The ZenPad S 8.0 comes in a single color option (black) for the U.S. market. Interchangeable covers are available on the lower end SKU, though not the model we're evaluating here.
There's a luxury look and feel to the ZenPad S 8.0 that ASUS
says was inspired by its Zen design philosophy of balancing beauty and strength. While that sounds like marketing hyperbole, this really is a stylish tablet with both obvious and subtle features starting with its thin form factor.
The 7.9-inch IPS display is molded to a chassis that measures just 6.6mm and weighs 298 grams. You don't have to worry about fatigue setting in when wielding the tablet for extended periods with one hand. Its slim design and rounded edges also mean you can slip it into various pouches (purse, backpack, etc.) with relative ease.
A diamond-cut metallic frame borders the display. It's mostly there for aesthetic value, though ASUS says its helps protect the display, too. The frame isn't quite as fancy as beveled edges found on some of Apple
's newer products, though it adds a bit of elegance of the overall look.
When measuring the display diagonally from corner to corner, the ZenPad S 8.0 offers a 74 percent screen-to-body ratio. While seemingly an arbitrary stat for ASUS to throw around, it translates into thinner bezels on either side of the tablet.
The display itself is an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel with a 2K (2048x1536) resolution and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. ASUS employs a number of image processing tricks and techniques to enhance the display's visual quality, including TruVivid technology (a term to describe a two-layer laminate design that gets rid of the air gap). It's not quite as bright or colorful as Samsung's Super AMOLED panel found on some other Android tablets, but still pretty darn brilliant.
As for audio chores, the dual-front speakers pump out serviceable sound that's modestly loud and free from distortion at full volume, but like most mobile products, bass response is lacking. There's a software EQ to fine tune audio playback, just don't expect your efforts to rival what a Bluetooth speaker or set of headphones can offer.
Assuming a portrait orientation, the USB Type-C port is located on the bottom on the ZenPad S 8.0. It's conveniently located toward the right-hand side instead of dead center, so if you need to plug it in while using it, the cable shouldn't get in the way.
There's a volume rocker and power button on the right side of the table, a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo port on the top, and a covered SD card reader on the left.
It would almost be a shame to shove the ZenPad S 8.0 into a case or folio, as it would hide the beautifully constructed backside. Its aluminum backing sports a brushed diamond-cut pattern, save for a small rubber bezel that runs along the side (portrait) or bottom (landscape). This is accompanied by more metal accents, including a ring around the slightly protruded rear camera housing.
The ZenPad S 8.0 ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop that ASUS customized with its ZenUI. It's a fairly lightweight UI that prides itself on having shortcuts for practically everything, even waking the device up (just double-tap the screen).
As with any custom UI, there's a learning curve with the ZenUI, though it's not very steep. Swiping up on the home screen brings up the ZenUI Launcher, which then allows you to pick out a wallpaper, arrange apps, apply icon packs, change fonts, and play with other customizations.
Swiping down brings up more options and shortcuts, such as toggling the bluelight filter and audio settings.
The ZenUI isn't distracting, though ASUS gives up a few geek cred points for bundling a little too much bloatware on the ZenPad S 8.0.