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Posts tagged ‘Asus’

25
Sep

Chromebooks now have an easy time running Android apps


You no longer have to be an early adopter to run Android apps on a Chromebook. Google has released a stable version of Chrome OS that includes Google Play Store access in beta, giving you the opportunity to run mobile apps on top of your usual web access. You’ll have to own an Acer Chromebook R11 or an ASUS Chromebook Flip to give this update a shot, but it beats having to run a Chrome OS beta just to see what all the fuss is about.

It’s not certain which systems are coming next, although we’d expect the late Chromebook Pixel 2 to be next in line given that it’s the only one listed as supporting Android apps in beta Chrome OS releases. Almost all other compatible devices (including machines from HP, Lenovo and Samsung) are still waiting for their turn. But hey, it’s a step in the right direction — you’re that much closer to running your favorite phone apps from the comfort of your PC.

Via: Android Police

Source: Chrome Releases, The Chromium Projects

5
Sep

IFA 2016 showed us how far wearables have come


The wearables world has come a long way in a very short time, and plenty of companies have had to learn their lessons out in public. The first devices they launched were often far, far too ugly to find mainstream acceptance, but now the fashion and wearables worlds are perfectly aligned. That’s why we’re taking a look at the devices that arrived at this year’s IFA, and comparing it with their more embarrassing predecessors. Think of it like #throwbackthursday, except nobody’s got one of those face-worn retainers you only see in ’80s movies.

ASUS’ Zenwatch

Zenwatch_then.jpgZenwatch-now.jpg

Like many other early Android Wear pioneers, ASUS thought that it was hip to be square. It made sense, since smartphones have square displays too, not to mention the (then) scarcity of truly-round displays. ASUS trimmed the price to make the Zenwatch cheaper than its rivals, and curved the glass over the face to offer an illusion of greater ergonomics. The end result is a watch that made square faces look reasonably stylish, even if it would only ever cater to a niche.

Two years down the road and ASUS has firmly grasped a copy of the fashion watch design playbook and is holding it firmly with both hands. The Zenwatch 3 is packing a rose-gold inlay, a chunky crown and double pushers, making it look less like an Android Wear device and more like a Longines. It’s the sort of watch that goes down well with business types who want to be seen wearing their money on their wrists.

Samsung Gear

Samsung-then.jpgSamsung-now.jpg

When you look at the first Galaxy Gear you have to ask what Samsung was thinking, even back then. It may have been a refinement of the company’s S9110 telephone watch, but it wasn’t pretty, no sir. Admittedly, it’s a striking piece of gear, with a brutalist design, exposed screws and a humped, 1.9-megapixel camera that juts out of the band rather than the hardware. But when you look at Samsung’s earlier smartwatches, like the SPH-WP10, the Galaxy Gear looks like pure elegance.

Just three years stand between the OG Gear and the Gear S3, but they couldn’t be further apart in the looks department. The Gear S3 looks like a regular watch, the sort of ultra-masculine timepiece that you’d see advertised in an in-flight magazine. Like its immediate predecessor, the bezel acts as a control dial, but now it’s been geared so that it doesn’t even look like a watch from the future. In fact, the Gear S3 could convincingly pass for a Rolex diving watch made half a century ago.

Sony Headphones

Sony-then.jpgSony-now.jpg
Sony’s been there (or thereabouts) for plenty of milestones in personal audio, even if it might not want everyone to remember some of its own missteps. From 1968’s DR-4A, the company’s first noise-isolating stereo headphones, to the Xperia Ear, which will arrive in stores this November. Back in the day, a 5.5mm audio lead with a nice woven coating was what connected your headphones to the sound source of your choice. These days, of course, it’s all about Bluetooth, but the Ear lets you send commands to your phone as well as receive sounds back. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily call it a headphone, per-se.

A side effect of the design of these small earpieces, of course, is that wearing them are significantly less conspicuous. In an era where people wear enormous Beats-branded cans as a matter of course, in-ear earpieces are, by comparison, invisible. While the first-generation Xperia Ear stands out, other devices of its kind — like Bragi’s Dash — aren’t meant to be visible. Although, we’re getting to the point where it’s not necessarily right to call these gadgets wearables, since they’re not really worn so much as inserted. Then again, nobody wants to walk into an electronics store and ask for the insertables section.

Withings

withings-then.jpgWithings-now.jpg

Withings has built its ecosystem of health products piece by piece, but its first device with heart rate monitoring wasn’t one for the record books. The Withings Pulse was a square rubber brick that was intended to be worn on a belt clip like a pedometer. After your workout, you could pull out the device, press it against your finger and be told how well your heart was doing at that particular moment. But aside from its blocky design, it had some great features, including automatic activity detection and a long-life battery. Unfortunately, the act of removing it from the clip wore the rubber out pretty quickly, and it was easy to forget when you changed pants.

Now, the company has seen the error of its ways and baked in the optical heart rate monitor into its Swiss-inspired watch. The Steel HR masks its more technological components between an analog dial and sub-dial — the latter of which tells you how much activity you’ve undertaken that day. The only gadgety component of the watch is the digital sub-dial which offers your heart rate, as well as smartphone notifications for calls, emails and texts. By burying the nuts and bolts behind a well-designed and subtle timepiece, Withings is pushing us towards a world where we’re not even aware of the tech we’re wearing.

E-Ink Watches

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Sony’s first E Ink watch, FES, arrived in 2014, and cleverly added the technology to both the face and wristband. That’s led to some interesting options for customization and promised to radically alter the way watches were worn. But it was by no means the first E Ink timepiece on the market, and an early proponent was Phosphor, which launched the Ana-Digi timepiece back in 2012. The display itself was static, and users could use a side-mounted pusher to toggle between time and date views on the face.

But adding E Ink to a watch clearly hasn’t provided the necessary surge in sales that Sony was hoping for. For the second-generation of its groundbreaking timepiece, it’s added more traditionally-watch like design cues. That includes a prominent bezel and sapphire glass across the crystal, making it slightly less exciting. Then again, it perhaps shows that the tried-and-tested formula for watches hasn’t changed much in the last century, and these companies have learned that if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

2
Sep

IFA 2016 warm-up: Pet treats, smartwatches and more


The IFA 2016 show floor doesn’t officially open until tomorrow, but companies didn’t wait to show off their new products in Berlin. Yesterday, ASUS, Acer, Lenovo and Samsung announced a myriad of devices, including phones, smartwatches and hybrid laptops. There will be a lot more to see in the coming days, we’re sure of that. For now, here are some highlights from the event’s kick-off keynotes — and yes, of course we talked about the “Pawbo” pet accessories. Because why wouldn’t we?

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

1
Sep

We’re live from IFA 2016 in Berlin!


Like every year, we are back in Berlin for Europe’s biggest tech trade show, IFA. This year, as we previewed recently, expect to see many new devices from some of the usual suspects: Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, Sony and more. We’ve already checked out a number of fresh laptops, smartphones and wearables at the event, but that’s only the beginning since the show floor doesn’t open until Friday. Stay tuned, because there will be plenty of announcements to digest over the next few days. And you never know what kind of weird gadget we might find.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

31
Aug

ASUS’ ZenWatch 3 brings fast charging to your wrist


If there was ever any doubt about Asus’ commitment to Android Wear, squash it now. Earlier today the company peeled the shrink wrap off its third ZenWatch (that’s the ZenWatch 3, if you weren’t sure), and it’s the maturest timepiece from the company yet. The first thing you’ll notice is that ASUS has dropped the squircle design that the first two watches have, opting for the ever-popular round display. It’s not just about cosmetic appeal (though there is plenty of that going on). The ZenWatch 3 has solid fitness credentials — claiming some of the highest accuracy on the market — and there are some important power saving features which aim to solve one of the biggest anxieties faced by smartwatch owners — battery drain.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but ASUS thinks customizing your smartwatch is the key to your heart. To wriggle its way into your affection/wardrobe, the ZenWatch 3 will be available in three familiar colors: rose gold, gunmetal and silver. So, it’s fair to say the company is hoping to mop up a few iPhone users, along with the Android faithful.

Whichever color you go for, it’ll come with a rose gold bezel which, in marketing speak, is inspired by the annular solar eclipse. I’m not sure that’s what I first thought of, but it looks pretty enough. All three hues look nice enough, and the round display is definitely going to win favor with those less fond of the original blocky design of previous ASUS smartwatches. That display has a 400 by 400 resolution, about 287ppi if you’re keeping count, and at first glance, it’s going to be nice, bright and vivid. You’ll also get a choice of leather or rubber straps. I tried the rubber one on, and it didn’t feel all that great, but durable and no sign of itchiness. The rubber will be the better choice for sporty types no doubt.

That’s a pertinent point, too, as ASUS made the bold claim that the ZenWatch 3 has “market leading” fitness tracking abilities, including sport-specific activities. So, if running’s not your thing, but you bang out 100 situps every morning, the ZenWatch 3 will log that for you (if you’re not bragging about it already). We’ll have to wait and see how well that actually works when we review it. Which should give us a little time to dust off the ab cruncher.

While I can tell you how smart it looked (fairly smart), and how comfortable it was (go for the leather strap), we weren’t able to try out the app that lets you customize the watch faces, or take it for a run, or jump in the shower (it’s waterproof) or give it a good old battery run down test. But, it what ASUS claims is true, that last point should be worth waiting for.

The ZenWatch 3 sports the latest Snapdragon 2100 Wear processor, which promises a 25 percent efficiency boost. There’s fast charging, ASUS’s calling it “HyperCharge” and it’s no joke. The claim is that 15 minutes of charge will give you 60 percent battery… or about enough for a whole day. Not bad. If that’s true, then you won’t need to rely on overnight charges. If you do, the magnetic cable will make that less painful, and there’s even a (slightly goofy) battery pack accessory that will give you an on-the-go 40 percent top up. We’re not sure how practical that is, but full marks for effort.

Over all, the ZenWatch 3 seems to be a worthy successor to the previous, generally well received Android Wear watch family from ASUS. If this has piqued your interest, you’ll be able to pick one up for 229 euros (expect a similar dollar price, or £200) when it becomes available this fall.

31
Aug

Qualcomm’s new flagship chip loads apps 10 percent faster


Qualcomm has unveiled more details about its flagship Snapdragon 821 processor that we first saw in July. It’s intended to fill the gap until a future next-gen chip comes along, so performance improvements over the Snapdragon 820 (used in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7) are decent, but not amazing. CPU performance is better across the board, with boot times, app loading and overall performance up to 10 percent faster.

New UI optimizations also bring “smoother scrolling and more responsive browsing performance,” Qualcomm says. Adreno GPU performance is up five percent, which will help games and VR run smoother. Despite those gains, your phone’s battery should last about 5 percent longer overall.

Smartphones using the chip will be compatible with Google’s Daydream VR system, though that’s not a surprise considering that Snapdragon 820 devices are also compatible. To make it easier for VR developers to get on board, Qualcomm is releasing an SDK for the chip that “supports a superior level of visual and audio quality and more immersive virtual reality and gaming experiences,” it says.

Other features include Dual PDAF (phase detection auto-focus) support for quicker smartphone camera focusing and improved laser focus accuracy compared to the Snapdragon 820. The first smartphone to get the chip, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe, has both laser and dual PDAF, both of which boast .03 second autofocus times. Qualcomm didn’t reveal any new devices that will pack the chip, but with IFA 2016 in full swing, don’t be surprised to hear more announcements in the coming days.

31
Aug

ASUS’ Zenwatch 3 is fast and round


Following Motorola, Huawei and a bunch of other smartwatch manufacturers, ASUS has built a round Android Wear device. The Zenwatch 3 has a 1.39-inch AMOLED display with a 400×400 resolution, which works out at 287 pixels per inch (ppi). That’s almost identical to the Huawei Watch and a smidge sharper than the larger second-gen Moto 360. The casing is made from stainless steel and will be available in a few different styles: gunmetal (black), silver and rose gold. All three have a gold inlay, which ASUS claims is like “the corona of an annular solar eclipse.”

The new wearable is 9.95mm thick — a tad thinner than both the Huawei Watch and Moto 360. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and 512MB of RAM, coupled with 4GB of onboard storage. While the 341mAh battery will last you for “up to two days,” ASUS is also pushing its “HyperCharge” technology, which will bring you back up to 60 percent in 15 minutes. Charging is handled with a magnetic port on the underside.

On the software side, it’s a typical Android Wear experience. Google’s wrist-ready operating system is slowly improving, and the company has its “biggest platform update yet,” Android 2.0, scheduled for the fall. ASUS is offering some custom watch faces for the Zenwatch 3, and hopes you’ll make your own with the FaceDesigner app available on smartphones. The smartwatch also has some fitness chops, with automatic step-counting that is supposedly 95 percent accurate. It can also track a few other basic activities such as running, push-ups and sit-ups — don’t expect too much, however, this isn’t a Garmin or Fitbit.

We haven’t heard much regarding price or availability. When ASUS reveals more, we’ll be sure to let you know.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

16
Aug

NVIDIA brings desktop-class graphics to laptops


With the GeForce GTX 1080, NVIDIA pushed the boundaries of what a $600 graphics card can do. That flagship card was joined by the GTX 1070 and GTX 1060, two lower-power cards based on the same 16nm Pascal architecture at a much more affordable price. Now, it’s bringing mobile versions of those cards that match their desktop counterparts in almost every area — including being VR ready.

That’s not hyperbole. The top-of-the-line 1080M has 2,560 CUDA cores and 8GB of 10Gbps GDDR5x memory. The desktop chip has the same. The only difference is clock speed: it’s set at 1,556MHz, while the desktop version is 1,607MHz. The two do share the same boost clock (1,733MHz) though, and both have access to all the new technology introduced for the Pascal architecture. That means simultaneous multi-projection, VRWorks, Ansel and the rest.

If you want an idea what those specs translate to in real-world performance, how’s this: when paired with an i7-6700HQ (a quad-core 2.6GHz chip with 3.5GHz turbo), Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, 126; Overwatch, 147; Doom, 145; Metro Last Light, 130; Rise of the Tomb Raider, 125. Those are the 1080M’s FPS figures when playing at 1080p with “ultra” settings at 120Hz. NVIDIA is really pushing 120Hz gaming, and many of the first crop of Pascal laptops will have 120Hz G-Sync displays.

4K gaming, too, is more than possible. At 4K with “high” settings the same setup can push 89FPS on Overwatch, 70FPS with Doom, and 62FPS with Metro Last Light (according to NVIDIA). Only Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and Rise of the Tomb Raider fall short of 60FPS, both clocking in at a very playable 52FPS. At the chip’s UK unveil, NVIDIA showed the new Gears of War playing in 4K in real-time, and there were absolutely no visible frame drops. With figures like that, it goes without saying that VR will be no problem for the 1080M. The desktop GTX 980 is the benchmark for both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and the 1080M blows it away. If you’re looking for more performance, the 1080M supports overclocking of course — NVIDIA suggests as high as 300MHz — and you can expect laptops sporting two in an SLI configuration soon.

The major drawback for the 1080M is power. We don’t know its exact TDP yet, but given the near-identical desktop version runs at 180W, you’d imagine it’s got to be at least 150W. NVIDIA has tech that counters that heavy power load when you’re not plugged in, of course. Chief among these is BatteryBoost, which allows you to set a framerate (i.e. 30FPS), and downclocks the GPU appropriately to save power — if your card is capable of pushing 147FPS plugged in, that’s going to be a fair amount of power saved. Whatever the battery savings possible, though, it won’t change the fact that the 1080M is only going to slide into big laptops.

That’s fine for those already used to carrying around behemoths on the go, but plenty of gamers prefer something more portable. Enter the 1070M. NVIDIA says this chip will fit into any chassis that currently handles the 980M, which covers a lot of laptops.

Just like the 1080M, the 1070M matches its desktop sibling in many ways. You’ve actually got slightly more in the way of CUDA cores — 2,048 vs. the desktop’s 1,920, but again they’re clocked slower (1,442MHz vs. 1,506MHz). Memory is the same — 8GB 8Gbps GDDR5 — and it too benefits from both the Pascal architecture itself and the new software features that come with it.

CUDA cores 2,560 2,560 1,920 2,048
Base clock 1,607MHz 1,556MHz 1,506MHz 1,442MHz
Boost clock 1,733MHz 1,733MHz 1,683MHz 1,645MHz
Memory 8GB GDDR5X 8GB GDDR5X 8GB GDDR5 8GB GDDR5
Memory speed 10Gbps 10Gbps 8Gbps 8Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 320GB/sec 320GB/sec 256GB/sec 256GB/sec

When faced off against the desktop 1070, the 1070M holds its own. In nearly every test we saw, it got within a couple of percentiles of the desktop card. We’re talking 77FPS in The Witcher 3 (1080p maxed settings, no HairWorks) vs. 79.7FPS on the 1070; 76.2FPS in The Division (1080p ultra) vs. 76.6FPS; and 64.4FPS in Crysis 3 (1080p very high) vs. 66.4FPS. The one outlier was Grand Theft Auto V, which dropped down to 65.3FPS vs. 73.7FPS on the desktop 1070. 4K gaming is a stretch on the desktop 1070, and that carries over here, but this card is more-than VR ready. NVIDIA says that it’ll support factory overclocking on the 1070M soon, so you may see laptops offering a little more grunt “in a couple of months.”

Rounding off the lineup is the 1060M, the mobile version of NVIDIA’s $249 “budget” VR-ready card. It’s something of the exception to the rule here. Yes, it offers 1,280 CUDA cores and 6GB 8Gbps GDDR5 memory, which is equal to the desktop 1060. But at the lower end of the range the fact that they’re clocked lower (1,404MHz vs. 1,506MHz) hurts performance quite a bit more. In side-by-side comparisons, NVIDIA’s benchmarks suggest you’ll get within ten percent or so of the desktop card. That’s not to say that the 1060M is a slouch. For traditional gaming, you’re not going to hit 60FPS at 1080P in every game without thinking about settings, but if you can play it on a desktop GTX 980, it’s probably a safe bet that the 1060M can handle it. That’s insanely impressive when you consider that the 1060M will fit into the same chassis as the 970M — think “ultra portable” gaming laptops.

CUDA cores 1,280 1,280 2,048
Base clock 1,404MHz 1,506MHz 1,126MHz
Boost clock 1,670MHz 1,708MHz 1,216MHz
Memory 6GB GDDR5* 6GB GDDR5 4GB GDDR5
Memory speed 8Gbps 8Gbps 7Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 192GB/sec 192GB/sec 224GB/sec

*Up to

In reality, the 10-percent gap between the 1060 and the 1060M probably makes it slightly slower than the GTX 980, but the difference is almost negligible. I wasn’t able to push the 1060M too hard on the “VR ready” promise — you can read about the demo and why the 1060M matters in a separate article — but the demo I had was solid. And really, being able to plug an Oculus into something as slim as a Razer Blade was unthinkable a few months ago, so it’s probably best not to complain.

Acer, Alienware, Asus, Clevo, EVGA, HP, Gigabyte, Lenovo, MSI, Origin, Razer, Sager and XMG are just some of the OEMs signed up to make laptops with the new Pascal chips. Many will announce updated and all-new models today, while some might hold off a while. But expect lots of super-powerful, VR-ready gaming laptops very soon.

22
Jul

Wirecutter’s best deals: Save $125 on an iPad Pro 9.7


This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read their continuously updated list of deals at TheWirecutter.com.

You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at The Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we’ll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot — some of these sales could expire mighty soon.

iPad Pro 9.7″ 128GB

Street price: $750; MSRP: $750; deal price: $625

A big $125 drop below the street price, and $25 below the best price we’ve seen on this iPad Pro. This is part of Best Buy’s Black Friday in July sale, and you have to be signed into your Best Buy account to see these discounts. They’re also knocking $125 off of the 256GB model, if you’d prefer to have more storage space. While we’re featuring the rose gold model, this deal is available on all colors.

The iPad Pro 9.7″ 128GB is our upgrade pick in our iPad guide. Dan Frakes said, “If you need better performance for media editing, multitasking, or gaming; support for Apple’s fantastic Pencil stylus; better color accuracy; smartphone-class cameras; more storage capacity; or a huge screen, one of the two iPad Pro models is for you.”

ASUS ZenBook UX305UA

Street price: $750; MSRP: $900; deal price: $700

Zenbooks tend to gradually drop their street price by $50 every few months, and this deal is no exception. We last saw it drop from $800 to $750 towards the end of March, and it’s now dropped down to $700, the best price we’ve seen to date.

The ASUS ZenBook UX305UA is our budget pick for the best ultrabook. Kimber Streams said, “It’s inexpensive, slim, and light, and it has great battery life, a decent keyboard, and a reliable trackpad. It’s the only ultrabook in this price range with 8 GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and an Intel Core i5 processor—you’d have to spend $200 to $400 more to get a better one. The downside? The ZenBook UX305UA lacks a couple of amenities such as a touchscreen and a backlit keyboard.”

Refurbished Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch

Street price: $200 (new); MSRP: $250 (new); deal price: $100

Only the second deal we’ve posted on a refurbished model of the Pebble Time Steel, and a big $40 drop below the best price we’ve seen. This deal is only available on the gold color and comes with a 90-day warranty.

The Pebble Time Steel is a smartwatch we like in our guide to the best smartwatch. Kevin Purdy wrote, “At this price, we’d recommend the Pebble Time Steel as a budget entry for Android phone owners. If the square look and wider straps work for you, the watch does an increasingly good job of relaying and responding to notifications, tracking your steps and sleep, and, of course, showing the time, all of the time.”

Aukey Quick Charge 2.0 54W 5 Port USB Desktop Charging Station

Street price: $25; MSRP: $32; deal price: $19 with code QQFYTSD8

Make sure to use the code QQFYTSD8 to get this price. We’ve seen this charger at $20 after code a couple of times, and while this isn’t much cheaper than that, it is a new low.

The Aukey Quick Charge 2.0 54W 5 Port USB Desktop Charging Station is one of the Quick Charge 2 options we list in our best multiport USB wall charger guide. Nick Guy wrote, “For five-port chargers, we recommend Aukey’s Quick Charge 2.0 54W 5 Port USB Desktop Charging Station. It has a single Quick Charge port plus four 2.4-amp ports. During this round of testing, we didn’t have four iPads on hand to test the maximum charging capacity, but we can confirm that two iPads and one Quick Charge 2.0 smartphone can charge at full speed at the same time.”

Deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The Wirecutter.com.

21
Jul

Asus ZenPad Z8 review | A spec-heavy $249 Verizon tablet


This post originally appeared on our sister site TabTimes.com where you can find benchmarks and additional screenshots

It’s not too often we see an affordable tablet compatible with a cellular network like Verizon deliver an experience nearly free of compromises. Although the affordable smartphone market has been more competitive as of late, with a sometimes even overwhelming number of excellent affordable options, budget tablets often leave something to be desired.

  • ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 review
  • Laptop, tablet or both, ASUS has you covered at Computex 2016

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the same company that brought us the remarkable Zenfone 2, various affordable tablets, and the Nexus 7 is now offering what appears to be one of the best “bang for your buck” tablets.

Where does the ASUS ZenPad Z8 excel and where does it fall short? Let’s find out in our comprehensive ASUS ZenPad Z8 review!

Buy the Asus ZenPad Z8 now!

Design

ASUS has undoubtedly delivered a clean and simplistic design with the Z8. Its textured plastic rear is subtle to the eye yet impressionable in the hand, and makes the tablet easier to grip. Unfortunately, the plastic band running along the edges of the tablet doesn’t seem to help with the ZenPad’s structural integrity, which is notably weak. The tablet’s plastic construction does lend to a nice handling experience in both portrait and landscape orientation, however.

ASUS ZenPad Z8-11

The power and volume buttons, found on the right edge, are tactile and positioned well. ASUS has implemented a fairly inconspicuous flap towards the top of the left edge, which covers the microSIM card slot, for data connectivity, and the microSD card slot, for expanding the tablet’s 16 GB of storage, up to 128 GB.

The front of the Z8 features a Verizon logo on the bottom, as well as a 2 MP front-facing camera on the top. Capacitive navigation keys are absent, and navigation is instead handled by on-screen keys. Although the iconography follows ASUS’ ZenUI design language, the layout matches what Google has defined as standard.

Display

ASUS ZenPad Z8 AA-1

The ZenPad’s 7.9″ QXGA (2048 x 1536) display offers a high pixel density of 324 PPI, which is a pleasant surprise at this price. The display’s sharpness is very important when consuming text-heavy content, such as webpages or ebooks. Viewing angles are also good and the display’s color reproduction is fairly accurate.

ASUS’ Splendid app is also worthy of praise, as it offers granular control over the display’s color temperature, in addition to several screen color modes. If you’d like to bump up the display’s vividness, for example, you can simply select the “Vivid” mode.

ASUS ZenPad Z8-5

Sadly, the display’s glass is very reflective and the highest brightness setting is still relatively low, which makes reading the display in direct sunlight challenging in many cases. I also noticed that auto-brightness tended to dim the display too much, which eventually became so frustrating that I had to turn it off completely.

One other attribute to keep in mind is the display’s 4:3 aspect ratio, which makes the tablet seem a bit too tall in landscape mode when watching 21:9 movies or even 16:9 TV shows or videos. Put simply, you may see some letter boxing when consuming this type of content. I should note that the 4:3 aspect ratio does work well, however, when reading or web browsing.

Performance

ASUS ZenPad Z8-8

Under the hood, the ASUS ZenPad Z8 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650, which offers performance comparable to that of the Snapdragon 808. During my time with the Z8, I did not notice much lag nor did I find app load times to be unreasonably long.

I did, however, have some minor trouble multitasking with more than a couple of apps. Unfortunately, the Z8 includes just 2 GB of RAM, which although often enough for some low-end smartphones, was not enough to keep up with my tablet usage demands. If you plan on using the tablet for simple tasks like video streaming and reading, however, this should not be an issue.

The Adreno 510 delivers great gaming performance and users should have no trouble playing higher-end games like Asphalt 8: Airborne. This is great to see, as tablets in this price category often skimp in this department.

Hardware

ASUS ZenPad Z8-9

Unlike many sub-$300 tablets, the ASUS ZenPad Z8 allows you to receive 4G LTE data on the Verizon Wireless network. It’s also compatible with Verizon’s strong XLTE network, meaning that you’ll receive more reliable and faster data coverage in congested areas. And, although band support is limited to the Verizon network, the tablet itself is unlocked and can be used on other compatible LTE networks.

ASUS ZenPad Z8-10

It’s great to see ASUS adopt the newer USB Type-C standard with the ZenPad Z8. Unlike the now outdated microUSB, USB Type-C is reversible so you won’t have to worry about plugging the cable in “the wrong way” when attempting to charge the device.

The ASUS ZenPad Z8 features dual front-facing speakers, which is something that we all love to see, especially on tablets. In terms of actual audio quality, they sound pretty good with some minor distortion and tinniness at full volume. But for the price, it’s really difficult to complain here.

Battery Life

 

Battery life with the Z8 was good, thanks to the tablet’s large non-removable 4680mAh battery. I was able to consistently achieve over five hours of screen on time with a minimum of twelve hours of standby. Although there are tablets out there offering better battery life, this should be more than enough for almost all users. ASUS’ power saving profiles can also help squeeze just a bit more juice when you are running low on battery.

Camera

ASUS ZenPad Z8-7

ASUS has implemented an 8 MP rear camera on the ZenPad Z8, but you should really avoid using it whenever possible. Although it certainly is nice to have and may come in handy in some situations, the images it produces are soft, noisy, and lack detail.

Camera samples from the ZenPad Z8:

With that said, color reproduction is excellent, saturation seems to be good, and autofocus is reliable and fairly fast. Low-light performance is poor, although ASUS’ Owl mode does help bring up the brightness by reducing the image quality. Chances are, however, that the camera on your smartphone is simply better in most conditions.

Software

ASUS ZenPad Z8-3

Shipping with ASUS’ ZenUI skin over Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, the ZenPad Z8 provides a great software experience. The user interface does feel a bit cartoonish, but the overall mechanics are very similar to stock Android. Overall, there’s nothing terribly out of the ordinary if you’ve used Android in the past.

There are some nice software additions, however. The screen color settings and audio equalizer are very nice to have, apps like Do It Later and Quick Memo can be helpful, and the included Help app could come in handy, especially for those who are not yet comfortable with Android. Thankfully, bloatware is also kept to a minimum, with only a few Verizon apps and four Amazon apps.

Sadly, the selection of tablet apps available on the Google Play Store is still very limited compared to Apple’s App Store. Many of the apps available on Android are simply not optimized for tablets, which is certainly a bummer. You’ll still have a wide selection of apps, but do be aware that not all will run as smoothly as they do on the iPad.

Gallery

Price & Conclusion

ASUS ZenPad Z8-1

The ASUS ZenPad Z8 is now available through Verizon Wireless for $250 off contract (or $10.41/mo. for 24 months). That’s a very competitive price, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a comparable cellular connected tablet.

You can also purchase the Z8 for $150 with a two year contract. You should, however, consider how you’d like to use the tablet before agreeing. Although there are certainly use cases where paying for data makes sense, you may end up mostly relying on Wi-Fi, especially if you don’t plan on taking the tablet outside of your home often. By paying an extra $100 up front (or by financing the device), you can avoid any headaches down the road.

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There is little complaining that can be done once you factor in the Z8’s affordable pricing. Although the display could be less reflective, there could be more RAM, and the camera could produce better images, there’s a lot to love about this tablet. With its dual front-facing speakers, excellent high-resolution display, and very good performance, the ZenPad Z8 is yet another home run for ASUS.

Buy the Asus ZenPad Z8 now!

What do you think of the ASUS ZenPad Z8? Will you be picking one up? Let us know in the comment section below!

This post originally appeared on our sister site TabTimes.com where you can find benchmarks and additional screenshots

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