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Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: Vivid screen barely outshines slow performance

The good: The Asus Memo Pad HD 7 rocks an impressively colorful screen, features a bevy of useful customization options, and comes in at a budget price.

The bad: Its performance is mediocre and the touch screen is sometimes unresponsive. The plastic build gives it a toy-like feel and it isn’t very comfortable to hold. The dull design lacks panache.

The bottom line: For those looking to save a buck, for its low price, the Asus Memo Pad HD 7 has a bevy of useful features, though there are better performing options out there.

With the Asus Memo Pad HD 7, you really get what you pay for. The HD 7 earns its low price with a lackluster design and sluggish performance. It’s not very comfortable to hold for long periods of time, and aside from being offered in a variety of different colors, lacks a coolness other tablets try hard to aspire to.

Its performance is meekly mediocre, and consistent lagging combined with a sometimes unresponsive touch screen make the tablet best suited for simple tasks like browsing and reading.

That said, the HD 7 is a refreshing upgrade from its predecessor and its best feature is the 7-inch IPS screen that displays an impressively wide range of colors which facilitate a visually richer experience than the original Nexus 7.

If you’re on a strict budget, the Asus Memo Pad is an inexpensive and functional small tablet, but if you can spare the change, a new Nexus 7 is the better choice.

Design
Even though the tablet shares similar dimensions with the Nexus 7, it’s nowhere near as sleek or comfortable in design. The tablet fits fine in one hand, even for people with smaller hands like me, yet, despite its light weight, the design doesn’t lend itself to comfortable holding over lengthy periods of time.

The back panel protrudes slightly, and the corners slightly dig into your palms when holding it in both hands, instead of the flush, smoothly curved edges of the original Nexus 7. I often found myself wanting to put the device down after using it for awhile — not because I was done using it — but because holding it became tiresome.

The Asus Memo Pad HD 7 comes in navy blue, white, hot pink, and lime green. The navy blue version is the only one that has a back with a matte finish. The dark shade of blue attracts a minimal amount of fingerprints that are only highly visible from certain angles. The back panel is smooth and comfortable to the touch but can be a bit slippery without a tight grip.

In comparison, the reflective plastic backsides of the other colors looks less chic, but its texture helps one grip the device significantly better than the matte finish does. I personally prefer a back panel with a grippier texture, like the Nexus 7 (2012), because it enhances my comfort level in a way that extends the amount of time I can hold the device.

Since they’re both made by Asus, the Memo Pad HD 7 and the Nexus 7 (2012) share similar design elements. The power button and volume rocker on the right edge look almost identical in shape, while the rear speakers are similarly located towards the bottom edge of the tablet.

The front of the tablet is typically simple, with an Asus logo on the bottom bezel and a front-facing camera on the top. There is no ambient light sensor, therefore no automatic brightness setting.

The Memo Pad HD 7’s headphone jack, microphone pinhole, and Micro-USB port are all located on the top edge, with the microSD expansion slot — which is expandable up to 32GB — around the corner on the left edge. There are no ports on the bottom edge, but the speaker sits on the bottom of the tablet’s back, keeping the 5-megapixel rear camera on top company.

Asus Application Suite
The tablet comes loaded with the Asus Application Suite and features apps that range from useful to creative. The simple additions include a calendar, to-do list, and file manager, and it comes with 16GB of Asus WebStorage cloud service for one year.

Some of the apps that are geared towards family use include App Locker, which allows you to put passwords on specific apps; Asus Artists, where you can create “paintings” or greeting cards; and Asus Story, which helps you organize your photos into albums, or as they call them, “stories.”

The tablet comes with Power Saver, a battery saving feature that comes in handy if you’re trying to squeeze the most out of a low battery.

The custom mode lets you pick the specific functions that the power-saving option affects. For example, you can set a low screen brightness for listening to music, a higher one for watching video, and no power-saving function for reading books. When enabled, it significantly helped extend the battery life when it was low and the highly customizable options.

Floating apps
One of the most interesting and useful features on the tablet is the floating menu. On the Android navigation bar, there’s a button to the left of the back button that activates the floating menu.

When activated, a small menu pops up above the navigation bar that contains a selection of floating apps that you can quickly access without having to close whatever app you’re currently using. Since the apps “float” on the screen, on top of whatever is already open, it’s almost like a multiwindow option, but they can only perform simple tasks and can’t compare to the multiwindow functions that the Microsoft Surface or some of the Samsung Galaxy tablets provide.

Floating apps are an easy way to multitask, and I liked the ability to use the browser while watching video, but not all streaming video services continue to play while a floating app is open. With the exception of a few floating apps, including the calculator and compass, Netflix did not let me use most of the floating apps while simultaneously watching video, although YouTube did.

Despite providing an easy way to multitask, the floating apps don’t have the same functionality as the fullscreen app and are limited in their capabilities; the YouTube app only shows recommended videos — you can’t search — and the Twitter app displays only one tweet at a time. There is a limited amount of floating apps, and although the floating menu is customizable, not all downloaded apps have the ability to be floating ones.

Speaker features
The Memo Pad HD 7 houses stereo speakers with Asus SonicMaster audio technology and Audio Wizard software. Although the speakers aren’t great, the number of specific audio settings are. The tablet allows you to manually adjust separate volume settings for app audio, notifications, and alarms.

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