The Latest Hardware Recommendations for Dark Android
In even the very near future, I think it’s going to get harder and harder to find Android devices that fit in well enough with the design principles that the Dark Android Project appreciates. The ability to root the device. The availability of custom ROM’s or at least AOSP to be installed on the device. Large storage space to be able to use larger apps like offline maps. Powerful processors and lots of RAM to be able to multitask and just overall get things done quickly.
A couple of pieces of hardware that I’ve recommended as late on the Dark Android Blog both come from the same company: ASUS. The devices are the smartphone named the ASUS Zenfone 2, and the more impressive tablet named the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0. While I have already covered the specifications of these devices in the past, there has recently been technical updates to both models that I want to cover, because they make these devices all the more enticing.
ASUS Zenfone 2
First we’ll get the ASUS Zenfone 2 news out of the way (remember, with Dark Android I generally don’t recommend the use of smartphones due to their SIM cards being completely insecure as well as completely eliminating total control of your device). At least in Brazil, ASUS plans on launching an ASUS Zenfone 2 that comes with 256GB OF ONBOARD STORAGE! That’s wonderfully insane! Most laptops don’t even have that much onboard storage, and the Zenfone 2 still has a MicroSD card slot that you could slap up to a 128GB card into, give you a total of 384GB of storage! Whoa. Really. This particular model is called the ASUS Zenfone 2 Deluxe Special Edition, and it also has a couple of interesting new design schemes as you can see in the picture below. Added to that is also Dual-SIM functionality (which is handy if you do a lot of global traveling), and the 4GB of RAM is really nice, as well. Of course the real star reason that I recommend this smartphone (when I normally don’t recommend smartphones) is the Intel Atom processor, which allows for a lot of options as far as what operating systems you can run on this phone (meaning you could potentially run a lot more than just Android or an Android-derivative, and with 256GB of onboard storage now, a multi-boot OS option is pretty viable, which would have been almost unheard of until now). Bottom line with this particular Zenfone 2: If you operate your day-to-day stuff mainly with your phone and don’t use your laptop/desktop too much, this is the phone to beat. And if you can get your hands on an unlocked international version (in case they never sell it outside of Brazil, and keep in mind there has yet been no mention of price on that model) of the Zenfone 2 Deluxe Special Edition, more power to you. ASUS ZenPad S 8.0
Despite what I consider to be an odd name for any device, next to the Dark Android recommended 2013 32GB Google Nexus 7 (also made by ASUS) or one of Sony’s waterproof Xperia tablet offerings, the ASUS Zenpad S 8.0 is the tablet of choice, in my opinion, and due to new hardware options, it is now arguably the most powerful of the bunch.
While previously the device only came with a respectable–especially when only costing $199–2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage (as well as having a MicroSD card slot), and a gorgeous 4:3 8″ 2048×1536 resolution screen, ASUS has the upped the ante with a new model of the ZenPad S 8.0 which comes with 4GB of RAM (!) and 64GB of onboard storage (and the aforementioned MicroSD card slot), and costing only $299. The 4GB of RAM alone makes that extra $100 worth it, and it really solves the issue a lot of people had with the $199 model (which was the “mere” 2GB of RAM). While some have complained that the ZenPad S is made completely out of plastic and question its build quality, I think this “problem” is totally overshadowed by the power and the price of this tablet. And if anything you can get a case for it (perhaps even a waterproof one) that will keep it in shape for years, likely.
Also, as I mentioned when I previously reviewed the ZenPad S 8.0, it has that Intel Atom processor that will give you–and like we said with the Zenfone 2 previously in this post–the potential option of running a multitude of operations systems (not just Android or Android-derivative ones), which ARM-based processors have yet to completely capitalize on (Raspberry Pi excluded). Having a largely open processor architecture that Intel generally provides gives you a lot of options, and options equal freedom. And freedom is the whole point of the Dark Android project.
For $299 this is probably the most powerful and open tablet that amount of money can buy, and I couldn’t recommend it more. It definitely beats out the Nexus 9, and most reviews are claiming the ZenPad S 8.0 has fantastic battery life (particularly in standby mode), so if you’re looking for something that has plenty of power, and you want to do a Dark Android setup (or even if you don’t), the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 is a clear winner, and may be the last great tablet that you can buy in the mainstream before you lose a lot of the hardware freedom we discussed. I know I want one.
As far as overall hardware recommendations that I make, the short list now comprises of: Sony’s Xperia devices (smartphones and tablets), the 2015 16GB Moto G smartphone, the 2013 32GB Google Nexus 7, the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 (particularly the 4GB RAM model), and the ASUS Zenfone 2, with an honorable mention to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active (since it doesn’t have a fingerprint reader, is waterproof, and has a larger battery). Indeed, a very short list.