Sunday, August 18, 2013

ASUS MeMo Pad HD7: Hands on Impressions

The first MeMo Pad barely drew a second glance in a competitive landscape of 7" Android tablets. It's one redeeming feature was how utterly inexpensive it was, giving you 16gb at a launch price of $150 USD; this feel to $130 fairly soon after, with the remaining units quite near the $100 mark. The second version of this device is more interesting, as ASUS has made it more usable with the inclusion of the IPS panel from the out-going first-generation Nexus 7. This immediately transforms the device into something that you can tolerate looking at for long periods of time, but would you want to use it for that long as well?

The screen isn't the only drawing point. Like the original MeMo Pad, the HD 7 version come with a microSD card slot, something that you don't get with the Nexus 7. So, decent screen and expandable memory; is this the Nexus 7 that some of us actually wanted all along?

Not quite.

Even though the length and width of the HD 7 match the original Nexus 7, it's a bit chunkier and uses cheaper plastics... noticeably cheaper. The texture of the back has changed from the first MeMo pad, which is a relief. Gone is the cross-hatched bumpy texture in place of something a bit smoother and somewhat more upscale looking.

Like the second-generation Nexus 7, the MeMo pad gains a rear-facing 5mp camera, and retains the original 1.2mp front-facing camera. I usual describe the front-cameras on these devices as "serviceable", but truly, the ones on the Memo pads don't seem as nice as other tablets; the lack of dynamic range is atrocious. If you are going to use these tablets for Skype, make sure that you have a good illumination source, otherwise the person at the other end will only make out a dark shadowy figure on your end. The front facing camera is what I would call "feature-phone quality."

The MemO Pad HD 7 runs on Android 4.2.1, which is a step behind the latest 4.3 version on the 2013 Nexus 7. Unlike the Google device, the ASUS tablet isn't an Android reference device, so it doesn't come with stock Android. That means some ASUS software on top, but overall, not a heavy re-skinning of the basic operating system.

At the budget  price-point you would expect processing power to be budget-constrained and that it certainly is. Whereas the screen quality exceeds that of most budget tablets, the overall responsiveness of the HD 7 seems more or less on par with tablets like the Samsung Tab 2 or the HP Slate 7. Even when you don't over-task it, the lack of horsepower is apparent.*

Still, if you aren't a power user and want something for occasional use only, this is an interesting option. It's a champagne display with a beer-budget processor. At launch, it's selling for $159CDN, but to be perfectly honest, the difference in price to the new Nexus 7 is that much of a reach. The addition of a coveted microSD slot swings in favour of the MeMo Pad, but everything else goes in favour of the bigger brother. However, at this price point, you won't be to sad if the screen gets accidentally crushed in your backpack, and with the increased screen resolution, reading ebooks becomes a real possibility, something that you wouldn't want to do with its predecessor.


*Aside: A gal pal of mine went travelling this summer, and asked everybody what a good budget tablet for web-surfacing would be. Of course, everybody responded that she should get the Nexus 7. I did as well, but I didn't know how she would take to it since she was was an Apple person at heart. A few weeks past and I got a message from her on the road that she was going for the Samsung Galaxy Tab II.... bit of a surprise. Instead of trying to immediately back her out of the decision, I held tongue and let nature take its course. You have to think about this for a moment... the Tab II is white and it has a physical home button. Remind you of anything? When she got to the store the kind salesperson let her try the Samsung back to back with an iPad Mini, which she originally deemed as too expensive. My pal walked out of the store with the iPad, and when I asked her why, she said that the lack of smoothness and power of the Samsung next to the iPad changed her mind.

I bring this up to illustrate a point about the hurdles that budget Android tablets face. Apple has cornered the discussion on what a tablet should be, so much so that average non-techy people are looking for an Apple-like experience even if they aren't looking for an Apple. To that end, I think budget tablets like the Memo Pad HD 7 face an uphill battle on two fronts. The first is that they aren't offering the Apple-like experience that people are looking for, even if what they do offer is significantly cheaper. The second is that Google is making life difficult for it's manufacturing partners with the pricing of the Nexus 7; they've made a clone-maker out of ASUS even though ASUS does the actual manufacturing of the reference device. This creates an unhealthy market dynamic; in today's consumer world, everything either "sucks" or it "rocks", and it makes it difficult for nuanced devices like the HD 7 to exist.

1 comment:

  1. Anybody facing speaker problems when using skype with asus memo psd hd7?