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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Asus MeMo Pad Smart 10 review:

Nexus 7, but with a 10-inch screen

Hardware: A familiar feel
A quad-core 1.2 GHz Nvidia Tegra3 processor along with 1GB of RAM sit inside the MeMo Pad Smart 10. Sound familiar? That's because it's what the Nexus 7 has, too. That's a $199 tablet that came out last summer.

The MeMo Pad Smart 10 also has 16GB of onboard storage, Micro-USB, Micro-HDMI, a microSD card slot for memory expansion (SDHC and SDXC), plus 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, a G-sensor, gyroscope, e-compass, ambient light sensor, and aGPS. Even though the tablet itself doesn't support the resolution on its display, it can play back 1080p video via HDMI 1.4.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are two cameras: the front-facing (1.2 megapixels) and rear (5 megapixels). Camera quality is fine, but nothing particularly spectacular.

Real Racing 3: playable, but not great. Sarah Tew/CNET

There are faster processors out there than the Nvidia Tegra3, a processor that wasn't spectacular before and is now showing its age. The general performance and experience running Android 4.1.1 wasn't silky smooth. Apps like HBO Go sometimes experienced hiccups. Zen Pinball played well enough, but playing a graphically demanding game like Real Racing 3 produced results inferior to those from an iPad Mini, with general framerate choppiness (albeit, playable).

Nvidia's Tegra4 processor is around the corner, and you have to wonder what having that in this tablet would feel like. I couldn't shake the continuing feeling that this is all a decidedly last-gen hardware and software experience. The MeMo Pad Smart 10 can only be currently upgraded to Android 4.1.2; 4.2 and its extra features aren't on the table yet, but will eventually make their way over (Update: according to Asus, 4.2 will arrive in "Q2 2013."). That's a little frustrating, especially since other tablets are already offering 4.2 -- including the Nexus 7 and Transformer Pad TF300, which have practically the same hardware, and are made by Asus.

I did experience one oddity with overheating when traveling to work, and the tablet got so hot I had to let it cool off before recharging. But it worked perfectly fine afterward. Otherwise, in everyday use, the tablet didn't feel very warm at all.

The charger is small enough. Sarah Tew/CNET

We ran the battery through our CNET video playback test, using a local continuous video loop, and found that the MeMo Pad Smart 10 lasted 542 minutes, or 9 hours and 2 minutes. That's good, but the Wi-Fi Nexus 7 fared even better, at 10.3 hours.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What bothers me the most about the MemoPad is that it's forgettable. It's not all that smooth or fun to use. It only currently runs Jelly Bean 4.1.2. This isn't the most up-to-date hardware or software in the Android universe, and the price isn't all that rock-bottom. It all adds up to a product released with an odd sense of timing, as if it might disappear sooner than later to be replaced with a better version.

If you're really looking for an Asus tablet right now, consider the keyboard-included Transformer Pad, instead. Or, spend up and get a Nexus 10. Or spend down and get a Nexus 7. Anyway, you get the picture.

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