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.