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Not Quite Perfect, But Close
on September 28, 2013
+ Extra Smooth, Fast Navigation
+ Video Playback
+ Music Playback
+ Good Browser Experience
+ Long Battery Life
+ Micro-USB Charging Port (Finally!)
+ Intel Processor
+ Priced Right
+ Plenty of Case Options
- Lots of Bloatware
- Feels Cheap
Overall: The materials might feel cheap, but ASUS gets the rest of the table experience right this time.
Design: I guess to get the rest of the experience at this price, ASUS had to compromise on design materials. The back casing of the ASUS MeMO Pad FHD 10 makes most netbooks feel like they were made of prime materials by comparison. There's no way to sugar coat it. The MeMO Pad feels like a toy compared to the brushed aluminum on the Transformer Pad Infinity. It is also not the thinnest or lightest tablet compared to the likes of the Sony Xperia Z. However, this is where my gripes essentially end with the MeMO Pad.
Setup: The instructions recommended a minimum of 8 hours charging, and I dropped mine on the charger and left it overnight. This is a bit of a buzzkill for the excitement of a new tablet, but it is worth it. You will benefit in long-term battery performance over the life of the tablet. Other than that, ASUS has an easy to follow guided process that even first time users will be able to follow without issue. There was a firmware update available, and I installed it before proceeding. From this point forward, I experience boot-up times of about 35-40 seconds. It's not the fastest, but it is vastly better than the Transformer Pad Infinity.
Video Playback: This is the punch line for a "Full HD" tablet, right? Well, ASUS did a great job. I fed the MeMO Pad some eye candy in the form of Thor and Beowulf from Netflix. I have always thought that the throne room scene at the beginning of Thor was striking, and the colors were as rich as ever. Beowulf is a relatively new entrant on Netflix, but it came through in all its glory as well. One other Netflix improvement is in the actual navigation of the app itself. Every other tablet I've used (Acer Iconia A100, ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, and Sony Xperia Z) had poor, choppy navigation when scrolling through movies. I am very pleased to say that this is not the case on the MeMO Pad. Perhaps it is the new Intel chip that makes the difference. This starts a trend of performance over design.
Music Playback: While it is definitely bigger than your phone (or dedicated mp3 player), the target use for the MeMO Pad is still with headphones. The speakers are sufficient for watching video or playing games, but they lack the bass required to provide an enjoyable, balanced music listening session. However, I used both my Monster Diesel Vektr (corded) and Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 (Bluetooth) headphones, and the experience is quite good. If for some reason you don't already have a device to play mp3s, this will get the job done. The Play Music app is the default for local music play, and both it and the Amazon MP3 apps can play from the cloud.
Gaming: Call me old school, but I love pinball. I have been a fan of Zen Pinball since it came on my Acer tablet a couple of years ago. The HD screen makes tables such as The Avengers pop visually, but the gameplay was smoother than I have experienced on my other tablets. There was never a hitch or a jerk in the display. While this is far from the most taxing game out there, I noticed a surprising improvement over the Transformer Pad Infinity. The performance over design trend continues.
Navigation: I mentioned this earlier about Netflix, but the smooth navigation carries over into all aspects of the MeMO Pad. Both the app tray and Chrome are snappy and smooth. In the past, I have always been a bit envious of iPad owners because everything flowed so effortlessly. This tablet is the first Android offering that has performed in the same zip code as the iPad. I don't know how to account for it with certainty, but I do know that this is the first tablet I've had with the new Intel Clover Trail+ chip. Whatever the cause, it's about time!
Other: The battery life on the MeMO Pad is as advertised. The first charge lasted for three days of intermittent use. ASUS finally went away from the proprietary charging port to micro-USB. It is so nice not to have to worry about carrying around my one and only charger for my tablet. It will just work with the one myriad of micro-USB chargers I have at home, work, in the car, etc. You might accuse me of burying the lead on this, but all this goodness comes at a substantial discount over the Transformer Pad Infinity prices. The only thing the Infinity has over the MeMO is the brushed aluminum case. (All apologies to the "Dock" owners, but that is a component destined for failure from stress/wear and tear.)
Complaints: The list is pretty short. I've already mentioned the cheap feel of the back panel. The other thing that I don't like is common to most tablets - lots of bloatware. Perhaps I am the outlier on this, but I just can't imagine that users are chomping at the bit to use the one off ASUS apps over things that are more generally available. The only way to avoid them is to go with a "pure Android" device from Google, and I guess I can't be too harsh. Since Android 4.0, you can disable and hide unwanted apps. I just wish the tablet and computer makers would stop it.
Conclusion: Although I wish it had nicer material for the back panel, I can't take exception with much else about this tablet from ASUS. Whatever it is that they've changed since the "Transformer" line; it works. This tablet is strong to quite strong. You get your money's worth, and I highly recommend it.