With high-end specs to challenge the best tablets around, but a price that seriously undercut them, the original Nexus 7 was a superb gadget, well deserving of its praise and popularity -- and a major feather in the cap of its maker, Asus. With the Memo Pad HD 7, Asus has essentially taken the Nexus and given it a spit and polish.
The 7-inch, 720p display and quad-core processor remain the same, but it now has a colourful back, a rear camera and expandable storage. It comes running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with some Asus additions, unlike the Nexus 7, which showcases vanilla versions of Google's operating system.
It's going on sale on 1 September and will be available from Currys, PC World and Dixons, for the ludicrously reasonable price of £130.
Should I buy the Asus Memo Pad HD 7?
The Memo Pad is superb: a dirt-cheap tablet that'll let you tackle most everyday stuff without any trouble. It takes the already brilliant Nexus 7 tablet, makes some welcome improvements and lowers the price.
Its screen is bright and sharp enough to be used as an ebook reader. Its processor won't keep pace with high-end devices, but has enough power for typical tablet tasks. At 7 inches across the screen, it's small enough to easily carry around.
There's little at this price that comes close to rivalling it. The Nexus 7 is still an option, at least until September,. Its rubberised back feels a little sturdier, it comes in a 3G-enabled variant (for more money) and uses stock Android, meaning you'll get updates sooner. Bear in mind the Memo Pad HD 7 doesn't have a 3G version, so you're reliant on Wi-Fi for the Internet.
Design and build qualityIf you've ever been lucky enough to wrap your mitts around the Nexus 7, there will be absolutely no surprises with the Memo Pad. It's 121mm wide, 197mm long and 10.8mm thick, which is basically the same dimensions as the Nexus 7. At 302g though, it's almost 40g lighter.
I found the Nexus 7 very comfortable to hold, even for long periods when using it as an ebook reader. Thankfully, the Memo Pad is similarly comfy. Its plastic back panel is glossy however, rather than the matte, rubberised finish of the Nexus, making it a little slippier, but I doubt you'll find that a problem.
The plastic, rather than rubber, back does mean the Memo Pad can be had in a variety of colours. My review model came in a retina-searing lime green colour. It won't be to everyone's taste, but I was rather keen on the garish hue, and it certainly makes a refreshing change from the swathe of black and grey slates flooding the market.
The plastic panel doesn't seem to be quite as sturdy as the Nexus, however. Even on my review unit I noticed a tiny crack in the plastic where it curves around the camera. I worry that it's brittle and won't put up with drops well. It certainly doesn't have the same solid, luxurious build quality as the aluminium, but it does cost considerably less. I'd recommend grabbing a case for it if you're clumsy.
On the right-hand edge is a power button and volume rocker, while the micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack both sit on the top. On the left-hand side is a slot into which you can pop a microSD card to expand the 16GB built-in storage. You're not able to install apps to the SD card, so you'll need to be mindful of how many glossy games you're downloading. You can pop all your music and videos on there though, to keep the internal memory free for apps.
The 7-inch screen packs a 1,280x800-pixel resolution, which is the same number of pixels as the Nexus 7's screen. I'm fairly certain, in fact, that it's exactly the same panel Asus puts inside the Nexus. That's not a bad decision -- the Nexus' screen was satisfyingly crisp and pretty bright, and so is this.
Small text is easily readable, making it a good choice for those of you after a tablet for tackling ebooks. Bear in mind, though, it's very reflective -- it's bright enough to counter the CNET UK office lights, but reading in dazzling sunlight on the beach won't be easy.
It handles colours pretty well, but it's not as rich and vivid as some of Samsung's Super AMOLED displays. Photos and videos don't have quite the same impact, but they're still perfectly enjoyable. Netflix and YouTube clips looked fine, and you can always boost the saturation a little with the Asus Splendid app -- although I recommend keeping it on default settings for everyday tasks.
Software and performance
While the Nexus 7 was designed to launch the latest version of Google's Android operating system, the Memo Pad comes with Android 4.1.2 -- two versions behind the most recent release. With the exception of a few updates to Google Now -- the live information service -- there's not a massive amount of difference though. Given the cheap price, I'm happy to forgive a less than cutting-edge version of Android.