Asus Unveils Colorful, 8-inch ZenPad Tablets With Lots of Accessories

TAIWAN -- Consumers shopping for an Android tablet will soon have two compelling, 8-inch options from Asus. Today (June 1), the company unveiled the premium ZenPad S 8.0 (Z580CA) and the mid-range ZenPad 8.0 (Z380), both of which have colorful IPS displays, DTS sound support, power-efficient Intel Atom CPUs and Android 5.0 with Asus' ZenUI skin on top. 

The ZenPad S 8.0 has strong specs under the hood, including a 2.3-GHz Intel Atom Z3580 CPU, 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB of internal storage. However, the device's 2K IPS display really steals the show, providing sharp images that have vibrant color and strong contrast. The tablet employs Asus's Tru2Life+ technology, which promises 200 percent better contrast ratios

for images.

During our brief hands-on with the device, we swiped through a number of sample images in the gallery which were split in half, with the left side showing normal contrast and the right side showing Tru2Life+ enhancement. A picture of a church looked much richer, righter and more detailed on the True2Life+ side. A photo of a kitten showed dull gray fur on the left side, but vibrant, more well defined hairs on the right. Asus employs a two-layer design for the panel via a process it calls TruVivid, which eliminates the air gap and promises to also improve the color.

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When we picked it up, the ZenPad S 8.0 felt extremely light and thin, because it weighs just .65 pounds and is only .27 inches thick. Despite the svelte body, the tablet packs a 15.2 watt-hour battery that should provide up to 8 hours of endurance. Front-facing speakers and a pair of 5-MP/ 8-MP front and rear cameras make this a truly premium device. The tablet also uses USB Type-C for its charging port.

The  new tablet runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with the company's ZenUI skin on top. As it does on other Asus devices, ZenUI offers a very attractive and colorful desktop theme, notification drawer and icons, along with specialized apps for note-taking, task management and content sharing. We particularly enjoyed using the optional Z Stylus to scribble notes. This active-pen has a 1.2mm tip that looks and feels just like the end of a real ink pen and it supports 1024 levels of pressure so that your lines are thicker or lighter depending on how hard you press.

The ZenPad 8 (Z380) has slightly lesser specs including a slower, Intel Atom x3 CPU, a lower-resolution, 1280 x 800 display and less (1 or 2GB) RAM. It has attractive, rounded edges, but its .33-inch profile is a tiny bit thicker than the Zenpad S 8's. However, in our brief hands-on with the ZenPad 8 (Z380), the screen appeared almost as colorful as the S 8.0's panel, particularly when we navigated through the UI and watched a sample video of a drummer playing his instruments. 

Asus touts the ZenPad 8 as a "customizable" tablet because it has many accessories, including the Zen Case, which has a leather-like texture and comes in 5 different colors. There's also the Zen Clutch, which makes the slate easy to carry around. However, users looking for more functionality, will likely gravitate toward the Audio Cover, which contains 6 speakers and folds out to prop up the ZenPad while you're listening to music. When we played a video with the case attached, sound was both loud and clear. A Power Case extends the ZenPad 8's endurance to a full 15 hours. The ZenPad 8 can also use the Z Stylus.

Though the company didn't mention them during its press conference, Asus also had a 7-inch and 10-inch ZenPad in the demo area. The 10-inch model also had an optional keyboard dock.

Unfortunately, there's no word yet on pricing or availability for any of the ZenPads. However, we hope to find out soon whether both 8-inch devices are coming to the U.S. and what they will cost.