Intel hasn't had much success in the Android tablet space, but is starting to make some inroads. One of the first Android tablets to come to market is the $329 ASUS MeMO Pad FHD 10, which sports a Clover Trail CPU, a 1920 x 1200-pixel display and excellent battery life. Not bad for a tablet that costs $70 less than the competing Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. Find out if this mid-range 10-incher is a good buy.
To help differentiate its MeMO Pad family of slates from the company's other offerings, ASUS moved away from the industrial design found on its Transformer Pad series in favor of a more playful look. Whereas the Transformer Pads sport a metallic rear panel, the MeMO Pad FHD 10 offers a rubberized panel coated in what ASUS refers to as a three-dimensional, micro-weave finish. Available in black, blue, pink or white, the MeMO Pad FHD 10's rear panel was attractive and functional, as it made the slate easier to grip.
In the center of the slate's back panel is an inlaid ASUS emblem, above which sits a 5-megapixel camera. The tablet's front is fairly nondescript, sporting a single, gray ASUS logo in the top left corner. On the MeMO Pad's right edge, you'll find its volume rocker and 3.5-mm audio jack. The left edge is home to the slate's microUSB and microHDMI ports, as well as its microSD card slot. The power button is situated on the tablet's top edge.
Measuring 10.4 x 7.2 x 0.37 inches and weighing 1.2 pounds, the MeMO Pad FHD 10 is both larger and heavier than the 10-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, which measures just 9.6 x 6.9 x 0.31 inches and weighs 1.1 pounds. The MeMO Pad is, however, thinner and lighter than Toshiba's 10-inch Excite Pure, which measures 10.3 x 7.0 x 0.4 inches and weighs 1.3 pounds. When attached to its optional keyboard dock, the MeMO Pad FHD 10's weight balloons to 2.2 pounds.
As its name implies, the MeMO Pad FHD 10 sports a full high-definition, touch-screen display. Surprisingly, though, the MeMO Pad's 10-inch, 1920 x 1200 WUXGA screen was outclassed by the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1's lower resolution, 1280 x 800-pixel TFT LCD display in sharpness, brightness and color.
During a trailer for "RoboCop," the ASUS' display caused characters' skin to look pale and lifeless, compared to the Samsung, which produced vibrant skin tones. Similarly, details such as the creases in Michael Keaton's forehead and markings on RoboCop's armor were difficult to make out on the MeMO Pad's display. Such details were easily visible on the Galaxy Tab 3. (Note that this trailer was downloaded to the device and not streamed.)
Some of the MeMO Pad FHD 10's display issues can be traced to its below-average screen brightness. At just 286 lux, this tablet is brighter than the Toshiba Excite Pure (240 lux), but much dimmer than the 368-lux tablet category average. The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 offered an impressive brightness rating of 444 lux. That said, the ASUS' IPS display offered decent viewing angles, with images and videos easily viewable at angles greater than 40 degrees.
You can use the ASUS' Splendid app to adjust the display's hue, color saturation and color temperature. Unfortunately, our adjustments didn't improve the quality of the aforementioned "RoboCop" trailer. Most users probably won't find themselves using the Splendid feature much, but it's nice to know the option is there.
The MeMO Pad FHD 10's side-mounted SonicMaster speakers offered excellent audio. Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid" sounded clean and loud, even as the audio swelled leading into the song's finale. We were also impressed with how well the ASUS' speakers reproduced Lamar's distinct delivery.
ASUS' AudioWizard app allows users to choose from six preset audio profiles, including Power Saving, Music Mode, Movie Mode, Recording Mode, Gaming Mode and Speech Mode. Of the six, we tended to stick with the default Music Mode, as it offers the best and loudest audio quality.
On our LAPTOP Audio Test, the MeMO Pad FHD 10's speakers pumped out audio at a loud 85 decibels. That's higher than the 83-db category average, while the Toshiba Excite Pure's speakers registered 80 dB.
ASUS loaded the MeMO Pad FHD 10 with its own custom, virtual keyboard, which we found to be responsive and easy to type on using two hands. We were also happy to see that ASUS packed the keyboard with a host of features, including trace typing, predictive text and next-word prediction. Unfortunately, the keyboard doesn't support haptic feedback, nor can it learn from your typing patterns or social networks, à la Swiftkey.
For those who like the feel of real keys, ASUS offers an optional Folio Key keyboard case for $99. The accessory, which connects via Bluetooth, features a netbook-size keyboard, as well as a magnetic stand. Unfortunately, while we liked the keyboard's key travel, the keys were simply too small. We regularly found ourselves making typos that we normally wouldn't make on a full-size keyboard. We were also disappointed that you can't adjust the angle of the MeMO Pad when it's resting in the case.
The MeMO Pad FHD 10 runs a modified version of Google's Android 4.2.2. The unnamed skin provides a host of unique features that help to improve the OS' overall functionality. Pinching-to-zoom from the main desktop screen, for example, brings up a series of thumbnails representing each of the MeMO Pad's six desktops. From here, you can add an additional desktop, for a total of seven, or cut down to just one. You can also assign which desktop serves as your home screen by placing the Home tag over that desktop.
ASUS also provides three different use-modes that customize the MeMO Pad's desktops accordingly. The default ASUS Mode provides you with six desktops, and populates the main home screen with weather and email widgets. Work Mode gives you two desktops, populating one of them with a to-do list and calendar. Entertainment Mode offers two desktops and provides you with a YouTube widget and relevant shortcuts to various entertainment apps. New Mode lets you customize the MeMO Pad from scratch, right down to the number of desktops.
ASUS also added a slick shortcut. Long-pressing the Home button opens two semi-circular shortcut menus. The inner semicircle provides shortcuts to Google Voice, Google Now, the apps drawer, shortcut settings and a system lock that blocks access to the Android navigation buttons to ensure you don't accidentally press them while gaming. The outer semicircle has shortcuts for apps including Calendar, Calculator, ASUS SuperNotes Lite, ASUS Studio and Browser. You can change these shortcuts by pressing the shortcut settings button and choosing the apps you want to replace.
The MeMO Pad FHD 10's notification drawer provides users with quick-setting toggles for Wi-Fi, Smart Saving, Instant Dictionary, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound and Auto-Rotate. Here, you can also change the slate's display brightness, as well as access the Wi-Fi settings menu, ASUS AudioWizard and system settings.
Our favorite feature of ASUS' Android skin is its floating-apps menu. Accessible by pressing the caret in the bottom left corner of the screen, the menu provides a series of floating apps that can be opened, on top of standard, full-screen apps. Default floating apps include the Calculator, AudioWizard, Dictionary, Video Player, Unit Converter, Countdown, Stopwatch, Compass, Browser, BuddyBuzz, Calendar and Email. You can add additional apps, as long as they are supported by ASUS or have their own Android widgets. Unlike LG's QSlide apps, though, you can't adjust the transparency or size of ASUS' floating apps.
In addition to the standard array of Google-specific apps, ASUS loaded the MeMO Pad FHD 10 with a variety of useful proprietary apps, including ASUS App Backup, ASUS App Locker, ASUS Artist, ASUS Studio, ASUS SuperNote Lite, Buddy Buzz and My Library Lite. ASUS App Backup provides a means to back up all of your installed apps and app data to an external storage device, such as a microSD card. ASUS App Locker gives you the ability to lock down any of your apps behind a password.
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ASUS Artist is a drawing app that features color pencils, paintbrushes, markers and spray paint cans. ASUS Studio is the slate's photo-editing app, which lets users add filters, as well as edit and draw on images. ASUS SuperNote Lite serves as a standard note-taking app, complete with basic typing and handwriting-recognition modes for use with a stylus.
Buddy Buzz is a home screen widget that provides updates from your favorite social media sites. The app allowed us to quickly glance at the latest happenings on Facebook and Twitter, as well as reply to posts and tweets.
Sporting a 1.6-GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 (Clover Trail) processor and 2GB of RAM, the MeMO Pad FHD 10 offered mixed performance during everyday use. Apps launched quickly, though some seemed to hesitate before closing. And while games such as "Super Monsters Ate My Condo!" ran smoothly, something as simple as changing screen orientation from portrait mode to landscape mode took as long as four seconds.
The MeMO Pad took 22 seconds to open "N.O.V.A. 3." That's 5 seconds longer than the tablet category average. Still, the MeMO Pad was a hair faster than Toshiba's Nvidia Tegra 3-powered Excite Pure, which took 25 seconds to open "N.O.V.A. 3." Samsung's Intel Atom Z2560-equipped Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 took 26 seconds.
On the Quadrant test -- a synthetic benchmark that measures a device's CPU, graphics and I/O performance -- the MeMO Pad FHD 10 scored 5,972. That's far better than the category average of 3,909, as well as the Excite Pure (4,473), but below the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 (6,153).
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The MeMO Pad FHD 10's PowerVR SGX 544MP graphics chip offered similar performance numbers on the 3DMark Ice Storm test, notching 5,832. That easily beats the Toshiba Excite Pure (2,881) and just passes the category average of 5,610. Still, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 registered a slightly higher score of 6,203.
Transcoding video is clearly not the MeMO Pad FHD 10's strong suit, as it took the slate 26 minutes and 23 seconds to transcode a 230 MB 1080p video to 480p using the VidTrim app. That's faster than the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1's 31-minute time, but nowhere near the Toshiba Excite Pure's time of 10:34. None could match the category average of 9:33.
Images taken using the MeMO Pad FHD 10's 5-megapixel rear camera offered sharp details and vibrant colors. A shot of a busy intersection captured pedestrians walking and cabs driving by, without any blur. Details such as the subtle cracks in a building's facade and far-off street signs were clearly visible.
A 1080p video shot using the rear camera looked equally clear, with details such as the yellow "T" on the side of a speeding cab easily visible from across the street.
The slate's 1.3-megapixel front camera captured relatively sharp images. Details, including individual beard hairs and forehead creases, were clearly visible. Colors appeared accurate, as well.
On the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi with the display brightness set to 40 percent, the ASUS MeMO Pad FHD 10's 25-Wh lithium-polymer battery ran for an impressive 8 hours and 51 minutes. That runtime is nearly 2 hours longer than the 7:06 category average, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 clocked in at 7:32. In this regard, the ASUS benefitted from its display's below-average brightness.
ASUS offers two versions of the MeMoPad FHD. A $329 model has 16GB of storage, and a $349 version has 32GB. In addition to onboard storage space and the available microSD card slot, ASUS also provides 5GB of cloud storage via ASUS Webstorage.
ASUS' $329 MeMO Pad FHD 10 offers an attractive design, some useful apps and utilities, and excellent battery life. Unfortunately, its 1920 x 1200-pixel display is disappointingly dim, and its Intel Atom processor can be sluggish during everyday use. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 (2.5 star rating) adds TV remote-control capability, but it suffers from the same lag and has a lower-res, but brighter display.
The cheaper $299 Toshiba Excite Pure and its quad-core Tegra 3 processor delivers a smoother everyday experience, but at the expense of an even-dimmer display and an hour less in battery life. If you're not wedded to a 10-inch screen, get the 8-inch Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 ($299), which combines long endurance with Samsung's cool Multi Window feature for multitasking.
If you're interested in an Intel-powered tablet, we suggest waiting for those powered by the company's next-gen Bay Trail processor, which promises twice the power and a longer battery life. In the meantime, the MeMO Pad FHD is a good, but not great tablet.