I’ve been messing with an Asus Memopad, the 7-inch version. I think it’s a well-built, good-performing tablet for $149, and when you can get it on sale for less than that–and this is the time of year for that–I think it’s a great tablet for the money.
It’s not a high-end tablet. It has a 1280×800 screen, a quad-core 1.2 GHz Mediatek processor, a middling GPU, and 1 GB of RAM, and importantly, it includes a micro SD slot so you can add up to 32 GB of storage to it. The specs are all reasonable, but not mind-blowing. Most of the complaints I’ve seen about it are that it’s not a Nexus 7, but it’s 2/3 the price of a Nexus 7, too. When you compare it to other tablets in its price range, the worst you can say about it is that it holds its own.
The user experience
It ships with an Asus-customized version of Android. It looks a little different, but if you’re familiar with Android, you figure it out quickly. The customization made me nervous at first, but seeing it in the store, it was still snappy, unlike some other heavily customized Android implementations out there. It also ships with apps to lock the device down, which is good for parents with kids. You can set time limits on it with Parental Control, and use App Lock to force someone to enter a password to use any or all of the apps installed. I’m glad that instead of loading it down with a bunch of questionable apps, Asus included some stuff that’s actually useful.
Instead of buying a kids-oriented tablet, you could buy one of these, lock it down, and load it with educational apps and have a device that will grow with them.
The tablet seems to be built well, and the quality of the screen is excellent. The overwhelming majority of bad user reviews I’ve seen of the tablet revolve around DOA issues or dying quickly in the first week of use. This can happen with any computer hardware of course, so I strongly suggest using it heavily for the first week or so. That way if it dies, it does so during the merchant’s return period.
Here’s cheap insurance: Get a micro SD card and plug it into the slot. Run App Backup (which is helpfully preloaded on the tablet) regularly to back up any apps you’ve downloaded. Use the tablet heavily, making sure to let the battery drain all the way down a few times. Make sure it recovers gracefully. If it doesn’t, pop out the SD card, exchange the unit, pop the SD card into the new one, and use App Backup to restore your apps and start again.
Based on the reviews, it seems to be literally around a one-in-a-thousand chance of landing a dud. If yours is the one in a bad batch, it’s best to find out quickly.
I benchmarked the Memo Pad HD 7 in the 13,000 range with Antutu Benchmark, faster than my Hisense Sero 7 Pro, which is based on an Nvidia chip clocked 100 MHz faster. There’s not much you can say to that, except that Asus still knows performance. And here’s the good news: Most of the advantage over the competing Hisense tablet comes in the area of I/O, so you’re actually likely to feel that difference.
The placement of the buttons on the side is awkward–the sloped sides mean they’re more on the back than on the side. When you have the tablet in a case other than the official Asus case–which costs $40, of course–it’s hard to reach the buttons.
I’m also disappointed that instead of including Google News and Weather, it includes a trial version of Press Reader. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that you can’t load the standard News and Weather from the Play Store. To get it, you have to download it from a dodgy place, or run App Backup on another Android device and restore the backup on your Memo Pad. Do the latter. It works–I’ve had to do it before on other Android devices.
Lack of the standard News and Weather app may bother you less than me. I have a journalism degree and still fancy myself a journalist, so I’m a bit of a news junkie.
OK, I’ll pile on. There isn’t a lot of third-party development happening on this device (I know only of this ROM and there’s no Cyanogenmod, as of yet), so if you don’t like the Asus spin on the Android experience, too bad. You’re stuck. It’s a fast enough performer that I can live without that, but part of me would love to know how a purer Android would run on it, given how well it runs out of the box. But that’s purely an enthusiast thing.
Annoyances aside, if you’re looking for an inexpensive tablet, this is the one to beat. I’ve been buying and recommending Asus products for nearly 18 years precisely because they have a long history of delivering quality products at a fair price that often perform faster than the specs say they ought to.
The Memo Pad 7 continues in that tradition. I laid into the device for the placement of the power button, lack of Google News, and lack of aftermarket ROMs, but frankly the last two are things only a small percentage of the market care about. When the worst thing you can say about a device is that you don’t like where the power button is, the designers did their job well.
So, while I can’t 100% recommend the Memo Pad HD 7 as an enthusiast tablet, it’s one of the best consumer-oriented devices I think I’ve ever seen.