There are plenty of good and affordable tablets you can get for under $200 these days, and quite a few from A-Brands like Asus, Samsung, Lenovo, etc.
However, most of these pack 7 inch screens and for some of you, those might not be large enough for everyday use. If that’s the case, then you should check out the Asus Memo Pad ME181C 2014, an 8 inch tablet with attractive looks, sturdy build quality, a nice screen and powerful hardware, all for $199 these days.
An 8 inch screen offers a roughly 30% increased canvas size over a 7 inch screen, while still keeping the device it’s mounted on portable and easy to use with one hand. This difference is visible in pretty much everything you’ll do, but especially when playing games and watching movies. I don’t know about you, but I find the 7.8 – 8-inch slates ideal for grabbing along when traveling, while 7 inchers are just too small for my liking.
Anyway, in this post we’re going to have a detailed look at the Asus Memo Pad ME181C, the 2014 iteration of their 8-inch tablet, and we’re going to find out together if this thing is worth your hard earned buck or not. BTW, I also tested the 7 inch MemoPad, the ME171C, here on the site, and you can read the review over here if you’re after an even cheaper device.
|Asus Memo Pad ME181C spec sheet|
|Screen||8 inch, 1280 x 800 px, IPS|
|Hardware||Intel Atom BayTrail Z3745 1.86 GHz, quad-core|
|Memory||1 GB RAM|
|Storage||16 GB (10.6 available)|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Bluetooth, GPS|
|Sensors||accelerometer, compass, gyroscope|
|Ports||micro-USB, microSD card reader (up to 64 GB card), headphone jack|
|Cameras||5 MPx back camera, 2 MPx front camera|
|OS||Android 4.4.2 KitKat with ZenUI|
|Size||211.7 x 124.9 x 8.3 mm (8.33 x 4.92 x 0.33 inches)|
|Weight||322 g (0.71 pounds)|
|Others||available in white or black|
|Price||$199 (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 8 inch slate though, you should definitely go through the written post as well.
Design, exterior and first look
This Memo Pad is available in Black or White, so none of the lovely colors we’ve seen on the 7 incher, which is a shame. We have the latter option here and I can say that it looks and feels really good. I’d reckon it’s also going to show way less smudges and finger-oil than then black version too. The back is cast from matte plastic, the sides are nicely rounded and the front is covered in protective glass, with a silver plastic rim.
The entire thing is quite compact, as proven by the small lateral bezel and fairly light (~320 grams), which makes it comfortable to grab and use every day, even with a single hand. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 is lighter though, if that’s something you’re after.
The 8 inch screen does provide a significant larger working area than a 7 inch tablet does, while still keeping the device portable, like I said in the beginning. Asus uses a decent IPS panel on the ME181C, with 1280 x 800 px resolution, fairly accurate colors and contrast. It’s not very bright (and there’s no Auto brightness sensor integrated either), but I’d say the screen is overall adequate for a device in this price range.
Back to the case, you’ll notice that Asus put all the right connectors around the sides, including a microSD card-reader, but they kept the microUSB port at the top (which means that you’ll have to use the tablet upside down when charging it) and the Power button placed below the Volume rocker, which I find a bit annoying. At least the two are better spaced than on the 7 inch MemoPad, so the chance of actually turning OFF the tablet while looking for Volume Down are slimmer.
There’s also a speaker on the back, loud enough for everyday use and not easy to cover or muffle with your hand, not even when holding the tablet in Landscape, plus a 5 MPx camera. This one takes decent stills in fair light and can shoot 1080p videos, but it’s clearly not impressive. You’ll find some pics in below if you’re interested, they were not edited in any way, just resized. On the front there’s a 1.2 MPx front-shooter as well, good enough for occasional video calls, again, as long as there’s a fair amount of light around.
Hardware and daily use experience
Hardware wise, the ME181C gets the Intel BayTrail Atom Z3745 platform, with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, which can be expanded with an up to 64 GB microSD card. Around 10.6 GB of the onboard storage space are actually available for your own content, the rest are reserved for the operating system and the preinstalled apps.
The platform pushes Android 4.4.2 skinned with Asus’s ZenUI, which does not change the OS’es core functionality, but does redesign the entire interface, including the lock screen, the homepages, the notification trays and the settings. On top of that, Asus does bundle a few of their own apps on this device, some of them useful, some not that much.
All these combined lead to a good everyday experience, but the ME181C still occasionally chokes and struggles, despite packing the powerful hardware that gets high scores in most benchmarks. There’s a fair amount of lag when switching between multiple opened apps or browsing between several tabs, but the gaming and multimedia experience are generally solid.
And unlike the 7 inch MemoPad that I tested, this one is not plagued by a slow Wi-Fi connection, thus downloading content from the store and streaming online video are some of the other things the ME181C can handle well.
The battery life is alright, about 6 to 7 hours of daily use on a charge, less when running games, more when using this lightly with the screen dimmed down. It’s comparable to the 7 inch ME171C with whom is shared both the battery size (15.2 Wh) and the hardware, so that was expected. But it’s not impressive by any means and we’ve seen better from other 8 inchers.
Pricing, competition and conclusions
In fact, the MemoPad ME181C is not necessarily impressive in any particular way, but it does offer a lot for the money and I’d summarize it as a good device, capable of delivering an enjoyable everyday experience for under $200 (or even less if you’ll look for it online).
On top of that, it looks and feels good, so there’s really not much to complain about here, except for the performance that’s not on par with the punchy hardware, but this should hopefully be addressed by future software updates (I’ve noticed the same issue on the other Asus devices running KitKat on the BayTrail platform).
Besides these, you’ll hardly find an overall better A-brand 8-inch tablet for the money right now. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 sells for about $50 more and offers somewhat slower hardware, but more RAM and a lighter body. At the same time, you’ll find some of the older 8 inchers that sells for less, like the Dell Venue 8 or the Acer Iconia A1, but they offer an older Android version on last year’s Intel Atom hardware platforms, so they don’t pack the latest software features or the performance of this 2014 Memo Pad.
So, at the end of the day, the Asus Memo Pad ME181C might not be perfect and might not be the ideal 8 inch slate for each one of you, but is nonetheless a solid pick for the money, so you should at least check it out, if not buy it.