ASUS MeMO Pad 8 (ME581CL) - Compact and Speedy Intel Tablet
Overview, Design & Features
The MeMO Pad series was first introduced in 2013 as a differentiated lineup from the more premium Transformer Pad tablets. They were meant to cater to the budget-conscious consumers who want a balance of features, performance and value.
As this category of affordable tablets became increasingly popular in 2014, ASUS took the chance to boost its offerings at Computex with 7 new tablet devices - with both affordable and premium models. Back then, one of the key highlights touted of the MeMO Pad 8 (ME581CL) was that it's the world's lightest 8-inch LTE tablet. However, with the late local launch in October, it has lost that claim to other competitive 8-inch tablets. Despite that, can ASUS still have a piece of the 8-inch tablet market with their latest MeMO Pad 8? We find out in this review. Before we start, here's an overview of the MeMO Pad 8's specs:
|ASUS MeMO Pad 8 (ME581CL)|
Design & Handling
Compact is the design mantra adopted by ASUS for the MeMO Pad 8; it trumps the Apple iPad Mini 3 in both weight (299g vs 341g) and thinness (7.45mm vs 7.5mm). When it was announced, ASUS could lay claim to being the lightest 8-inch LTE tablet, but the MeMO Pad 8 has since lost out to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (298g, 6.6mm) and the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (270g, 6.4mm). Nonetheless, ASUS can hold its own against the competition with the MeMO Pad 8.
Thanks to a combination of compact form factor and sturdy magnesium chassis, the MeMO Pad 8 really feels comfortable in the hands. You can easily use it in one hand and its 7.8mm thin bezels ensure that there is sufficient space for your thumb to rest while holding it without interfering with whatever you are doing on the tablet.
On the right profile of the tablet, you will find the volume controls and power button near the middle, while the micro-SIM card slot is located at the bottom right. Yes, this particular model of MeMO Pad 8 (ME581CL) supports mobile connectivity, particularly LTE CAT 4 speeds of up to 150Mbps. On the other side is the microSD card slot on the upper section. We find it strange that the microSD card slot is left exposed without a flap or plastic cover, which leaves it vulnerable to water and dust ingression.
Over at the back, the MeMO Pad 8 sports dual stereo speakers at the top and bottom. The placement of the speakers at the rear does not affect the audio output in portrait mode, but when you switch to landscape mode for watching videos in full screen, your hand(s) are likely to block either or both sides of the speakers. The audio output is decent and loud, although it is directed away from the user and not as immersive as it would be if the speakers are located on the front.
8-inch IPS Display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
The MeMO Pad 8 sports an 8-inch Full-HD (1,920 x 1,200 pixels) IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for improved resistance to scratches. It also has a layer of anti-fingerprint treatment on the glass panel to make fingerprints less visible and easier to clean. We put it to test and after 10 minutes of using the tablet, fingerprints are still visible although it isn't as bad as the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. Reading articles and watching videos on the MeMO Pad 8 is a pleasant experience as colors are bright and vivid with accurate reproduction.
ZenUI with Dual-App Multitasking Support
Preloaded on the MeMO Pad 8 is ZenUI, its own interface which was introduced in the ZenFone series last year. We've covered the ZenUI extensively previously, many of which are common across all the ASUS devices in 2014. What's new on the MeMO Pad 8 is dual-app multitasking support, a feature which makes full use of the 8-inch display. The implementation is similar to Samsung's Multi-Window feature, but lacks the extensive support for apps.
At the moment, Dual-App multitasking only supports a handful of apps. The list includes ASUS and Google apps such as Backup, Browser, Calculator, Calendar, Dictionary, Do It Later, Downloads, Email, File Manager, Gallery, Gmail, Maps, Messaging, Music, Power Saver, Sound Recorder, Weather and Youtube. As you can see, there is no support for third party apps such as Facebook or Twitter. This severely limits the usefulness of the feature.