ASUS has always been one of my favorite tablet manufacturers. I owned their Transformer Prime tablet way back, and for me it was a great tablet. I know it was full of problems and issues, but I never had any issues with it. Other than the fact it wasn't a Nexus. Since the Transformer Prime, I've bought both Nexus 7's that ASUS has made under Google's guidance. ASUS is one of the larger tablet manufacturers, at least for Android. Although I think Samsung has them beat, just by a little bit. That Galaxy brand really helps out with that.
Today, we're looking at the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7. It's currently available for $159 and it's more or less the original Nexus 7, with a different processor and colorful plastic back, along with a rear camera. As you look at the design of this device, you can tell that it closely resembles the Nexus 7. The speaker grill on the back is exactly the same, button placements are in the same place, only difference is the microUSB port, which is now on the top. Here's the full spec sheet:
- Android 4.2.1
- 7-inch 1280—800 IPS display
- 1.2Ghz MediaTek quad-core SoC
- 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage
- 5MP rear camera, 1.2MP front camera
- WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, stereo speakers
- 15Wh Li-polymer Battery
- 196.8 x 120.6 x 10.8 mm
- 302 grams
Keep in mind during this review, that this tablet is only $159, and with it not being a Nexus, I wouldn't expect a lot of great things. But it is a great tablet for $159.
The MeMO Pad HD 7 is the beginning of ASUS' new line of tablets. In addition to the Transformer line and the Padfone and Fonepad lines, ASUS is now pushing their MeMO Pad tablets. This week at IFA, they announced a few new MeMO Pad tablets, the HD 8 and HD 10. Which should go on sale later this year. As far as hardware goes, there's the specs above and on the front you have your 7-inch IPS display with your front-facing 1.2MP camera, on the right side is your volume rocker and power button, speaker grill at the bottom, on the left side is a microSD card slot, up top is the microUSB and headphone jack, on the back is your 5MP camera, which surprisingly takes decent shots.
As far as performance goes, the quad-core MediaTek chip inside works very well. While I've heard some pretty bad things about MediaTek's SoC's, I've used a few tablets that have them inside and have had no problems with them at all. They seem to be about as capable as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 SoC's. I haven't played with a Snapdragon 800-powered device, so I won't compare it to that. Even with 1GB of RAM, the device performed very well. I noticed very little lag, of course there's always that little bit of lag or jank in Android.
The display on the MeMO Pad HD 7 is exactly the same as the original Nexus 7. It's a 1280×800 IPS display. While it looks better than the other 7-inch tablets I've reviewed recently, it still looks to be a bit lacking. Especially after using the Nexus 7 (2013) for weeks now. The build quality is pretty poor, I must say. Sometimes when using it, the device feels like it's going to fall apart…literally. The front is glass like most devices, while the back of the device is rather plasticky. The backs do come in a variety of colors, but they aren't meant to be user removable. But if you drop it, I'm pretty sure the back will pop off.
It's Android 4.2.1, by now we all know what's in Android 4.2. There's some Project Butter, Lock screen widgets, quick settings, etc. Although, right out of the box you won't see a separate pull down for lock screen widgets. One thing I like about ASUS' custom skin, is that you can change parts of it back to the stock Android version. For instance the notification pull down you can switch from their customized version or back to the stock Android version. There are also some other tweaks you can use like holding the recent apps key to take screenshots.
There is quite a bit of bloatware on this one. Still less than a carrier-branded phone or tablet though. Pre-installed you get Amazon Kindle, App Backup, App Locker, ASUS Artist, ASUS Splendid, ASUS Story, ASUS Studio, ASUS To-Do, Audio Wizard, BuddyBuzz, MyBitCast, MyLibrary Lite, Parental Lock, Press Reader, SuperNote Lite, Webstorage, and Zinio. Most of these are able to be disabled without root. So there's that. While some of these apps you'll use, I'm sure many of them you won't. Keep in mind that this is a WiFi only tablet so there's no carrier input at all here.
Battery life on this one is about as good as any other tablet. It's much better than our phones. I was able to get a full day of use out of it. And that's with watching YouTube videos, listening to Google Play Music and just general web browsing. Not too bad for a 7-inch tablet.
As we mentioned before, the camera is surprisingly decent. Most tablet camera's are pretty sad. The camera interface is pretty simple to use. It's not quite stock, but it's not full of features like the camera app on Touchwiz. It works and does it's job like it should. You can see sample shots from the device in the gallery below.
- Price: For $159, there's a lot of crappy tablets out there. There are 7-inch tablets with 1024×600 resolution displays, and for this one to be a 1280×800 at that price point is great.
- Display: While it's not the full HD we see on most flagships these days, it's definitely a step up from the 1024×600 display that everyone else is using in their 7-inch tablets.
- Battery Life: As expected, the battery did perform very well.
- Build Quality: As mentioned, the device did feel like it might fall apart in your hands. I know I've talked a lot of smack about Samsung's build quality, and I'd rather have that kind of build quality than what we have here on the MeMO Pad HD 7.
- Android 4.2: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know. I'm being too hard on ASUS, especially since Android 4.3 only came out a few months ago. It still hurts to see new devices coming out with an older version of Android. But I don't see that changing anytime soon.
So what's the final verdict on the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7? If you're looking for a tablet under $200, this is probably the best tablet you can buy. But if you're willing to spend another $70, then I'd recommend the Nexus 7. Since it is also built by ASUS and has much better specs, not to mention updates straight from Google. However, the MeMO Pad HD 7 is a step in the right direction for the "cheap 7-inch tablet" market. I'm hoping others like Acer, Lenovo, and Huawei can learn from ASUS and put better specs in their 7-inch tablets. At least a better display.