Asus ZenPad 3S 10 review

Android's iPad Air 2 killer?

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Given that tablets are largely used for consuming media, the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 gets a big thumbs up thanks to its remarkable screen, great audio capabilities and powerful internals.

It's no exaggeration to say that this is one of the best screens we've ever witnessed on an Android tablet, and we found ourselves watching more movies and playing more games than we'd done previously with this sort of device.

As an entertainment center, the ZenPad 3S 10 is pretty hard to beat, but there are some serious shortcomings which curtail its usefulness in other areas. The terrible rear-facing camera is the most obvious – it's so poor at taking photos that it may as well not even be there – and the battery life isn't as impressive as it should be.

We also feel that the speakers are positioned poorly and the overall build quality could be better – a ropey microSD slot and hollow-feeling rear panel detract from an otherwise excellent design.

Even with these irksome problems it doesn't change the fact that for $300/£300 (around AU$515) or slightly less now, this is an excellent slate that is perfect for those who consume a lot of media on the move.

Who's this for?

If you see a tablet device as a means of entertainment, then the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 comes highly recommended.

It's perfect for watching movies and listening to music thanks to its striking QHD display, powerful speakers and Hi-Res audio capabilities, and is adept enough to play all the latest 3D games without any performance hiccups. If you're after a media powerhouse and prefer Google's operating system to Apple's, then this makes for a solid purchase.

Should you buy it?

With a retail price of $300/£300 (around AU$515) and the ability to find it for a bit less now, the ZenPad 3S 10 offers iPad-style premium design and a top-class screen for less than the cost of the basic iPad 9.7 model.

If you prefer Android to iOS then it's a bit of a no-brainer, especially as the Android tablet sector isn't quite as vibrant as it once was and viable alternatives are a little thin on the ground.

There are some niggles – such as minor build quality concerns, middling battery life, poorly-located speakers and far too much bloatware installed – but these are comfortably eclipsed by numerous positives.

The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 combines a high-end look with a mid-range price, making it a strong new entry in the middle of the tablet market. But both Apple and Samsung offer high-quality alternatives, while if your budget is tight there’s a more affordable option from Asus itself that you might want to consider.

iPad 9.7

At launch the ZenPad 3S 10 was competing with the iPad Air 2, but with Apple having discontinued that its most direct competition from that camp is perhaps the iPad 9.7, launched in 2018.

As a newer device this benefits from a lot more power, and Apple has seen fit to let it work with the Apple Pencil, making it a better choice for creatives. It is of course more expensive than the ZenPad, but as a budget model (by Apple's standards) it's not as much as you might expect.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Perhaps the ZenPad 3S 10's biggest rival in the Android sector, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is thinner and lighter than Samsung's previous model and boasts a 4:3 aspect ratio – just like the ZenPad 3S 10.

But the battery life could be better and with a dated octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM the specs are slightly disappointing compared to the ZenPad 3S 10, given that it has a similar price. It's also saddled with a very average rear-facing camera.

Samsung has since launched the Galaxy Tab S3 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, but you'll pay more for these so they're not as direct competition.

Asus ZenPad 10 Z300M

If you like Asus' design and software but can't quite stretch to $300/£300 then this budget option might be worth considering, although it's worth noting that at less than half the price there are some serious cutbacks here.

The plastic design lacks the premium feel of the ZenPad 3S 10 and the screen isn't as sharp. It’s also got similarly mediocre battery life, but overall performance is respectable.

First reviewed: December 2016