Regardless of the Asus Memo Pad ME172V's attractively low $149 price, you shouldn't buy it. Its performance is slow, it crashes when attempting to play some of the latest games, and the narrow viewing angle and low resolution of the screen make it look like a hologram sticker placeholder rather than a quality screen with solid colors.
The Memo Pad does include a microSD slot, something the Nexus 7 (also manufactured by Asus) doesn’t have; however, even at $50 more, the Nexus 7 is clearly the better product. It’s faster, includes the very latest version of Android, and its sharp screen can be viewed from nearly any angle -- not something the Memo Pad can claim.
The ME172V is aimed at people looking to save a few bucks on their tablet purchase, but the budget-conscious would be better served by biting the bullet and paying more for the Nexus 7 (or even the $159 Kindle Fire), rather than saving a few bucks and regretting their purchase.
Design and features
The Asus Memo Pad ME172V could easily be mistaken for the Nexus 7. Asus makes each tablet, so it's not surprising that they're of very similar design. They're about the same size, although the Memo is slightly heavier and not quite as thin. Aesthetically, the Memo is missing the silver highlight trim around its screen, and instead of a smooth, comfortable backside like the Nexus 7's, the Memo has a bumpy, rather unpleasant-feeling posterior texture.
The Memo Pad is only 0.4 pound heavier, but since its weight doesn’t appear to be distributed as evenly, it feels noticeably heftier. Also, given that most small tablets place their power and volume buttons along the right edge, having them run along the left edge instead, as they do here, feels awkward. The Memo Pad just doesn't hit the same comfort highs that the Nexus 7 easily nails.
|Asus Memo Pad 172V||Google Nexus 7||Apple iPad Mini||Amazon Kindle Fire HD|
|Weight in pounds||0.78||0.74||0.68||0.86|
|Width in inches (landscape)||7.7||7.8||7.87||7.7|
|Height in inches||4.7||4.7||5.3||5.4|
|Depth in inches||0.45||0.4||0.28||0.4|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||0.87||0.8||0.25||0.9|
The tablet has a 1-megapixel front-facing camera, a headphone jack on the top edge, and a Micro-USB port on the bottom for file transfers and charging. It includes 16GB of storage and a microSD card slot for expanding its storage with up to 64 additional gigabytes.
The Memo Pad ships with Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) and its interface follows the same style as the Nexus 7's, with a toolbar of apps at the bottom or right side of the screen, depending on the tablet’s orientation.
The Memo Pad has a 1,024x600-pixel-resolution screen, which in 2013 is low, even for a cheap 7-inch tablet. Text is fuzzy whether you’re surfing the Web or reading a book, and it’s an issue I’d be willing to deal with, but for the low-quality panel Asus chose to house inside.
The Memo Pad likely uses a twisted nematic (TN) panel. The biggest issue with TN displays is their narrow viewing angles, which simply means that details and colors get increasingly difficult to see when the screen is viewed from the sides, top, or bottom. With a large 20-inch display that sits on your desktop, 2 feet in front of you, this is rarely an issue; however, on a much smaller 7-inch screen that you’re much more likely to move around and adjust, whether you’re playing a game or reading a book, it can, as it does here, quickly become an issue. I really think we've moved past the point where using a TN panel on a tablet is acceptable, despite the cost savings it affords.
The Nexus 7 by comparison houses an In-Plane-Switching (IPS) panel and renders 1,280x800 pixels on its screen. As a result, text is sharp and details can be seen even when viewing the screen from an off angle.
|Tested spec||Asus Memo Pad 172V||Google Nexus 7||Apple iPad Mini||Amazon Kindle Fire HD|
|Maximum brightness||317 cd/m2||288 cd/m2||399 cd/m2||394 cd/m2|
|Maximum black level||0.30 cd/m2||0.28 cd/m2||0.49 cd/m2||0.41 cd/m2|
|Maximum contrast ratio||1,056:1||1,028:1||814:1||960:1|
The Memo Pad houses a 1GHz single-core VIA WM8850 CPU and a dual-core Mali-400 MP GPU. Like the Transformer line, the Memo Pad includes three power profiles: Power Saving, Balanced, and Performance. Power Saving and Balanced profiles throttle the CPU’s speed down to save on battery power, while Performance keeps it at its full 1GHz frequency.
If performing a simple singular task like reading a book, your profile selection seems to matter little, however, surfing the Web, checking e-mail, playing a game, or performing concurrent tasks like downloading an app while playing a game are noticeably more sluggish under the slower profiles. I stuck with the Performance profile during most of my use, as the others were just too hair-pullingly frustrating.
While overall OS navigation performance wasn’t without a few hiccups now and then, it was generally smooth, as long as the processor had only to deal with one thing at a time, of course. The Memo Pad includes several built-in mini-app widgets. These consist of a browser, video player, calculator, and battery meter, among others. The widgets can all run concurrently, but performance greatly suffered under certain combinations. Running a video while surfing the Web, for example, is not something I recommend doing here if you value your time and possibly sanity.
Riptide GP ran at a fairly smooth frame rate, but its graphics were pixely, even with the game’s resolution turned to max. The real issue, however, lies with control. When playing on the Memo Pad, turning speed was so slow, I rarely had enough time to make a turn without crashing into a wall. Again and again. This was the case whether using tilt or touch controls, so I’m unsure if this is an issue of processing power or a problem with the gyroscope.
Real Racing 3 didn’t have the turning issue, but the frame rate it delivered was nearly slideshowesque; during my time, it would hard crash the tablet without fail after a few seconds of play, requiring a complete reboot. Unfortunately, crash problems across some of the latest games was also an issue. Both Modern Combat 4 and N.O.V.A. 3 consistently crashed just after loading their respective first levels. Bladeslinger, on the other hand, ran with no problems, and aside from a low frame rate, was playable.
Even 2D games like Angry Birds Star Wars suffered from pixely graphics and stuttering gameplay, especially on the lower power profiles.
Local, 720p video ran smoothly on the tablet when no other operations were running in the background and the speakers banged out fairly loud, if tinny sound. The Memo Pad’s battery lasted only about 6 hours when playing a continuously looping video, which pales in comparison to the Nexus 7’s 10-plus hours of battery life.
Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video Battery life (in hours)|
|Asus Memo Pad ME172V||5.6|
At $149 for 16GB of storage, the Asus Memo Pad ME172V is clearly targeted at budget-minded users. However, I think those users would be better served paying more for Asus' (and Google's) current crown jewel, the Nexus 7. There’s no microSD slot on the Nexus 7, but you won’t have problems playing the latest games, either. Also, the Nexus 7’s faster performance and high screen quality more than make up for the extra $50. If you absolutely must go sub-$200, the Kindle Fire (2012) with its 7-inch IPS screen, will easily meet your media consumption needs.