ASUS MeMO Pad ME181C (2014) Review

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Editor's Choice

Pros: Strong performance ; Great battery life ; Nice bundled apps and slick ZenUI ; Bright screen ; Solid construction without being heavy

Cons: More expensive than competition

Verdict: The MeMO Pad 8 ME181C is yet another Android tablet with strong performance, a luminous screen and impressive battery life, all for just $199.

There's nothing wrong with tweaking a successful formula. The $199 ASUS MeMO Pad 8 has the same specs as the smaller $149 MeMO Pad 7: a 1.33 GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash memory. But the new tablet has a larger, 8-inch display. The MeMO Pad 8 pairs strong performance and a bright screen with handy bonus apps and UI enhancements from ASUS that spice up Android 4.4. Read on to see why the ASUS MeMO Pad 8 is worth the $20 premium over its other budget-tablet competition.

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Design

The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 ME181C features a slick modern design. The slate has rounded corners and a matte-plastic, soft-touch finish over a subtle criss-cross pattern that is a pleasure to hold. Our review unit came in black, but shoppers looking for a little color can choose from white, purple and gold as well.

ASUS MeMO Pad ME181C (2014)This slate's build quality is good, as we noticed only minimal case flex and didn't detect any creaking when the device was stressed. Also, the back of the MeMO Pad 8 does a great job resisting fingerprints, which helps keep it looking fresh.

Ports on the MeMO Pad 8 include a headset jack on top next to the microUSB port. The left side holds the micro SD slot with support for cards up to 64 GB, while the right side houses the volume rocker and lock button.

Measuring 8.3 x 4.9 x 0.33 inches, the MeMO Pad 8 is slightly narrower than the Lenovo A8 (8.5 x 5.4 x 0.35 inches) and the Acer Iconia A1-830 (8 x 5.5 x 0.32 inches) but otherwise comparable in size. Weighing 11.36 ounces, the MeMO Pad 8 is an ounce lighter than the Lenovo A8 (12.6 ounces) and almost two ounces lighter than the Acer Iconia A1-830 (13.15 ounces).

Display

ASUS MeMO Pad ME181C (2014)The MeMO Pad 8 features an 8-inch, 1280 x 800 IPS display with LED backlighting, providing wide viewing angles and a wonderfully bright screen. We watched a 720p episode of HBO's "Vice" and relished the stark whites of the Norwegian arctic, contrasted by the army green of the tanks as they rolled through the forest.

The MeMO Pad 8's 8-inch display hit 376 nits of brightness in our testing. That's much higher than the Lenovo A8's 290 nits, the Acer Iconia A1-830's 304 nits and the category average of 333 nits.

Unfortunately, the MeMO Pad 8 fell behind in color reproduction, displaying only 72 percent of the sRBG spectrum. Although that beats the Acer Iconia A1-830's 62 percent, it's lower than the Lenovo A8's 83.4 percent and the tablet average of 85 percent.

The MeMO Pad 8 also delivered mediocre color accuracy, as determined via its Delta-E rating (a score of 0 is best). Notching a 7.2, ASUS' slate fared better than the Acer Iconia A1-830 (a dismal 13.1), but worse than the tablet average (5.4) and the Lenovo A8 (1.7).

Audio

The MeMO Pad 8 ME181C features ASUS Sonic Master stereo speakers located on the bottom of the plastic backplate. When we listened to Van She's "Jamaica," we enjoyed well-defined mid tones, but bass was a bit weak. And while highs were generally fine, we noticed some slight distortion at max volume.

Speaking of volume, the MeMO Pad registered 80 decibels on the Laptop Mag Audio Test (measured from 13 inches away). This result is lower than Lenovo A8 (82 dB) but better than the tablet average (79 dB) and much louder than the quiet Acer Iconia A1-830 (70 dB).

We used the included ASUS Audio Wizard app to select the music preset for best overall sound, but you can choose presets for power saving, movie, gaming, recording and speech as well.

OS and Interface

The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 comes loaded with Android 4.4, which is supplemented by ASUS' custom ZenUI. Android basics such as swiping down from the top for notifications are still there, but ZenUI features a modern graphic design and the ability to quickly move between a customized list of quick settings and the notifications tab. ASUS also includes its File Manager app for organizing data both locally and in the cloud. The What's Next widget is good for collecting information from synced accounts and regular activities, and for conveniently adding reminders in the widget.

 

 

MORE: 12 Worst Android Annoyances and How to Fix Them

 

 

Instead of the stock Android keyboard, the MeMO Pad 8 is loaded with a custom ASUS layout with additional settings for swipe-based input, and flick gestures for changing between upper- and lower-case letters and altering input methods. Additional settings include options for auto-formatting, keyboard height adjustments and a large list of additional language inputs. There is no option for haptic feedback, but this was not a big concern for us.

Performance

ASUS MeMO Pad ME181C (2014) The MeMO Pad 8 comes with a 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Bay Trail CPU, 1GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash memory. Streaming HD video was smooth, but we noticed slight stuttering when we tried to play the graphically intense new "Transformers Age of Extinction" game.

The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 did well on our benchmark tests. In Geekbench 3, which measures overall performance, the ASUS tablet scored 2,398. This is ahead of the Lenovo A8's 1,176; the Acer Iconia A1-830's 1,054; and the tablet average of 2,211.

MORE: Best Tablets You Can Buy For Under $200

App load times were also good, as the MeMO Pad 8 launched the "N.O.V.A 3" game in 17 seconds. This is faster than the Lenovo A8's 19 seconds and the Iconia A1-830's 25 seconds.

The MeMO Pad 8 crushed the competition on our 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test with a score of 13,754, which is ahead of the tablet average of 9,874; Acer Iconia A1-830's 6,121; and the Lenovo A8's 2,872.

On our video editing test, the MeMO Pad 8 used VidTrim to encode a 204 MB 1080p file to 480p in 5:22. This is ahead of the Lenovo A8's 10:38, the Acer Iconia's A1-830's 11:48 and the category average of 11:58.

Heat

The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 stayed cool under pressure. On the Laptop Mag Heat Test, the MeMO Pad 8 reached a max of 91 degrees Fahrenheit after streaming video continuously for 15 minutes. Heat was spread uniformly around the case, as the front and back hit the same temperature.

Apps

The MeMO Pad 8 comes preloaded with a suite of apps from ASUS. Included options are the Do It Latter task app, File Manager, ASUS Web Storage, Power Saver, Splendid display customizer, Mirror, Music, Weather and the What's Next calendar widget.

We liked that ASUS included a File Manager app, which integrates with popular cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox and One Drive. You can also use ASUS' own cloud storage that comes with 500 GB of storage with no fees for two years.

The What's Next app pulled data from our synced Google account to add events and reminders to the widget and gather information about our most-visited locations and favorite contacts. If you think that's a little too "Big Brother," you can choose to disable this option from the settings menu. The mirror app is a nice touch; we just wish ASUS had included a flashlight app, too.

The MeMO Pad 8 also came loaded with deals for eMusic (75 complimentary downloads) and Zinio (offering six free mini-subscriptions and a $10 voucher).

Cameras

The MeMO Pad 8 features a 5-megapixel rear-camera and a 2MP front-shooter. The 5-MP camera can also capture 1080p, 30 fps video. We took a shot of a red Norway maple, and the leaves looked well defined in both the shadows and highlights.

It's important to note that with image stabilization turned on, you are limited to 720p video instead of 1080p. Even so, we much preferred 1080p videos without stabilization versus 720p, as the higher definition made for a much better viewing experience.

The front, 2-MP camera supports 720p video. The image quality sufficed for video-calling on Skype, but users should defer to the higher-resolution rear camera for their other video needs. Self-portraits taken with the front camera looked better than we expected; images were sharp, but you can see color distortion in the rainbow banding along the hairline.

ASUS loads the MeMO Pad 8's camera with a wide range of modes, including time rewind, HDR, panorama, night, selfie, depth of field, smart remove-all-smiles, beautification and GIF animation. We liked the ease with which the GIF animator turned silly movements into taunts without the need for video. The depth of field mode did not work as well as we expected, and some modes, like all smiles and selfies, were a little more complicated than they needed to be.

Image adjustments included options for white balance, ISO, exposure, resolution, timers, focus, anti-shake and more.

Battery Life

The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 offers impressive battery life for a budget tablet. The slate lasted 9:02 on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits). This runtime is longer than the Lenovo A8's 8:47, the tablet average of 8:09 and three hours longer than the Acer Iconia A1-830's 6:08.

 

MORE: 10 Tablets with the Longest Battery Life

 

Bottom Line

The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 ME181C provides superb performance for an 8-inch budget tablet, but commands $20 more than its lesser-performing competitors. We believe it's worth it for the extra oomph and battery life.

The MeMO Pad 8 also costs $50 dollars more than its 7-inch sibling, but offers the same 1.33-GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash memory. But if you prefer a larger screen, the $199 ASUS MeMO Pad Me181C is one of the best 8-inch budget tablets we've had the pleasure of reviewing.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1.33 GHz Intel Atom Baytrail
RAM Included 1GB
RAM Upgradeable
Storage Drive Size 16GB
Storage Drive Type Flash Memory
Display Size 8
Display Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics Chip
Graphics Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Has Bluetooth Yes
OS Android 4.4.2
Camera Resolution 5MP
Front-Facing Camera Resolution 2.0MP
Ports microUSB
Ports microSD
Ports Microphone/Headphone
USB Ports 1
Card Readers microSD
Card Reader Size 64GB
Warranty / Support 1 year warranty
Size 8.3" x 4.9" x 0.33"
Weight 11.36 ounces
Company Website http://www.asus.com/us/