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 Nexus 7 (also made by Asus). It's got plenty of no-frills value and the latest Android 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 1.3GHz 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 a fairly clean Android OS 4.1.1 Jelly Bean install. Nice.
The tablet is simple in terms of design with a polycarbonate 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 Infinity TF700, but this one costs a lot less. It certainly doesn't look cheap compared to the Asus Transformer 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 didn't catch any creaks or squeaks.
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. Light bleed is minimal, and Asus has really stepped up their game there.
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, a 3.5mm stereo audio jack and surprisingly good stereo speaks with various settings like Movie and Gaming. The MeMO ME301T 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.
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 the straight tablet set, though you of course use a Bluetooth keyboard with the MeMO Smart 10.
Here's our Asus MeMO Pad Smart 10 video review. Our full written review will follow.