Asus ZenPad 3S 10 hands-on: Another contender to the iPad's tablet crown?

Tablets are starting to split into multiple categories. Those like the iPad Pro, Microsoft Surface and Google Pixel C that offer a laptop-like experience and those that are, well, cheap.

In many ways, the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 (how awful is that name?) is a throw back to older tablets. It’s a 10-inch media-centric device that’s all about giving you a big screen to watch movies and listen to music.

But is it any good? I went hands-on at IFA 2016 to find out.

Related: Everything you need to know about IFA 2016

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Like most tablets, the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 looks a little like an iPad. It has those slightly chamfered edges – or diamond cut, as Asus likes to call them – and a sparse metal back. It’s thin and feels well made, with a weighty finish. It does nothing new or exciting, but it’s not ugly.

The 4:3 aspect ratio is, for me, the best way a tablet can go. You might have some slightly thicker black bars when you’re watching a made for widescreen movie, but everything else suits it better. Widescreen tablets, especially those at 10-inches, feel overly stretched out and cumbersome but that’s not the case here.

You've also got a fingerprint scanner embedded inside the home button, which is flanked by 'Back' and 'Overview' capacitive keys.

Related: iPhone 7 – All the big news

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The screen has a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels and it looks good. 10 inches is great for media and the smattering of demo footage I watched was bright, colourful and accurate. Blacks seemed deep and the colourful wallpapers popped.

There did seem to be a strong reflection when light flittered across it and whites were sort of murky, but the conditions in the demo room were less than ideal.

To go along with the screen, you’ve got a strong audio setup, too. There are five-magnet stereo speakers dotted around that have full support for high-res audio and what Asus calls a 'Smart AMP' to polish the sound up to suit the thin speakers.

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Your movies can get even more immersive with 7.1 Channel virtual surround sound, which is pretty decent for a tablet. To be honest though, a bustling demo room isn't the best place to test even the best speaker setup so I will have to wait to get one in for review.

Keeping the tablet chugging along is a MediaTek hexa-core CPU, 4GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage. That’s a strong setup and it should handle pretty much everything you throw at it. I opened up a few apps, loaded up some websites and it handled it all with ease.

Something not so great was the ugly Zen UI Asus covers Android up with. It feels old-fashioned, with childish icons and forced changes to Google’s OS.

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Whenever you open up a folder the icons zoom around in a painful animation and there are jarring bursts of solid colour that feels five years out of date. There’s a slew of own-brand apps, services and the like that you’ll probably never use, too.

Asus claims you'll get 10-hours use from the 5,900 mAh cell, which sounds about right for a tablet of this size. The single port of choice is USB-C, like pretty much all of the 2016 Zen range, and Quick Charge 3.0 should juice you back up in a short amount of time.

Asus ZenPad 3S 10: First impressions

Despite its 'iPad-alike' tendencies, Asus has done a good job crafting a media-centric slate. It's light, thin and has a bright display. There should also be decent audio and plenty of power for gaming. It probably won't sway long time Apple lovers, but it's another decent Android option out there.