Asus gets into the sub-$200 tablet fray

Now Asus is jumping into the sub-$150 tablet range too, but with a device that’s much more subdued than what Polaroid and Archos are offering.

It appears to me that Asus is trying to remain mid-tier, and hope that name recognition and reliability advantages (whether perceived or real) keep their tablet in the game.
Their $149 Memo Pad has a 7-inch 1024×600 display and a single-core VIA WM8950 CPU, running at 1 GHz. It will be running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and has the precious microSD card slot, which accepts up to a 32 GB card.

Performance-wise, this tablet will be in the same league as the sub-$100 tablets available everywhere these days, but it comes with a 1024×600 screen, which isn’t great, but is worlds better than 800×480.

Part of me would much rather buy a low-end tablet from Asus–I have a couple of very elderly systems with Asus motherboards in them that just won’t die–but considering these tablets are an SoC with some memory chips and a battery, they aren’t exactly easy to mess up.

The Acer Iconia B1 with its dual-core Mediatek 1.2 GHz CPU will be hard for this tablet to compete with, let alone the 1.6 GHz dual-core tablets from Archos and Polaroid, which are lower tier but also $20-$30 cheaper. At this price point, 20 bucks becomes significant.

Had Asus decided to use the dual-core Mediatek CPU and a 1280×800 display, I think the Memo Pad would have been an easier sell.

Given that any of these devices will be outmoded fairly soon, I’m inclined to buy on price right now and see what happens in a year, because, just as an example, Rockchip will be releasing a 1.8 GHz, quad-core SoC this year with twice the graphics performance of the Rockchip 3066 that the Polaroid and Archos tablets are using. I don’t know what VIA or Mediatek have in response to that, but they probably will have something.

The other question is whether Qualcomm, Samsung, and/or TI want to play in this space. Archos has uses TI OMAP SoCs in the past, but TI is sending mixed signals about how OMAP fits into its plans.

I think it’s going to be a very interesting year in the sub-$150 space.

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