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Asus Memo Pad 8 review: Feature-filled slate for the frugal

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The Good The Asus Memo Pad 8 is a slim and lightweight slate with a colorful screen and slick user-interface. Starting at $199, it packs enough useful preloaded apps to feel like a deal.

The Bad Performance is slow if many apps are open in the background, and touchscreen response lags after being woken up.

The Bottom Line The Asus MeMo Pad 8 is an affordable slate with tons of features, but if performance is king, faster options can be had for only $30 more.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7.5
  • Features 7.5
  • Performance 7

Asus successfully turns cheap into sleek with the MeMo Pad 8. Running Asus' new Zen user-interface, which rocks a trendy flat design and a myriad of customization options, the 8-inch Android slate is one of the slimmest and most lightweight in its price range.

Spec-wise, the MeMo Pad 8 is a poor contender in the budget tablet race, but its software features give it an edge on the competition. The preloaded Asus suite of apps include calibration software and an audio-enhancement app, in addition to two free years of cloud storage via WebStorage.

It's a you-get-what-you-pay-for world, and the affordably priced 8-inch tablet isn't without its duly noted shortcomings; performance slows down if many apps are running in the background, and touchscreen response can lag after being asleep. To be sure, these issues plague most bargain slates.

With a $199 starting price, the Asus MeMo Pad 8 gives you your money's worth with software features crammed into a cool and comfy package, but an upgrade in specs and performance can be easily found for only $30 more.

Design

The 8-inch MeMo Pad's design is one of the thinnest and lightest in the budget tablet category. It fits comfortably in one hand without over-stretching your fingers and the rounded edges and corners help it melt in your hands.

Asus MeMo Pad 8 Lenovo A8 Dell Venue 8 Acer Iconia A1-830
Weight in pounds 0.72 0.8 0.64 0.83
Width in inches (landscape) 8.3 8.5 8.3 8
Height in inches 4.9 5.3 5.1 5.4
Depth in inches 0.33 0.35 0.38 0.32
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.7 0.8 0.7 0.8

The top edge houses the Micro-USB port and headphone jack, with the power button confusingly placed below the volume rocker on the top-right edge. The microSD card slot, expandable up to 64GB, sits alone on the left edge.

The thinly-woven texture on its back is comfortable on your fingertips while providing grip support, and its construction feels surprisingly solid for a budget tablet. Our review unit was a dark blue with a matte finish -- a boring but sophisticated look -- but Asus also offers the tablet in black, white, or purple.

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The rounded edges make the thin tablet comfortable to hold. Josh Miller/CNET

Slim bezels give tablets a high-end look, and when holding the MeMo Pad 8 in its native portrait orientation, the thin left and right bezels help the tablet look cooler than your average budget slate. The top and bottom bezels are thicker and provide more thumb-space for watching video in landscape orientation.

Located on the back, the single speaker stretches across the bottom edge, making it easy to mindlessly block when holding in landscape orientation. However, when placed on a flat surface, it helps amplify the sound of the speaker -- but not by much.

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When on a flat surface, the rear speaker sounds a bit more full. Josh Miller/CNET

Features

The MeMo Pad 8 ships with Asus' new Zen user-interface, which features a trendy flat design, a bevy of customization options, and many software goodies, like Asus' suite of apps.

The Asus suite of apps help fine-tune your tablet to your needs and offer a few cool perks. The Splendid app allows you to calibrate the screen easily, and the AudioWizard tool is essential for optimizing audio quality when listening to music or watching a movie.

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The flat design of the Zen UI is at left, and the many camera scene modes are shown on the right. Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

If you're familiar with the Android OS, you will easily find your way around the Zen UI. However, if you're a little wet behind the ears, Asus offers a ton of tutorials to guide you through the getting-to-know-you process. I found the tutorial for the robust SuperNote app -- which could give Samsung's Note line a run for its money if the MeMo came with a stylus --the most refreshingly useful.

The MeMo Pad packs more preloaded exclusively-Asus functions with WebStorage and PartyLink. WebStorage, Asus' cloud storage service, offers two years of free cloud storage, and PartyLink allows you to share photos with other Asus devices. The Snapchat-esque function works swiftly, however, it's confusing to use, and I found other methods of transfer to be easier.

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Touchscreen response can lag, but it's not as bad as my chipped nail polish. Josh Miller/CNET

Performance

The MeMo Pad 8 rocks a vivid IPS screen with a wide range of colors. Images and video look richly saturated, with good contrast and wide viewing angles. The 1,280x800-pixel resolution is comparable to other midsize budget tablets, and the sharpness is fine for watching video and gaming. It's no Samsung Tab S, but for a $200 slate, it's mighty fine.

The maximum brightness is a bit dim, making it difficult to use outdoors, and there's no ambient light sensor, so you have to manually adjust the brightness setting frequently.

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Simple mobile games run smoothly, but larger games hog all the RAM. Josh Miller/CNET

For basic tasks like browsing the Web and checking email, the MeMo Pad 8 runs smoothly, but its performance wasn't as consistently steady as the Lenovo A8. When many apps are open at once, performance gets buggy; waking the tablet by pressing the power button takes a few seconds longer, touchscreen response lags, and the screen gets glitchy. Closing all apps and giving the tablet a minute to breath usually solved the problem.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Asus MeMo Pad 8 1.33GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 Intel HD Graphics for BayTrail 1GB Android 4.2.2
Lenovo A8 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek 8121 Mali 400 MP 1GB Android 4.3
Acer Iconia A1-830 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 PowerVR SGX 544MP2 1GB Android 4.2
Dell Venue 8 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2580 PowerVR SGX 544 MP2 2GB Android 4.3

Larger apps take their time to load -- understandable considering the MeMo Pad 8's modest specs -- but they run smoothly as long as you exit background apps. I encountered a lag while running larger apps and downloading updates, so for smooth performance, it's best to do one thing at a time.

The MeMo Pad 8 packs a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front-facing one, and though the photo quality isn't impressive, the robust native camera app makes the best of it with some fun scenes modes.

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The native camera app is more impressive than the cameras themselves. Josh Miller/CNET

The camera modes range from the usual Auto, Night, and Panorama, but standouts includes the depth-of-field setting, for capturing photos of a sharp subject with a blurry background, and the GIF animation option, for easily creating animated GIFs.

Face detection works well as long as photo subjects are looking forward, but both front and rear shooters allow manual focus, if that's more your style. If you take the time to familiar yourself with the different scene modes, you can get a pretty decent shot.

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You can make a photo's background blurry by using the depth-of-field mode. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Anecdotally, the battery on the Asus MeMo Pad 8 lasted about a day and a half on a full charge with consistent use. The final result from our CNET Labs testing came out to 8.9 hours. Check out more tablet battery testing results here.

Conclusions

Budget tablets are a dime-a-dozen, and 7-inch superstars like the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX make it a tough space to stand out in. However, the Asus MeMo Pad 8 does just that. It's an attractively slim 8-inch option with an approachable user interface and plenty of software features to keep you busy.

Its affordable $199 starting price should catch the eye of bargain shoppers who don't want to feel like they're getting a raw deal. However, if you can handle a size downgrade and a slight bump in price, the Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX both offer better builds and performance for only $30 more.

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