|Introduction and Asus MeMO Pad Smart 10 Specs|
|There are some interesting things happening in the tablet world. Perhaps the biggest development of all is that Apple's iPad family is finally starting to yield market share to the competition, and that's primarily due to the increasing number of affordable Android slates being pumped out by name brand manufactures. At first, pedestrian price tags were only attached to Android tablets in the 7-inch range, but more recently we've started seeing large slates come down in cost. One of the more intriguing options is the Asus MeMO Pad Smart 10, a 10.1-inch slate that streets for as little as $280, or about half the price of a regular sized iPad. Given that it's one of the least expensive 10.1-inch Android tablets on the market, we told Asus we had to have one to evaluate, and they obliged.
What's also interesting in the land of tablets is the emergence of Microsoft's touch-friendly Windows 8/RT software. Microsoft made a concerted effort to build a unified platform that's just as capable on mobile devices (if not more so) than it is on the desktop, and that's given rise to a new generation of Windows hardware, including tablets and hybrids. In addition to the MeMO Pad mentioned above, Asus sent us its VivoTab Smart, another 10.1-inch tablet, only it's built on a x86 foundation and is running a full version of Windows 8 -- gnarly.
It's a tale of twos: Two different tablets running two totally different operating systems on two different architectures. In all reality, they're aimed at two distinct demographics, including one that's more interested in content consumption (MeMO Pad Smart 10) and another that aims to get work done before it's time to play (VivoTab Smart).
Of course, there's some overlap there, and on the following pages we'll compare the two tablets and tell you the pros and cons of each. Let's start with the MeMO Pad Smart 10.
ASUS tapped NVIDIA's Tegra 3 platform to provide its MeMO Pad Smart 10 a performance punch that belies it's entry-level price tag, and we're also excited to see an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel in this price range, albeit the resolution isn't quite high enough to watch Full HD 1080p movies in their glory.
What ASUS essentially did here was take the features that are commonly found in high-end 7-inch slates and pour them into a 10.1-inch container. In fact, the MeMO Pad Smart 10 is strikingly similar in spec to Google's Nexus 7, hardly surprising since ASUS builds both tablets. It's not a carbon copy, however, as the MeMO Pad Smart 10 is obviously physically bigger, features additional ports, and has a 5MP rear-facing camera.
The ASUS MeMO Pad Smart 10 is large, but is it in charge of the low(er)-cost Android space? Let's find out starting with a closer look the tablet.
|MeMO Pad Smart 10 Design and User Interface|
|For whatever reason, Google's hardware partners initially had a tough time grasping what they needed to do in order to sway users away from the iPad. Early Android tablets had a tendency to be thick, heavy, and expensive, and it didn't get much better when you fired one up only to find a smartphone OS (Gingerbread, for example) trying to a drive a tablet. Thankfully things are much better know. The very first thing that struck us when we unboxed the MeMO Pad Smart 10 is that it looks and feels like a premium slate.
It's a 10.1-inch tablet that measures a scant 0.38 inches thick, which is virtually the same as a fourth generation iPad, and weighs barely more than a pound and a quarter (1.27 pounds). It's actually slightly lighter than the iPad, which weighs between 1.44-1.46 pounds, but every bit as well constructed.
Unfortunately all that screen real estate is hamstrung somewhat by a WXGA (1280x800) display panel when really it should be wielding at least a Full HD 1080p resolution to keep up with today's content heavy landscape. On the bright side, it's an IPS panel, and true to form, it looks fantastic while boasting wide viewing angles. It's also bright and vibrant, though if you look close, you can make out a slight bit of pixelation on the icons. Again, that's the result of the 1280x800 resolution being stretched across a larger screen, though in all fairness, it's not distracting unless you put your face a nose distance from the panel.
Buying into the philosophy of different strokes for different folks, ASUS offers its MeMO Pad Smart 10 in three different color options: Crystal White, Fuchsia Pink, and Midnight Blue. Your choice of color affects the back of the chassis, which is adorned with an ASUS logo on the center and a 5MP rear-facing camera surrounded by a silver accent.
At the price range this tablet falls into, we'd be surprised to find an all aluminum design, and sure enough we didn't. The back is made of plastic, though it doesn't feel cheap or chintzy, nor does it even look like a plastic design at a glance. As previously stated, it feels like a premium slate even though the rear material doesn't match up to that impression.
Also on the back are a pair of stereo speakers that put out decent sound, however we wish tablet makers would find a way to fire these things forwards.
ASUS made a conscious decision to place the volume rocker on what would be the top or bottom of the tablet if you're holding it in portrait mode, suggesting the company envisions landscape mode accounting for the lion's share of use. We're not as sold on that decision as ASUS, since there's so much you can do on the web that's better suited for portrait mode.
Sitting next to the volume rocker is a 3.5mm audio jack. On the other side of the tablet are micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports, a microSD card reader, and a built in microphone. The power button is on top if you're holding it in landscape mode, or the side in portrait mode.
In terms of connectivity, there's not a whole lot to get overly excited about, and the same is true of native accessories. There simply aren't any. The MeMO Pad Smart 10 is a tablet, not a hybrid, and so there's no option to pair it with a docking port.
The MeMO Pad Smart 10 ships with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean straight out of the box, which we quickly updated to Android 4.2 (also Jelly Bean) via an available over-the-air (OTA) update. You'll find all the standard Android goodies, plus a few pieces of additional software scattered about such as ASUS Studio, which you can use to sort through and share photos.
|VivoTab Smart Specs|
|Whereas the MeMO Tab Smart 10 is an Android tablet designed for content consumption, the VivoTab Smart is a full-fledged Windows 8 device with a x86 foundation. It's built for work and play, and also to take advantage of Microsoft's touch-happy OS without having to pay a Surface Pro-like premium.
It streets for around $450, or about the half the price of a Surface Pro. To get to that price level, ASUS opted for an Intel Atom Z2760 processor (Clover Trail) clocked at 1.8GHz. Clearly this isn't intended as a desktop replacement, but as a full Windows 8 tablet than can function as a notebook when duty calls.
A glance at the spec sheet makes it obvious the VivoTab isn't on the level of a Surface Pro. It's for users who don't need that kind of power, but still don't want to settle for Windows RT on top of an ARM-based foundation, which would rule out being able to run legacy Windows applications.
ASUS also sent us its TranSleeve Keyboard Cover to get a better feel for how the VivoTab functions as a laptop. It's a $130 accessory that retails for around $100 and is available in a few different color options.
|VivoTab Smart Design and User Interface|
|Windows 8 has given birth to a generation of hybrid designs that sport funky designs. None of them have really caught on with consumers, perhaps an indication that manufacturers have been trying a little too hard to think outside the box. Or maybe some find changes in physical design hard to swallow when they're already tasked with learning a "re-imagined" OS, to borrow Microsoft's term. That being the case, ASUS may have chosen wisely to build a Windows 8 device that simply looks like a tablet. It doesn't do yoga or contort itself in ways that would make Windows 7 systems cringe, it's simply a slab of glass that, when paired with the TranSleeve, can sit upright and function like an entry-level notebook.
The VivoTab Smart is roughly the same size and weight as the MeMO Tab Smart 10 and the construction feels the same too. If it weren't for the Windows logo on the bottom bezel and the rubberized backing (as opposed to plastic), you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between these two slates, at least until you fire them up.
A rubber-coated back panel feels a little better in our hands than the plastic back of the MeMO Pad Smart 10 and is probably less prone slips (we never dropped either one, so it's not worth overstating one design over the other). It has a similar look with the ASUS logo in the middle and silver ring surrounding the camera, but three things that separate the VivoTab Smart fron its Android cousin is the integrated LED flash, NFC sticker, and the Microsoft and the product stickers, including the Microsoft logo, Intel Atom Inside logo, and a strip with identifying information.
On the bottom-left (or top, depending on how you're holding it), there's a single speaker grill (dual speakers inside). It's a bit of a weird placement for watching movies in landscape mode with all the audio coming from the left (or right) side. But the real shame is that it doesn't produce audio quite loud enough, which is a bummer whether you're trying to video conference in Skype or rock out to Slacker.
The placement of the ports is very similar, only this time ASUS has a bigger argument for putting the volume rocker on the right side when in landscape mode, which is the orientation you'd use when viewing it like a laptop. Other ports and buttons include the power button, microUSB port, 3.5mm audio jack, and a mini-HDMI port hidden behind a small plastic door.
If you pony up for the TranSleeve, which is basically a take on Apple's SmartCover, you'll be able to more easily use the VivoTab Smart as a laptop. The cover attaches with an audible just like what you may have seen in the Surface RT/Pro commercials, keeping the the tablet protected when closed and serving as a stand when folded back.
The keyboard connects via Bluetooth. It has a trackpad, Function Keys with integrated media controls, arrow keys, and pretty much everything you'd find on a traditional keyboard sans numpad.
Key spacing is a little cramped, but at minimum it's a serviceable solution for hammering out emails, work documents, love letters, breakup letters, or what have you. We wouldn't want to use one of these every single day as our go-to workhorse, but as a secondary PC, it's more than sufficient.
Let's face it, the design of the two tablets ASUS sent us is very similar, but all that goes out the window as soon as you fire them up. These represent two very different platforms. What we like most about the VivoTab is that it's running a full version of Windows 8 even though it costs about the same as a Surface RT slate.
Of course, it's only sporting an Atom processor, so you'll have to temper your enthusiasm. This isn't a machine for heavy content creation chores, but it's more than sufficient for using Word, PowerPoint, and other productivity apps. There's even an Office tile pre-installed, however it directs you to Microsoft's website to sign up for a free Office 365 Home Premium trial.
The VivoTab handled streaming music and video without issue, though like the MeMO Tab Smart 10, Full HD 1080p content is somewhat wasted since the resolution is lower.
If this is your first rodeo with Windows 8, you should spend some time learning the gestures and nuances of the OS. For all the criticism it receives, it's actually a pretty slick interface for touchscreen panels, and in this case, we'd consider the VivoTab Smart a tablet first and a notebook second.
|Performance: CPU and GPU|
In addition to using the ASUS MeMO Tab Smart 10 and VivoTab Smart in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the devices compared to each other and the competition.
In the Linpack benchmark, the iPad 3 led the pack, though the MeMO Pad Smart 10 was able to hang with the competition in both the single and mutli-threaded runs. We don't have a VivoTab Smart score since Linkpack isn't compatible with Windows.
Here's where the NVIDIA Tegra 3 foundation of the MeMO Pad Smart 10 shows its legs. It ran well ahead of the competition, which isn't surprising since gaming is a primary focus point. The VivoTab Smart again trailed behind, though it wasn't the slowest of the bunch. Unlike the MeMO slate, the VivoTab is more about striking a balance between productivity and content consumption.
Basemark X isn't compatible with Windows, which is why you don't see a score for the VivoTab. As for the MeMO Tab Smart 8, it put up strong numbers that were rivaled only by the iPad 3.
More of the same was witnessed in GLBenchmark's Fillrate test. The MeMO Pad Smart 10 represented itself well, proving it's a graphics-first tablet, while the business-like VivoTab put up more pedestrian numbers.
Driving the point home are the T-Rex and Egypt HD portions of GLBenchmark v2.7. The Tegra 3 chip nearly doubled the performance of the Atom processor in the latter run, though it wasn't able to keep up with the Galaxy Note 10.1.
Since it's a full-fledged Windows 8 slate, we ran PCMark 7 on the VivoTab Smart and came up with a score of 1,405. Not brag-worthy, but decent. A stronger processor would have put up a higher score, though performance here was aided by flash-based storage versus a mechanical hard drive, of course.
Both ASUS tablets ended our benchmark tests with a thud. Neither one was particularly impressive in Rightware's BrowserMark test, both scoring less than 1,400. Subjectively, the two tablets performed much better on web. We like to use rapid-fire pinch-to-zoom tests to gauge a tablet's ability to surf the web, and both slates ran smooth and responsive.
|Camera and Battery Life|
|Conventional wisdom says that most people aren't going to use the rear-facing camera on their tablet very often, but is it true? While a smartphone is more convenient and a dedicated point-n-shoot typically takes higher quality photos, the sight of a parent snapping pictures at Little League game or Boy Scout outing isn't terribly uncommon in our experience.
The MeMO Pad Smart 10 features a 5MP rear-facing camera with auto-focus. It's not a fancy lens, nor does it have an LED flash, but it's there nonetheless. In stark contrast, ASUS talks up the 8MP rear-facing camera on the VivoTab Smart. It has a large F/2.2 aperture and backlit CMOS sensor, along with auto-focus and LED flash.
Here's a look at some sample pictures:
Pictures in the top were taken with the MeMO Pad Smart 10 and the bottom row with the VivoTab Smart. Right off the bat, we can see that both cameras struggle with glare. These were shot in early evening when the sun is still bright but not overbearing, yet the cameras still had trouble at certain angles.
When glare wasn't an issue, the VivoTab Smart was able to show it has the superior lens. You can especially see the difference in the third photo. The VivoTab produces deeper colors and catches more detail, making the MeMO Pad Smart 10's shots look washed out by comparison.
Battery LifeASUS rates the battery life on the MeMO Pad Smart 10 at up to 8.5 hours courtesy of a 19Wh Li-polymer battery, and the VivoTab Smart 10 at up to 9.5 hours (25Wh Li-polymer battery). Real-world usage will depend on what you're doing, but to give you an idea, we cranked the brightness up all the way to 100 percent on both tablets and streamed a Netflix movie. After an hour, the VivoTab's battery was reduced by 15 percent and the MeMO by 18 percent.
With the brightness all the way up, you could squeeze close to 7 hours out of the VivoTab and around 5.5 hours out of the MeMO. If you're surfing the web on half brightness, battery life will easily last all day and then some. And if you're playing games, well, have a power source close by.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
The most impressive thing about the ASUS MeMO Pad Smart 10 is that it streets for around $280, yet it offers a 10.1-inch IPS display, Tegra 3 processor, and a thin and light design. It even looks like a premium tablet, plastic back notwithstanding. You don't get to that price point on a 10.1-inch slate without making some sacrifices, and the biggest one is screen resolution, which checks in at just 1280x800. If you want Full HD 1080p visuals, you'll need to utilize the mini-HDMI port
It comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean right out of the box and can be updated to version 4.2, giving you the latest and greatest features Google's open source platform has to offer. That's a plus, however it seems most of what the MeMO has to offer is good and sometimes very good, but not great any single respect. The camera shoots decent photos, sound is sufficient for watching movies and playing games, and there's enough pixel pushing pep to get your game fix. However, it's still essentially a Nexus 7 in a 10.1-inch chassis.
Considering the price, the MeMO Tab Smart 10 is a good buy for a first-time tablet owner, as a gift, or if you just prefer a larger size screen regardless of resolution. But if you're looking for a true premium experience, you'll have to dip a little deeper into your wallet for a Full HD 1080p (or greater) slate.
ASUS MeMO Tab Smart 10
We found it a little easier to get excited about the ASUS VivoTab Smart. Like the Android-based MeMO, the VivoTab Smart's main selling point is its price, which streets for around $450. In general, that's high for a tablet but cheap for a Windows 8 slate. Microsoft's Surface Pro, for example, costs two times as much.
So, how did ASUS do it? It's all about the hardware. Instead of a Core processor foundation, you'll find Atom hardware (Clover Trail) inside. The Atom chip holds the system back in terms of being an overall powerhouse, but it's able to navigate Windows 8 just fine. Surfing the web, typing up expense reports, watching videos, and even light gaming are all possible on the VivoTab Smart, and quite pleasant when you splurge on the TranSleeve Keyboard Cover accessory.
The elephant in the room is that this is still a Windows 8 system, and for some, that might be a deal killer. On the other hand, early adopters will be treated to a surprisingly capable OS at this juncture. That said, this is precisely the type of device Windows 8 was designed for, and unlike Microsoft's similarly priced Surface RT, this slate allows you to run all your legacy apps.
If you're considering a Surface RT, you should be looking long and hard at the VivoTab Smart.
ASUS VivoTab Smart