ASUS' last MeMO Pad HD 7 was our favorite budget tablet of 2013, thanks to its bright display, strong battery life and helpful software. The new $149 7-inch MeMO Pad 7 ME176CX sports an updated design and swaps the lesser-known MediaTek processor inside last year's model for a more powerful Intel CPU. ASUS also deserves credit for adding clever software while still retaining a pure Android vibe. Although the battery life is a bit below average, overall this tablet is an excellent value.
Our ASUS MeMO Pad 7 ME176CX came in black but is also available in four other colors: red, yellow, white and light blue. The 7-inch display is surrounded by a chamfered metal edge and enclosed by a soft-touch matte plastic back, which does an exemplary job of resisting fingerprints. Despite its budget price, the MeMo Pad 7 is solidly built. We didn't notice any creaking or popping when we stressed the case, and flex is almost nonexistent.
The only openings in the case are the headset and microUSB ports on the top edge and a single micro SD slot on the left. A long speaker grille runs along the backside of the device.
One small complaint we have with this slate is the location of the lock key and volume rocker. They are positioned on the backside curve of the tablet instead of on the edge, making the buttons difficult to reach, especially if the device is laying on a flat surface.
At 7.5 x 4.5 x 0.38 inches and 10.35 ounces, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is smaller and lighter than the Hisense Sero 7 Pro (7.9 x 5 x 0.43 inches and 12.7 ounces), the Acer Iconia One 7 (7.78 x 4.72 x 0.35 and 11.36 ounces) and the EVGA Tegra Note 7 (7.83 x 4.68 x 0.37 inches and 11.2 ounces). The new MeMO Pad is also more compact and lighter than the last-generation ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (7.7 x 4.7 x .4 inches, 11 ounces).
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has a 7-inch 1280 x 800 IPS display. Colors were bright and viewing angles were superb with the screen maintaining good image quality almost all the way to 180 degrees.
We watched a 1080p episode of "Silicon Valley" and enjoyed the bright colors of the various logos contrasted by the well-reproduced skin tones. Even the greasy curls of Erlich's hair were accurately portrayed.
While ASUS claims 330 nits of brightness, on our tests we measured a max average of 271 nits, which is also lower than the category average of 333 nits and the Acer Iconia One 7's score of 280 nits. The ASUS MeMo Pad 7's score of 316 lux (another measure of brightness) was also behind the competition. The EVGA Tegra Note 7's 451 lux, the Hisense Sero 7 Pro's 369 lux and the category average of 349 lux are all higher.
Based on our colorimeter reading, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 can reproduce 81.9 percent of the sRBG spectrum. This is slightly below the category average of 85 percent but much better than the Acer Iconia One 7's 66 percent. In terms of color accuracy, the MeMO Pad 7 registered a Delta-E score of 6.1 (closer to 0 is best). This showing is worse than the category average of 5.4 but better than Acer Iconia One 7's 7.3.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 features stereo speakers located behind the long grill on the backside of the unit. On our Laptop Mag audio test, the MeMO Pad 7 ME176CX produced 78 dB of sound from 13 inches away. The Nvidia Tegra Note 7 notched a higher 82 dB, while the category average is 79 dB.
When we listened to Gesaffelstein's "Pursuit" we noticed some distortion and crackling in the vocals. Bass was a little weak and highs were bordering on tinny, but we don't expect much audio oomph from a slate in this price range.
The included ASUS Audio Wizard app allowed us to select from power saving, music, movie, recording, gaming and speech presets. We ended up sticking with the music preset, as it gave us the best clarity and all-around sound.
OS and Interface
MeMO Pad 7 runs Android 4.4 paired with ASUS's custom ZenUI, which does a good job integrating many of the apps that come pre-loaded on the tablet. For example, events scheduled in the calendar are automatically synced with the What's Next app.
A quick swipe down from the top of the screen brought up ZenUI's combined quick settings and notifications bar. While it does take an extra touch to switch between the settings and notifications, we didn't feel like the extra touch was an issue during normal use.
ZenUI does a good job of enhancing Android 4.4 with customized settings, tools and nicer- looking notifications without bloating the OS or becoming cumbersome.
Instead of the standard Android keyboard, the MeMO Pad ME176CX comes with a custom ASUS keyboard featuring predictive text, option for Swype-like input, and lots of customizations like keyboard height and auto-spacing. We liked this keyboard more than the standard Android version, but users can also opt to replace it with a third-party app as well.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 features a 1.33-GHz quad core Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, which can be expanded to 64 GB using the microSD slot. We had no trouble streaming high-definition video, and 1080P video was buttery smooth even while running a torrent in the background. When we played "Plants vs Zombies 2," we were hard pressed to notice any slowdowns or FPS lag.
On Geekbench 3, which measures multicore performance, the MeMO Pad 7's score of 2,431 was more than double the Acer Iconia One 7's mark of 1,061 (using a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom z2560). The ASUS also beat the category average of 2,154, but it's slightly behind the EVGA Tegra Note 7's 2,523 (1.8-GHz Tegra 4 CPU).
Load times were relatively speedy on the MeMO Pad 7, with "N.O.V.A. 3" launching in 18 seconds, similar to the original ASUS MeMO Pad 7 HD's 17, and equal to the EVGA Tegra Note 7. The Acer Iconia One 7 took a leisurely 24 seconds.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 ME176CX turned in a fairly strong graphics performance, scoring 13,625 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. That's better than the category average of 9,696 and the Acer Iconia One 7's 6,042 but behind the EVGA Tegra Note 7's 16,541.
The MX176CX also did well in our VidTrim video editing test, where it transcoded a 204 MB 1080P video to 480p in 5 minutes and 35 seconds. This was much faster than the category average of 11:58 but slower than the EVGA Tegra Note 7's 3:53. Last year's MeMO Pad HD 7 also took more than 11 minutes.
The Asus MeMO Pad 7 got surprisingly toasty during our testing. After 15 minutes of watching streaming video, the hottest spot on the tablet (area around the rear camera) reached 101 degrees Fahrenheit. We generally consider anything above 95 degrees to be uncomfortable. This was higher than the category average of 95. Thankfully, the touch screen was cooler at 97.5 F, almost exactly the same as the category average of 98 degrees.
ASUS loaded the MeMO Pad 7 with its own suite of apps, such as the Do It Later to-do list, Galley, Music, File Manager, Clock, Splendid, Audio Wizard, What's Next, Weather and ASUS Web Storage.
We really appreciated File Manager for organizing data stored locally, on the micro SD card, and across multiple cloud services, including Google Drive, Dropbox, ASUS Web Storage and more. Asus sweetens the deal by providing 500 GB free storage for two years. We also like What's Next for automatically pulling data from your contacts and calendars to remind you of upcoming events.
ASUS has also packaged trials for eMusic with 75 free song downloads and the Zinio newsstand app that comes with six free mini-subscriptions and a $10 voucher.
MORE: 25 Best Android Apps
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 features a 2-megapixel rear camera and a 0.3-MP front camera.
The rear camera provided decent image quality when shooting outdoors. A close-up of a metal table captured the swirled metal pattern. However, the camera did a mediocre job of preserving details in the background - in both sunny and shadowy areas. There is some noise that can be seen in the darker areas of the photo.
The real weak link is the 0.3 MP front-facing camera. In a selfie we noticed some rainbow banding along the hairline and blotchy skin tones. The 640 x 480 photos produced by the front camera are soft, blurry and inaccurate.
The rear camera captured 720p video that looked a little blurrier than we would like but was similar in quality to our still photos. Users will also want to keep the video stabilization turned on; without it, videos are shaky and difficult to watch.
On the bright side, ASUS loaded the MeMO Pad 7 with a plethora of filters, options and enhancements. You get all of the normal options for ISO, exposure and white balance along with multiple color filters, including pencil and cartoon modes.
The real effort was put into different modes like Time Rewind mode (used to select the best shot in a 3-second window) and a fun-to-use Gif mode for creating easy-to-share animated clips. Other modes include Panorama, HDR, Night, Selfie, All Smiles, Smart Remove and Beautification.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 features a 3,910 mAh battery. While ASUS claims 9 hours of battery life, on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous Web surfing at 150 nits) the tablet lasted 7 hours and 39 minutes. This runtime is shorter than the category average of 8:09, but longer than the EVGA Tegra Note 7's 6:51, the Acer Iconia One 7's 6:32 and the Hisense Sero 7 Pro's 6:09. In other words, you're getting pretty good endurance for the price.
The sleek styling of the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 ME176CX combined with its zippy 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Baytrail processor makes this slate a steal at $149. While the battery life does not live up to last year's model, it's a fine trade-off for the increased performance. Those looking for even more speed and stylus input should take a look at the EVGA Tegra Note 7 tablet, but it's a more expensive $189 and doesn't last as long on a charge. Overall, we highly recommend the MeMO Pad 7 to anyone looking for a small-budget Android tablet.