ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 has a sharp screen, slim body and plenty of RAM

Just as we heard last week, ASUS is now launching a new family of stylish Android tablets dubbed ZenPads, which will replace the MeMO Pad series. These will come in 7-inch, 8-inch and 10.1-inch flavors with cellular variants, but it's the light, yet powerful ZenPad S 8.0 that's caught our attention so far. For one, this 6.6mm-thick, 298g metallic slate comes with a sharp 2,048 x 1,536 (324 ppi) IPS display, which has a 4:3 aspect ratio, so it's going head to head with the iPad Mini here. And with Intel's 64-bit Atom Z3580 chip plus 4GB of RAM, you needn't worry about its performance. Better yet, you get front-facing stereo speakers that are enhanced by DTS for some virtual surround sound action. If you're into handwriting or drawing on tablets, you can buy the optional Z Stylus, which supports up to 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Additionally, there's a regular ZenPad 8.0 -- powered by Intel's Atom x3 -- that features a similar design to the ZenPad S 8.0. While the technical details are scarce at the moment, we do know that it'll have a range of interesting and good-looking accessories: the Zen Clutch and Zen Case for protection, the bizarre Audio Cover for adding 5.1 surround sound and the Power Case that extends the battery life to up to 15 hours. This tablet family also includes the low-end 7.0 model with a 1,024 x 600 screen resolution, and a larger 10.1 model with an optional keyboard (likely a Bluetooth dock); but again, we'll have to get back to you on the detailed specs as well as pricing and availability for them all.

In our brief hands-on time with both tablets, the ZenPad S 8.0 felt like a far more premium device than the plain ZenPad 8.0. Both were easy to hold, but the S 8.0 was significantly lighter and its metal accents gave it a bit of extra flair. It's by far the most compelling tablet from ASUS so far. We also saw the Zen Case on the ZenPad 8.0, and it managed to make plenty of noise in an extremely crowded conference hall. We're not quite convinced that it'll deliver anywhere near a real 5.1 audio experience, but it certainly sounds better than a tablet on its own.

Devindra Hardawar contributed to this report.