Posted by Jim Martin 25 September 2013
Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: a surprisingly good budget Android tablet
Price: £130 inc VAT
You might not realise it, but Asus is the company behind Google’s Nexus 7 tablets. The Memo Pad HD 7 – at a glance – is hard to tell apart from the original Nexus 7 and that’s because it pretty much is the old Google tablet with a few tweaks.
See also: Tesco Hudl review
Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: design and specifications
It’s exactly the same size and thickness (10.8mm), and has the same seven-inch 1280x800 screen. Calling it HD is a bit of a stretch (the new Nexus 7 with its 1920x1200 screen is ‘real’ HD), but since it’s a surprisingly bright IPS panel with the associated wide viewing angles, plus great colours and good contrast, it’s a forgivable over-stepping of the mark.
Looks aren’t the Memo Pad HD 7’s strong point, but at least there’s a choice of colour: black, white, green or pink. That’s only the back panel, mind – the front of every model has a black bezel around the screen.
Build quality isn’t quite up to the level of either Nexus 7 version: there’s no soft-feel plastic nor metal frame and our review model was a bit creaky. It’s hard to complain at this budget price, but it does feel like a budget tablet.
You get only 16GB of storage, but peek around the back and the open-to-the-elements microSD card slot is a welcome sight, and something the original Nexus 7 sorely lacked. This makes it easy to carry around and update a video library without using up the 11GB of usable space internally.
There’s no HDMI output (nor MHL), which will be an annoyance to some, but charging and syncing is via the industry-standard micro-USB connector. A small consolation is that Asus does offer Miracast wireless display support.
Asus shouts about the stereo speakers, but they’re next to each other at the bottom of the tablet, negating the advantage. Even the AudioWizard widget can’t change that fact.
The rest of the spec is good without being special: there’s 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 but not NFC or GPS.
Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: performance
No-one should choose a tablet because it has a quad-core processor. Indeed, Apple has proven that a dual-core chip is perfectly capable of great performance with the right software. Asus hasn’t used the same Nvidia Tegra 3 as the original Nexus 7, though: it’s a Mediatek MT1825 running at 1.2GHz and 1GB of RAM.
What’s important is how a tablet feels in general use, and the Memo Pad HD 7 is noticeably less zippy than the new Nexus 7. It’s not a problem that would make you want to return the HD 7 for a refund, but you’ll notice the occasional stutter.
There’s a little lag when opening apps or launching Asus’ widget bar (there’s an extra ‘soft’ key for this express purpose), but web pages were generally quick to load. Quicker than the Memo Pad HD 7’s rivals, that’s for sure.
In Geekbench 2, the Memo Pad HD 7 scored an average of 932 points, which is a chunk slower than the 1452 managed by the Nexus 7. However, in the GLBenchmark Egypt HD test, the Asus was no slower than the original Nexus 7, managing 13fps.
Importantly, battery life is good. It’s one area that most budget tablets skimp on, but the Memo Pad HD 7 will last around the claimed 10 hours with Wi-Fi enabled if you keep brightness at 50 percent. Fortunately, that’s a usable setting.
Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: software and cameras
The Memo Pad runs Android Jelly Bean 4.2, and Asus says that an update to 4.3 is on the cards. As ever, though, don’t buy an Android device on promises. If the features in 4.3 such as user profiles and better Bluetooth support are important, either wait or buy a tablet that comes with Jelly Bean 4.3.
Asus hasn’t made huge changes to Android and those it has are generally useful. Long-press the home button, for example, and a carousel of useful controls and favourite apps appear. Pinch the home screen and you can switch between different home screen profiles. There are various Asus apps, but none are worth more than a passing mention.
Asus provides 16GB of cloud storage for a year, which reverts to 5GB after that. Given the plethora of other options, we’d rather use Dropbox or Google Drive. It’s the same with Asus’ apps – there are better alternatives in the Google Play store.
The Memo Pad HD 7’s cameras aren’t the worst we’ve seen, but they’re hardly great. In good light, you can get reasonable snapshots from the rear-facing 5Mp camera (see the example below), and the front 1.2Mp webcam is ok for Skype or a quick-and-dirty avatar.
Here's a 100 percent crop of the downscaled photo above so you can see the original detail captured:
Asus’ camera app is decent enough, offering panorama and HDR options, plus touch to lock focus and exposure at a single point. You also get ISO and white balance controls.
However, stitched panoramas aren’t seamless and HDR shots lack finesse.
Video, however, isn’t bad at all. It’s shot at 1080p at 18Mbps which, for the uninitiated, is are respectable figures. Video is sharp – as long as you’re not moving the tablet around – and audio acceptable too. Note that, in the video below, we had to tap on the screen to get the auto focus to kick in, which is why the first few seconds are out of focus.
Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: verdict
Although it’s still possible to track down the original Nexus 7 from some retailers, the Memo Pad HD 7 is a great budget choice. The IPS screen is the real highlight, and performance is more than acceptable for the price – not forgetting the long battery life.
The microSD slot is a real bonus, but the lack of a video output is disappointing. Don’t expect to play 3D games, either – Real Racing 3 isn’t going to run smoothly.
Tesco's Hudl tablet is a worthy alternative, especially if you have some Clubcard vouchers to use up (they're worth double if you're buying a Hudl). The screen has a higher resolution, although isn't quite as bright.