ASUS reveals 'Zensational' style-over-substance kit

This year's smartmobes and fondleslabs are trying to look like handbags


Computex 2015 Computex day zero kicked off in Taipei today, and after some pleasantries got down to business with an ASUS keynote that pitched style over substance as a good thing.

Taipei is ASUS' home town and the company is arguably Taiwan's most famous export, so chairman Jonney Shih likes to put on a show before the rest of the vendors get too rowdy with their own announcements. This year Shih started with a video of nature in all its splendour. I almost expected a gravelly voiceover to start reciting homilies about the importance of family and how I can protect it with some very affordable insurance.

Shih instead declared that “Inspiration is what surrounds us, like the mesmerising beauty and power of nature. The fusion of simplicity and peace. The perfect balance between beauty and strength” before exhorting us all to “Join me on this journey to Zensation!”

The first step on that journey turned out to be the ZenAiO, “A fusion of art and technology” in the form of an all-in-one PC with a Corei7, GTX 960M gaming graphic that Shih reckons will make your home more beautiful and make you a fragmeister to reckon with. Voice recognition and Intel's RealSense both get guernseys, the better to help you chat with Windows 10's Cortana personal assistant or play controller-free games

Next came Jen Chuang, head of ASUS design, who told us the following:

We are inspired by life. I collect memories. Why? Because the most important memories in life do not rewind or repeat.

We'll spare you the rest, and move on to the products she introduced, starting with what looks like a perfectly good but dull 4K monitor. Next came the “Zenfone selfie” which Chuang reckons means you'll “See the perfect you”. That slogan reflects the fact that Chuang told ASUS' packed press conference “I'm not the only narcissist in the room.” The 800-odd journos present, mostly male, t-shirt-wearing and perhaps grazing a less-than-optimal BMI, didn't seem convinced by that statement.

The new phone has image enhancement softwaere Chuang likened to “digital makeup” and 13MP front and rear cameras so you can always look digitally selfie-tastic. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 makes the 5.5 incher hum.

Shih returned with a new range of ZenPad fondleslabs which he deemed “The perfect fusion of fashion and technology.”

“Just like carrying a bag or a wallet that is both stylish and practical, a tablet can serve as a loyal companion that hosts all your essentials in style,” Shih said. The new range therefore comes with lots of lovely new finishes and cases. There's also a new “Zen Case” that “comes in a range of colours so you can mix and match with your outfits”, thereby making the ZenPad “the most customizable tablet.” There's also a battery inside, capable of providing 15 hours of power. Another new case sneaks in six speakers, including a subwoofer.

There's an Atom x3 under the hood of the ZenPad 8, making it the first device to put that Chipzilla chip to work.

And that was it. Which was a little disappointing, because last year Shih had the decidedly odd five-in-one Windows/Android/phone/tablet/laptop to show off. And this year he didn't bother to mention the ZenWatch 2, a new ChromeBox or new mini-PCs that will give Intel's NUCs a run for their money.

That such fare was overlooked, and that ASUS used a designer to emphasise style, shows the company is currently most concerned with how you'll look toting a gadget, with a nod to the stuff that makes them go fast and a promise that the user experience has been improved. That experience, however, is now expected to include feeling good when your fondleslab makes your friends envious. And that's not something to which Intel or Qualcomm make obvious contributions for most buyers. ®

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