Asus has gone all out with its Zenfone series in India. But back at Computex 2015, it had also released a lot of tablets with the ZenPad series. This tablet series was launched in India with the introduction of the ZenPad 8.0, ZenPad 7.0 which come with or without the audio cover and the entry level ZenPad 7.0 C. We got a chance to review the ZenPad 7.0 with the audio cover and here are our observations.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
Asus ZenPads in the past have not really been that great in terms of looks, but the Zenpad 7.0 improves on the design aspect. The tablet comes in two covers - one is the regular textured plastic cover and the other is the audio cover. The audio cover needs to be bought separately and in order to attach it, you will need to remove the original cover of the tablet. You need to be a bit careful when snapping on the cover, as there are a lot of areas around the edges that need to be properly locked in place. The faux leather audio cover increases the thickness of the overall tablet with the cover, but gives a much elegant look to the package.
The tablet has rounded edges, with the power standby and volume rocker buttons on the right hand side, the 3.5mm audio jack on the top and the microUSB data transfer and charging port on the base. There is a chrome lining around the edge which looks nice. The front has the 7-inch display with thin bezels on the side whereas at the top and bottom, you have thick bezels. The rear cover hides the SIM card slot as well as the microSD card slot.
The Asus ZenPad 7.0 sports a 7-inch 1280x800 pixel display and houses the quad-core Intel Atom x3-C3230 chipset clocked at 900MHz along with Mali 450 GPU and this is paired with 2GB of RAM. It comes with 16GB of internal storage and you can increase the storage via the microSD card slot up to 128GB. Considering this is an Asus mobile device, the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS has the ZenUI skin atop it. We will cover it in depth in the software section.
It houses an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP front camera.On the connectivity front, you have a 3G micro SIM card slot, Wi-fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS. There is no FM Radio.
The audio cover comes with a 2300mAh battery and has five speakers and one sub woofer housed underneath that textured grilled section. You can either charge the battery on the audio cover while it is attached to the tablet, or there is an external charger with a microUSB port to charge it.
Just like its siblings from the smartphone segment, the Asus ZenPad 7.0 tablet comes with the ZenUI atop the Android 5.0.2 Lollipop OS. The ZenUI as we have observed before, is notorious for force-feeding a lot of pre-loaded apps down your throat and the situation with the ZenPad is no different. There are pre-loaded apps such as Omlet Chat, which we doubt anyone uses here. Thankfully, ZenUI lets you uninstall the apps - which is a big relief as it clears out a lot of space on your internal flash storage.
There are some useful apps such as Kids Mode, which lets you select the apps you want only your kids to access; Photo Collage, lets you make quick grids for images shot on the tablet; Power Saver, which lets you activate different power saving modes. But at the same time there are a lot of redundant apps which perform the same function. For instance the note taking apps. We just feel instead of bundling over 20 apps with any ZenUI based product, Asus should give users the option on first boot as to which apps they really want to install - rather than making us select and uninstall unwanted apps later.
Thanks to such a heavy skin and pre-loaded apps, there is a noticeable lag whenever you want to go to the home screen from any app. There were many instances, when the tablet just refused to change the orientation despite the Auto-rotate function being on. In these cases we had no option but to restart the tablet. App switching isn’t the quickest either.
The audio output coming out of the audio cover is very loud and for the most tracks we tested there was no distortion on high volume levels. Audio quality is most responsive in the mid range frequency, with extremely low and higher frequencies getting clipped off. Thanks to the cover, you can place the tablet in the landscape mode and enjoy a movie without your earphones. The tablet does not easily lock into the groove of the audio cover and you have to set it up with care.
In terms of gaming, the Asus ZenPad 7.0 is good enough only for casual games. With heavy games there is severe frame-dropping that is noticed. Forget playing Asphalt 8: Airborne on this tablet, as not only is it painfully slow, the graphics appear with too many jaggies and makes it look ugly. AnTuTu 6.0 benchmark refused to run the 3D benchmark. Also the tablet does get warm while gaming.
The Benchmark scores are as seen above, aren’t anything to boast about. The Intel Atom x3 chipset, isn’t the fastest out there and it shows in the performance. The ZenPad 7.0 comes with a SIM card slot and call quality was good on most counts.
The 7-inch 1280 x 800 pixel IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass protection. It gives a pixel density of 216 ppi. The text isn’t the sharpest as you do notice dithering around the edges. In many apps, you can notice pixillation. Being used to seeing full HD displays on phones, coming to a tablet with a 7-inch HD display has its side-effects. However, barring this, the display is quite pleasant. The brightness levels are good and with the audio cover attached, watching movies on the display is a pleasure. The viewing angles are good and so are the contrast levels. The screen is reflective in dark scenes.
An 8MP camera graces the rear side and there is a 2MP front-facing camera. The camera quality is quite mediocre in low light and with daylight shots you get images that can be shared online, but images lack sharpness. With distant objects such as trees in landscapes, there is absolutely no detail. You get a lot of features such as modes including Depth of Field, GIF Animation, Smart remove and so on. Basically all the bells and whistles seen on Asus Zenfone cameras. The video camera can shoot HD videos which are strictly OK. Front camera is good for Skype calling.
Battery Life: 6.5/10
The Asus ZenPad 7.0 houses a 3,450mAh battery. This isn’t a huge number considering we are seeing phones these days with higher battery capacities. It gave an on-screen time of around 5 hours 43 minutes with the audio cover attached according to PC Mark for Android benchmark. Without the audio cover, you get around 4 hours 30 mins.
Verdict and Price in India
The standout feature of the Asus ZenPad 7.0 is the audio functionality which it bundles with the Audio cover. Not only does the audio cover give a richer and louder sound, but the 2300mAh battery on the audio cover also gives a boost to the longevity of the tablet itself. Apart from that, the ZenPad 7.0 is like any other tablet - and an expensive one at that looking at the performance and feature sheet.
The Intel Atom x3 chipset isn't the fastest around and the performance of the ZenPad 7.0 was evidently a bit on the slower side of things thanks to the heavy ZenUI skin. Gaming is only possible with casual games. We liked the fact that you can increase the storage and the display quality is good for movies which makes it a good candidate if you want a tablet primarily to watch content when on the go.
At Rs 11,999 for the tablet only and Rs 14,999 along with the Audio Cover, the Asus ZenPad 7.0 clearly makes sense only with the tablet cover. If you are willing to forego the calling feature, the Xiaomi MiPad at Rs 12,999 is certainly quite competitive and a better performer.
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