Last year, I reviewed the ASUS ZenPad 3S 10. At the time, it was ASUS' flagship tablet and took a fair bit of design inspiration from the iPad. I came away mostly impressed, but the outdated version of Android (6.0 Marshmallow) and meager battery life definitely held back its potential.

Around the same time, ASUS released the ZenPad Z10, a similar tablet exclusive to Verizon. If you read Jordan's review, you'll know it was a much better device. It had a better processor, a bigger battery, and Verizon LTE support. ASUS has now followed up that tablet with the ZenPad Z8s, another Verizon-exclusive tablet with similar specs and design. But as the name implies, this one has an eight-inch screen instead of a 10-inch one.

The Android tablet market might not be as exciting as it was during the Honeycomb and ICS era, but I think the Z8s is still a darn good tablet.

Specs

CPU Snapdragon 652
RAM 3GB
Display 8" 2048x1536 IPS LCD
Storage 16GB with microSD expansion
Camera 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
Battery 4,680mAh
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Verizon LTE Advanced

The Good

Display The 2048x1536 screen looks fantastic.
Design This has the same premium-feeling metal design that the Z10 has.
Battery The Z8s can easily last multiple binge-watching sessions, and idle battery drain is near zero.
Storage There's a microSD card slot.

The Not So Good

Software I would have liked to see 7.1 at this point, and ASUS' track record with updates isn't great.
Navigation Not only are there capacitive navigation buttons, but they don't light up in the dark.
Charging There is no quick charging.
Exclusivity You can only buy this tablet from Verizon.

Design and Display

The previous ZenPad Z8 wasn't much to look at - it had a black front and back, with the only highlights being an ASUS logo on the rear and a Verizon sticker on the front. The new Z8s is a huge upgrade in this department, with an aluminum back and a plastic band at the top (for wireless reception). The sides and buttons are also metal, giving the Z8s a very premium feel.

On the bottom is a USB Type-C port, which doesn't appear to support any level of fast charging. The included wall adapter only delivers 5V/3A, and both my Pixel's USB-PD charger and my ZenPad 3S 10's QuickCharge 3.0 charger had the same maximum speed. The lack of any quick charging functionality seems odd, especially considering both the 3S 10 and Z10 supported QC3.0.

On both sides of the charging port are the speakers. The positioning of the speakers was one of my big complaints with the ZenPad 3S 10, which also had them on the bottom. When watching media in landscape, your hands will cover both, unless you hold it by one side or lean it against something. I really wish more tablets had front-facing speakers.

There's also a headphone jack, which you can't take for granted these days. On the left side is the microSD/SIM card tray, and on the right is the power button and volume rocker. It's worth noting that the Z8s does support Android's adoptable storage, as long as you have a fast enough SD card. The power button is positioned below the volume rocker, which is a little annoying; I'm more used to the power button being on top from using my Pixel.

Left: ZenPad Z8s; Right: ZenPad 3S 10

Moving to the front, we see one of the Z8s' main attractions - the 2048x1536 IPS LCD display. Most 8" tablets usually have 720p or 1080p screens, but ASUS has gone all out with the screen on the Z8s. It's not AMOLED, but it gets very bright and the colors are great. You may notice that the resolution is a little unusual - that's because the screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio like the iPad.

While this is definitely better than 16:9 for web browsing and reading, it's not as great for media. You'll always have black bars at the top and bottom while watching widescreen content. Since I almost exclusively use tablets for media consumption, I'm not a huge fan of the 4:3 screen, but the high resolution makes up for it.

Also on the front of the tablet are capacitive back/recent buttons, and a physical home button. Unlike the ZenPad 3S 10, but like the ZenPad Z10, the home button is not a fingerprint sensor. The capacitive keys also don't light up at all, which means using this tablet in the dark is not great. When using this tablet at night, I'll often have to keep tapping where I think a button is before it gets pressed. I really don't understand why all tablets don't use software navigation keys at this point.

Camera

Tablet cameras are famously awful, and this is no exception. The photos are overexposed, and color balance is terrible. Most of my photos ended up blurry as well, despite me holding the tablet as still as possible. And don't even think about taking pictures at night or in a dimly-lit room.

The front camera is slightly better, but suffers from the same problems as the back camera. Color balance is especially an issue, and the 'Beautification' setting just makes you look like a featureless blob.

Considering that most people never take pictures with tablets, the Z8s' poor cameras aren't really an issue for me. But if you plan on making video calls on a regular basis, you'll probably be disappointed.

Performance

As you might have noticed in the specs sheet, the ZenPad Z8s has a Snapdragon 652 with 3GB of RAM. With the Snapdragon 6xx series being known for great battery life, I hoped it would last me longer than the ZenPad 3S 10 did. But before diving into my experience, I'll go over benchmark results.

  

On Geekbench 4, the Z8s scored a 1423 for single-core performance and 4061 for multi-core tasks (full results here). On 3DMark's Sling Shot Extreme test, the tablet got a score of 869. And finally, the Z8s scored 81393 on AnTuTu.

In real world usage, the ZenPad Z8s is plenty fast. Opening apps and switching between them is speedy, and I only noticed slowdowns when attempting to view complex web pages with lots of media. The Snapdragon 625 isn't the best for 3D gaming, but playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas at full resolution (at Medium graphics) only occasionally made the tablet stutter. As mentioned above, I mostly just use tablets for light reading and media playback, and the Z8s is excellent at both.

Battery Life

Another solid aspect of the ZenPad Z8s is the battery life. Jordan praised the battery life of the Z10, as he got around 6.5 hours of screen-on time with a mix of gaming and media playback. That tablet had a large 7,800mAh battery, but the Z8s has a smaller 4,680mAh battery.

 

Despite the lower capacity, I still found the Z8s to have a fantastic battery life. In one instance, I saw 7hrs of screen-on time after using the tablet on and off for three days. It's important to note that my usage may differ from yours. I really only use tablets for media consumption and occasional web browsing, and usually only for an hour or two at a time (that drop at the end was a several-hour binge session of The Office while I was sick in bed). If you play 3D games often, or use it as a primary computing device, you'll probably see shorter battery life.

In my testing, there didn't seem to be any noticeable extra battery drain when using LTE over Wi-Fi. I will say that my area has very good Verizon coverage, so the tablet didn't have to work very hard to maintain a strong signal.

Software

At the time of writing, the ZenPad Z8s is running Android 7.0 with the May 1st security patch level. While the software is a bit out of date, it's still much better than the ZenPad 3S 10 I reviewed last year with Android Marshmallow. While still not as great as an iPad (especially with iOS 11's fantastic multi-tasking), Nougat makes using Android tablets so much better. Not only is there native multi-window, but the improved Doze makes tablets use almost no power when left alone (as my battery testing clearly showed).

  

Unsurprisingly, the company's ZenUI skin is present on the Z8s. There have been a few changes since I reviewed the 3S 10 — the notification tray looks closer to stock Android and the launcher's Widgets tab is gone — but it's mostly the same. The bulk of ASUS' modifications can be turned off or easily ignored. One of the main software features is 'Blur-free motion,' which is pretty much the same motion smoothing feature that many new TVs have. I'm personally not a fan of this, so I turned it off, but it's there if you want it.

Some of the other changes include ZenMotion (gestures for opening apps), app shortcuts on the lock screen, and a suite of ASUS-developed apps. I'm not a fan of the company's keyboard, so I immediately installed Gboard, but the included launcher is quite nice. Three Verizon apps were also included on my unit - Verizon Cloud, Message+, and My Verizon.

  

It's worth noting that ASUS' track record for updates is not the best. If Android Oreo does arrive for this tablet, it will likely be a while. The 3S 10 was released in July of 2016, and received Nougat almost a year later. I would have liked to see at least 7.1 on this unit, but the current software experience was fine in my experience.

Conclusion

The ZenPad Z8s is a really good tablet. The screen is fantastic, the build quality is premium, the battery life is excellent, and it works just fine with Verizon's LTE network. Most of my annoyances with this tablet are minor, like the capacitive navigation buttons and camera quality. Verizon is currently selling the Z8s for $10.41/month for 24 months or $249 full price. I think that's a pretty fair price for everything you get.

If you're a Verizon customer looking for a smaller tablet with LTE connectivity, I think the Z8s is a great choice. I just wish it wasn't a Verizon exclusive.

Buy ZenPad Z8s at Verizon