Review of Asus ZenPad 3S 10

 The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 now sits in our best tablet of the year rankings in both the US & UK and the price has dropped a bit too making it an even better buy & you can now download Android 7 software to the slate as well.

While Apple's iPad range has been a big seller since its unveiling in 2010, Android tablets have failed to achieve the same commercial success, even with Google's early enthusiasm for the concept.

Buy Asus ZenPad 3S 10 (4GB RAM 64GB) at Amazon for $289

Asus is evidently of the opinion that if you cannot beat them you should join them, because its latest slate is a dead ringer for the iPad Pro 9.7. It boasts a 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 screen & a design language which is straight out of Apple's Cupertino offices.

It  also have fairly beefy specs on the inside, with power supplied by a MediaTek hexa-core chipset & 4GB of RAM, while a 5900mAh battery is on hand to keep things ticking over.

Asus ZenPad 3S 10 price

  • The Asus ZenPad 3S 10 launched at £300/$300
  • Now dropped to around $270/£270
  • Hasn't been released in Australia and likely won't ever launch there
Couple that with a mid-range launch price of $300 (£300, around AU$515), which is well under what you would pay for a current Apple slate, & it starts to look like Asus could be a winner.

If you shop around for the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 you should as well be able to find it for around $270/£270.

But even in the mid-range competition is steep, with the likes of the Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 & Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 competing for your cash, so the ZenPad 3S 10 needs to be more than just a cheap imitation to stand out.

Design and display

  • Thinner than an iPad at 5.8mm thick
  • Premium, Apple-inspired design
  • Slightly creaky build
There is just no getting around it - the ZenPad 3S 10 really does look an appalling lot like an iPad.

The ZenPad 3S 10 overlooks the widescreen aspect ratio so beloved by Android tablet makers – as Samsung likewise did with the new Galaxy Tab S2 – & follows Apple's lead by adopting a 4:3 display, which naturally makes the 3S 10 stand out from lots of its Google-based rivals.

If you can ignore the cheeky way Asus has copied Apple's concept, there is a lot to like here from a purely physical viewpoint – this is one handsome tablet. The metal casing has elegant, diamond-cut bezels on the corners, while the edges have a gentle curve to them which makes it comfortable to hold.

The volume & power buttons are situated on the top-right corner of the device - assuming you're holding it in portrait orientation - & the only other physical input is the home button, which as well doubles as a shockingly fast & accurate fingerprint scanner.

This is flanked by 2 capacitive buttons for back & multitasking, which illuminate momentarily when you interact with the screen or any of the buttons.

On the top edge, there is a 3.5mm headphone socket, which can output audio in Hi-Res, while the bottom is home to a USB Type-C port & 2 "NXP Amp powered speakers".

Like so much else, the positioning of these speakers calls to mind an iPad – but in this case we wish Asus had revised things a little, as it is far too easy to cover one of the speaker grilles with your palm when you are holding the device.

Front-facing speakers – one at each end of the device – would have been better, though that may have barred Asus from achieving a thickness of just 5.8mm, which makes it thinner than the iPad Pro 9.7. The ZenPad 3S 10 is likewise extremely lightweight for a tablet of these proportions, tipping the scales at around 430g.

One element of Apple's design which Asus miserably has not been able to copy is overall build quality; while the ZenPad 3S 10 looks & feels like a premium device – &, to be fair, it is – there is a noteworthy flex on the back panel when you apply pressure with a finger.

You can even hear the panel moving & pushing against the internal frame, which gives the impression that it is a little hollow inside. The microSD card slot – which is found on the top-left edge & lets you expand further than the tablet's 32GB of memory – rattled quite clearly on our review unit, too.

The tablet's IPS screen is perchance its crowning glory, delivering pin-sharp definition, superb color replication & striking contrast – thanks in part to Asus' own VisualMaster tech.

It is still possible to pick out individual pixels despite the QHD resolution, but that is not strange on tablets of this size & does not impact the visual spectacle.

Viewing angles are rock-solid & you can tinker with how the screen looks through the preinstalled "Splendid" application, which offers a blue light filter option not wholly dissimilar to Apple's Night Shift mode. This lessens the display's blue light emission by up to 30 percent, which supposedly stops it keeping you awake when utilized late at night.