The tablet market is presently caught in a race to the bottom, at least in terms of pricing. The shift from the initial crop of 10-inch tablets to 7/8-inch models is well under way, and with that shift comes downward pricing pressure.

Even Apple isn't immune from this, with the iPad mini priced at around 65% of its bigger brother - itself being priced lower than many expected upon its introduction in 2010.

Unlike in the traditional PC industry however, huge sacrifices in display quality, user input or overall performance just aren't tolerated as well in the present tablet market. Consumers want cheaper tablets, but they can't devolve into unresponsive devices with compromised user experience. There's a certain minimum level of quality that needs to be met.

Last year Amazon, and later ASUS/Google redefined what we should expect from a $199 tablet. Amazon was the first to give us decent hardware at that price point with the original Kindle Fire, and ASUS/Google blew it out of the water with the original Nexus 7. The 7-inch tablet gave us virtual performance parity with high-end devices out at the time. Add in the latest version of Android and a decent display and all of the sudden we had a wonderful tablet option at $199.

This year ASUS and Google were both under pressure to seriously improve the Nexus 7. The combination of a better display, better WiFi and better SoC all led to an awesome device, with an unfortunately higher price point ($229). While I don't expect anyone looking for a premium 7-inch tablet to have issues with the new price point, the new Nexus 7 does run the risk of leaving us with no good option below $200.

To fill the void ASUS chose to build an updated version of the tablet that turned into the original Nexus 7: the 7-inch MeMO Pad. In many senses, the new MeMO Pad HD7 is the true replacement to last year's Nexus 7. It features a similar 1280 x 800 IPS panel, very similar dimensions, and in many cases it offers similar performance. The biggest improvement? Price. The MeMO Pad HD7 starts at $149 for a 16GB model (there's a $129 8GB model available outside of North America as well).

ASUS 7-inch Tablet Specification Comparison
  ASUS MeMO Pad HD7 ASUS Nexus 7 (2012) ASUS Nexus 7 (2013)
Dimensions 196.8 x 120.6 x 10.8mm 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm 200 x 114 x 8.65mm
Chassis Plastic + Matte or Glossy back Plastic + Rubber back Plastic + Soft Touch back
Display 7-inch 1280x800 IPS 7-inch 1280x800 IPS 7.02-inch 1920x1200 IPS
Weight 302g 340 g 290 grams (WiFi), 299 grams (LTE)
Processor 1.2GHz MediaTek MT8125 (4 x Cortex A7) 1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9) 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro (APQ8064)
Memory 1GB DDR3L 1 GB 2 GB DDR3L
Storage 8GB / 16GB 8 GB / 16 GB 16 GB / 32 GB
Battery 15.01 Wh 16 Wh 15.01 Wh
WiFi/Connectivity 802.11b/g/n, BT 802.11b/g/n, BT, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, NFC
Camera 5.0 MP Rear Facing w/AF
1.2MP Front Facing
5.0 MP Rear Facing w/AF
1.2MP Front Facing
Wireless Charging - Yes (Qi Compatible)
Pricing $129/$149 $199/$249 $229/$269 (WiFi 16/32 GB)
$349 (LTE)


Design
 


From left to right: Nexus 7 (2013), MeMO Pad HD7, Nexus 7 (2012)

The MeMO Pad HD7 is ever so slightly shorter (-1.7mm), but a hair thicker (+0.24mm) and wider (+0.6mm) than the Nexus 7. The < 2% increase in device volume comes with a reduction in weight, from 340 grams down to 302 grams. The difference appears mostly in materials choice. The rubber back of the original Nexus 7 is replaced by either a smooth matte or glossy plastic back.

ASUS offers the MeMO Pad HD7 in five different colors: white, pink, green, blue and black. The first three use glossy plastic backs while the last two have a matte look.

The potentially colorful back protrudes slightly along the edges of the tablet. It's an odd design choice, one that I can only assume makes manufacturing/assembly a bit easier. It's not a huge problem once you get used to the device, but anyone used to a Nexus 7 will notice the difference immediately.

The micro USB port gets moved up to the top of the device in the HD7, attaching it directly to the main PCB and removing the need for the long flex cable ASUS had to use in the original Nexus 7. Similarly, the audio/mic jack is located up top.

There are only three physical buttons on the MeMO Pad HD7 - power/lock, volume up and volume down. The buttons don't feel quite as mushy as they do on the new Nexus 7

Google was pretty adamant against including a microSD slot in the original Nexus 7 (preferring a combination of internal and cloud storage), but ASUS put one back in the design of the MeMO Pad HD7.

The HD7 does inherit some features from the new Nexus 7 starting with stereo speakers. Although there's a single speaker grille on the back of the MeMO Pad HD7, there are two physical speakers behind it.

Also like the new Nexus 7, there are both front (1.2MP) and rear facing (5MP) cameras in the MeMO Pad HD7.

Finally, the internal battery is nearly identical to the one used in the new Nexus 7. The model numbers are slightly different (C11P1304 vs. C11P1303 for the N7.2), but both are 3.8V 3950mAh li-polymer batteries (15Wh capacity).

I noticed some light creaking if I squeezed the corners of the HD7, but for the most part the device feels well built for a $149 tablet. You definitely lose a bit of that high end feel now that the rubber back of the Nexus 7 is gone, the entire device feels more plasticky, but again at this price point there have to be sacrifices. For what it's worth, the finish on the matte back feels a bit better than the flashier colors.

The reduced weight is nice, but I still ended up propping the tablet against something whenever I watched long TV episodes or movies.

MediaTek MT8125 Inside
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  • Qwertilot - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - link

    A bit scary really this. Judged objectively, this thing is a big percentage - 80? - per cent of an ideal small tablet and the new Nexus 7 is a bigger one. Huge improvements would need battery breakthroughs. Yet they're both down at very low prices.

    Budget PCs really do seem to have an awful lot further to come.
    Reply
  • HighTech4US - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - link

    Anand why on the "ASUS 7-inch Tablet Specification Comparison" chart (or anywhere in the review) are the different sensors each tablet has (or doesn't have) not mentioned?

    Because of the lack of complete specifications I have to dig deeper on other sites to get a complete picture of what each Tablet offers. That really shouldn't happen.

    -----

    Again a lack of sensors, especially GPS really make these lower cost tablets not very useful.

    No GPS means NO Google Maps.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - link

    It's great that this Asus tablet has micro-SD. I won't even consider a tablet that doesn't. It is hugely quicker to swap media sets in and out using SD than any other way. For my uses, the size of internal memory is much less important.

    Regarding SD formatting, here's a utility that let me put a 64GB card in an circa 2009 media player. Get it at: http://www.ridgecrop.demon.co.uk/index.htm?fat32fo...
    Reply
  • Arbie - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - link

    Also, Anand, the presence or lack of micro-SD should appear in the "Basic Tablet Specification Comparison" table. This is really important to people, even if Google and Amazon downplay it for their own marketing reasons. Just look at the number of comments on this topic. Reply
  • Wwhat - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - link

    I don't think the absence of SD-card slots on google's devices has anything to do with cost whatsoever, SD-card slots are easy and cheap and available on the lowest of budget devices,
    It's more an attempt to force people to do everything through (google-)cloud storage I think, as the article states

    And yes it's stupid and I'd even say nasty since it would cost them next to nothing to add it.
    'don't be evil'? I think there is a reason they abandoned that mantra.

    The question now is: What can we the consumers do about it? Are there attachment you can connect to the nexus to add a SD slot without the thing getting too ridiculously messy? Anybody know?
    Reply
  • user777 - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I have Nexus 7 2012 and there is no problem to use USB OTG cable + USB stick (or Transcend USB stick with microSD+SD card slot). I use Total Commander+USB Stick plugin (free). It is possible to open any doc/pdf/jpeg/avi/mp4 file.
    It is possible to share any folder or external HDD at your laptop and to use like WiFi Network LAN storage using ES File Explorer. It is possible to play any movie using streaming (without downloading) from the Network LAN storage (MX Player or BS Player). It is even possible playing movie from WiFi FTP server.
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Quoting the Article: "Google was pretty adamant against including a microSD slot in the original Nexus 7 (preferring a combination of internal and cloud storage), but ASUS put one back in the design of the MeMO Pad HD7."

    Good Asus, bad Google, stop being evil, k? Stupid cloud not always accessible.
    Reply
  • evolucion8 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Hi, I have a question, which CPU monitoring software did you use to monitor the CPU usage during videoplayback? Looks sleek and lean! Reply
  • user777 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Smal mistake at the ASUS 7-inch Tablet Specification Comparison:
    ASUS Nexus 7 (2012) has 1.2MP front-facing camera
    Reply
  • user777 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Just got the official Android 4.3 upgrade on my Nexus 7 2012.
    Would be glad to see the performance of the new Android version 4.3 at the storage random write tests for the old Nexus 7 and new Memo Pad HD 7.
    Reply

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