends to make tones look brighter rather than deeper.