TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Up until now, if you wanted a sub-$200 tablet, you had a few mediocre choices. You could buy a first-gen Kindle Fire for $159 and get an OS that isn’t real Android or you could take your chances with a low-quality device with a low-res screen that’s probably from a no-name brand. Enter ASUS’s Memo Pad HD 7, which costs just $149 and doesn’t skimp on specs, offering a colorful 1280 x 800 screen, a quad-core MediaTek processor, a microSD expansion slot and both front and rear-facing cameras.
We had a chance to spend a few moments with the Memo Pad HD7 and were taken with its vibrant screen, light weight chassis and host of ASUS apps and improvements to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The tablet comes in a series of fashion colors including white, black, hot pink and lime green. We preferred the tastefulness of the black back but some will prefer the more exciting pastels. The white is too bland and too reminiscent of competitive products for our taste.
We were impressed with just how light the Memo Pad HD 7 felt in our hand and, at just .66 pounds, the Memo Pad HD 7 is even lighter than the .75-pound Nexus 7. In addition to its lighter weight, the new ASUS tablet has several advantages over Google’s similarly-sized slate as the Nexus 7 does not include a microSD card slot or rear-facing camera.
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We didn’t have a Nexus 7 with us to compare side-by-side with the Memo Pad HD 7, but the 1280 x 800 screen on the new tablet seemed more vibrant than the Nexus’s. An app called ASUS Splendid gives you fine control over the color temperature and saturation, something we haven’t seen on any Android or Windows tablet to date.
In addition to ASUS Splendid, the Memo Pad HD 7 comes with ASUS’s standard suite of Android apps including App Locker, which password protects certain apps, App Backup for back up and Super Note Light for note taking. The unit on display also had an app called ASUS Studio which helps you organize and edit your pictures.
Though the device runs a fairly pure version of Android 4.2, ASUS has added its usual light touches to the UI, including a notification drawer with some controls in it and slightly different home, back and menu buttons on the bottom of the screen. Users hoping for stock Android will still want Google’s Nexus 7.
For just $149 for the 16GB version, the Memo Pad HD 7 is poised to become the best budget tablet on the market. ASUS also plans to offer a $129 version with 8GB of storage in developing countries. We look forward to testing the Memo Pad HD 7 in the near future and seeing how it performs compared to the competition.