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Asus MeMo Pad Smart 10 review: Nexus 7, but with a 10-inch screen

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The Good The Asus MeMo Pad Smart 10 has a rear-facing camera, microSD and Micro-HDMI ports, and solid performance for a budget tablet.

The Bad Lacks a super-high-resolution display; overall plastic feel.

The Bottom Line Imagine a Nexus 7's innards expanded to a 10-inch tablet and you've got the Asus MeMo Pad Smart 10. Now ask yourself: why wouldn't you want something better?

6.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

If I were to imagine what makes a good tablet, I'd think along two lines: affordable 7- and 8-inch models, and more fully featured 10-inchers. Can there be a middle ground? The Asus MeMo Pad Smart 10 is a tablet that, really, is like a supersize version of Asus' Nexus 7 (formerly the MeMo, too). It costs more -- $299 -- and it's larger, too. But underneath, its specs are less than impressive: its Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 1,280x800-pixel display match what's in the Nexus 7. What you're getting here, for an extra $100, really amounts to a larger screen, extra camera, and a few more ports like Micro-HDMI and microSD. Those are sought after and not always easy to find on Android tablets, but you have to ask yourself whether those ports, essentially, are worth the price to be paid.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 has a higher-resolution screen and a lower price. On the other hand, for just $100 more, you could also get the higher-res Google Nexus 10. Not far off from the MeMoPad's cost is a refurbished iPad, or a new iPad Mini ($30 more). That's what I don't get: who would find this tablet really helpful? It's in the middle zone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Asus MeMo Pad Smart TF301T feels lightweight, but at 1.3 pounds it's really only a tad lighter than a Retina Display iPad. A plastic back doesn't lend it the most premium in-hand feel, but it's reminiscent of the case design of the Asus Transformer Pad TF300. It's the same thickness, and nearly the same weight, and has the same plastic overall feel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The extra bezel space around the edges makes for easy gripping, but it also makes the MeMo Pad Smart 10 feel old-fashioned. This is not a forward-thinking design. But it does come in colors: "crystal white," "fuschia pink," and "midnight blue." The blue model I reviewed has an almost black sheen to it.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The sleep/power button is tucked along the top left edge, and a volume rocker sits on the top of the right-side edge, below a headphone jack. Both a Micro-USB charging port and Micro-HDMI are on the left edge, clustered together. It all makes sense if the tablet's sitting in landscape mode with the "Asus" logo upright.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Display and speakers: Good, but hardly great
The 10.1-inch IPS display looks good at wide viewing angles, but the maximum resolution, 1,280x800 pixels, is the same screen resolution as the little 7-inch Nexus 7's. It's a decided step below the current higher-res expectation mark on larger tablets that the Nexus 10, third- and fourth-gen iPad, and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 all set. Granted, you won't notice a "low-res" effect, unless you're doing a lot of text reading.

It all looks better than the average laptop screen. But the idea of investing in a 10-inch tablet with a screen resolution that's not ultra-high-definition doesn't seem wise to me unless you're saving tons of money. It probably depends on the person.

Stereo SonicMaster speakers situated on the back edges pump out some decent sound, although the maximum volume still feels a little soft. Stereo effects come through, especially when holding the tablet a little closer than arm's length.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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