Review – Asus MeMO Pad 7 (White)

My Google Nexus 7 worked great, for a few years.  Unfortunately the system began to slow, and even wiping and re-installing the Android OS didn’t help except for a short time.  Slower and slower it got (not abnormal for Android devices anyway; unless you use them in a very average manner), and checking with various diagnostic programs seemed to show errors on the onboard memory card.  These got worse and worse until trying to re-install anything was unsuccessful with too many errors popping up, rendering it a pretty brick.

It was past the Google warranty but I had an extended one from Squaretrade.  A lot of good that did me – after a bit of back and forth with one of the experts at the company, and running diagnostics they ‘determined’ that it was a software problem and that they would not cover it.  Obviously it was a damaged internal memory card which was getting worse.  But no amount of convincing would get them to cover it, and even the tech people at Google said that Squaretrade should be covering a problem like that.  No amount of convincing would get Squaretrade to cover it.

So it was on to picking up another tablet.  I originally had decided to go with one version of a newer iPad Mini but I cheaped out and turned up some Android tablets with cheap price and good specs.  Not great specs, but good ones.

After lots of review-reading and spec-comparing, I ordered an Asus MeMO Pad 7 ME176CX-A1-WH 7-Inch Tablet (White) using the credit I had on Amazon through my affiliate account.  Not too many days later I received the tablet on a cold, blizzardy near-zero-visibility northern New York Winter day – in other words a regular Winter day here in the great frozen north.

And as you are probably aware, or should be if you live in climates where it can get quite cold – it’s a Very Bad Idea to power up a device that’s been sitting out in the cold (as in my MeMO’s case; a cold USPS delivery jeep) for a long period of time until it has come up to room temperature.  Otherwise the quick differential in temperatures as it heats up is going to draw moisture out of the air in the form of condensation.  And condensation (moisture) is definitely not what you want inside your powered-up electronics.

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The box it comes in is nice, as boxes go, I suppose 😉  The artwork is good, it’s shrink-wrapped and the tablet itself is padded in a plastic form-fitted portion inside the box – though the box is very small.  The tablet just fits in it with only a little plastic padding on the sides, protected by a thick plastic wrap around the entire tablet.  Underneath are a few quick start manuals in various languages and a warranty manual, a wall charger with a USB port, and a USB cable.  The charger is a standard Asus wall blister, the USB cable is neither very thin cable nor very thick.  Standard fare.

I ordered the white version of the tablet as I knew that I was going to get a case for it and I didn’t really care that much about the color, white for some reason is a few bucks cheaper.  And I’m frugal, so there ya go.

A casual glance might even have you cursorily mistaking the white version for an Ipad Mini.  But that’s where all similarities end.

After I let it warm up, and then charged it (you’re supposed to charge it fully before you use it), I booted it up.

Right away I noticed the display was very bright, crisp, and clear.  More so than my a-few-years-old Google Nexus 7 first generation.  Footprint-wise the MeMO is only slightly smaller than the Nexus 7, just a tiny bit, with a correspondingly smaller display.  The MeMO even fit in the Nexus case, though of course the plugs and such don’t line up and there was a bit of extra space on the side.

I went through the set-up process, if you’re ever set up a Google Android tablet before you’ll be familiar  – a few questions, entering a Google account, etc.  Everything went fine until I got to a place to set up an Asus-specific account for Asus web storage.  I don’t necessarily need any more web storage, and I didn’t know anything about Asus’s web storage but assumed that having an Asus account registered on the tablet would be good anyway, perhaps for Asus-specific apps and such.

I have an Asus account already, from registering other devices, but no matter what I did it would not accept the password that I had.  I even checked it on my computer by logging into Asus through their website, no problems.  Unfortunately the help provided didn’t work any miracles (and I found a misspelling on the Asus help site, one of a number of others I would find over time).  So even though it seemed that if I had an Asus account then I should be able to log into the web storage part, but I wondered if it was somehow separate.  So I set up a new account.  Again yielding nothing but a vicious circle of registering and incorrect passwords, whether trying to recover the password for the account that I had just made or creating yet another.  The onscreen keyboard also seemed to keep obstructing the CAPTCHA, forcing me to rotate it this and that way to see it.

Screenshot_2015-05-04-08-01-52.jpgLater I found that this keyboard bug affected a few other sites I wanted to use, but after an update this onscreen keyboard problem seemed to be fixed, and it does not affect the tablet usage anymore.

Anyway, after being thoroughly annoyed I decided to skip the Asus account and web storage for the time being.

The rest of the process went fine and after a short time I was at the familiar Android desktop, with Asus’ own flare on it with a few new apps by Asus, and some Asus-modified versions of familiar apps (or at least rebranded icons for them).

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Demo photo from forward-facing camera.

I started exploring.  The tablet was fairly responsive, not super-fast but just fine.  And the display was really nice as I said above.  A forward-looking camera as well as a rearward was good to have as the Nexus 7 only had one.  The forward camera was a bit disappointing in quality at first but a quick change in the settings increased it’s MP’s to a whopping 2 and it takes a decent picture, especially under good lighting conditions.  The camera app is familiar, works just fine with some nice refinements.

One thing I noticed right away was that it had version 4.4.2 of Android on it, but the system is heavily modified by the Asus stuff so it does seem to have many of the features of Android 5 on it.  Still waiting for a Lollipop upgrade though.

After some updates I also didn’t seem to have that keyboard-obscuring-something problem that I did with the Web Storage signup.  And it never seemed to show up again, though the keyboard was slightly configured differently.  The space bar is a bit small and I keep hitting some other characters when I try to speed type.  But no matter as there are many other nice onscreen keyboards for Android that can be installed.

The Asus onscreen keyboard is pretty standard and works well otherwise, with a few different sizes available and many options, most of what you will see in the standard Google keyboard.  You can do some interesting things like splitting the keyboard for thumb typing, nice touch.

I’ve noticed since I got it that a number of Asus updates have popped up, all of which I allowed to download and update the system.  A few times I noticed actual improvements, like the dual apps mode.  The dual apps mode is something that was a bit of a selling point for me and a bit of a disappointment when I couldn’t figure out how to make it work.  But after one update the dual app ability showed up and I was able to try it out.

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Dual Mode multi-tasking

Unfortunately as far as I can tell it only works with a certain limited number of apps.  So it is disappointing after all, unlike the excellent multitasking abilities of something like my Samsung Galaxy Alpha phone.

Gaming was fine, though I don’t do that much so I can’t give you a lot of info on this.  Some shoot-em’up’s and sniper games were very fluid and fairly fast.  The display is, as I said earlier, really nice.

As is the audio.  There is a small audio app for adjusting the sound according to what you are playing, which works excellently, as well as a power saver mode.  The audio really is quite good on this device.

The memory card slot is good to have, allowing sharing of files easily but also giving it the boost of more storage space as needed.  And I can use my OTB to connect low-powered USB devices to it, like thumbdrives and such.

Dragging down the Notification Bar gives you some quick access to various functions, which you can customize.  Want to quickly mute the audio? Turn on and off Bluetooth?  Switch to Reader Mode?  Yes, and lots more.  The reader mode is nokay, putting the tablet into a semi-e-reader mode.

Unfortunately the more I used this tablet, and the heavier use I put on it, the slower it got.  Not necessarily uncommon for cheaper Android devices but tweaking and continually watching and adjusting resources via shutting down unnecessary programs can get tedious.  Even supposedly automatic resource monitoring apps only are temporarily fixes and it quickly slows down, drags, and generally gets mired in high resources.  I also disabled some of the many useless Asus-specific apps that were installed and could not be uninstalled.

I’ve had a heck of a lot of issues with using this tablet and the Google Chromecast (you can see one use of the Chromecast on this blog post, for alleviating indoor biking and treadmill running boredom).  The Chromecast works beautifully, though it has its limitations.  But ‘casting the screen using this tablet can be iffy.  The video will skip, cut out, sometimes completely stop with a green screen or have just the audio play.  Resetting the tablet fixes any green screens or stoppages, but it still skips and cuts out, even when the tablet and Chromecast are near one of my routers.

Using any app that has its own Chromecast button works just fine – the tablet is telling the Chromecast to grab the Chromecast version of the app and run it on the Chromecast itself, thus the tablet is acting only as a remote control rather than streaming it’s screen and audio to the Chromecast.  The latter of which is what causes problems.  Also using my phone instead to ‘cast the phone’s screen to the Chromecast works flawlessly.

So obviously it is the tablet itself that is causing issues, perhaps not being able to keep up with the streaming process of sending it’s screen and audio to the Chromecast.   I ended up restoring the tablet to factory settings and that helped a lot, but I expect it happening again as the tablet loads down with unresolved OS garbage collection.

I’ve always considered Asus to be an excellent company and that was one of the selling points of this tablet, but I was starting to feel that that may not be quite the case here, or that they cheaped out a bit with this tablet.  While the specs look good I’ve become quite disappointed with this device, to the point where I feel that I may have wasted my money on it.

Likely a normal fairly light user would not have as many problems with this tablet.

Also, while there were a number of updates at first these seem to have stopped.  And the documentation and info on some of the Asus-specific apps are filled with misspellings as well as the help; not a good sign.

As I said above, if you open a few apps once in a while and use the browser you’re probably going to be fine – it either won’t be a problem or you won’t notice it.  But any heavier-duty use seems to cause fragmentation and memory leakage.  Your results may be different, but it seems to be a fairly common problem with my heavy use of any more limited Android device.

I picked up a really nice BobJ Rugged Case for the MeMO, if you have read my blog before you will see a short review I did on the BobJ case for the Nexus 7.

You don’t want to drop your tablet but if you do you might want to have it in a Bobj case, it’s thick and soft and well-cushioned with silicone and even comes in a boatload of colors.  It’s a great case.  The one made for the MeMO is especially nice as it has forward-facing sound chambers that take the badly located speaker audio position and sends the sound forward, really nice feature.

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MeMO in the Bobj case.

Note here – if you are buying a case for the MeMO make sure you get one that fits the specific model number of your particular MeMO.  Different models of 7 inch MeMO’s need the exact correct matching case so double-check the model number of your MeMO, and the model number that the case is made for.  This is true of ANY case you get for your MeMO.

 So in conclusion – I can’t recommend this tablet overall.  If you are on a budget and you plan on using it mostly to surf the Internet and do some light duty installation of apps then it probably will work fine for you.  For occasional use it should work for anyone.  But not for heavy-duty work.

2 Comments:

  1. Pingback: Review – Google Chromecast – The Random Bits & Bytes Blog

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