So instead of fighting for the premium tablet market, Asus has gone for the budget market. The ZenPad 10 Z300M doesn’t exactly have a name that rolls off the tongue, but it does only cost $149.
Budget tablets have a reputation of being pretty useless, but the ZenPad might be an exception.
- Price: $149 from Amazon
- Dimensions: 9.90in x 6.77in x 0.31in (251mm x 172mm x 7.9mm)
- Weight: 1.08lbs (490g)
- Screen: 10.1″ (1280×800) IPS LCD display
- Processor: 64-bit Quad-core MTK MT8163
- RAM: 2GB
- Memory: 16GB
- Battery: 18Wh rated at 11 hours
- Camera: 5mp rear-facing, 2MP front-facing
- Operating Systems: Zen UI 3.0, based on Android 6.0 Lollipop
- Extras: Optional keyboard, microSD card slot, Micro-USB, front-facing speaker
The Asus ZenPad 10 by no means feels premium. The entire back is made out of a textured plastic, though I actually appreciated that since it allows more grip than an aluminum back would. Still, it does feel cheap, if that’s your concern.
It’s a 10.1″ device with a 16×9 aspect ratio, rendering it a little shorter and wider than an iPad. All the logos indicate that it should be held in landscape mode, but you can easily rotate to portrait.
The rear-facing camera is located in the upper corner, but you should avoid using it at all costs. Use your smartphone camera, use your handheld camera, just use anything but this camera. It’s 5MP of terrible image quality, and that’s not to mention the achingly slow shutter speed.
The 2MP front-facing camera is no better, but if you need to Skype, it will at least be able to handle that with all the pixelated loveliness we’ve come to expect from video chatting.
On the left side of the tablet, next to the camera, is the volume rocker. It’s plastic as well, but feels sturdy enough. The real button to watch out for is the power button, which sits on the top left of the device and is nearly flush with its surroundings, making it a little hard to feel for and press.
Along the bottom left, you’ll find the micro-USB port (not USB Type-C) and the headphone jack. There’s a bit of a raised edge from where the textured plastic meets the smooth plastic, but it doesn’t get in the way or feel too odd.
It’s relatively thin at 0.31 inches (the 9.7″ iPad Pro is 0.27), and it’s surprisingly light at 1.08lbs (the iPad is 0.96). Compared to other budget tablets, like the Chuwi HiBook (our review), it’s very thin and lightweight.
The screen is screen has a resolution of 1280 x 800, but it’s not Full HD, meaning you can watch 720p videos but not 1080p videos. It is an IPS display, however, which bestows admirable viewing angles. Though you might see a little pixelation due to the relatively low resolution, it does manage to get pretty bright, making it useful even outdoors.
And if you’ve been wondering where the speaker is, it’s hard to find. It’s built-in to a very thin line along the top front of the device. This is actually a perfect position, because it gives you front-facing audio, and it’s out of the way of your hands so that you don’t block it while holding it. Even if you hold the tablet in portrait, the long speaker is impossible to fully cover with one hand.
Overall, it’s a cheap device for sure, but it actually does a good job with what it has.
Asus advertises it as pairing with a nice speaker-heavy mobile dock for productivity, but that mobile dock doesn’t seem to be on sale anywhere. The tablet even has a proprietary port built into the bottom for it, but if you try to buy it off Asus’s website, it leads to a dead link.
Maybe they’ll be releasing the mobile dock at some point, but for now, don’t plan to get any kind of first-party keyboard dock for this (though you could check out third-party options).
Running under the hood is Android 6.0 Marshmallow, though it’s heavily styled by Asus’s Zen UI 3.0. Cosmetically, it makes a few changes that you might only notice if you’re used to using stock Android.
The software keys retain the now-dated back arrow, house, and double squares; the notification menu that you can pull down from the top is white with light blue accents; a few features have been added in the Settings app; and there are some built-in apps.
Some of the added features are actually solid improvements on Android. The ZenPad 10 support double tap to wake and double tap to sleep, it supports “ZenMotion” actions like drawing a “C” on the screen to open straight to the camera, it allows for easily customizing the Quick Settings, it has a Kids Mode, and you can customize how the screenshot function works.
On the other hand, the built-in apps are, for the most part, unexciting. The Asus Mobile Manager might be the one exception since it allows you stop apps from popping up notifications or auto-starting when you turn the tablet on. Unfortunately, it also offers the same kind of “Boost” feature that we’ve warned against using in the past.
Other built-in Asus apps include ZenPad Care, Backup, PhotoCollage, MiniMovie, ZenCircle (which seems like a social network used even less than Google+), Do It Later, File Manager, Gallery, Quick Memo, Splendid (which lets you adjust the screen’s color and saturation), SuperNote, Calculator, and AudioWizard. You can find better alternatives to most of the these in the Play Store, but for the casual user, they get the job done.
I was genuinely surprised by the performance, given that this tablet is only running on an MTK processor with 2GB of RAM, but it didn’t stutter through gaming, flipping through multiple tabs, or watching YouTube videos. For a budget device, its performance is phenomenal.
This was another area in which I was pleasantly surprised. Over the course of a couple days of use — watching YouTube, reading articles, playing games — I got over 6 hours of screen on time before it dropped below 15%. That’s fantastic.
If you want your tablet to make it through an entire day of use, you shouldn’t have to worry with the ZenPad.
Should You Buy It?
The Asus ZenPad 10 Z300M isn’t going to be the next big thing. It’s a budget tablet that makes major concessions in camera quality, doesn’t support the upcoming USB Type-C standard, and feels cheap and plasticky.
However, it has a great speaker set up, a good enough screen, great performance, and even greater battery life. It’s by far the best tablet you can get for this price.
If you’re on a strict budget, absolutely go for the ZenPad 10. There are better, more expensive tablets out there, but you can’t beat the value here.