First Look Hands-On With ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA Intel-Powered Android Tablet [Updated]

Update, 9/15/15 - 
We have updated our coverage of the new ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 and have our full review posted here with a full suite of benchmarks and other experiential analysis. Please head here for our detailed coverage or you can check out our quick-take below. 

ASUS is on a roll these days, especially in mobile technologies. In the past few months, the company has surprised us all with the affordable and powerful ZenPhone 2 smartphone (which starts at a very frugal $200 off-contract) and the even cheaper ZenFone 2E which takes the prepaid route via AT&T. ASUS is again using its “Zen factor,” this time in the tablet space, with the introduction of its ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA. And we’ve got a hands-on preview of the premium tablet for you today.

Front and center on the new ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA is a crisp, 7.9-inch QXGA (2048x1536) IPS display that is covered in Gorilla Glass 3. ASUS uses its True2Life+ image processing and TruVivid technology (which is just a fancy term to tell us that that tablet uses a two-layer laminated display design that dispenses with the usual air gap). Both technologies combine to improve not only display brightness, but also color clarity.

Asus Zen Pad S 8 bottom edge

The feel here is all premium, despite the ZenPad S 8's more budget price point. It's very thin, just a hair thicker than an iPad Mini 3, for reference, measuring .3 inches thick. On back, the ZenPad S 8 has a nice brushed and textured aluminum finish that completely resists fingerprints and a rubberize bottom strip with ZenPad branding on it that offers an anti-skid effect when laid down It also makes the device much less slippery in the hand. All told the Zen Pad S 8 just feels, handles and looks great. The display is vivid and balanced as well with perhaps not quite as much saturation and punch as the AMOLED display found on Dell's Venue 8 7000 but still with very good balance, color accuracy contrast. 

Let's take you on a quick guided video tour... 

Under the hood, you’ll find a potent quad-core, 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 that is paired with a PowerVR G6430 for graphics duties. The mobile processor is backed by a healthy 4GB of RAM, which ASUS says is a tablet first, along with 64GB of standard internal storage.

Let's take a quick look at a few early performance numbers...

GFX Bench ZenPad Z580Ca

Ice Storm ZenPad S 8

As you can see, the ZenPad S 8 isn't a dragster on the benchmarks, at least from this early look, but it does hold its own pretty well in gaming and graphics tests.

ASUS has also included a microSD slot with the new slate, which can accommodate another 128GB should you want to carry along your entire library of ripped movies and music. ASUS will also make available an optional $30 Z Stylus that supports 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity.

ASUS ZenPad 8

ASUS is the latest to take advantage of the new, reversible USB-C connector, which we have previously seen in Nokia’s N1 tablet, the 12-inch MacBook and the OnePlus 2 smartphone. However, owing to the confusion that is surrounding the USB-C spec, the ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA is only capable of transferring data at USB 2.0 speeds and lacks USB 3.0 compliance. Considering that most people will likely just be using the port for charging rather than transferring data, this likely isn’t too much of a hindrance.

Speaking of charging, the tablet’s 15.2Wh battery is good for 8 hours of work (or play) before you’ll need to plug back into a wall outlet. That’s about average for the tablets in this size class.

ASUS ZenPad 8

Other specs are pretty much run-of-the-mill when it comes to today’s mobile devices. You’ll find 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, DTS Premium Sound and a headphone jack. Other features are simply less impressive (or lackluster depending on how you look at it), like the 5MP rear camera and the 2MP front-facing camera. However, the bargain-basement camera specs can overlooked considering that most people whip out their smartphones to take the bulk of their pictures and will only use their tablet if it’s the only thing they have handy at the time.

ASUS ZenPad 8

The ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA is available today for $299 from the usual suspects (hoping SKUs come online shortly) including Tiger Direct, Amazon, and Newegg.