The Asus Memo Pad ME176CX is the proof you can actually get a good A-brand tablet for as little as $150 these days.
Of course, this is not the first such slate to target this price-range. We’ve seen entries from Acer, Asus, Lenovo and all sorts of tier-B OEMs before, however, none actually offered as much for the money as this 2014 version of the 7 inch Memo Pad does.
But not everything is peachy with the ME176 either, it still has it flaws and at least one of them could be a deal breaker. Check out the review below for more details.
Before we start though, I do have to tell you that I got to test two different ME176s in the last few weeks. One was the ME176CX in blue, and one with the ME176C is yellow. The only difference between the two, from what I can tell right now, is that the ME176C comes with better cameras, but all the other features remain the same. Both were press samples offered for this review by my contacts at Asus and have gone back after the test was completed.
|Asus Memo Pad ME176CX / ME176C spec sheet
|Screen||7 inch, 1280 x 800 px, IPS|
|Hardware||Intel Atom BayTrail Z3745 1.86 GHz, quad-core|
|Memory||1 GB RAM|
|Storage||16 GB (11.13 available)|
||Wireless N, Bluetooth, GPS|
|Sensors||accelerometer, compass, gyroscope|
|Ports||micro-USB, microSD card reader (up to 64 GB card), headphone jack|
|Cameras||2 MPx back camera, 0.3 MPx front camera|
|OS||Android 4.4.2 KitKat with ZenUI
|Size||189.3 x 113.7 x 9.6 mm (7.45 x 4.48 x 0.38 inches)|
|Weight||295 g (0.65 pounds)|
|Others||available in a bunch of colors; Asus offers several matching covers for it|
|Price||$149 (potential discounts available here)|
The Video Review
The clip below will give you the quick version of this review. If you’re interesting in buying this 7 inch slate though, I’d suggest you go through the written post as well.
Design, exterior and first look
It’s important to point that the new MemoPad is very slender and has lost weight when compared to last year’s Memo Pad 7 HD (tips the scales at under 300 grams), but also a few millimeters around its waist as well.
The entire thing is still made of plastic, but a matte one. The case is available in a couple of different colors and the truth is the ME176CX looks really nice, fits well in hand and is fairly sturdy. Of course, it will still break if you drop it and the screen might still scratch in time, that’s why you should have a look at the cases Asus offers for this one.
My favorite is the transparent plastic shell with a flap that goes on top of the screen, called the MagSmart cover, which perfectly fits the slate and also matches it in terms of color. As you can see, I have the blue version here, which looks great on the blue MemoPad. There’s also a fancier option, called the Carry Me Cover, with a leather band and a magnetically sealed upper part, which can be used as an adjustable stand if you want to. You can check out both of them in the video review.
Anyway, let’s get back to the actual device. Two things bother me on this Memo Pad. One is the micro-USB port that still sits on top of the tablet, which means that you’ll have to use the device upside down when charging it, the other is the fact that the Power button is placed under the volume rocker, and not the other way around as with most tablets out there, and I ended up pressing it by mistake quite a couple of times when in fact looking to tune-down the volume.
But these aside, there’s really little to complain about here. Asus put a microSD card reader on this 7 incher and a mono-speaker is hidden on the back, behind that wide grill. It pushes natural and decent quality sound, but is not loud enough if you plan on using the device in noisier environments.
There’s also a main-camera on the back, a 2 MPx one on this version and the pics and videos coming out of it are mediocre at best, but that shouldn’t bother you much. After all, tablets are not known for their camera performance anyway, especially not these affordable ones. The front-facing shooter is even worse, with a VGA sensor, but keep in mind that Asus also has a slightly different version of this tablet, with a 5 MPx rear-shooter and a 1.2 Mpx front-camera, which should do better. The Transformer Pad TF303K has this exact same combo, in case you want to see how the pics would look on that one.
Back to what really matters, the MemoPad ME176C gets a 1280 x 800 px IPS screen, which is very nice for a 150 bucks device.
The panel is a bit dim (under 300 nits at full brightness) and there’s no auto-brightness (hence, no light-sensor), but the wide viewing angles, decent contrast and fairly accurate colors (around 80% sRGB) do compensate for that. So overall I’m pleased here, although I’ve seen better screens on 7 inchers before.
Some of you might complain about the pixel density but I for one won’t. The 1280 x 800 px resolution is sharp enough for a 7 incher, so you’ll hardly ever see the pixels and that’s just enough for me, especially since we are talking about a cheap device.
Hardware and daily use experience
But how does this MemoPad handle everyday activities? Well, it is motorized by an Intel Atom BayTrail hardware platform, paired with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, with about 11 of those available for your own content, and this configuration gets really high scores in most synthetic benchmarks (761/ 2211 points in GeekBench 3 and around 17000 points in Quadrant), which translate in an fairly enjoyable daily use experience. But not everything works flawlessly though.
The Taiwanese manufacturer put a skinned version of Android 4.4.2 on this device and while they haven’t changed the core functionality of KitKat, they did highly customize the interfaces and graphic elements, but also preloaded a fair selection of their own apps on this MemoPad. And these probably have an impact on the slate’s overall performance.
Just to have an idea of what I’m talking about here, the screen comes to life about 2 seconds after pushing the power button, multitasking is not without occasional hiccups and the browsing and streaming experience are cumbersome. However, that’s mostly due to this MemoPad’s poor Wi-Fi performance, which only averaged 6 to 10 Mbps download speeds on any of the Wi-Fi networks I tested. That causes sites to take a long time to load, apps to take ages to get downloaded and Youtube videos to continuously buffer.
Update: Wi-Fi is problematic with final release models as well. Here’s something that might help, from one of our readers: “Final update about the WiFi issue. The problem is the system update. There is some sort of bug in the newest system update. I exchanged my original tablet after experiencing poor WiFi speed (~10mbps). The new tablet worked great (~30mbps) until I performed the system update. After the update the WiFi speed dropped back down to ~10mbps again. Performing a factory reset did nothing to fix the problem. Once the system update is performed your WiFi speeds will be bad. I exchanged the tablet a second time but did not perform the system update and the WiFi speeds are normal again. I would suggest to everyone experiencing this problem to exchange their tablet at the store where they bought it if possible or to exchange it with Asus if still under warranty and NOT to perform the system update when they receive their new tablet. I will be contacting Asus tomorrow to notify them of the bug. I don’t believe they are aware of it because I spoke to three different tech support reps from their company yesterday and none of them had any idea why the tablet had such poor WiFi performance. I hope this helps anyone who is experiencing this issue.” (Thanks Harlan!)
Keep in mind that this might be an isolated problem with the blue version of the Memo Pad tested here. The yellow version went back to Asus earlier due to a hardware problem and I haven’t conducted proper Wi-Fi speed tests on that one, but based on the daily experience, it was not as slow as the blue unit that I actually reviewed more thoroughly. I’ll try to get my hands on an extra unit to make sure if that’s a general problem or not. I also checked out some of the other reviews available online for this Memo Pad, and most of them did not mention anything about this issue, but at least one did.
So until we get more answers about this, if you’ve bought a MemoPad ME176C, try to download a big game from the store and monitor the speed. Or fire the SpeedTest app and see if the numbers are right and then leave a comment below with your findings, that’s going to help us all a lot.
Anyway, despite all these problems, the MemoPad ME176C is capable of tackling all sorts of activities, including dealing with multimedia content and games.
Most common video file-types are supported by the included video app and even high-bitrate 1080p .MKVs are working smoothly. I’ve also tried a few games, like Asphalt 8, Subway Surfers and GTA Vice City and they are ran fine as well. Just keep in mind that this thing does get very-warm on the back when running games for a while, around the camera’s lens. And it’s unpleasantly warm, especially now during the summer, as it can make your hands sweaty. But I noticed that sticking a case on it solves this.
That aside, this 2014 MemoPad 7 offers decent battery life as well. The 15 Wh battery is fairly sized for a device this small and allows the tablet to go for about 6 to 7 hours of daily use and between 8 to 9 hours of looping a 720p video on a charge, with the screen’s brightness at about 50% and Wi-Fi ON, which is adequate for indoor use.
Pricing and conclusions
All these being said, we can conclude that the Asus MemoPad ME176CX is overall a good tablet and it sells for under $150 these days (see this link for up-to-date prices and potential discounts). The slow Wi-Fi could be a major problem as it seriously hindered my daily experience with this test unit (for anythign that required fast Internet – browsing, downloading content, streaming web video), but hopefully that was an isolated problem. And if it wasn’t, then Asus needs to fix it asap and replace the faulty units.
On top of that, the ME176 is either cheaper and/or more powerful and better equipped than any of its A-brand competitors. And I’m looking here at the Acer Iconia One, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0, the Kindle Fire HD and HDX or the Lenovo IdeaPad A1. It’s also a nice improvement from last year’s ME172 Memo Pad, with a sleeker body, reduced weight, better screen and snappier overall performance.
On the other hand, this is not the best 7 inch slate of the moment and if you can spend just north of $200 for your next device, then you’d better look at the Nexus 7 2013, which offers a better screen and faster overall performance, plus the stock Android experience and the fast Android updates.
But for $150 bucks, the MemoPad ME176C is hard to beat and that’s why right now it is the go-to slate in this price range.