Mobile Geeks get down to the nitty gritty details in the quickly evolving entry-level tablet space, with a detailed review of the new $150 dollar 7 inch Android tablet from ASUS. Introducing the ASUS MeMO Pad 7.
To say that Intel is desperate to finally arrive in the entry-level tablet space, would be a massive understatement. Intel is even willing to pay manufacturers to use their processors, implementing a ‘contra revenue’ strategy that aims to give the company a foothold in a segment where it falls far behind ARM based solutions from Qualcomm, Samsung, MediaTek and others.
is exists as an example of Intel’s new strategy which is creating a wave of affordable tablets running Android 4.4.2 on Intel’s Bay Trail processors. We saw plenty of these tablets a few weeks ago at Computex, but this is the first time Mobile Geeks have been able to spend some quality time assessing this new breed of affordable tablets.
So what are you getting with the ASUS MeMO Pad 7? Considering its meager price tag, should we likewise expect a meager tablet device? First let us see what you actually get for your money. The display immediately seems like a budget component with a 7 inch 800 x 1280 IPS LCD with a pretty low pixel-per-inch count of 216 ppi. Inside the device an Intel Z3745 is backed by 1GB of RAM. The version of the device we used for this review had 8GB of internal storage, although 16GB models will be available at launch. The two cameras are 5MP for the rear and a 2MP for the front. The device is not GSM compatible, supporting no SIM cards.
Here are the specifications in full:
ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C): Specifications
• 7 Inch IPS LCD Display
• 1280 x 800 resolution (216 ppi)
• Intel Atom Z3745
• Quad-core 1.86GHz
• 1GB RAM
• 8GB / 16GB Internal Storage
• Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
• Bluetooth 4.0
• 5MP Rear Camera
• 2MP Front Camera
• 189.3mm x 113.7mm x 9.6 mm
• 295 grams
• 3910 mAh Battery
• Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat
• Available in Black, White, Red, Yellow
Overall, the specs seem pretty familiar already – having seen dozens of similar level devices with almost identical component choices at Computex 2014, many also running Windows 8. Welcome to the new entry-level as far as tablets are concerned. The question remains however, is it any good?
Design and Build Quality
The new ASUS MeMo 7 is not going to break any records or win any awards too soon for design. I would be very tempted to say that the MeMO 7 is a generic design that has almost become a standard in the 7 inch tablet space. ASUS will sell the device in a choice of five colors (Black, White, Red, Blue and Yellow), but the review sample we were sent came in black and looked every inch the standard 7 inch design. The corners are fairly rounded compared to some 7 inchers including the Nexus 7, but the familiar chrome (presumably plastic) frame is present with thin bezels either side of the display and thicker ones above and below. The ASUS logo adorns the lower bezel.
The back of the device is made of plastic, but finish is actually pretty attractive, although it does tend to be fond of fingerprints. The mini USB port is slightly unusually positioned, joining the audio jack on the top edge of the device; the headphone jack sits in the center, with the USB port to right side. The volume rocker is positioned on the top left side of the MeMo Pad 7 with the power button below it. The top left edge has an open microSD slot, while the rear 5MP camera sits in the center of the back with the lens slightly raised. The ASUS logo is also present here, just below the camera, with the familiar Intel Inside subtly added near the bottom.
For sure the MeMO Pad 7 is superbly built. The finish on the back lends a more premium feel than its price tag would suggest. I find the button positioning a little frustrating for me however, as I would prefer the Power button to me above the volume rocker, mostly because this is what I’m used to, but perhaps also because it seems to make sense to have it there at the top. The buttons are also quite far around the back of the device, certainly more on the back than on the side. The buttons are also very solid, although at times I needed to exert more force than expected.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is a well built 7 inch tablet. The build quality is solid, even if the overall design is not inspirational. Certainly when you take into account the devices’ $150 price tag, you will feel the MeMO Pad 7 is a solid mobile device.
ASUS MeMO Pad 7 Gallery
The 1280 x 800 pixel 7 inch display is better quality than we actually expected. We knew not to expect anything too high quality at this price point, simply because good quality displays are not cheap. However, the IPS LED display on the MeMO Pad 7 is reasonably good, with reasonable viewing angles, vivid colors and light saturation. We have seen some really cheap and cheerful displays over the years and the low end has presented us with some real horrors on occasion. However, if the MeMO Pad 7 is an example of the new low end, then we are reasonably impressed.
If there is one area where we could see some improvement, it is with the brightness levels offered by the MeMO Pad 7. In bright outdoor conditions, the device will certainly struggle to offer a great viewing experience. Also, the device has is no ambient light sensor, so all brightness settings will have to be manually configured. Not a big issue in most situations, but it is somewhere where ASUS have managed to shave a few dollars.
One area where ASUS deserve some credit is with the MeMO Pad 7’s camera app, which has lots of features and modes to try out, resembling many devices that cost considerably more money. In the device settings you can choose from several camera modes including HDR, Panorama, Time Rewind, Depth of Field Smart Move Beautification and GIF Animations. We have seen these presented before on the company’s ZenFone 6 which we reviewed a few weeks ago.
Some features work better than others. The Depth of Field effect is nothing as sophisticated as what we have on the HTC One M8 which has a build-in depth sensor, but the ASUS implementation can be effective if you take the time and get your distances right. Time Rewind takes a whole bunch of shots allowing you to capture the exact moment you are looking for. There is also a Selfie mode that encourages you to take selfie pics with the rear camera. You tell the device how many smiles to look for (i.e. how many people to shoot) and then a drum roll cues a bunch of shots for you to choose from.
You can also select ISO level, configure the white balance, select photo and size and much more. The camera also has image stabilization options, continuous focus mode for tracking objects in video mode, plus the Intel processor has been optimized so that the camera can apply image filters in real-time.
The camera itself takes reasonable photos, but of course it does tend to struggle in less than optimal environments. ASUS is using a different sensor than the Pixelmaster technology on the ZenFone range, which is kind of a shame. It would have good to see it again here on the MeMO Pad 7. But hey, for a $150 tablet, the camera has many more features and modes than you are getting on a Nexus for example. ASUS have done a decent enough job with the camera, but the end results will not bowl you over.
The quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 is based on the Bay Trail architecture which has been around since Q3 of last year. The Z3745 arrived earlier this year is a 2 watt, 64-bit processor that has a base clock of 1.33GHz and a turbo clock of 1.86GHz. The performance levels we see in the benchmarks show us that Intel is finally showing its teeth with Bay Trail, besting previous generation, Clovertrail by a healthy margin and comparing very favorably against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 SoC. This is great news for Intel who have been playing catch up for several years.
We ran our standard suite of benchmarks on the ASUS MeMO Pad 7. Here is a table comparing the Pad 7 with the ZenFone 6 (Clovertrail) and Xperia Z2 (Snapdragon 801).
The results put Intel in a position of leadership in AnTuTu, Vallamo and Sunspider benchmarks, with only really 3DMark proving that in terms of graphics processing Qualcomm remains top dog. The disparity between the two Intel architecture generations is very apparent with the Silvermont CPU cores showing a significant improvement.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has performance levels similar to much higher-end device thanks to the Intel processor that powers it. Only in gaming will you see a superior experience on a Qualcomm powered device. The Android 4.4.2 OS was very smooth most of the time, only held back in places such as application start up speeds, most likely a result of slower flash memory being used. Some larger game apps took noticeably longer to open compared to other devices that we have tested.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has a 3910mAh battery. This is a similar capacity to most 7 inch tablet devices, including previous Nexus tablets, also built by ASUS. The Intel Bay Trail processor seems to have been well optimized for Android 4.4.2 offering a pretty solid full day of life. You can of course drain the battery with continued gaming, or several hours of HD video playback, but there’s nothing in our experience that really makes us feel that Intel is lacking in this area. The Power Saver app will allow you to configure the device with either Optimized Mode, or the harsher Ultra-saving mode.
Using the Laptop Mag Battery Informant 2.3 benchmark app, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 lasted 8:53 minutes.
The ASUS Zen UI was first introduced to us via the ASUS ZenFone 6 we reviewed a few weeks ago. In the time since then we have generally come to appreciate the UI for its simplicity and good looks. The icons and menus look very polished and modern, while the ASUS bundled apps are very well thought out and well implemented.
As well as standard apps like calendar, contacts, clock and calculator, ASUS has also added useful apps like File Manager, SuperNote, Quick memo, and Dictionary. Useful apps like Audio Wizard allow you to tweak audio playback settings, while Power Saver allows you to configure the devices’ power profile.
The really great thing however, is that none of the apps demand that you sign up for the ASUS eco-system, become an ASUS registered user or any other such hassles. ASUS are not pushing their own eco-system or trying to control the Android experience, beyond making it look great that is.
The ASUS Zen UI is a very balanced, complete and enjoyable Android experience that is probably one of the best around at the moment.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has one built-in mono speaker that kind of reminds me of the first Nexus 7 device, with a long thin grill on the back to let sound out. The device is not up to the standards of the HTC One series devices (doubtless the best mobile speaker system in any device), but it does offer clear, non-distorted audio playback. It is not the loudest tablet, or the bassiest, but it does a very decent job nonetheless.
The positioning of the speaker is very common across 7 inch tablet designs in the industry right now, and I understand that front side integration is more difficult to integrate without adding to overall device size. However I really do prefer the audio to come out of the device in the same location as where my ears are. I think this helps the HTC One experience a great deal.
Generally speaking the audio experience is in keeping with other aspects of the device and can be summed up in three words; solid but unexceptional.
Clearly price is a massive part of what this device is all about. Intel is being ultra aggressive in getting its new mobile platform adopted, virtually giving away the silicon to achieve its goals in terms of market share. The $150 price tag is an incredible price for a tablet of this quality.
If you’re looking to pick one up, here is a link to Amazon for the: ASUS MeMO Pad 7 ME176CX-A1-BK 7-Inch Tablet (Black)
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is a absolute statement of intent from both ASUS and Intel. The combination of solid build quality, a slick UI with a good selection of apps, backed by very solid processor performance is actually quite astounding. Even more so when you consider that it will retail for just $150 when it arrives in on the market in a few days time.
The MeMO Pad 7 is a very good example of what the low-end 7 inch tablet segment looks like now that Intel have succeeded in edging themselves in to the market. Intel is being very aggressive in attempting to reach its target of 40 million tablets this year, and if the end product is as good as the MeMO Pad 7, end-users will be very happy indeed.
If you are in the market for an affordable 7 inch Android tablet, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is a very tempting proposition. One that we can confidently recommend.