Asus Memo 370T changes the game by offering four cores for the price of two

Asus announced its Memo 370T runs with a Tegra 3 CPU and will cost $249. That silence you don't hear is the sound of Barnes & Nobles' heart sinking.

The quad-core Memo 370T will launch in the second quarter for $250. I like where this is going. Eric Franklin/CNET

LAS VEGAS--On Monday, Nvidia and Asus teased a product that may change everything. At the Nvidia press conference the companies flashed that a quad-core, Tegra 3-based 7-inch tablet would soon be released for only $250.

The tablet in question actually turned out to be the Asus Memo 370T. An upgraded version of the 7-inch stylus-supported Memo tablet Asus debuted at CES 2011.

While the previous version ran on Honeycomb and utilized a dual-core Qualcomm 8260-1.2Ghz CPU, the 370T will ship with Ice Cream Sandwich and houses a quad-core Tegra 3. No word yet on the actual speed of the processor, though. The previously announced stylus peripheral has been dropped for the device.

The 370T comes with 1GB of RAM and at least 16GB of storage. It also sports a 1,280x800-pixel IPS screen that delivered smoothly scrolling menus. Holding it in my hands, the tablet felt and looked very similar, dimensionally, to the Acer Iconia Tab A100. The 370T even hits the typical-for-a-7-inch-tablet weight of 0.88 pound, right on the nose.

Other details include a Micro-USB port, a microSD card reader, and a Micro-HDMI port. Lastly, the tablet will feature the same great 8-megapixel camera found on the Transformer Prime.

In the wake of this announcement, every tablet announcement this week has to be taken into this new context. Last year, the $200 Kindle Fire had a similar effect, by offering users a quality tablet experience that didn't necessitate taking out a second mortgage.

The existence of the 370T now demonstrates that performance doesn't necessarily require a price premium. While this is likely to have a tangible effect on tablet prices, we may see an even greater effect on the portable gaming market.

With Sony's PSP Vita debuting next month at $249, the company now can't afford sleep on what Nvidia and other tablet CPU manufactures like Texas Instruments and Samsung are doing. If the Transformer Prime is anything to go by, quad-core Tegra 3 performance is nothing to sneer at to say the least.

And it's not that the 370T is the most impressive device I've ever played with. From what I've seen so far, it's, well, an Android tablet. Other than its potentially killer gaming performance (I haven't actually seen games running on it yet), it doesn't actually do anything the other high-end 7-inch tablets don't, either.

And that doesn't really matter. What matters is the pairing of "Tegra 3" and "$250" and the precedence that pairing sets. This likely won't be the last low-price Tegra 3-based tablet released at $250, and at that price people will buy it. If enough people buy it, game developers will be more inclined to develop killer apps on the Android platform. The more killer apps, the more capable the platform is at competing with the likes of the Vita, 3DS, and iOS devices.

With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google has now unified the once segmented Android OS, making game development more appealing for developers. Security however is still an issue. Given the open nature of the platform, developers are more likely to have their games cracked on Android vs. on iOS. So, that's still a hurdle.

My colleague Lindsey Turrentine said CES 2012 seems to be the "year of the redo." With tablets, that definitely seems to be the case. Last year, everyone and their brother was announcing a tablet. This year, most manufacturers seem to be making more thoughtful choices about what they're willing to release and how.

And while it can be difficult to predict where the tablet market is heading based solely on what we see at CES, combining fast performance and a low price is definitely a step in the right direction.

Look for the Asus Memo 370T in the second quarter of 2012.

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