Top positive review
Great Tablet, premium feel,great screen, fast performance. Horrible camera and possible charging issues.
Reviewed in the United States on April 21, 2017
ASUS ZenPad 3S 10 9.7"
UPDATE June 25, 2018
Still working and looking fantastic. Mine is still rocking Android 6.0. I am a little irked that this tablet does support the Asus Z Stylus but Asus took it out of production so if you find one, you are going to pay a premium for one. Asus, dont get rid of accessories for tablets if you are still pushing the tablets and touting the feature! Other than that, still the best tablet I have ever owned. Oh, and camera is still sub-sub-par.
I have too many tablets. I just do, I love them. My obsession started with the original Asus TF101 Transformer. I loved it. It debuted in 2011 a month after motorola’s and dells offering of tablets. Samsung beat both releasing one in 2010. I still consider it to be one of the best tablets ever made at that time and if you had the keyboard dock you could purchase, then you were living easy.
Flash forward to 2017, I currently am using and iPad 2(which i bought from a school sale) and a Nvidia K1 tablet. The ipad is meh, but it is almost 6 years old, it's a work tablet. My Nvidia K1 is a monster, hard to beat, gorgeous screen and great gaming performance. The thing was, I was growing tired of the widescreen aspect that the K1 had. I longed for more reading room. The K1 is an 8in tablet. I decided I would purchase a 10in tablet with the standard 4:3 ratio. I had my work cut out.
First and foremost was cost. I do not have lots of cash to throw around at just anything. I needed something that was reasonable and performed well.
After much looking and flipping I decided on the Asus Zenpad 3S. It was ten inches, had a hexacore processor, a 2048x1536 screen resolution, 4GB of ram and 64GM of storage. Not many other tablets on the market could equal that, considering the price of $299.00 Asus was asking. I reached into my back pocket, pulled out my wallet and threw it at my screen telling Amazon to take my money. Deal done!
I received the tablet and immediately tore it from the very nice and well packed premium box Asus wisely decided to pack it in. In the box was also a USB to USB-C cord, a USB plug(not quick charge), item documentation, a hard cardboard stand(?!?!?), and a small key that is used to access the micro sd card slot.
The tablet itself was wrapped entirely in a clear plastic envelope, ensuring your unit would be free of scratches from its transit.
The tablet, is beautiful. The nice gray back cover with Asus tastefully emblazoned upon it. The rear facing camera in the upper corner. The tablet has those beveled diamond edges that many manufacturers are using. Premium look. This tablet matches my Asus 2-in-1 laptop to a tee. That was a bonus. The screen, as usual, is glass from side to side. It is supposedly Gorilla glass 3. The front has a physical home button and two capacitive buttons to the side of it. Many people comment on how this is a Apple clone. I don't see it. In fact, the face reminds me of a Galaxy Tab with the oval-ish home button and the side capacitive buttons. The tablet is wonderful to look at and a pleasure in the hands. There are two speaker ports, true stereo on either side of the USB-C connection. On the right side is the power button and the volume rocker. Both made out of the same diamond beveled material the sides are. They feel solid. The top houses only a headphone jack and a small hole which I believe is the microphone for the tablet. The left side is almost barren of any features save for a small hole. You take the small key(or paperclip) and insert it into that hold and a tray will pop out that holds the Micro SD card. This, I did not care for that much. I will explain that later on.
When powering it on you are greeted by the splash screens. These splash screens tell you that it's powered by MediaTek chipset and has DTS headphone X. I will be honest, I have never had anything using a MediaTek chipset and was a bit worried about it. I have only ever seen MediaTek chipsets used in those cheap Android boxes you can get here on Amazon.
You will go through the usual steps in setting up an android device such as router, gmail account, and the gauntlet of “want to sign up for this while your at it?” type stuff. I set mine up as a new device but it offered the option to set it up like my android phone. I did this once and then proceeded to take a ton of stuff off the tablet could not even use. This time I was smarter.
The screen is wonderful. It is vibrant and sharp.It seems pixel-less. Colors look great right out of the box.
I started to move through the menus and tabs and got a surprise, this tablet is a lot faster than I thought it was going to be. It effortlessly slid from one tab to another. Applications started up immediately with no hesitation. This tablet wants to do things. It wants you to load applications on and run them. I could not slow this beast down.
The tablet does have a custom skin over the android system which Asus calls the Zen UI. It's not bad. It is highly customizable and does not seem to have any effect on speed of the tablet. I won't go into the Zen UI very much because there is a LOT there. It does add a ton of features that stock android does not have by itself. It is very useful and not hard on the eyes.
Underneath the Zen UI is Android 6.0. It has not upgraded yet nor do I know when it will. Right now 6.0 is fine. The enhancements the Zen UI give make it seem like Android 6.5 and it works great.
This tablet has 4GB of system memory and 64GM of storage available, plus you have the option to add a Micro SD card. The amount of storage out of the box on this tablet is great. The 4GB helps it handle multitasking and complex apps with dexterity and ease. Unless you like to pack movies and media on your tablet then the 64GB is more than enough. I, on the other hand, do pack a lot of stuff on, so I added a 64GM micro sd card just for the purpose of storing media. Apps worked wonderfully, even apps that are not meant for this type of device. I tried to load Snapchat on my Nvidia K1 and it hates it, it will not run, usually resulting in a force close or just hanging the tablet up indefinitely. The 3S drags snapchat along kicking and screaming and will run it, even though it's meant for phones. Snapchat has been my go to test for seeing just how well somethings will run apps that are resistant to some chipsets and formats. I do not do a lot of gaming on tablets. I have Fruit Ninja and Minecraft on this tablet. The both run smooth as silk without any hiccup. Apps like Facebook, Microsoft Word, and Snapseed load right away, any hesitation is usually from the app loading your information. Movies and pictures look great on the display, with many options to tweak it to your taste. Just remember, this is a 4:3 format screen, you are going to have black bars across the top and bottom of wide screen movies.
Performance benchmarks put this near the top, but not at the top. I have ran benchmarks on this and the K1. Some say this is faster, some say the K1 is faster. In games benchmarks, they all say the Nvidia K1 is faster and that really is no surprise, it's what it is made for.
The tablet uses USB-C type connection. I had to invest in those cables as having only one cable of anything is just asking for disaster. The tablet is Quick Charge 3.0 compatible, I have not tried it. The supplied plug, surprisingly, is not Quick Charge. That was a head scratcher, but not enough to detract from the over ability and usefulness of the tablet.
The battery seems good, no complaints yet. Seems to hold a charge for a good while during sleep and I get more time than I need during the day from it.
There are two cons with this tablet, one is specific to a manufacturing flaw and the other is I don't know what they were thinking.
This is my second one. The first one developed USB-C issues within a couple of days and refused to charge. I could only watch as the battery drained during normal usage. No USB-C cord that I tried would charge it. I also tried several different charging plugs to no avail. Contacted Amazon and got an rma. I had the new unit even before I sent the old one in. The second unit is working flawlessly so far.
The second con is the cameras. They are horrible. Down right stinking awful. I am of the feeling this is a software thing. There appears to be jpeg noise reduction going on in the tablet and removing a lot of detail that would ordinarily be there. That's just my guess. One of the things Asus touted this tablet about was its 8mp Pixelmaster camera and it's just wretched. I have included photos using the rear camera on the 3S compared to photos from a 2+ year old Note 4. I can only hope that Asus repairs the software control to this camera. I thought the Nvidia K1 took bad pictures. This is worse.
That's enough, I could keep going on and on. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me with questions.
Overall I rate this as Highly recommended. For the price, I doubt you are going to get a better multiple discipline tablet such as this. You could spend $100.00 less and get the K1, but you will sacrifice some compatibility with apps. The K1 is like a tactical fixed blade knife, sharp, proficient and single minded in its purpose. The Asus Zenpad 3S is the leatherman of tablets and won't break the bank. Just keep the receipt in case you have problems with the USB-C charging and don't care about taking pictures with your tablet.