- Gorgeous screen
- Respectable performance
- Lots of crapware
- Terrible rear camera
We review the Asus ZenPad 3s 10 (Z500M), a 9.7-inch Android tablet packing some premium specs and more than a little iPad-style design. Here's everything you need to know about the ZenPad 3s 10, including battery life, performance and more.
So far in 2016, we haven't reviewed many new Android tablets. In fact, one of the last Android tabs we played with was another Asus tab, the ZenPad S 8.0, which we tested out back in February. These days we tend to see a lot more Windows tablets instead, which is a shame because Android works well on a big-screen device.
That's why it was refreshing to spend some time with the ZenPad 3s 10, Asus' latest Android tab which boasts a solid all-round user experience and strong media creds. Here's our full Asus ZenPad 3s 10 review.
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Asus ZenPad 3s 10 Review: Design
Apple may well have been an inspiration when it comes to the ZenPad 3s 10's design, although to be perfectly fair, there's only so much you can actually do with a tablet's looks.
The ZenPad's matte metal edging and rear plate are nicely broken up with some shiny banding. Overall it's a clean and tidy design, although there is some flexing on the back when you push on it. Not quite so neat is the strange plastic strip that stretches along the top edge, which on our sample had an uneven gap.
The ZenPad 3s 10 is a full-sized 9.7-inch tablet, just like the smaller Apple iPad Pro, and it weighs roughly the same as Apple's tab (466g). You can't comfortably stretch your hand across the back of the device, but it's possible to grip the the ZenPad at the edge while you use your other hand to tap and swipe around. And it's pleasingly slim too, so easy enough to slip into a bag.
Asus ZenPad 3s 10 Review: Screen and media
Asus' 9.7-inch screen boasts a mightily sharp 2048x1536 resolution, just like the iPad Pro 9.7. That means high-def videos look gorgeously crisp and you can see even super-tiny details in high-res photos. Brightness levels and viewing angles are strong, while visuals are reproduced with realistic hues.
You get two speakers mounted on the bottom edge of the tablet and they can put out quite a powerful sound for mobile blowers. You'll happily be able to enjoy some video streaming without the need to stick in earphones, even if you're in a noisy environment. And if you want to kick back with some music on the go, there's support for Hi-Res Audio when you plug in your 'phones.
That 32GB of built-in storage can be boosted by slipping in a microSD memory card, with cards up to 128GB supported. Plenty of space for a big movie collection, if you're heading off on hols.
Asus ZenPad 3s 10 Review: OS and features
Android Marshmallow has been tweaked with Asus' own ZenUI overlay, which adds a few bonus features.
Families are well catered for with the Kids Mode feature, which gives your little ones access only to features that you specify. There's also a timer to prevent them from playing for too long in one stretch, although the likes of Amazon's Fire tablets offer more control.
Gamers have the Game Genie tool, which can record your play session and upload to your YouTube or Twitch account. When activated, Game Genie pops a dinky icon on-screen, which is used to call up a menu of options. You can boost performance, search for game guides and hit record if you want to save your mad skills.
And of course, as usual, Asus has pre-installed tons of apps onto the ZenPad 3s 10. or as we respectively dub it, 'crapware'. Thankfully you can dump them to free up some storage space and tidy up your apps tray.
Beneath the ZenPad's screen, there's a handy fingerprint sensor built into the home button. That sensor works perfectly, unlocking the tablet instantly when you press your digit to the surface and push. It's very rare to see a 'not recognised' error message no matter what angle your finger is at, unless you've got wet or dirty hands.
Asus ZenPad 3s 10 Review: Performance and battery life
Stuffed inside the ZenPad 3s 10 is a MediaTek MT8176 hexa-core processor, backed by 4GB of RAM. In our AnTuTu benchmarking tests, the tablet scored a respectable 73464, and we found that everyday performance was on the whole good.
It's not perfect, sadly; you will see a little stutter here and there, such as the occasional delay in text appearing after you start typing with the on-screen keyboard. That said, the latest games still play perfectly well and you can get stuck into some serious app action without frustration. Just don't expect a silky smooth performance like the iPad Pro offers.
The ZenPad 3s 10 did crash on me after the first few hours of use, shutting down itself and refusing to power up again. Thankfully the tablet booted up again after I held the power button down for a few seconds, and the incident never repeated, so here's hoping that was just a one-off.
Battery life is decent, although not quite as strong as the iPad Pro's impressive longevity. With mixed use (a bit of browsing, some messaging, video streaming and gaming), you can expect to get around six hours of play time before a charge is needed. Of course, the ZenPad 3 10 has a power saver mode if you're in need of a little bit extra and the tablet will even warn you about power-sucking apps running in the background.
Asus ZenPad 3s 10 Review: Cameras
On the back of the ZenPad 3s 10 you'll find an 8-megapixel camera that can shoot Full HD video. It's a perfectly serviceable snapper if you want to take a quick shot of a document or something, but it's very basic so don't try using it as a proper camera. In low light, photo quality is especially dreadful.
More useful is the 5-megapixel front-facing camera. This can be used for Skype chats and the like, and there's a Beautify mode which half-heartedly touches up your face and removes those wrinkles.
Asus ZenPad 3s 10 Review: Verdict
The Asus ZenPad 3s 10 is a solid enough Android tablet, which at £300 is cheaper than the full-sized iPads. Media fans will enjoy the excellent 9.7-inch 2K display and Hi-Res audio support and there's some useful features for families too, while performance and battery life are perfectly fine.
- Android 6.0
- MediaTek hexa-core
- 32GB + microSD
- Fingerprint sensor