When Asus announced its new ZenPad at Computex yesterday, it slipped a little gadget into the accessories section that we think needs a lot more attention. It's called the Audio Cover, and it's an awesome idea.
The Audio Cover is just like every flip cover you've ever seen for a tablet before. When it's shut, it's a fashionable way to protect your 8-inch slab of pride and joy. Open it up and there's a groove for your tablet to sit in so the cover can act as a stand. Standard faire.
What's different about the Audio Cover is that there's between 5cm and 10cm of material between the tablet stand and the edge of the cover that acts as a speaker array. Believe it or not, Asus managed to fit six speakers and a baby subwoofer in there for great sound on the go.
The speakers are independently powered by their own battery, which Asus says can last for six hours.
There are so many things to like about this little gadget. Not only is it a spectacular idea to supplement the fairly ordinary speakers on your tablet with standalone Bluetooth ones, it's also insanely good to look at.
When the speaker cover is closed, you'd never know it was there. It's so thin and compact that you barely notice it's there, and it weighs less than something like a battery cover would too, making it easy to carry around.
In a space that's less than 2cm in thickness, Asus has managed to cram some fairly decent speakers. While bass from the tiny sub leaves a bit to be desired, the volume of the Audio Case can be heard clearly over the a demo hall full of noisy gadget writers. There's surprisingly little to no distortion at the top of the volume bar, either.
We listened to a couple of tracks on the ZenPad through the Audio Cover, and found it overall to be a great bump up from the sound you'd normally get on crappy built-in speakers or bundled in-box headphones. We did try and listen to a few new tracks from YouTube to challenge the device, but we were quickly shut down by an Asus staffer for playing too extensively with an "engineering sample". Boo.
The only complaints I have about the Audio Case is that the tablet sits a little too high in its stand. You wouldn't be able to use it comfortably sitting or lying down, for example. It's designed to stand bolt upright like a soldier.
Also, I wouldn't want to drop the Audio Case. There's something about a lot of speakers in a small space that doesn't sound especially sturdy.
These issues aside, however, the Audio Case is a genuine bit of innovation in tablet accessories.