|Introduction and Specifications|
|ASUS recently refreshed its 7-inch MeMO Pad 7 tablet with Intel’s new Atom Z3745 Bay Trail-based processor. Having overcome its rocky start, the latest generation of Atom processors is building a reputation for power efficiency and computational chops. Despite its early days in ill-fated netbooks, today's Atom looks to be a good fit for tablets and smartphones and sports new-found graphics horsepower that is up to the task for these types of devices.
We checked out the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 ME176C, which comes in at a relatively affordable $149.99, in light of competing tablets in this category.
The quad-core Intel Z3745 chip sets the stage for the rest of the components in the tablet. The processor runs at up to 1.86GHz and features integrated Intel HD graphics as well. The MeMO Pad 7 is one of the first retail-ready tablets to run the Bay Trail Atom processor.
The CPU is backed up by 1GB of memory, which is a little light – most of the tablets we’ve tested recently included at least 2GB of memory. Then again, those tablets have generally been much more expensive (as in, hundreds of dollars more), so softer specs are a given, here. With that in mind, the tablet has a mere 16GB of internal storage, compared to the 32GB or 64GB of storage in some devices. That’s less of an issue if you have a micro SD card on hand though; the MeMO Pad 7 supports up to 64GB micro SD cards via a slot on its side.
Like previous versions of the tablet, the MeMO Pad 7 has a 7-inch display. If you’ve handled an 8-inch tablet, you might miss the extra screen real estate, but it’s a quality display, especially at this price point. It uses IPS technology for wide viewing angles (critical for tablets) and it has a smudge-resistant coating that is meant to reduce fingerprints.
The tablet also has a micro USB port (for the power adapter) and a headphone/mic jack, as well as basic b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and GPS. There is a 2MP camera at the front, and the 5MP camera at the back has autofocus capabilities. It can also record 1080p video.
The MeMO Pad 7 is available in blue, black, red, white, and yellow. As we mentioned earlier, it lists for $149.99, making it a very affordable tablet. It’s also very light, at only 0.65 pounds.
|Design And Build Quality|
|You may not expect a $150 tablet to be particularly stylish, but no one wants a cheap plastic feel, either. The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 comes across exactly as it should: unassuming, but sturdy. The back of the chassis has a smooth finish that looks fine, but is a little slippery. An aluminum band around the display gives the tablet just a little flair and also adds to its overall tough-tablet image.
The ASUS logo appears on the front of the tablet, just under the display, and on the back of the device, just under the camera. Aside from the logo, camera, and a thin speaker opening near the bottom, the back of the MeMO Pad 7 is empty.
The sides of the tablet are also clutter-free. The built-in mic and the mic/headphone jack sit at the top of the device, along with a micro USB port for the power adapter. The only thing on the tablet’s right side is a micro SD card reader, which doesn’t have a cover. The left side has only the power and volume buttons.
The MeMO Pad 7’s screen is reasonably bright and clear. Movies on Netflix looked good, though some detail seemed to get lost in the shadows during dark scenes. The screen's native resolution of 1280x800 isn't terribly inspiring, but on a display this size, it still offers excellent clarity and sharpness. The speakers are loud enough to hear when you are alone, but when you’re in a room with other conversations taking place around you, you’ll want headphones. The screen picked up fingerprints, but only after lots of use, and it was easy to clean.
|Software and User Experience|
|In regard to preinstalled software, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is refreshingly clutter-free. There are bound to be a couple apps that you kick into Android’s garbage can icon, but most of the freebies are handy. ASUS has its own cloud storage app, ASUS WebStorage, complete with folder syncing and photo stream. You’ll get 5GB free, with a trial for additional storage.
ASUS also kicks in Do It Later, which is a decent task tracker that doesn’t go overboard with unnecessary features, the way many task trackers do these days. ASUS SuperNote isn’t bad either, as note-taking apps go. You can write with your fingertips and you can store the notes online. And should you have a question about your tablet, the MyASUS app will get you in touch with tech support.
The back of the chassis is a bit slippery for our tastes – we prefer material with more grip, but that’s nothing a case can’t handle. And, the tablet is light enough that we could easily hold it in one hand while reading.
|Camera and Battery Life|
|The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 ME176C has a 2MP front camera, which is meant primarily for video chats. You’ll use the 5MP rear camera for snapping photos and shooting video. Those are fairly typical camera specs for today’s 7- and 8-inch tablets, and the quality of the pictures we shot with the tablet are on par with photos from similar tablets we’ve reviewed recently.
Focusing is as simple as double-tapping anywhere on the screen while in camera mode, and you can move the focus with another tap. One feature we miss here is a flash for the rear-facing camera; indoor shots were sometimes grainy due to inadequate lighting. We were also happy with the quality of the full HD videos we shot with the MeMO Pad 7.
The Android camera app has some worthwhile features, including a burst mode and anti-shake mode, as well as a time-lapse feature. If you’re into selfies, you’ll like Selfie mode: you turn the tablet so that the rear camera is facing you, then wait for the face-recognition feature to kick in and trigger the shutter. It’s an easy way to take advantage of the better-quality rear cam.
The Asus MeMO Pad 7’s 3910mAh battery should benefit from the power-conserving Bay Trail platform, so we put it through AnTuTu’s battery test, which heavily taxes the device until the battery is exhausted. The tablet finished with a score of 532, putting it only behind the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 in our comparison data. That’s not bad at all. We were also impressed with the battery life while we tested the tablet. The system weathered heavy use and rarely needed to be recharged. There’s nothing scientific about that assessment, but in our experience, the MeMO Pad 7 held its own for battery life.
|Performance: CPU and General Compute|
|AnTuTu and MobileXPRT are well-known benchmarks that have been around for a long time. We use these tests to compare the general performance of the devices we review. The overall scores are handy for quick comparisons, but the task- and component-specific scores are useful, too, particularly if you’re tablet shopping with specific requirements in mind.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 placed 6th among the devices we’ve recently tested, but it took 2nd place in the RAM tests, and 3rd place in the CPU Float test. Not bad for a $150 tablet. The tablet took top honors in MobileXPRT with an overall score of 287. It took the lead or (or stayed near it) in most of the benchmark’s individual assesments, including the browser scrolling and list zoom/pinch tests. In fact, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 took 2nd place with its User Experience score of 100.
|Where the previous tests gave us a look at how the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 handles typical computing tasks, these next benchmarks zero in on one of the most common uses for a mobile device: surfing the Web. We compared the tablet to similar tablets with the SunSpider and BrowserMark tests.
We tested the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 in SunSpider 1.0.2 (in which it scored 606.7), but because this version of SunSpider is so new, we also ran SunSpider 0.9.1, for which we have a deeper comparison pool. The tablet offered a solid score of 617.5, beating out the significantly more expensive Apple iPad 4.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 scored 2,700 in BrowserMark 2.0, putting it behind most of the Apple devices and even a couple Android devices, but still well above competitors like the Venue 8 and Nexus 7. The tablet scored 1246 in BrowserMark 2.1, which sounds low if you compare it to the 2.0 score, but of course, you can’t. We’ll have more tablets to compare the MeMO Pad 7 to in BrowserMark 2.1 soon.
|Performance: Graphics and Gaming|
|Take a look at the Google Play Store and you’ll see just how big the “casual” mobile game scene has become. Graphics capabilities matter, and Intel has been touting Bay Trail’s performance. We fired up couple graphics benchmarks to see how the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 stacks up.
Understandably, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is no match for larger tablets from Apple and Samsung, which have more room for higher-end hardware. The comparison worth making here is with other 7-inch tablets, like the 2013 version of Google’s Nexus 7. That tablet falls 655 points behind the ASUS MeMO Pad 7.
The MeMO Pad 7 also handled 3DMark Ice Storm (Extreme) well, giving even the Windows-based Dell Venue 8 Pro a run for its money. The tablet also scored well in the Unlimited version of Futuremark’s multi-platform 3DMark Ice Storm test, with 13535. Intel tells us the tablet has scored as high as 13683 in the Unlimited test, which is designed to exclude operating system characteristics that could make cross-platform comparisons inaccurate.
|The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is a no-frills value tablet so it’s bound to fall short of tablets with bigger price tags and beefier specs. Even so, the MeMO Pad 7 is a surprisingly good deal.
For one thing, the tablet is remarkably sturdy, despite weighing only a little more than half a pound and being a mere 0.38 inches thick. It doesn’t look particularly flashy, but ASUS gives the device a little flair by offering it in multiple colors. And the screen, though not the best we’ve seen, is bright enough and responsive enough for most users.
There is no question that Intel has made strides with the Atom platform. The Bay Trail Z3745 is a good fit here: the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 provided solid benchmark scores and proved to be reasonably capable at gaming, which is where value tablets traditionally tank. Still, it’s disappointing to see only 1GB of memory, and the internal storage could really use a boost, especially considering that the OS and preloaded apps use some of that already light space.
What makes the MeMO Pad 7 worthwhile is that it has few weak spots. It’s solid on performance, battery life, and user experience. It won’t take top honors in any category, but at $149.99 it’s a good value tablet offering indeed.