Sometimes very good things do come in inexpensive packages. The Asus MeMO Pad Smart 10 ME301T is a $299 Android tablet in the tradition of the affordable yet powerful Nexus 7 (also made by Asus). The MeMO Pad 10 has plenty of no-frills value and Android Jelly Bean OS for a price that won't make you wonder if you should be considering a laptop or iPad instead. For $299 you get a 10.1" IPS display, a 1.2GHz NVidia Tegra 3 quad core CPU with a gig of RAM and 16 gigs of storage. There's a microSD card slot for storage expansion and it's compatible with SDXC high capacity cards. It all runs on Asus' fairly clean Android OS 4.1.1 Jelly Bean install. Nice.
Design and Ergonomics
The tablet is simple in terms of design with a plastic back (available in midnight blue, pink and white) and it has comfortably curved edges. This isn't the chic swirled metal back of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, but this one costs a lot less. It certainly doesn't look cheap compared to the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 (also available with a plastic back in a selection of colors) and it's light at 1.29 lbs. and slim at 9.9mm. Flex is nearly non-existent and we had to squeeze hard to hear a creak. The sides are tapered for a more comfortable hold, but they're not as sharply pitched as the Transformer models, and that's a good thing: it's easier on the hands and allows for more manageable and robust side buttons.
Since this isn't a Transformer model, there's no optional keyboard dock with battery that turns the tablet into a clamshell style laptop replacement. Look at the Asus Transformer TF300 if that design appeals to you. This is for those of you who just want a tablet, not a convertible clamshell design, though you can of course use a Bluetooth keyboard with the MeMO Smart 10.
Sound: Stereo Speakers Worth Noting
The tablet's rear firing speakers offer surprisingly good stereo sound with various profiles like Movie, Music and Gaming via Supreme SRS Sound settings. You can feel the back vibrate in the more boisterous gaming and movie modes, and audio quality is relatively full with good separation. Volume is adequate for a small room, but this is still a 10" tablet, and that means it won't rock a large or noisy space unless you plug in some external speakers or use Bluetooth speakers. The speakers are placed above the midline (when held in landscape mode) so your hands aren't likely to block them when holding the tablet.
Performance and Display
The tablet feels responsive and is a great match for Tegra Zone games. Honestly, it has more than enough horsepower for most of us and is up to any 3D game as well as HD video playback. The 1280 x 800 display offers average resolution that can't compete with the super high res Nexus 10 and Retina iPad, but for the price we aren't complaining. I found it perfectly adequate and in fact pleasant for viewing web pages, streaming video and reading ebooks. When reading Zinio magazines, I still prefer higher resolution tablets, including my Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, which is less powerful and versatile but features a full HD display. That said, colors are good and 350 nits of brightness is plenty bright for very well lit indoor settings.
And there's storage speed, the bane of Asus' existence. Asus Transformer Android tablets have notoriously slow internal storage. We'd hoped that Asus had improved this, since they generally respond quickly to customer feedback. The good news is that its internal storage is twice as fast as the Asus Transformer Pad TF300. The bad news is that the MeMO Pad Smart 10 benchmarks at less than half the speed of the competing Google Nexus 10 in the AndroBench benchmark that measures storage performance. We no longer see the "wait or force close" dialogs as we did with prior Asus Transformer tablets, but apps like Real Racing 3 that load a significant amount of data from internal storage do take noticeably longer to load when compared to the speedy Nexus 10.
Asus MeMO Pad Smart 10 vs. Google Nexus 10 Comparison Smackdown
OS and Custom Software
The tablet ships with Android OS 4.1. Jelly Bean. As with past Transformer models, Asus includes thoughtful UI customizations and genuinely useful apps rather than bare naked Android or junky bloatware. For average consumers, this is often a plus since the tablet has UI tweaks to get things done quicker. For example Asus' customization of the settings menu puts many settings just a tap away (even when in a running app), including those lovely sound profiles--there's no need to back out of a game or video just to change the sound profile. And you get a starter set of apps like Asus' excellent SuperNote, their ePUB ebook reader and an app that can backup all your apps. There's also an app locker to keep kids and friends from snooping where they shouldn't, and a decent file manger. Granted, you can download free or paid apps that do the same thing on the Nexus 10, but for newbies, it's nice to have apps to get you started.
Ports, Wireless and USB Host
The tablet has dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, a GPS that's rock solid, Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR, a front 1.2MP camera that's good enough for video chat and a mediocre 5MP rear camera that has problems with contrast that yields haze and fog in light areas.
The MeMO (pronounced "mee-mo") Pad Smart 10 has a micro HDMI port and a 3.5mm stereo audio jack. The tablet has a micro USB port that you'll use for charging with the included 5v 2 amp charger and for USB peripherals with a USB host OTG cable (not included). We tested the USB port with USB flash drives, hard drives and USB game controllers like the XBOX PC controller and a Logitech controller. Portable hard drives didn't get consistently adequate power from the port, but hard drives with external power supplies worked, including NTFS drives.
The Asus has a 19Whr Lithium Ion Polymer battery that's sealed inside. Rather than the charger with proprietary connector, this tablet uses the micro USB port for charging, and that means you can't charge while using USB peripherals. The charger is Asus' usual small black, square wall charger and it's 5v, 2 amp like the iPad charger and other USB-based tablet chargers. Though battery capacity isn't particularly high, we found the tablet averaged 7 to 7.5 hours of actual use time with WiFi on and brightness set to 50%.
It's hard not to like the Asus MeMO Pad Smart 10: for the price it's an excellent buy. You get a name brand tablet from a company with a proven Android track record, a sharp (albeit not super high resolution) IPS display, a solid Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU with GeForce graphics and the usual compliment of wireless. There's no NFC, but I doubt many will care, and there's currently no 3G/4G option, but the basics including a strong GPS are there. Though internal storage didn't benchmark well, in daily use we didn't suffer any serious slow downs or errors. And though 16 gigs of internal storage isn't much by today's standards, it can easily be augmented with microSD cards and USB flash drives. If you're shopping for a reasonably priced Android tablet that doesn't sacrifice on basic features, this is it.
x 7.12 x 0.39 inches. Weight: 1.29 pounds.
Camera:1.2MP front camera and rear 5MP camera.
GPS: Has GPS.
in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth.
Software:Android OS 4.1.1 Jelly Bean. Standard suite of Google Android applications including web browser, email, gmail, YouTube, Maps, Navigation, Search and the Google Play Store. Asus apps include SuperNote Lite, App Locker, App Backup, TegraZone, Audio Wizard Maxx Ausio, Buddy Buzz, Asus Studio and MyLibrary Lite.