Midrange Android tablets are for media. That seems to be what we've settled on—the moment for Android tablets to be used extensively for productivity has passed, and they're by and large being used for reading and watching. If that's what you want a tablet for, then good news: The $299 Asus ZenPad 3S 10 has a great screen and some beefy speakers in a slim body, making it a good choice for watching movies and reading comics. It has one annoying flaw, though: relatively short battery life means it may not be ready when you are.
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Asus tablets this year have a good, solid, all-metal feel to them. The ZenPad 3S 10 is slim and light, very similar in size to the Apple iPad Air 2 at 9.47 by 6.44 by 0.28 inches (HWD) and 15.2 ounces. There are powerful dual speakers at the bottom, along with a USB-C port; they blast out sound significantly louder than both the ZenPad Z10 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. The power and volume buttons are on the right, and on the left, there's a microSD card slot that can handle a 256GB card. The home button is a fingerprint sensor.
I wouldn't call the tablet durable, though. Like on many other super-slim tablets, the glass on the screen has no protective rim around it, so I imagine it can crack pretty easily. The tablet also isn't waterproof, but none of the leading tablets out there other than Sony's are right now.
Android and Performance
The ZenPad 3S 10 is powered by a Mediatek 8176 processor running at 2.1GHz and has 4GB of RAM. Together, they provide thoroughly midrange performance, similar to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 in the ZenPad Z10 for Verizon. The most advanced OpenGL 3.1 gaming benchmarks fail, but most games and multimedia software chug along, and the 4GB of RAM helps enable multitasking.
The 3S 10 runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with a very heavy ZenUI skin. There is no dual-window multitasking. Asus says an Android 7.0 Nougat update will come, but don't hold your breath. ZenUI actually adds a whole bunch of useful features and settings to Android, like a blue light filter for night use, a restricted kids' mode (missing by default on many Samsung devices), and a decent-looking system cleaner. There are also many features you'll probably never use, like gesture controls.
Falling in the middle is Asus' Z Stylus support. The Z Stylus is a $29.99 wireless, pressure-sensitive stylus that works with the company's Super Note and several other drawing programs. We didn't get one with our review model, but I'd be hesitant to recommend this tablet to serious illustrators simply because its graphics performance isn't leading, which might create lag. Folks wanting to draw should look at the Lenovo Yoga Book instead.
Without LTE on board, the 3S 10 relies on Wi-Fi, and its dual-band Wi-Fi support is just fine. I found it to be on par with other tablets like the ZenPad Z10 and the Galaxy Tab S2. The tablet also has GPS and Bluetooth 4.2
The 5,900mAh battery can charge quickly over USB-C with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, except that the tablet doesn't include a Quick Charge 3.0 adapter. (They cost $15-20.) You'll want to get
Media playback is a big strength, but let's be realistic here: You're not going to get the advertised "7.1 surround sound" with two speakers facing in the same direction. But as mentioned earlier, those speakers still punch above their weight, and they can fill a room. The headphone amp had no problem driving my Bowers & Wilkins P7 headphones, and one of
The 64GB tablet has 52.7GB free, and it works just fine with 256GB microSD cards, including using Android's Adoptable Storage mode to make the microSD look like
The tablet's cameras are just so-so, though. The main 8MP camera is fine
Comparisons and Conclusions
Asus is delivering solid value for the money at $299 for a 2048-by-1536, 10-inch, 64GB tablet. Yes, there are better tablets out there—but not for this price. The ZenPad 3S 10 gives you the multimedia chops you'd expect from a tablet costing $100-200 more. But it's important to know where the ZenPad's limits are. Android doesn't have the range of tablet-oriented games you'll find on the iOS platform, or the quality of productivity apps you'll find on Windows. And the Mediatek processor here isn't going to rock the world with its gaming performance. But, once again, you have to spend around $500 to get a better processor, or an iOS or Windows tablet with this kind of screen. Just make sure to keep it near a charger.