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Review: Asus Memo Pad 7

There’s definitely no shortage of affordable Android tablets. There’s a heap of el-cheapo kamakuza-brand X models. So when asked to check out Asus’ Memo Pad 7, I was a more than a little curious to see how Asus stacked up in the ultra crowded and competitive Android tablet market.

Asus has taken a punt at the compact 7” category with the Memo Pad 7. The 16GB model rings in at a wallet pleasing $249 (depending where you shop).

Many people are gun-shy about budget Android tablets given some of the dire low-fi Tupperware offerings on offer. This is thankfully changing for the better thanks to affordable tablets such as Kobo’s android e-reader and the Nexus.

The big question is this – does the Asus Memo Pad 7 have what it takes to create a niche for itself given the tough competition it faces?

Look and FeelThe Asus Memo Pad 7 comes in blue, yellow, red, black or white. The review unit I tested was white.

Design-wise, the Asus Memo Pad 7 has a solid and attractive feel. Budget usually translates into plastic screens with chunky bezels. The Memo Pad 7’s bezels bordered on anorexic, they were that thin.

Its body may be plastic, but it has a pleasing smooth finish that gives it an up-market feel. At 9.6mm it is also slimmer than other budget Android tablets, although chunkier than the Nexus 7 and iPad.

This said, it also weighs in at 295g, a tad lighter than the 331g iPad.

I also found that the combination of weight, thickness and size makes it ideal for prolonged use. Its 7” screen means that holding it in one hand for extended periods was no problem.

Unlike a lot of budget tablets its limited 16GB storage is expandable using its microSD slot. It doesn’t sport a port cover so dust, grit and grime could become a problem over time.

Under the HoodThe screen was one area where the Memo Pad 7’s budget DNA was visible.

Its 7” IPS display sports a resolution of 1280 x 800, at 216ppi. Compared with the Nexus 7's 323ppi display, it seems a little low rent. In use it was still bright and perfectly usable.

Asus appear to have put some effort into the Asus Memo Pad 7’s spec, which is headed up by a 64-bit 1.86 GHz Intel Atom quad-core CPU. Using 1GB RAM. The Atom CPU is a pleasant surprise for such a competitively priced tablet.

While Android is still a 32-bit OS, the use of an upmarket 64-bit CPU made for silky smooth and lag free operation. Apps such as the camera app fired up with no wait whatsoever.

On the networking front, the Asus Memo Pad 7 has 802.11n WiFi, but not 802.11ac. Bluetooth 4.0 is present, but there’s no 3G/4G model and NFC isn’t present. Maybe there’s scope for a slightly more costly model with these bells and whistles?

In UseA lot of budget tablets get kludged up with improbable amounts of shovel-ware and tweaks to Android. The Memo Pad 7's ZenUI interface for Android 4.4 has a near stock Android feel. Its flat, intuitive layout also makes it a joy to use.

The deal breaker for many with tablets or smartphones is usually battery life. To this end the Memo Pad 7’s non-removable 15Wh battery, delivers a theoretical 10 hours of use.

With typical use (emails, Twitter and the odd video) I managed to get the Memo Pad 7 to run for 2-3 days before it finally gave up the ghost. This is most likely due to the Atom CPU and excellent preinstalled Power Saver app.

The budget theme didn’t extend to the Memo Pad 7’s cameras. As with the iPad, its rear-facing camera has a 5Mp sensor. Photos were good, being well saturated and sharp. Some noise was noticeable when shooting under low light conditions.

The Memo Pad’s camera app impressed. It is feature rich and provides a slew of filters and effects. There’s also Burst Mode HDR, Panorama, Night, Selfie and Smile modes all baked in.

I also found when testing the Memo Pad 7 camera that it didn’t feel clumsy, unlike shooting with a larger tablet.

VerdictConsidering its budget sticker price, I’m impressed. Where most cheapie Android tablets are dire, Asus have crafted a solid offering at an affordable price. It also has some pretty decent specs that rival more expensive tablets. I’d have liked a higher-resolution screen but for a budget tablet, the Asus Memo Pad 7 is definitely a worthy contender.

Tech SpecsOS: Android 4.2Display: 7" LED Backlight WXGA (1280x800) IPS LCDCPU: Intel Atom Quad-Core, 1.2 GHzMemory:1GBStorage: 16GB/8GBWireless: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth V4.0Camera: (Front) 1.2 MP, (Rear) 5 MPI/O: 1 x micro USB, 1 x Audio jack: Head phone/Mic, 1 x Card readerBattery: 15Wh Li-polymer BatteryDimensions: 196.8 x 120.6 x 10.8 mm (WxDxH)Weight: 302 g

RRP $249 (16GB)