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Asus Memo Pad 7 LTE review: Cheap and bare-bones, with fast LTE

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MSRP: $174.99

The Good The Asus Memo Pad 7 LTE is an affordably priced tablet with 4G LTE capabilities. Performance is consistently smooth, and it has a microSD card slot.

The Bad The construction feels uninspired and plastic-y, as if it just arrived from 2011. Screen brightness is too dim for bright environments. It ships with just Android 4.4.

The Bottom Line Though its build quality feels dated, the Asus Memo Pad 7 LTE provides a cheap no-frills Android experience with the perk of speedy Internet access on the go.

Visit for details.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

If you want to add a tablet to your data plan for as little money possible, the Asus Memo Pad 7 LTE is a good way to do it. Running on AT&T's network, the 7-inch tablet is free with a two-year contract, $8.75 per month over 20 monthly installments, or $175 if purchased outright.

As a run-of-the-mill budget tablet, the Memo Pad 7 LTE offers only the basics. Its design is undistinguished, and its specs are barely average. Yet for casual use, the simple slate still manages to satisfy. Performance is consistently smooth for most tasks and -- surprisingly -- the annoying bugginess that tends to plague cheap tablets is nominal. Add Internet access on the go and you've got yourself an enticing option for frugal AT&T customers.

The Asus Memo Pad 7 LTE is a dirt cheap way to add a tablet to your AT&T plan. However, it's not the greatest model out there, and if you have the $200 to spend, there are a few tablets that -- feature-wise -- offer more bang for your buck.

Design

The 7-inch Asus sports a typical, unadorned tablet design. Weighing in at 10.5 ounces (300g) with a 0.39-inch (9.8mm) thickness, the Memo Pad 7 LTE is comparatively hefty, but it doesn't feel that way when holding it for long periods of time.

The rounded corners and curved edges make it comfortable to hold in both landscape and portrait orientation. Meanwhile, the plastic back panel dons a smooth, matte finish that feels pleasant against your fingertips.

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Small but chunky dimensions. Josh Miller/CNET

In the center of its chunky top and bottom bezels, you'll find the two front-facing speakers. The top edge houses a Micro-USB port, with the headphone jack is located on the bottom. The volume rocker and power button are located on the right edge, and the SIM and microSD card slots on the left.

Admittedly, the stout, broad-bezeled tablet looks slightly dated, however, if you're looking at price -- not design -- its homely form is forgivable.

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In a weird move, the volume rocker is positioned above the power button. Josh Miller/CNET

Features

Like most budget tablets, the Asus Memo Pad 7 LTE doesn't tout many extras. Aside from some included software, it's pretty bare-bones.

Running Android 4.4 KitKat, the Memo Pad 7 features Asus' Zen user interface. The UI is only a slight modification of the Android OS. The most notable difference is the two pull-down menu options; if you swipe down from the left side, a menu with shortcuts appears; if you swipe down from the right, you get a notifications menu.

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A tale of two menus. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The Memo Pad 7 LTE comes preloaded with a few apps to get you started, like Google's full suite, including Gmail and Drive, as well as Asus's own apps, which include screen calibration software and an elaborate battery-saving app.

Hardware

The Asus Memo Pad LTE 7 houses a 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom CPU, Imagination Technologies PowerVR G6430, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal memory that's expandable up to 64GB via the microSD card slot.

Other features include 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Performance

Though its specs are rather basic, I was satisfied with the Memo Pad 7 LTE's performance. Casual tasks like checking email, streaming video, and playing simple mobile games all worked like magic.

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The screen is sharp but not bright. Josh Miller/CNET

It's snappy when switching between apps, even if a few are open in the background. Large apps or games caused performance to slow down, but I rarely encountered lag.

Bugginess was also notably absent for the most part. One big exception was the inability to download 3DMark for comparing gaming benchmarks. Hopefully it's just a weird kink in the system that will be figured out with the next OTA update. I did manage to get benchmarks using GFXBench 3.1, in which the Asus tablet blew its competition out of the water.

GFX Bench 3.1benchmarks

Asus Memo Pad 7 LTE
1,487
LG G Pad 7.0
323.2
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4
198.4

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

When in 4G LTE areas, I found AT&T's cellular network satisfyingly speedy. Streaming video loaded quickly, Web pages appeared seconds after selecting a link, and even the time it took to download apps rivaled the speed of the Wi-Fi network at our office.

The 7-inch LED IPS screen dons a 1,280x800-pixel resolution with wide 178-degree viewing angles. HD content looks crisp, though the color range and saturation is a bit dull. The brightness level is also a tad low for my liking. At maximum brightness, I found it too dim to easily view in bright environments, especially outdoors on a sunny day.

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The SIM and microSD card slots are located on the left edge. Josh Miller/CNET

When it comes to tablet speakers, most tend to disappoint with tinny sound and low volumes. The front-facing pair on the Memo Pad 7 LTE are no different, however when used along with Asus's AudioWizard app, the audio quality becomes more bearable, especially for movies. The audio-enhancing app helps soundscapes and dialogue sound clearer, and it also adds a little more bass to music.

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The 5-megapixel rear camera isn't half-bad. Josh Miller/CNET

On the front of the tablet, you'll find a 2-megapixel camera that does a fine job at video conferencing, but takes grainy, washed-out selfies. The rear 5-megapixel camera was a nice surprise, taking decently sharp and well-exposed photos. Some of its special features include Time Rewind, a setting that takes photos two seconds before and one second after you hit the shutter button, and a very fast burst mode.

After one battery test run, the the Asus tablet lasted about 10 hours. Check back to see a final result after we give it a few more test runs in the CNET Labs.

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The Memo Pad 7 LTE had no problem capturing this sunny day in New York. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Conclusion

The Asus Memo Pad LTE 7 meets -- but doesn't exceed -- expectations as a budget tablet. Its smooth performance, speedy LTE capabilities, and cut-rate price make it an easy choice for anyone looking into a cheap tablet for casual use.

Comparable tablets include the LG G Pad 7.0 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 , which are also available with LTE capabilities. Both tablets cost under $200 and have similar specs, yet the Memo Pad 7 LTE slightly edges its competition, thanks to its stable performance, and -- if you're a purist-- the minimally modified Zen UI offers a more traditional Android experience. If cellular capabilities is of no importance, the Amazon Fire HDX , HD 7 , and HD 6 all cost under $200 and offer many more built-in software features that give you more for your money.

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