In late 2013, Lenovo released a couple of Android slates literally capable of standing on their own two feet. Well, strike that—they were capable of standing on their own one foot.

Literally and technically, it’s not a foot at all. As you can see below, it’s more like a kickstand…

 

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Feet)

 

That stand is what has set apart Lenovo’s Yoga Tablets—the first generation, and the newer Yoga Tablet 2 models we’ve been looking at here in early 2015—from the rest of the Android and Windows pack.

The tablet aisle has become quite the crowded place, and Lenovo realized it had to be bold in its design. In the first Yoga tablets, the kickstand allowed you to position Lenovo’s tablets in three distinct and often quite useful “modes,” standing free in several possible orientations. With the Yoga Tablet 2 models, Lenovo has added a new orientation called “Hang mode” (which we’ll discuss in the Design & Modes section later on). Now, you can use the Yoga Tablets in even more ways that other tablets just can’t pull off as elegantly.

Also with this round of Yoga Tablets, you have more choices in terms of screen size. Up from two screen-size options in Android—in the original Yoga Tablet 8 and the Yoga Tablet 10—now you have three to pick from: the $229.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), the subject of this review, as well as a $249.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (10.1-Inch), and the $469.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (13-Inch), all shown below…

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Sizes)

We should point out, though, that the 13-inch model, with its dazzling QHD (2,560×1,440) display, low-power built-in projector, and JBL speakers, is actually more of a high-end entertainment device—a sleek, premium slate not really in the same class as the 8- or 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2. Here seems a good place to point out that we classify tablets with 9-inch or larger screens as “full-size,” and slates with displays smaller than 9 inches as “compact.” With the emergence of 13-inch models, though, we’re considering calling models in that size range “oversize tablets”—far bigger to handle than the dominant 9- and 10-inch tablets that orbit the Apple iPad’s dimensions.

The Yoga Tablet 2 8-incher is quite on the other end of the spectrum from “oversize.” It has roughly the same screen size as an Apple iPad Mini 3, and in our opinion that’s the smallest truly acceptable screen size for Android tablets these days. Given prices in 2015, much of the gloss has come off of 7-inch models for us, and as high-res screens have crept into tablets this small, the difference between a 7-inch and an 8-inch tablet is that much more pronounced.

While physically this Yoga tablet looks much like its 8-inch predecessor, inside it’s a completely new animal, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on. An ARM-based MediaTek processor powered the previous Yoga Tablet 8. The Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), as well as the other two Android Yoga Tablet 2s mentioned above, have gone Intel, running on Atom CPUs. (Many competing compact slates from first-tier makers also now use Atoms.) As we’ve seen with other recent tablets, the Atom chip greatly improves performance—especially compared to some of the midrange ARM processors found in the entry-level compact slates of late 2013 and early 2014.

Even so, despite its CPU, the Yoga Tablet 8 came within about $50 (given its $249 list price) of winning our Editors’ Choice nod back when we reviewed it in late 2013. We thought—and still do—that the Yoga Tablet 8 was a $199 slate, and we think the same about this newer model. So far, though, we haven’t found it anywhere online for less than its $229.99 list price, and in places for slightly more, suggesting that Lenovo’s not having any trouble selling it.

While the Intel Atom CPU certainly beefed up this tablet’s performance, most recent competing compact models have also stepped up to the same or similar Atoms. In other words, the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) is faster than its predecessor, but so are most of its competitors. And where the 2013 Yoga Tablet 8 was generally faster than many compact slates of that era, today’s model, performance-wise, is just average—even if average isn’t so bad, nowadays.

Battery longevity is a different dynamic. On the first Yoga Tablet 8, we saw a whopping 15-plus hours in our video-playback test. Comparatively, the 8-inch Android Yoga Tablet 2 came up short by nearly 3 hours. But it still lasted long enough this time around to deliver at least a couple of days of everyday work, such as browsing the Web and answering e-mails, before we had to recharge.

As we’ve pointed out in numerous Yoga Tablet reviews, the Yoga Tablet design is unique because of the cylindrical hinge and stand built into the bottom of the device (assuming the slate is in wide/landscape orientation). In addition to providing plenty of room for a capacious battery, it also makes for a great grip point for holding the tablet in one hand while operating it with the other, as shown here…

 

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Hold Mode)

We decided, even back with the first Yoga tablets, that we were fans of the overall design and its various modes, which we’ll get into on the next page. But the new innards and higher-resolution display of this latest 8-inch Yoga Tablet make this 2015 model much superior to the Yoga Tablet 8. Plenty has changed in the tablet market since we reviewed that tablet, but the improvements here outpace the field: Screen quality and performance have increased significantly, and the price went down by $20.

We’d still like the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) better at $199, but this new compact model is, nonetheless, a very nice tablet for the money.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

Asus VivoTab 8 Review and RatingsLike everybody else, we expected great things from Windows once it became more touchable, and, no matter how disappointing Windows 8 has turned out, it has (for the most part) accomplished that much. Despite the flaws (yes, some were serious) and the circuitous route it took to get there, today we enjoy relatively easy-to-use, high-quality, and affordable touch-screen Windows tablets and convertibles—as demonstrated by Asus’ Editors’ Choice recipient, the $329.99 VivoTab Note 8 we reviewed back in April 2014.

One of that slate’s most notable features was its built-in, pressure-sensitive stylus, which, considering how small many of the menu entries, buttons, and icons were (especially in desktop mode), came in quite handy not only for taking notes and drawing, but for navigating Windows in general. And at the time, its price was remarkably low.

Now Asus has introduced another 8-inch Windows tablet, the $199.99 VivoTab 8 (only $149 at the Microsoft Store as we wrote this). For the most part, this is the same tablet as last year’s VivoTab Note 8, but without the stylus and with a few other minor differences we’ll get to over the course of this review.

Asus VivoTab 8 landscapeFor example, the Note version contains a slot on one edge for housing the stylus, which in turn makes for wider bezels, and display hardware for supporting the stylus. This means that the VivoTab 8 is a much leaner tablet—both smaller and lighter than the VivoTab Note 8.

That said, many users won’t mind the extra girth. For them, giving up the stylus for navigating this small screen is no small sacrifice. On the other hand, if you can live without the pen, this VivoTab is, in terms of screen quality and performance, a winner in its own right.

Granted, the display resolution of 1,200×800 pixels isn’t particularly high, but it’s plenty high enough for this petite screen. The Web sites, photos, games, and videos we looked at were… well, not necessarily spectacular, but certainly sharp enough to deliver great-looking images and graphics.

And that’s just it—if you don’t mind the concept of Windows 8 on an 8-inch screen, which will inevitably present you with buttons, icons, and menu entries small enough to sometimes require multiple attempts at manipulating them, you will probably like this tablet. We did.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper


 

AARP RealPad Review and RatingsMost of us have a technologically challenged elderly relative or two. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center (and several other sources), about 70 million people living in the United States today are over the age of 50—and about half of those folks are only “marginally” connected to the Internet (or have an Internet connection but don’t use it much). And about 30 million seniors aren’t connected to the Internet at all.

Enter senior citizens’ advocate AARP. With the help of chip maker Intel, AARP late in 2014 introduced a compact Android tablet geared toward seniors, the $189-list AARP RealPad. According to Steve Cone, AARP’s vice president of membership and integrated value, the organization identified the need for a product, a value-added tablet designed to make technology less intimidating for seniors. That happened in late 2013, when the group started holding its AARP Technology, Education, and Knowledge (AARP TEK) seminars for members across the country.

AARP RealPadAARP’s CEO, JoAnn Jenkins, explained further that “AARP understands that while technology is a wonderful thing and boomers are one of the biggest consumers of personal tech, it can still be a daunting experience for a large majority of Americans 50-plus.” And there’s a lot of incentive to fix that, beyond a giant market opportunity: Personal-computing devices, like tablets, not only alleviate boredom and help stimulate the brain, but they can also help seniors stay in touch and participate remotely in events with friends and family.

The heart of the RealPad is an Intel Atom processor. About the RealPad itself, Brian Fravel, Intel’s director of North American marketing, said, “In addition to powering RealPad, Intel helped build the software and unique interface on the tablet, making it simple and intuitive to interact with a RealPad tablet, even for those with little technology experience.”

So goes the claim. Because of the unique front end on this tablet, and the services connected to it (which we’ll get to in a bit), this is a niche slate aimed at a particular group, even if the niche is huge. So it was clear to us that we needed to assess it from a couple of standpoints: First, how well does it hold up against other recent entry-level, compact tablets—essentially, its physical-hardware competition? Second, do the software, help system, and other enhancements succeed in assisting seniors not only to use the tablet, but also to access the Internet, e-mail, social media, and the like? We’ll look closely at that software and other enhancements in the Features & Apps section later on.

AARP RealPad (Landscape)As to the tablet itself—its build and screen quality, overall speed, and how well it holds up to today’s other entry-level, compact slates—we’ll cover these issues in several subsequent sections of this review. In a nutshell, though: Suffice it to say that the RealPad’s somewhat sluggish dual-core processor (an Intel Atom Z2520) and short battery life might earmark it, at first, as an underachiever among under-$200 slates.

The processing power, though, is not at all the point in a tablet like this. AARP and Intel are banking far more on this slate’s support and learning features to set it apart. These include a “RealQuick Fix” option for near-instant tablet status updates and one-click problem-solving, as well as numerous tutorials, videos, and enhanced help files. Those items are backed up by 24/7 live tech support, and the purchase price also includes a one-year membership (or membership extension) with AARP itself.

All of this can very well be worth the $189 going price, provided the senior in question is willing to and able to work through the tutorials. The point behind them is to alleviate as much of the frustration as possible in trying to learn to use the tablet. After all, if you have little or no computing experience, Android (or even Apple’s cleaner iOS, for that matter) can seem intimidating.

Our bottom line? As compact tablets go, were price the only thing this slate had going for it, we’d recommend that you pass on it. But if you (or your senior) have been avoiding technology because it’s just too hard to learn, AARP’s RealPad really should help. It’s a good effort, given that it’s the first of its kind.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Acer Iconia Tab 8 (A1-840FHD) Review and RatingsIn 2014, Acer sent us a budget-minded tablet, the Iconia A1-830, a well-built and attractive Android slate with an extreme resemblance to the Apple iPad Mini. However, as we stated in our April 2014 review of that compact Acer model (we classify slates with displays between 7 and 9 inches as “compacts”), a tablet has to do more than look like an iPad to do well in a product review. (See also our review of the Kocaso K-mini, another iPad Mini-alike, for more evidence of that.)

The good news is that Acer took a different approach with its latest compact Iconia Tab, the subject of this review: the $179.99-MSRP Iconia Tab 8 (model A1-840FHD). Not only does this Iconia Tab deploy the standard 16:9 high-def aspect ratio used by most Android tablets (rather than the 4:3 ratio used on iPads and old pre-HDTVs), but it also has a higher-resolution screen than most other entry-level compact Androids.

Acer Iconia Tab 8In fact, as entry-level slates go, we found much to like about this one, but it also stumbled in some key spots. It felt well-built and durable, and it was snappy on most of our benchmark tests, too&mdashexcept, notably, a sag on our challenging battery-rundown test. As you’ll see in the last section of this review, this Iconia Tab 8 delivered one of the shortest unplugged runtimes we’ve seen from any name-brand Android tablet. (One of the few trailing behind it is AARP’s seniors-focused RealPad, another 8-incher that we’ll be reviewing right after this model.)

A complaint we’ve made about several recent compact tablets is that, while they were fine tablets in their own right, none of them brought anything fresh to the genre, nor any surprises on price. That’s much the case with the Iconia Tab 8, too. Mind you, it’s loaded with productivity and convenience features, such as a 1,920×1,200-pixel screen and a micro-HDMI output for pushing all those pixels to an HDTV or other high-definition display.

Unfortunately, we had a little trouble with the responsiveness&mdashor rather, the lack thereof&mdashof the screen. Often, we had to touch an app’s shortcut twice, or sometimes three or four times, to launch it. We experienced similar trouble when attempting to perform swipes or other expansive touch gestures.

Acer Iconia Tab 8 (Landscape)That’s not a small concern. But apart from that, as inexpensive compact tablets go, this one’s not bad. We really liked the look of the high-resolution display, even as it stubbornly ignored our taps at times.

Depending on where the pricing on this tablet goes, you may or may not find that trade-off tolerable. While writing this, we found the Iconia Tab 8 discounted online to as low as $139.99 (from Best Buy; we’re not sure how long that price will last). That’s a more reasonable price at this screen size, considering the quibbles we had with this model. But you’ll want to look at it in light of other Android 8-inchers at similar prices with better touch response.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Not only are solid state drives, or SSDs, significantly faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), but, since they have no moving parts, SSDs are also more reliable. To find out just how durable the leading SSDs really are, back in August 2013 The Tech Report Web site pitted several leading SSDs, from Intel, Kingston, Samsung, and Corsair, against each other, in a runoff to the death—to see, first, how well they held up to their HDD counterparts, and second, how long they lasted compared to each other.

Now we’re nearing the end of 2014. Most (but not all) of the drives, which include Corsair’s 240GB Neutron Series GTXIntel’s 240GB 335 Series, a pair of Kingston’s 240GB HyperX 3K drives, Samsung’s 250GB 840 Series, and Samsung’s 256GB 840 Pro, have conked out, but the endurance of these six test SSDs has gone well beyond the presumed life expectancy of any high-volume PC storage.

Before looking at the test itself, though, and the results, let’s talk about why solid state drives fail.
Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/solid-state-drives-outlast-pc-hosts/#ixzz3NhAtWfqe

 


 

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review and RatingsAbout six months ago, we looked at Sony’s sleek and capable Xperia Z2 Tablet, a full-size (10.1-inch) Android tablet with a wonderfully thin, light, and attractive design. It had a great-looking screen and superior battery life, too, making it a no-brainer recipient of our Editors’ Choice nod. The Xperia Z2 was in a word, a very fine tablet.

As a result, we couldn’t help but get excited when the Japanese electronics giant announced an 8-inch compact version. (We classify tablets with screens between 7 and 9 inches as “compact.”) And that excitement was well-justified: Aside from its reduced screen size and some slight changes to the port layout, the new, littler model—Sony’s Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact—is otherwise much the same super tablet, right down to the 3GB of system RAM and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor powering it inside.

While this new Xperia’s screen is 2.1 inches smaller—from 10.1 inches down to 8 inches—the native display resolution (1,920×1,200 pixels) has stayed the same. As we’ll discuss more in a bit, going down by 2.1 diagonal inches means a significant reduction in screen real estate. But because the screen is so much smaller physically, the actual density of pixels per inch (ppi) is significantly higher. And that increases the overall perceived detail and quality.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (Vertical View)One thing that did not shrink along with the screen, though, is the price. The Z3 Tablet Compact starts at $499.99 MSRP (for a version with 16GB of onboard storage), putting it at the same starting price as the full-size Z2 Tablet. That makes the Z3 Tablet Compact the single most expensive compact slate we know of in its base version, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Apple’s iPad Mini 3 (each starting at $399 list) being its most closely priced compact competitors.

Though we fully understand that miniaturization costs money, Sony’s pricing scheme here is puzzling, and it runs counter to competitive trends. Apple and Samsung both offer full-size and compact versions of their flagship tablets, and the latter are at least $100 cheaper than the big versions. The fact that Sony engineered the same high-performance CPU into the Z3 Compact as in the full-size Z2 Tablet is to its credit, and likely part of why the Compact’s pricing remains high.

Even so, $500 is a lot of dough for a compact Android tablet. It’s a lot, too, for any full-size tablet not named iPad. Is this Xperia worth it? It’s definitely a matter of three things: a matter of taste, a matter of how much you like Android, and a matter of how deep your pockets are. What we can say pretty firmly is that the Z3 Compact’s amazingly trim chassis makes for one elegant-feeling tablet. It’s so light and balanced that you can forget you’re holding anything at all.

In addition, the Z3 Tablet Compact, since it’s built around the same CPU and RAM configuration, performed very closely to the Xperia Z2 Tablet on several of our benchmark tests, and it actually lasted nearly an hour longer on our demanding battery-rundown test. That really surprised us, given that the Z2 performed admirably in that regard as it is. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact’s unplugged runtime is one of the best in the tablet business, Android or not.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (Vertical)Plus, like its predecessor, the Z3 Tablet Compact is dustproof and waterproof—to the extent, that is, that Sony claims it’s safe to use your slate in the bathtub or the rain. We’ll look at this and other design features later on in this review. But our bottom line on this little Android is that it’s upscale indeed, and priced like it knows it.

For some buyers, given all the top-notch components and that gorgeous screen, it may well be worth it. But make no mistake: This is a luxury model among Android tablets, with a price to match. And realize that those who’d prefer a still-state-of-the-art, but bigger-screened, tablet can get a Samsung Tab S or Apple iPad Air 2 flagship tab for the same price, while those after maximum performance in a compact tablet can opt for the rip-roaring, albeit much less slick, Nvidia Shield Tablet at about $200 less.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Dell Venue 7 3000 Series Review and RatingsThe update cycle on most Android tablets has been around 12 to 18 months—it’s not often that one of these products gets refreshed in just six or seven. But that’s what happened with Dell’s original Venue 7 tablet, as well as its sibling, the Venue 8, both released in late 2013. Dell showed the first versions of these Venue tablets to the door rather quickly after they debuted.

The strongest impression we had of these 2013 Venues is that they were commonplace, with very little inside and out to differentiate them from most other compact Android slates. Especially so the 7-incher: Like most recent budget tablets, nearly everything about it was adequate but unexciting. It was the kind of tablet that would do in a pinch, but it didn’t inspire much in the way of enthusiasm or enmity.

The good news is that their replacements are thinner and lighter tablets with faster, more efficient Intel Atom processors. Our review of the $199.99-MSRP Venue 8 3000 Series revealed that, aside from a few minor flaws (a one-speaker sound system; shorter-than-average battery life), it was a much better tablet. A new full-HD display and a peppy 64-bit Atom CPU saw to that.

Dell Venue 7 (2014) (Front and Back)The Venue 7 3000 Series isn’t quite the same success story. Dell didn’t equip this smaller, $159.99-MSRP 7-inch model with a higher-resolution screen, nor, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on in this review, does it come with quite the same CPU as its 8-inch sibling (though it’s close). That doesn’t make the Venue 7 3000 Series a bad tablet, by any means. But the differences are significant enough that we found the Venue 8 an all-around better value, and a better tablet period, price regardless.

Still, this second Venue 7 is a decent slate in its own right. This one is a little thinner and lighter than last year’s, and, as mentioned, the different processor inside makes it a little faster. Dell’s problem here, as we see it, is that the Venue 7 3000 Series isn’t any more attractive, feature-wise, than several competing models, including Asus’ recent $149.99-list MeMO Pad 7. Plus, the popularity of smaller 7-inch slates appears to be waning in favor of 8-inch screens. An 8-inch display is larger by about 30 percent, making 8-inch tablets easier to use. And all else being equal, the price difference between 7- and 8-inchers is narrowing. Good budget 7-inchers hover around $150; budget 8-inchers start around $180 to $200.

Yet another reason the Venue 8 3000 Series is more attractive is that to get the same super-high resolution (1,920×1,200 pixels) on a 7-inch screen, you must step up (or down, depending on your perspective) to Google’s Nexus 7, the patriarch of high-res 7-inch tablets. Now, the Nexus 7 may be nearing the end of its long run (Google had just removed it from the Google Play Store when we wrote this, though it was still available from resellers), but it’s around the same price as the Venue 8 3000 Series. And the Nexus 7 doesn’t come with a way to expand the onboard storage, which, as we’ll discuss on the next page, both the Venue 7 and the Venue 8 do. And, of course, the screen is an inch smaller than the Venue 8’s.

Dell Venue 7 (2014)Our bottom line? If you can afford it, spend the extra $40 or so for the larger, higher-resolution Venue 8 3000 Series. You’ll be glad you did. If your budget limits you strictly to $150 or so, though, the Venue 7 3000 Series is a good tablet, but then so is Asus’ $149.99-MSRP MeMO Pad 7, as well as a few others—and some of those cost even less.

As we wrote this, Dell was offering a $10 “instant savings” incentive on its Web site, thereby lowering the price on the Venue 7 3000 Series to $149.99, the same as the Asus tab. But assuming the prices stay parallel, we’d still opt for the Asus 7-incher.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Dell Venue 8 (2014)If the appeal of a product is all in the name, nobody told Dell’s tablet team.

It wasn’t all that long before we wrote this—about six or seven months ago—that we looked at Dell’s first entry-level Android slate with an 8-inch screen, the Venue 8. (That’s not to be confused with the company’s Venue 8 Pro, which is a Windows 8 tablet.) We found it competent but, as compact Android slates go, rather ordinary. In most ways, it reminded us of umpteen other compact (7-to-9-inch) Android tablets we had looked at around the same time. But what that Venue 8 model did have going for it was a relatively low price, given the screen size and when the tablet debuted: $179.99 MSRP, with the street price ringing up a little lower on occasion.

So, here we are just a few months down the road, and Dell has revamped that same 8-inch Android, keeping the name but hiking the list price to…$199.99. What gives?

Surprising in a market where Android-tablet prices are driving down, down, down, this price rise is a justifiable one. Sure, the Venue 8 is named the same, and the exterior is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. But this version, thanks primarily to its 1,920×1,200-pixel, high-resolution screen, is an overall better value. (At the same time as the new Venue 8, Dell rolled out a Bay Trail-enhanced Venue 7, as well.)

Not only does this new Venue 8 outshine the last one, but the higher screen resolution also brings this newer Venue into direct competition with certain higher-end compact tabs, such as Google’s2013 Nexus 7 (a 7-incher) and 2014’s LG G Pad 8.3 (an 8.3-incher). The G Pad comes in three flavors: a G Pad 8.3 LTE/Verizon version, the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition, and a standard G Pad 8.3. Each version of the G Pad 8.3, as well as the Nexus 7, has a 1,920×1,200-pixel display, like our Dell Venue 8 review unit’s.

Dell Venue 8 (2014) (Vertical)This 1,920×1,200 resolution generates a very tight pixel depth on a screen this size (283 pixels per inch, or ppi, versus 180ppi on a standard 1,200×800 display). This pixel depth makes images, videos, some games, and certain other content more detailed and attractive than on the standard 1,200×800-pixel displays found on most of today’s compact tablets. (We’ll look more closely at the Venue 8’s display panel in the Features & Apps section later in this review.)

In fact, this Venue 8’s high-resolution screen puts it on par with the 8.3-inch G Pad. The various versions of the LG G Pad 8.3 may have slightly larger screens, but they also sell for at least $50 more than this Dell, depending on the promotions of the day. Furthermore, while the G Pad 8.3 deploys Qualcomm’s speedy Snapdragon 600 CPU, the Intel “Bay Trail” Atom processor in this Dell slate helped the Venue 8 perform better on many of our tests. (We’ll look more closely at how this Venue 8 did on our benchmark tests in the Performance section later on.)

On the outside of this tablet, things are just as strong. This Venue 8 is slim, solid-feeling, and light—a pleasure to use in almost every sense. It’s thinner and lighter than its predecessor, too.

As you read on, you’ll note a couple of things, such as its sole audio speaker, that we thought could use improvement. But our bottom line? The Atom-based Dell Venue 8 is one nice compact tablet for the money, even if it’s a little more money than before. We’re just surprised that Dell hid this tablet’s backlight under a bushel by not naming it the “Venue 8 HD” or the “Venue 8 Premium.”

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.


 

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C) Review and Ratings Every now and then we come across a tablet that demands we sit up and take notice—not because it’s glamorous, fashionable, or made of nifty materials, but because of its quiet competence. That was the case with the release of last year’s Asus MeMO Pad HD 7, a Computer Shopper Editors’ Choice in July of 2013.

Like most compact (7- and 8-inch-class) tablets we’ve seen over the past year or so, the MeMO Pad HD 7 was primarily an entry-level slate. At first glance, you might wonder why it was an Editors’ Choice at all, or even noteworthy. Compared to some competing compact models (such as Google’s highly desirable 2013 version of the Nexus 7), it offered little that was ground-breaking in terms of technology.

What that modest 7-inch slate diddo, though, was bring to reality a well-built, attractive tablet for under $150, complete with a decent sound system and a quite serviceable display. And that’s what the subject of this review—the MeMO Pad HD 7’s replacement—does here in 2014, as well: It redefines what a budget tablet can and should be.

Yes, the name is almost the same, to the point of confusion. The MeMO Pad 7 (no “HD”) is one of a group of three entry-level tablets that Asus rolled out in summer 2014. The others were the $299-list, 10.1-inch Transformer Pad TF103C and the $199-list MeMO Pad 8, both of which we reviewed just before this one. (Hit the links for the deep dives on those models.) The Transformer Pad TF103C, we found, was a pretty reasonable deal. It has a much larger display than our MeMO 7 review unit, and for the additional $150, you get a full-size tablet along with a fully integrated Android keyboard dock that turns it into a workable Android laptop.

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (Yellow)Still, that’s double the price of the MeMO Pad 7, and these are two very different tablets, for two different crowds. A closer match is the MeMO Pad 8. For the additional $50 that it costs versus the MeMO Pad 7, you get, well, another diagonal inch of display (which translates, if you do the math, to 30 percent more screen area).

For some buyers, that extra 30 percent is well worth another half a C-note. It does make things larger and easier to see, especially for those of us advanced enough in years to start experiencing declining eyesight. Plus, the 8-incher can be easier to read for another, less obvious reason: Despite its smaller screen, the MeMO Pad 7 has the same native resolution as the MeMO Pad 8. That means that (as we’ll discuss later on) the 7-incher has the more “detailed-looking” screen of the two, due to the necessarily smaller, tighter dots, but the 8-incher renders icons and other elements a bit larger. Even so, it’s a difference only noticeable if you really look for it, and a matter of personal preference between the two.

Otherwise, the MeMO Pad 7 and its 8-inch sibling look, feel, and smell a lot alike, right down to their controls and internal connectivity, which are nearly the same. Unlike last year’s 32-bit MeMO Pad HD 7 model, though, all three of Asus’ new slates run on a fairly new quad-core, 64-bit Intel Atom CPU, which, as we’ve seen in both the Transformer Pad TF103C and the 8-inch MeMO Pad, is an able performer. It delivered respectable scores on our battery of benchmark tests, and it contributed to a good, long runtime on our demanding battery-rundown trial. And it felt snappy in practice.

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (Angle View)Those truths, combined with the solid hardware, are what make this new MeMO Pad 7 much parallel to last year’s winner: It balances a lot of things that tend to be mutually exclusive. In addition to performing well, the MeMO Pad 7 is light, thin, and easy to hold on to. While the screen might be a little small for some buyers’ tastes in the current market, given the fast rise in popularity here in 2014 of tablets with 8-inch screens, it’s a good one, as 7-inchers go. If compact, economical, and Android are what you’re after in a tablet, it’s hard to beat the MeMO Pad 7 for the money, given the field.

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.


 

Asus MeMO Pad 8 (ME181C) Review and Ratings Here in the summer of 2014, Asus went and updated its line of entry-level Android tablets, though it hasn’t changed the names of them very much. Two of the new models, the $149-list MeMO Pad 7 (which we’re in the process of testing and reviewing) and the $299-list Transformer Pad TF103C, we’ve seen before in different guises. (We reviewed the similar-sounding, and very good, MeMO Pad HD 7 last year, as well as a host of Transformer Pads in the past.) But then there’s the subject of this review, which breaks new screen-size ground for Asus and its MeMO Pad line.

The $199-list MeMO Pad 8 is yet another in the long list of Android tablets with 8-inch screens to turn up over the past year or so from the usual tablet-making suspects. For the most part, the MeMO Pad 8 is much like the refreshed MeMO Pad 7, aside from the additional inch of screen real estate. As compact slates go, both the 7-incher and the 8-incher are reasonably good values.

Asus MeMO Pad 8What’s different with these, though, is that they’re now Intel-based. The quad-core 64-bit Intel Atom processor in the MeMO Pad 8 ran many of our test apps handily, without, compared to some higher-end 8-inch slates, breaking much of a sweat. And the tablet itself is sleeker, lighter, and thinner than several of its competitors, making it feel more premium, and, to a certain degree, elegant. In fact, in terms of overall performance, durability, and comfort, the MeMO Pad 8 held up reasonably well to some higher-end compact models, such as LG’s premium G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition and G Pad 8.3 Verizon LTE.

In addition to performing well, looking good, and handling better than the price would suggest, the MeMO Pad 8 has a screen that doesn’t disappoint. The native resolution is 1,280×800 pixels, and we found the overall quality (as you’ll see in the Features & Apps section later in this review) a little better than average for an under-$200 slate. When you combine the screen with the tablet’s equally adequate speaker output, this is not a bad slate for viewing movies and consuming other media.

Asus MeMO Pad 8 (Front View)Plus, as we’ll get into in the Performance section of this review, the MeMO Pad 8 kept up relatively well during our tests, not only turning in very good scores on most of our speed-based trials but also delivering great numbers on our battery-rundown test. Like last year’s MeMO Pad HD 7, which impressed us enough to earn it our Editors’ Choice nod, the MeMO Pad 8, at just $50 more, is equally impressive—only with a bigger screen.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.