System Performance

A common trend among the tablets I've reviewed in the past few months is that they've used Intel's mobile SoCs rather than the ARM SoCs that you'll see in most tablets and smartphones. All the tablets I've reviewed have come from manufacturers that traditionally made Windows PCs and laptops, and the long-term relationship they would have with Intel is a reasonable explanation as to why they've partnered with Intel for the processors in their tablets. Like both models of the Dell Venue 7000 series, and the top tier model of the ZenFone 2, the ZenPad Z580CA is powered by an Intel Atom Z3580 SoC. This is a quad core Atom part built on Intel's 22nm process, with a max burst frequency of 2.33GHz. In the case of the Z580CA it's paired with 4GB of LPDDR3-1600 memory, which is twice as much as the amount in the Dell Venue tablets.

To evaluate the ZenPad Z580CA's performance I've run it through our standard benchmark suite. The first set is our web benchmarks which is influenced both by a device's browser optimizations as well as its CPU, followed by BaseMark OS II to evaluate several aspects of a device's hardware, and finally PCMark which emulates tasks that a user would perform while actually using a device.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Google Octane v2  (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2013 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2015 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

The ZenPad S performs well in our web browser benchmarks. There’s clearly differences at the OS level as well as possible BSP (board support package) differences between the ZenPad and other Intel-based Android devices like the Dell Venue tablets and the ZenFone 2. In Kraken we see a result closer to the middle of our chart, sitting among the Venue 8, Venue 10, ZenFone 2, and Apple’s A7-based iPads. It’s worth noting that as we no longer have those iPads for testing, the results for those devices were performed on iOS 7 and don’t benefit from any enhancements made to Apple’s rendering engine in subsequent releases.

In Google’s Octane benchmark the ZenPad S sits high on the chart with a score that isn’t quite as high as the Nexus 9 or the iPad Air 2, but sitting not far behind. There’s an enormous improvement over the ZenFone 2, and I’m not sure what to attribute this to as both devices use the same hardware platform and both are Android 5.0 underneath ZenUI. Since the test isn’t very long it’s not likely that it has to do with differences in thermal throttling between the two, and most likely is rooted somewhere in the software differences between the ZenFone and the ZenPad.

As for the 2013 and 2015 iterations of WebXPRT, the ZenPad S seems to perform much better in the latter test than it does in the former. While in WebXPRT 2013 it sits behind the iPhone 6 and the Nexus 9, in the 2015 iteration it surpasses both of them. In both cases it’s still behind the iPad Air 2, but for $299 you’re getting a lot of performance for your money.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - System

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Graphics

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Web

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Overall

Like all the Intel-based Android devices that I’ve tested, the ZenPad S doesn’t score very high in BaseMark OS II. The score in the graphics sub-test is tied with all the other G6430 devices for last, which says more about how far GPU performance in mobile has come in two years rather than the ZenPad S simply being slow. The score in the system sub-test which stresses the CPU and RAM is the lowest on the chart. In the end all Intel Atom devices don’t perform well in BaseMark OS II, but when a device is $199 like the ZenFone 2 or $299 like the ZenPad S Z580CA I think the performance that the Atom SoC provides is more than sufficient.

PCMark - Web Browsing

PCMark - Video Playback

PCMark - Writing

PCMark - Photo Editing

PCMark - Work Performance Overall

Our final test is PCMark, which emulates tasks that users will perform in the real world like browsing the web, playing and seeking videos, editing photos, and more. The ZenFone 2 performed very well in PCMark, but it ended up being carried to an extent by a disproportionately high photo editing score. The ZenPad S takes this even further with a higher photo editing score, and ends up taking the top spot in the overall ranking. There’s definitely a large software influence in these tests, which isn’t unlike the real world performance that is being tested, which requires both good hardware and optimized software to provide good performance. That being said, I think the ZenPad S ranking first on the basis of its extremely high photo editing score is a little bit questionable, but even without that test it would still score highly overall.

My conclusions about the system performance of the ZenPad S Z580CA are not unlike those in my ZenFone 2 review. When a device is $199 or $299, Intel’s Atom Z580CA SoC is faster than any ARM-based Android device at that price. PCMark doesn’t support iOS, and so there’s no way to know how well the ZenPad S compares to the iPad Mini 2 outside of web performance, but based on the JavaScript benchmark results it’s clear that the ZenPad S should be competitive with it, if not faster.

Design System Performance Cont'd: GPU and NAND
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  • Shadow7037932 - Monday, August 31, 2015 - link

    Man, that's disappointing. I was hoping more value like the Zenfone 2.
  • MrSavage - Monday, August 31, 2015 - link

    More value like what? Put a 16GB storage along with 1GB of RAM like the iPad mini 2 (as mentioned endlessly in this review) and don't you think it would cost less than $199? So then the Z580CA would be price around $199 or less, and the 2 year old iPad mini 2 would be $100 more. Oh yes, more value please. Afterall, let's compare apples with oranges. Zenfone 2 value? So a 8-inch display for a price similar to a 5.5-inch display device. Put stylus support into the Zenfone 2 and what would that cost?
  • Kepe - Monday, August 31, 2015 - link

    Does ASUS pay you to troll around here, praising the Zenpad and dissing everyone who finds the product a bit disappointing? Price doesn't matter at all if the product fails on too many categories that would have been rather easy to fix. This thing has too many software issues, such as artificially oversharpening everything on the display (makes small text hard to read for example), always on CABC and poor camera image processing.
    Cheap price alone isn't enough to justify the problems this thing has. You wouldn't buy a badly made and designed car even if it was 30% cheaper than the competing, well-made and thought of car.
    Of course cheap price doesn't always mean something is bad. Look at OnePlus 1 and 2 and the new Moto X. They're half the price of the competition, but you couldn't tell that by the spec sheets or how they are made and what materials are used. Those are good examples of how to make a cheap product in an intelligent and thoughtful way.
  • MrSavage - Monday, August 31, 2015 - link

    Hey friend. I think it's okay to challenge people or to question logic. You don't logically compare a smartphone with a tablet. Do you? I would expect a $100,000 car to be on a level playing field as a $20,000 car. I wouldn't compare the Z380CA to an iPad mini 2 because if you removed 3GB of RAM, put in a slower processor, and removed 32GB of storage then the Z580CA would be priced around $200 don't you think? Compare apples with apples is logical. You don't own one so I would suspect you don't have any credibility on what the Z580CA has or doesn't have. With a weak review, things can and should be corrected by people who know better in the comment section. You can always always always get more bang for your buck. Apple proves that. To me the failure is partially on Asus for sending an early review unit that OBVIOUSLY needed a firmware update prior to publisher, and beyond that, one key component the Z stylus isn't even available for those reviews. I'm expressing my opinion to clear up some of the ignorance out there.
  • Kepe - Monday, August 31, 2015 - link

    You are not making any sense at all. The iPad mini 2 and the Z580CA cost exactly the same amount of money: $299. That is why they can and should be compared. The iPad mini 2 is 2 years old, that's why it has less ram, storage, slower processor and such.

    Somewhere else in the comments you said people shouldn't compare the Z580CA to a Samsung tablet because it was $100 more expensive. Now you say people shouldn't compare devices that cost the same. What the heck are we supposed to compare, then? Two Z580CA's and look at them with a microscope to spot some differences in the surface texture and then compare them?
    Besides, I haven't been comparing a tablet to a phone. The charts in the review have phones as well because they use the same SOCs (processors, GPUs).

    The reason graphs and charts are used and detailed measurements are taken (display, performance, specs) is to remove objectivity from the results. Without them, every review would be like this:
    "The display is ok I guess. There wasn't any significant UI lag. Gaming was ok. Weight is ok, not too heavy. Battery lasted for quite a while. It's an ok tablet I guess."

    That kind of a review doesn't benefit anyone. The only way to properly decide which device is better at which thing is to measure those things, put them in a chart and compare them. As a reader, you should have the brain capacity to understand the price and other differences by yourself. We all know that the Zenpad reviewed here costs $299 and some other devices in the charts are more expensive and some are less expensive. It's up to the reader to decide what kind of price/performance he or she wants. It's the same thing with GPU reviews. The charts have old GPUs, new GPUs, cheap GPUs, expensive GPUs all in one. It isn't unfair, because everyone understands that the cheap ones won't be as fast as the new ones, and the expensive old ones won't be as fast as expensive new ones. You have to use your own brains when you're reading.
  • MrSavage - Monday, August 31, 2015 - link

    I can appreciate what you're saying. I'm not trying to argue with you, only to discuss. Let me clarify. Similar price is fair, so long as the specs match up. The ipad mini 2 and Z580CA are total apples and oranges. It's not an equal value trade off at all. If you strip most of the things I mentioned, then you will have a true value comparison.

    The reason the new Samsung Tab S2 is worth comparing is because they are comparable spec wise, except for the storage and a bit of RAM. The value proposition of the Z580CA exceeds the negatives, but that's my opinion.

    Charts and graphs have some value, so I'm not disregarding those entirely. Obviously anandtech is very reliant on their data and that's fine. Perhaps the audience reading the review will figure things out on their own, but it's a false assumption to assume that people understand the technicalities. I don't disagree that people need to use their brains when analyzing data or stats. Some stats however are statistically insignificant and that's why I take issue with some of those devices listed.

    Those best review is one that looks realistically at the cost/value proposition. Everything out there sucks in the tablet category against the iPad Air 2. Beyond that, the review here of the display is sporadic and unclear. If it's software? If it was patched at some point during the review? That should not be made as an aside. It's not clear to me if the issues were resolved with the update and that essentially nullified most of the previous complaints being made about the display. Just not good enough in my books. Beyond that, it's never a good idea to trust one review and make a decision or judgement based on that.
  • BurntMyBacon - Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - link

    Let me try to word it a different way. For the same price you get an extra 3GB of RAM, a faster processor, and an extra 32GB of storage. If those things are of highest importance to you, then this equates to more value. However, if your personal priorities dictate that use of iOS, Apple branding, build quality, display quality, etc. are more important, then perhaps you come to a different conclusion.
  • LoganPowell - Friday, November 27, 2015 - link

    Unfortunately Asus Zenpad Z580CA ranks rather poorly among top rankings (see ranking for example...)
  • BurntMyBacon - Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - link

    @Kepe: It doesn't matter if the iPad Mini 2 is two years old. That doesn't make it suddenly a better value. Either the price needs to drop accordingly, or a newer updated version needs to hit the market. Of course, you may find it a better value given other characteristics, but that depends on your priorities.
  • Puck85 - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    serious question: what should I buy instead of this around this price range? Is there a better value out there I should consider?

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