As tablet makers race to the bottom, sacrifices have to be made to reach those bargain prices. Luckily for consumers, there are a number of budget friendly tablets that, while not hot rods, are perfectly suitable for activities like watching videos, reading books, and surfing the Web. The Asus MeMO Pad ME172V ($149.99 list) is one of those tablets, serving as a lite version of the Editors’ Choice Nexus 7$299.00 at RadioShack, for the less demanding tablet user that’s looking to save a few bucks. If you want to play all the latest high-end games, this tablet is not for you, but if you’re considering the Amazon Kindle Fire$159.00 at Amazon and prefer a more traditional Android experience, the MeMO Pad is a solid alternative.
Design and Features
The MeMO Pad$109.99 at Office Depot looks and feels a lot like the Nexus 7, which is also made by Asus, and has nearly identical dimensions and weight at 7.7 by 4.7 by 0.45 inches (HWD) and 13.1 ounces. It even has a similar textured back, but the plastic here doesn’t have the same rubberized soft-touch coating. There are Volume and Power buttons along the left edge, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top panel, and a micro USB port and microSD card slot along the bottom. There’s no card slot in the Nexus 7, and is a big selling point for many, since expanding storage via microSD is more affordable. Around back is a single speaker port that doesn’t get very loud. The MeMO Pad is available in black, white, or pink.
Physically speaking, one of the biggest differences between the Nexus 7 and the MeMO Pad is the display. Here you get a lower-resolution 7-inch 1,024-by-600-pixel screen that’s more in line with the standard Kindle Fire than the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD$199.00 at Quill, both of which use 1,280-by-800-pixel IPS displays. Resolution isn’t the only difference, as the MeMO Pad’s display also suffers from color and brightness degradation when viewed from an angle. When held in portrait orientation, viewing angle isn’t bad from left to right, but viewing off angle from above or below looks pretty bad.
A Wi-Fi only tablet, the MeMO pad connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on the 2.4GHz frequency only. There’s no Bluetooth and only a single front-facing 1-megapixel camera for video chat. The tablet comes with 16GB of internal storage for your $150, and our 32 and 64GB SanDisk microSD cards worked fine.
Performance and Android
The MeMO Pad is powered by a dual-core 1GHz VIA WM8950 processor with a Mali 400 GPU and 1GB RAM. For general purposes, like checking email, browsing the Web, and playing casual games, the MeMO Pad performs reasonably smoothly, and was stable during my tests. App load times were good, and switching between multiple running apps didn’t cause any hang ups. Swiping through home pages was smooth, if not buttery, but you’ll still notice a little choppiness when scrolling through Web pages. And don’t expect gaming performance here; I experienced laggy movement and low frame rates in games like Riptide GP and Temple Run 2.
Asus made a number of modifications to Android 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean) on the MeMO Pad, including some cosmetic and functional changes. The most notable is the dedicated Floating Apps button that sits to the right of the standard Back, Home, and Recent Apps software buttons. It’s a lot like Sony’s Small Apps found on the Xperia Tablet S$524.79 at Shoplet, and includes useful pop-up apps like your calendar, email, to-do list, and Web browser. These apps run in small windows on top of the current running app, and you can move and resize them as you see fit. They don’t run completely smoothly—I noticed some Web page elements wouldn’t render correctly in the floating browser—but for basic multitasking on an entry-level tablet, the MeMO Pad does pretty well.
There are a number of Asus branded apps, including WebStorage, a DropBox alternative, and its social media aggregator BuddyBuzz. You have access to the Google Play app store, which means more than 800,000 apps, most of which, with the exception of intensive games, will run fine on the MeMO Pad.
Media support is solid: For video, the MeMO pad can handle Xvid, MPEG4, H.264, DivX, and AVI files up to 1080p resolution. Audio support includes MP3, AAC, FLAC, OGG, and WAV, but not WMA files.
In our battery rundown test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to maximum and Wi-Fi switched on, the MeMO Pad lasted 4 hours, 17 minutes. That’s well short of the Nexus 7’s 10 hours, 37 minutes, and still less than the Kindle Fire’s 5 hours, 11 minutes on the same test.
The Asus MeMO Pad ME172V isn’t going to knock out any of the flagship small-screen tablets out there, but it’s also not meant to. At $150 it’s one of the most affordable Android options and it’s from a reputable tablet maker. If that’s still too expensive for you, Coby makes a serviceable 7-inch tablet for $120, the MID7065$149.99 at Sears, but you’ll get a low-quality display and even shorter battery life. The MeMO Pad isn’t for gamers or power users, but it offers a solid experience for those interested in less demanding tasks like Web browsing or media consumption. For the Amazon-averse, it’s a good inexpensive alternative if you don’t want to spend $50 more on the Editors’ Choice Nexus 7.