Thursday, January 07, 2016

Hands-on experience of the ASUS ZenPad 8.0 with Audio Cover

The ASUS ZenPad 8.0 Z380KL is the Taiwanese company's latest flagship device. It is the world’s first tablet to have an integrated speaker within a protective flip cover.

I have been using the 8 inch ASUS ZenPad 8 with the Audio Cover for the last two weeks and the experience has been quite good. Below is a detailed review of the various aspects of the device that I feel are important, as per my usage.

Click here to read how I laid my hands on the ASUS ZenPad 8 as one of the most surprising aspects of my blogging in 2015.


Looks, Screen Size and Weight

I received an Obsidian Black ZenPad. With its sleek metal back cover and the ASUS logo emblazoned on it, it looks classy. It has an 8 inch display. Having never used a device with this big screen size before, carrying the ZenPad felt a little inconvenient at first, and I felt I was going to drop it or scratch the glass soon. The Audio Cover that came with it is quite sturdy and when attached, gives it an elegant and premium look. It also does make it easier to carry- like a small book in one's hand.

The device is light at 350 grams. But when attached with the audio cover, there is a considerate weight gain. Using it on the lap or on a table is convenient. But holding it in hand for longer durations is painful. Even while making short calls, holding the device with the audio cover to the ear strained my hands, less due to the screen size and much more due to its weight.



Using the ZenPad, First impressions

Like any other Android device, I had to set up my google account and connect it with the ZenPad when I first switched the device on. The set up was easy and with wifi connectivity, I was prompted to upgrade the OS to the latest version immediately (Lollipop only); so did the close to 40 apps that came pre-installed on the device.

It took me a while (2-3 days) to get used to the Android OS, having never used it before. The touch seemed fine, although not as fine as iOS- it did lag a bit at times. The Zen User Interface that comes from ASUS, looks easy to use and convenient, although as is the case with anything new, it takes a short time to get used to things.

The screen auto-brightness setting works quite well. It adjusts itself depending on the amount of light available at any point.

The ZenPad for use as a Phone

The device works as well as any phone for calling and messaging. The sound seemed clear on both ends. The large size of the device that leads to spreading the palm to hold it and it not fitting into one’s pocket, makes it inconvenient for primary use as a phone.

The keyboard does require the use of both hands for easy typing, thanks to the large screen.

Apps

Most of the pre-installed apps including the browser and mail are by ASUS. Although they look interesting and serve various purposes, some apps like the ‘Mirror’ that simply opens up the front camera, seem useless and look like only fancy additions for the limited 16 GB space on the device. There is a ‘Kids Mode’ that lets you lock various apps from being accidentally accessed by minors. I actually liked the Audio Wizard, which lets you manually adjust volume levels when music is played.

Movies, Music

After the initial trouble in getting used to the device, the compatibility of android lured me into it. I added a lot of video files with different file formats and all of them seemed to be working on the device. The screen resolution is a good 1280 x 800 with 189 pixels per inch. Not as close or detailed as the iPad but yeah, the eye hardly notices the difference unless both are placed side-by-side. I have been watching a lot of movies and tv series on the ZenPad and it feels quite convenient. The maximum volume of the audio while headphones are plugged in, felt a little limited.


Audio Cover

The audio cover with its built-in 5.1 speaker sounds amazing. It really is the cherry on the cake and steals the show. The sound is loud and clear, with great base.

Attaching the audio cover was what I found to be a little tiresome. Frequent detachments are definitely not recommended. The device is actually easier to carry with the audio cover on. One downside here, as mentioned earlier, is the extra weight. The cover weighs a lot more than the device on its own.

Camera

The ZenPad 8.0 has two cameras- the front camera is 2 MP and the main camera on the back is 8 MP. The picture quality is okay and not very great. The camera on my iPhone has the exact same resolution but the quality of photos that it produces is definitely a lot better. I am yet to understand and use all the different settings and options that the ZenPad camera provides for pictures, may be there is one that clicks better.

I haven’t seen many people use tablets for photos, and I definitely have never used a tablet before, so the ‘not-so-great’ picture quality was fine for me.

Battery

The battery of the ZenPad is one of its most amazing plus points. It takes nearly 5 hours for a full charge when the battery is low and the device is switched off or on flight mode. I usually have to charge it once in two days when I am actively using it (My active use includes mostly playing movies and some online activity while connected to wifi- so a single charge works for a good 4-5 days). The use of the audio cover does eat battery faster, although the audio cover has its own separate battery which can be charged either in sync with the device or separately.

Parting words

I noticed that most problems that I have faced with the device owe largely to the big screen size and my newness into the world of tablets and the android operating system. Overall, I have actually enjoyed using the device and it is now a regular and must-have device in my bag during my daily commutes to work.

The device didn’t hang even once in the two weeks of use. I filled up the entire internal memory with data, it didn’t seem to have an effect on the performance of the device. It didn’t slow down.

Image Courtesy: ASUS

The ASUS ZenPad 8.0 is priced at Rs.14,999 and the Audio Cover comes separately at a price of Rs.3,000. You should go for it if you are looking for a low cost tablet primarily for watching movies, internet surfing and convenience of the Android OS for being similar to a PC in use.

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