At a certain point, you will have to decide whether you want something for the sake of having it, or if you want something because it will have a transformative aspect to your life. Take the Apple iPod for example. During its heyday, it was an easy target for singling out people who wanted it for the sake of having a status symbol, but ask yourself: when was the last time you played a CD? Very clearly, MP3 players have been transformative, because they have improved the listening experience by the sheer density and connectivity that they offer to music collections. And that is very much so what is happening with tablets. Again, it’s very easy to label iPad owners as status seeking hipsters, but Apple is leading the tablet revolution down a road that is quite clearly transformative in how we consume readable media and how we interact with out computing devices. I have multiple extended family members who have been staunchly sitting out the personal computer revolution for the past three decades, only to fall in love with tablets and the non-computer things that you can do with them… like video chat and store cooking recipes. So the question then is, would it matter if you skimped on performance to save on price? At what point are you having something for the sake of having it, without reaping the transformative benefits that the very best examples of its genre can offer? Such is the case with the MeMO Pad.
First off, don’t let the name fool you. ASUS has an excellent 10” MeMO tablet ($299 CDN) that is very stylish and competent for its product point. The 7” sibling is only related in name only; the construction is not as slick and the internals are cheaper. It does have some family resemblance to the Google Nexus 7, which is also made by ASUS, but it doesn’t have the same build quality. It’s still usable, and nicely designed for its price point.
Surfing and reading on the MeMO Pad is not up to the best. This is not so much the fault of the screen resolution; the BlackBerry Playbook uses the same resolution and produces much clearer to read text. The problem with the MeMO Pad is that the screen is not leading edge quality; it’s a TN LCD panel, not like the modern IPS panels that grace tablets like the Google Nexus 7. Text is not unreadable, but it does look a bit fuzzy by modern standards. Viewing angles are poor, but I’ve found that this isn’t the relevant complaint that many tech reviews make it out to be. You tend to unconsciously tilt tablets and phones with lesser screens so that the image is always viewable. What really detracts from the crispness of the screen is that you can make out the pixel structure, and that it seems to leak a bit of light in between the pixels. That said, it’s still better than many of the unbranded Chinese devices that populate the lowest tier of the tablet market. It will be okay for showing off your vacation pics, but the limited viewing angle means that you will have to hand off the tablet to the next person; two people viewing at the same time from off-center angles might not work that well.
Performance is to be frank, slow. Not Kobo Vox slow, but slow enough to be disappointing in today's market. It’s running off of a 1GHz single-core VIA WM8850 CPU, with an accompanying dual core GPU. Homescreen swipes show the same jittery transitions that you used to see with pre Android 4.0 devices. Scrolling through webpages is a hiccupy; it’s more of an annoyance than anything else, and if I’m honest, it’s not terminal to the user experience. With any lower powered Android device, you will want to stick to doing one thing at a time; keep the multitasking down and performance is reasonable. If you give it to your kids to play games with, they will be disappointed if they’ve used any other tablet.
There's a front facing camera for video chat, but no back facing camera.... thankfully. People who use their iPad's to take pictures look silly and are silly.
Like almost all Android devices, the MeMO Pad has a microSD card expansion slot. The Nexus branded devices don’t, and Google has given a weak-tea explanation that removable storage would pose a problem to multi-user profile, which are coming. Balderdash. Anyway, weak text aside, un-crisp screens are still good for video as the human eye has a harder time picking out moving detail rather than still detail. So in that sense, the microSD car will probably see a lot of usage ferrying video back and forth. Just a note: On cheap Android tablets, don’t transfer large files to/from your PC over a USB connection; the USB controller on the tablet is usually dog slow, making a simple operation excruciatingly slow.
Overall I would recommend saving up for something nicer. If price is a consideration and you absolutely must have a tablet, then either this or a discounted 7” Samsung device will do fine. However, we are heading into an era when tablets are going to do to our books and magazines what the iPod did to our CD collections, and because of that, I think it would be wiser to have something that you would actually want to read with. There are plenty of options available that are just a bit more expensive. The Nexus 7 comes to mind, though you will have to jump through some hoops to jury rig it into reading SD cards through the USB port. The, Nook, Kobo Arc and the Kindle Fire all come to mind. The devices with IPS panels doing1280*800 resolution on a 7” screen are not as good as E Ink, but you will get far less eye fatigue reading with this than you will with older screens.
However, if you are in the position where want a second tablet, the MeMO Pad becomes an interesting proposition. Say you have an iPad that’s near and dear to your wallet. You might not want to take it with you everywhere you go. That’s where something as low cost as this ASUS offering comes in handy. Finally, do check out the 10” MeMO tablet. It’s not cutting edge either, but the screen and horsepower is much better, and the case has a very sleek and svelte design.