Asus has a new group of products coming to market this fall, and they were on display for a hands-on showcase in Toronto. Among them are new smartphones, a new smartwatch, new tablets and new laptops.
For Asus, the company has finally managed to streamline its lines to make it easier to understand how it names its devices. For example, the Zen line, which transcends multiple product categories, is meant to be more premium in its design principles, and it shows with this latest group. The Transformer line of hybrid convertible tablet PCs continues its own distinct look. And for gamers, the Republic of Gamers line has its own look and feel.
Asus has quietly entered the Canadian smartphone market, debuting the Zenfone 2 last year, and now following that up with three different models: Zenfone 3, Zenfone 3 Deluxe and Zenfone Laser. They are similar in some respects, but considerably different in others.
The Zenfone 3 is the flagship of the group, and sports a glass-heavy design with metal edges that is very different from its predecessor last year, which used more plastic. It’s also dual-SIM like before, allowing you to use a second SIM card while travelling. You get a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display with a Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage (with microSD card slot), a 16-megapixel rear camera and 3000mAh battery.
The Zenfone 3 Deluxe sports a larger 5.7-inch display and all-metal body that gives it a more premium feel. It’s also bumped up on the inside, using an AMOLED display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 6GB of RAM, 64GB storage and a 23-megapixel image sensor.
The Zenfone 3 Laser is a more affordable option that maintains the same laser auto-focus of the other two, but trims down in other areas, particularly the Snapdragon 430, 13-megapixel image sensor and 32GB of storage.
Unlike the ZenWatch 2, Asus has chosen to go with a round watch face with a 1.39-inch display for the new ZenWatch 3. Made mostly from stainless steel with a leather band, this is a smartwatch with style in mind more than activity. I asked if metal or rubberized sports bands will be released for it, and the answer was no. The lugs for the bands do seem to be fairly standard, so you may be able to add your own bands anyway.
The watch’s body is 9.95mm thick, which is decent, and will come in rose gold or black. Battery life is unclear, though the included charger can hit 60% in only 15 minutes.
The ZenWatch 3 will be available in early November.
Computers and tablets
The ZenBook 3 is the standout here, coming in a Core i5 or Core i7 configuration. The body is really thin at 11.9mm, and is easily the most attractive the company has produced to date. I will be posting a review of this on the blog very soon, and will weigh in on every aspect of it, so look out for that.
The Transformer 3 Pro is meant to be a Microsoft Surface competitor, featuring higher-end specs to fit that bill. Intel Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM and 500GB SSD drive. It has a 16.6-inch (2880 x 1920) and Harmon Kardon speakers. Ports are limited, however, with a USB-C that doubles as a Thunderbolt port for high-capacity data pass-through. An optional hub expands the number of ports by connecting to that port, but it doesn’t come with the device.
The Transformer 3 Mini is a smaller 2-in-1 convertible tablet that comes with a keyboard and stylus in the box. Pretty lightweight at 1.75 pounds, it has a 10.1-inch display with small bezels around it, reducing the overall size of the unit. It runs on an Intel Core x5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage (up to another 500GB through microSD card slot) and includes a fingerprint sensor. The Mini will be available later in October.
The ZenPad 3S 10 is an Android tablet with a 5.8mm thin aluminum frame and QXGA display (2048 x 1536) with a fingerprint sensor. It runs on a MediaTek hexa-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage (microSD card expansion up to another 128GB). The tablet will be available in early November.