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Asus MeMo Pad ME172 tablet review

Asus MeMo Pad ME172
Asus MeMo Pad ME172Androt - Wikimedia Commons

Asus MeMo Pad 172 Tablet

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There is no doubt about it, tablets are one of the biggest must have items these days, and fortunately the market has been flooded with cheap, affordable options. Cheap is not always a good thing, especially when it comes to electronics, but when in the market for a tablet to be used by children, cheap is one of the key features I look for. The MeMo Pad 7 by Asus is just one of the many sub $150 Android tablets on the market today, and after buying a couple of them for my children (and me occasionally) to use for just $99 each, I am ready to offer my opinions about the device.

The Design

When it comes to tablets there is really not a whole lot manufacturers can do to differentiate their device in terms of looks from the many competitors on the market, but having said that, Asus has always made nice looking equipment, and fortunately the MeMo Pad 7 is no exception.

Asus were the makers of the original Google Nexus 7 tablet, which has to be said was lauded for its design, and comfort while in use. The MeMo Pad 7 is almost a complete replica of the original Nexus 7 when it comes to how the device looks, right down to the textured surface on the back of the device.

The MeMo Pad 7 is a 7” tablet that weighs in at just 10.7 ounces, and it is pretty thin with a thickness just under half an inch at 0.4 inches. The MeMo Pad 7 is 7.7-inches tall, and 4.7-inches wide. The MeMo Pad 7 does have the same nice rounded edges that the original Google Nexus 7 had, and there are even color options. The MeMo Pad is available in white, pink, and, and gray, just in case you are not a fan of black.

The size of the tablet makes it nice to hold and all of the usual suspects such as the volume and power buttons are easy enough to reach, my only complaint is that the buttons are perhaps located too far toward the back of the device. Around the right hand side of the device you will find the power button and the volume rocker, on the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the left had edge of the device is empty.

There was a nice surprise waiting for me on the bottom of the device, a SD card slot alongside the micro-USB port. The back of the device has a nice textured feel to it, and it does help when it comes holding the tablet because it can prevent slipping. There is also one small speaker located in the bottom left hand corner. Around the front of the device you will see the 7-inch capacitive touch screen with the Asus logo placed just beneath it, and the front facing camera above the screen.

I have been impressed with the overall design of the tablet, and I am pretty impressed with the overall build quality. The plastic used to build the device is solid, and does not feel flimsy like the plastic used on the Samsung Galaxy Note series, but the whole device does creek and moan when it is held, and if even the slightest bit of pressure is applied to the tablet, a tiny gap does appear between the case and the screen. The plastic used is also a magnet for finger prints, but overall I am satisfied with the design and build of the tablet, after all, this tablet was just $99 and is not a high end quality tablet.

What’s under the hood?

On the outside the Asus MeMo Pad 7 looks nice, and it fits nicely into hands both large and small, but what is powering this device? Honestly for $100 I was not expecting much, but yet again I have been pleasantly surprised.

The MeMo Pad 7 is powered by an A9 Cortex 1GHz single-core processor manufactured by Via, and sitting alongside the chipset you will find 1GB of RAM, which is really surprising as most sub $150 tablets usually only have 512mb. The Mali-400 GPU is ageing now, but it does a good job in this little tablet. The front facing 1MP camera is capable of recording in 720p, which is perfect for video chats, and the included 16GB of storage space is unheard of in tablets in this price range. The battery is a non-removable 4270 mAh Li-Po unit, and it can last for a full 7 hours of use which is quite impressive.

Other features include the expandable memory card slot (up to 32GB), Wi-Fi b/g/n, a built in microphone, and an accelerometer. The MeMo Pad does not feature Bluetooth, GPS or a rear facing camera, so keep this in mind if you need these features.

As you can see from the specifications above, the little MeMo Pad is a quite a powerful device, but there is always a weak link, and in the case of this tablet, it is the screen. Asus obviously had to cut costs somewhere so that they could offer this tablet at an affordable price, and they really cut costs with the TFT screen that is used in this device. The LED backlit display has a resolution of just 600x1024, and a pixel density of 170dpi, but what does this mean?

When using the MeMo Pad looking at the display head on, and are holding it at just the right angle it is not too bad, and one could say that it gets the job done. Colors are reproduced to an acceptable level, and the blacks are distinguishable from the grays, however while being bright, colors are slightly washed out, and small text can be hard to read, especially on web pages. The screen is also hard to see when in direct sunlight, and even when set to full brightness, the screen cannot compete which makes it a little hard to use while outside.

When you are using the device, if you hold the tablet just off center the image quality goes south very quickly in the fact that everything turns gray, and you can completely forget about viewing anything on this screen from either side for the same reason. While the display has its obvious shortcomings, it does get the job done, and very rarely do you ever look at the screen of a tablet from anything but head on viewpoint. When taking into consideration what this device will be used for, and who will be using it for the most part, the screen is ok.

How does it perform?

As we all know, devices that utilize Android offer a mixed bag when it comes to performance, and one could say that this is Android’s biggest weakness. The fact that manufacturers are allowed to use whatever hardware they like to run the software means that performance varies greatly from device to device, but Asus have done a pretty good job with the MeMo Pad 7.

During daily use, the MeMo Pad 7 is fairly zippy. Google worked very hard on an update to Android called Project Butter, and the project was included in the release of Android 4.1 (Jellybean) which this tablet is running. The update was designed to make even low powered devices perform well while running the platform, and I have to say that the MeMo Pad does a fine job at navigating Jellybean.

Another big selling point of this tablet compared to other cheap tablets on the market is the included software. Normally when I talk about included software I bemoan the bloatware that manufacturers pre-install, but not this time. The biggest addition to this tablet in regards to included software is the Google Play Store. Most tablets in this price range do not have access to Google’s app store and they rely on third party app store, but not the MeMo Pad. Thanks to this inclusion, you have access to over 750,000 apps. Along with the Play Store you will also find the full Google Suite with apps like Gmail, Hangouts, Google Maps, and the new Google Now.

Whether you are playing games, browsing the web, video chatting, or watching videos, the MeMo Pad 7 rarely misses a beat. Swiping through home screens is usually snappy, and applications open up quickly too, occasionally there is just a slight hint of a delay, but nothing that would make you cringe with horror.

My children are fairly unforgiving when it comes to making sure they get the most from their tablets, and even with multiple games, apps, web pages, and video apps open in the background, the little MeMo Pad hums along nicely. Even newer games such as Batman: The Dark Knight, and Subway Surfers play flawlessly, which really surprises me seeing at the processor is just a single-core. Other apps such as YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu all stream flawlessly as well. There have been a few occasions where lag has become apparent and I have had to open the task manager to close a few of the 20 apps that were running in the background.

The single speaker on the back of the device is not the best I have ever heard, and honestly I did not expect it to be, but overall it does a good job. The single speaker can actually pump out music, dialogue and sound effects very well, and when at its highest setting it can easily be heard across the room. The sound is crisp and clear, and I have never heard it distort.

The front facing camera is another plus point for this tablet. The camera is capable of recording at a resolution of 720p which makes it perfect for video chatting. While video chatting the images that the camera produces are clean, clear and crisp, and it honestly makes video chatting a fun experience. It is a shame that there is not a rear facing camera, but it is not missed that much.

Overall the MeMo Pad 7 is a stellar little performer, and I have to say that I have been really impressed at just how easily this tablet handles the tasks that have been thrown at it.

Conclusion

While the MeMo Pad 7 might not win any awards, for the price it's hard to beat this 7-inch tablet by Asus. The MeMo Pad has good specifications, and it is able to keep up with media consumption just as well as many other tablets that carry a higher price point. You can easily play games, watch movies, read books, listen to music and browse the web with this device, and thanks to its ergonomic design, it feels comfortable in your hands, even after extended periods of use.

Who is this tablet for? Well the MeMo Pad is a great entry level tablet that will serve many people very well. The price point of just $109 (I paid $99) makes it a very attractive tablet for anyone who wants to be able to consume media on a device other than their phone or computer, for me though this tablet is ideal for children. The build quality is good, and it will not break unless you are overly rough with it, it gives access to applications that can help children with school work, it also lets play games and have fun for a very reasonable price. Performance is above average, and the battery life of 7 hours is very good too.

If you are a looking for a tablet that will absolutely blow your socks off in terms of specifications and screen resolution, the MeMo Pad 7 is not for you, but if you are looking for a cheap and cheerful way to break into the world of tablets, or if you are looking for a way to use the tablet as a learning device for children, the MeMo Pad 7 will fit the bill nicely.