Compact tablets are the technology industry’s newest commodity items, and the Asus Memo Pad HD 7 is the latest addition. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s a 7in tablet and, like most recent compact tablets, it comes in below $200.
It isn’t quite as ludicrously cheap as some of the minor brand products out there, but it’s still low enough to make the HD 7 a viable competitor.
Despite the budget price tag, it’s a well put together product. There’s no sign of metal in the chassis, but the gloss-plastic rear panel feels stout and capable of taking abuse. It looks smart, with the Asus logo carved into the rear, and is available in four colours – hot pink, white, bright green and dark blue.
Along the edges of the Memo Pad, there’s a flap-free microSD slot on the left-hand side, large power and volume buttons sitting opposite it, and micro-USB and 3.5mm audio sockets on the top edge. All in all, it’s a handsome device that certainly doesn’t give the impression it was fished out of the bargain bin.
That’s also true when you turn on the tablet. For starters, the display has a higher resolution than you might expect from a budget tablet. The HD 7, at 800 x 1280, has the highest-resolution screen in the penny-pinching price bracket.
It’s extremely sharp, excellent for everything from reading to gaming, and the quality is surprisingly good. Measured with a colorimeter, the maximum brightness hit 393cd/m2, a superb result, while contrast was recorded at 914:1. It nudges ahead of its rivals on the camera front, too, offering both rear and front snappers, at 1 and 5 megapixels respectively, with 1080p video capture. Image quality isn’t bad, either, although it becomes grainy in low light.
The software offering is a more mixed affair. It’s good to see Android 4.2 on board, but we’re not big fans of Asus’ touch keyboard: it’s maddeningly laggy, the small onscreen keys are fiddly, and there’s little in the way of visual feedback when you hit a key. We recommend you install the free Google Keyboard, or buy a copy of SwiftKey, both of which have excellent word prediction and key feedback, and efficient swipe-type modes, and the nature of Android means that changing the software keyboard is a quick and painless affair.
On the other hand, there are useful extras. Just like the Asus Fonepad, the Memo Pad has a selection of pop-up apps for common functions, accessed via an extra button in the Android bar at the bottom of the screen. There’s also a handy set of basic power-management settings, from the smart backlight adjuster – which automatically tailors the backlight intensity to reflect onscreen content – to the ultra-saving mode, which turns off wireless when the tablet is asleep.
Not that you’ll need to use these features much – the HD 7’s battery life is spectacularly good. In our looping video test, it lasted for 12hrs 26mins, which is up there with the best small tablets we’ve tested. To put it into context, the Asus Fonepad achieved 12hrs 58mins, while the more expensive Nexus 7 (2013) eked out 11hrs 42mins in the same test.
The HD 7’s weak spot is its core hardware. Inside its smart chassis resides a slow-cooking dual-core 1.2GHz MediaTek CPU. We recorded a sluggish 1528ms in SunSpider (using the stock Android browser), but it didn’t do too badly in Geekbench, posting a score of 1,321, and the GFXBench Egypt HD gaming test returned 4.5fps. None of these figures are storming, but it isn’t significantly slower than most sub-$200 tablets.
Nevertheless, it felt responsive throughout testing, and it’s a perfectly capable gaming and video-streaming machine. Full HD YouTube clips played impeccably. Only Real Racing 3 posed problems; the frame rate started to slow when the action heated up, although it was just about playable, and it coped much better with less strenous games
Aside from that, however, the Asus Memo Pad HD 7 is a fine budget tablet. It has a superb screen, considering the price, performance is acceptable, and battery life is excellent. While it doesn’t impress like the more expensive Nexus 7 (2013) does, it is a fine tablet for a reasonable pricetag.