Asus has made some pretty nice Android tablets over the years, including the affordable Google-influenced Nexus 7 -- so when I heard the company was working on a new low-priced 10-in. model, I was immediately curious to see what it was all about.
The tablet is the Asus MeMO Pad Smart, a.k.a. TF301T. The MeMO Pad Smart (a seriously tedious name to type) goes on sale in the U.S. next Tuesday, March 5, for $299.
I've had the device in my office for about a week now. For the most part, it's fairly standard midrange fare: a 10.1-in., 1280 x 800 IPS display along with a quad-core 1.2GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM. The MeMO Pad Smart has 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for external expansion.
The slate packs a 5-megapixel camera on its back and 1.2-megapixel lens on its front. In terms of battery life, it's listed for 7.5 hours of HD video-streaming or 8.5 hours of general use.
The most interesting thing about the tablet is really its price: Three-hundred bucks for a name-brand 10-in. tablet is just low enough to make you go "hmm."
But is the Asus MeMO Pad Smart actually worth buying? Some thoughts based on my time with the device:
All considered, the Asus MeMO Pad Smart is a solid midrange tablet and a decent buy for $300. The problem is that it's hard not to compare it to the Nexus 10 -- which, at $400, offers a substantially better experience in almost every regard.
The Nexus 10 has a drastically better display as well as better performance, thanks in part to its 2GB of RAM. Its form is superior to the MeMO Pad's, with a thinner profile, front-facing stereo speakers, and a rubberized backing that's noticeably nicer to the touch.
Hardware aside, as a Nexus device, the Nexus 10 ships with the latest Android software -- and thus the current Android tablet interface as well as multiuser support -- and is guaranteed to get future OS upgrades instantly as soon as they're released. It also runs a completely pure version of the software, with no baked-in bloatware or arbitrary UI modifications.
In a world where the Nexus 10 didn't exist, the MeMO Pad Smart would be a no-brainer at $300. But the Nexus 10 does exist, and what's more, it exists as a high-end device being sold at a midrange price.
If you want a 10-in. tablet and have a strict $300 budget, the MeMO Pad Smart is a fine device for that amount of money. If you can justify dropping an extra hundred bucks, though, you'll get a vastly superior product with the Nexus 10.
The prices are just too close not to compare -- and unfortunately for the MeMO Pad, it doesn't feel like a fair fight.