In early 2012, Asus was one of the very first tablet makers to release a slate built around Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor—a metal-encased, premium Android-based model, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201. When we reviewed it in February 2012, we touted the Prime as ground-breaking, but at $499.99, it was also a little pricey for many would-be buyers of Android slates—especially considering the entry price of Apple iPads of the time. In response, about a month or so later, the Taiwanese computer (and now tablet) giant fired again, with its entry-level, $399.99-MSRPTransformer Pad TF300, another impressive Tegra 3-based slate, sans the Prime’s all-aluminum chassis.
Now, here we are a few days away from the second quarter of 2013, looking at Asus’ latest Android offering, the $299.99 MeMO Pad Smart ME301T—and that’s where the deja vu kicked in. The MeMO Pad is essentially the Transformer Pad TF300 all over again, give or take a few minor configuration and feature changes. Here in 2013, in this era of the super-high-resolution Google Nexus 10 and theApple iPad’s gorgeous Retina display (not to mention the Tegra 4 CPU on the horizon later this year), the MeMO Pad takes a very different, humbler path.
Don’t get us wrong, we liked the Transformer Pad TF300—a lot. But a year in tablet technology is essentially a generation, and the MeMO Pad Smart hinges on being a last-gen slate. It brings no new or groundbreaking features, hardware, or apps to the party, and it provides little different from Asus’ 2012 entry-level model—well, except that this year’s model costs $100 less than last year’s.
Asus’ Transformer tablets were named thus because of their optional, attachable keyboard/docking stations that turned them into de facto Android laptops. In 2012, Asus’ relatively new keyboard docking stations were ground-breaking, perhaps even revolutionary. Nowadays, though, given the recent onslaught of swanky new Atom-based Windows 8 tablets, most slate manufacturers offer detachable keyboard docks, often bundling them with the tablet. In this regard, when we wrote this in late March 2013, the MeMO Pad Smart was again headed in the opposite direction: It’s a stand-alone slate, with no dedicated keyboard/docking station available.
Another way to look at this is, though, is that the MeMO Pad Smart, from a specs standpoint—processor, display resolution, RAM, and storage—is essentially a big-screen version of the ultra-popular Google Nexus 7 by Asus, a smaller slate with a 7-inch screen. The thing is, though, the 1,280×800 screen on the Nexus 7 looks crisp, clear, and detailed, but when stretching the pixel density to fill the MeMO Pad’s larger display (from 216 pixels per inch, or ppi, to 149ppi), overall detail and clarity take a big hit. As we’ve said in a few recent reviews, a native resolution of 1,280×800 seems about right on 7-inch Android devices. Nowadays, though, it’s the bare minimum for a full-size tablet (even though we thought it looked great a year or so ago). After looking at several high-resolution 10-inch tablets these past few monthsâ€¦well, 1,280×800 just doesn’t look all that impressive on screens that size anymore.
Unlike the Transformer Pad TF300, which came in storage configurations of either 16GB or 32GB, the MeMO Pad Smart comes in only one: 16GB. On the plus side, though, you can bump up the storage capacity to 48GB yourself via a 32GB MicroSD card you provide—an option unavailable on both the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10. In addition, the 2012 Transformer Pad came in three colors: Torch Red, Iceberg White, or Royal Blue. The MeMO Pad Smart comes in colors, too: Crystal White, Fuchsia Pink, and Midnight Blue…
Asus sent us the blue one for review, at right. Except in bright light, it looked closer to black to us.
The question is, of course, are the high-resolution slates mentioned above worth an additional $100? Ultimately, this is a matter of choice, but, considering their overall superior detail and display quality, especially when viewing photos and digital videos, we say, yes. (After all, a tablet is nothing if not a screen.) None of this is to say, though, that there’s anything wrong with the MeMO Pad Smart—not at all. It just seems a little late to the Android tablet party.
Still, from a build-quality and performance standpoint, we can’t come up with any reasons not to buy this tablet. Our concerns center on the state of today’s Android market and technology. Asus makes great tablets, and this one, like the Transformer Pad TF300 before it, is well-built and a solid performer. We liked the MeMO Pad Smart, but we’d like it a lot more at $199.99. Now that would make a 2013 rerelease of a 2012 slate smart, indeed.
See full review at Computer Shopper.