I’m a self confessed travel geek and love to take all manner of gadgets and gizmos with me when I’m on holiday. You’ll always find me with my trusty DSLR, laptop, iPhone, GoPro and an assortment of chargers, cables and dongles. I recently spent the weekend in the beautiful city of Dublin, Ireland with the where I was set a challenge by ASUS, a well known tablet brand, to see if I could ditch all my tech and take just one gadget with me, the new ASUS MeMo Pad 7 available from Curry’s. It’s the latest budget price tablet from the Taiwanese manufacturer and boasts all manner of clever features that in theory should allow me to do everything I used to do with all my other gadgets. So would the MeMo Pad 7 stand up to the challenge? Let’s find out!
Unboxing and setting up
Getting new tech is always exciting so when my MeMo Pad 7 arrived I was eager to get it set up and running. Its a mini tablet form factor with a 7″ display and a resolution of 1280 x 800. Not quite HD quality but good enough for its size. The box comes with a very compact little mains adapter for charging and a mini-usb cable too. There’s no need to sync with a laptop to get it working, just charge the battery and power up the device. The MeMo Pad 7 runs Android which comes pre-installed. There was a short setup wizard I had to go through which unfortunately crashed on my first attempt, I’m not sure why, but worked fine once I restarted the unit. After that I was on my wifi network and away!
Having never been to Dublin before I wanted to have as much information to hand as I could so the Memo Pad 7 would be perfect for this. I was keen to install as many Dublin and travel related apps as I could so that I would be fully prepared. The Google Play application is where you’ll find the app store for Android devices. While there’s not quite as many apps as you’ll find with Apple devices I was able to find more than enough for my needs. All the big names like Trip Advisor and Expedia are there as well as lots of other useful apps like offline maps of the city and airport apps for Bristol and Dublin too. I also downloaded my favourite podcasts which I would usually find on iTunes but easily found them all with a couple of great podcast apps. I was all set to go on my weekend adventure in Dublin!
Memo Pad 7 as an entertainment device
We all know airports can be boring places, not to mention the plane journey. Budget airlines never have TVs in them so a tablet device is the perfect companion for trips like this. Its pretty easy to transfer video files to the Memo Pad 7 with the Android File Transfer app on my mac. Just plug in the device and its file system shows up. I also had the BBC iPlayer app on the tablet which allowed me to download shows direct to the device. From previous experience with Android devices I know this was very much device specific, with some Android tablets unable to handle this feature so I was very pleased the Memo Pad 7 could. With my podcasts and TV shows the journeys were made all the more enjoyable and there was no fiddly setup for that. I also had a few free games on there which helped pass the time. While the device spec boasts of an “Intel® Atom™ Z3745 Quad-Core, 1.86 GHz” I found that it couldn’t handle very graphics heavy games too well. This may be down to the game developers not coding the games for multi-core processors though, its impossible to tell and as an end user I shouldn’t have either really.
Arriving in Dublin with my Memo Pad 7
Dublin airport is big, as you’d expect the international airport of a country’s capital to be. The Dublin Airport app for Android really helped me get out quickly and find the shuttle buses to the city centre as well. Once on the bus I was pleased to find it had free wifi! Instantly I got my ASUS tablet out and connected up. Helping me locate where we were on a map and where our hotel was too. This definitely made it easier to know when to hop off the bus and meander through the streets and alleyways of Dublin. I was even able to take a few Instagram photos too and contact my wife on Facebook Messenger to let her know I’d arrived safely. All pretty easy stuff and the mini form factor of the MeMo Pad 7 meant I could easily hold it in one hand and type fairly accurately, even on a moving bus.
Sight-seeing and photo-taking
I’ve often seen tourists out taking photos with their tablet devices and chuckled under my breath as they hold their unwieldy iPads up trying to get a decent shot. So now being the guy with a tablet and wanting to snap as much as I could meant I was now one of them. My Memo Pad 7’s bright yellow casing stood out like a sore thumb but thanks to its mini size it felt like an oversized camera and the bright display made it easy to compose my shots. There’s plenty of features in the Camera section of the device, some of them very useful, others more of a gimmick. Firstly I should mention the picture quality, it’s pretty poor for a tablet device in 2014 but this is a budget price device after all. A measly 1 Megapixel means the quality is as about as good as the first digital camera I used to own some 15 years ago. You can increase the megapixels to a whopping 2MP if you sacrifice the wide-screen aspect ratio of your pictures. The camera on the Memo Pad 7 is really just for snapshots that you might share on Facebook on Instagram, they’re not high quality enough to print so bear that in mind.
The camera lens is also not very wide angle, there were numerous times I stood outside buildings from what I thought was a great enough distance to get the whole thing in, unfortunately that wasn’t the case and it often took more steps back and even crossing roads to try and get it all in. One useful feature to get around this wide-angle issue is to use the Panoramic mode which worked really well. Just slowly pan the device from left to right and it instantly stitches together multiple images to create one wide-angle, even fish-eye like image. This also means your finished photo is higher than 1 megapixel as each image taken adds up to a much higher resolution.
One feature I was very keen to try out is the “Smart remove” tool which claimed it could seamlessly remove other people and moving objects from the backgrounds of photos. The Memo Pad 7 would take numerous shots during a 5 second period and then offer me highlighted areas that could be removed. I tried this a few times with varying results. I took shot of my friend Emma Stuart at Trinity College, with various people walking around in the background, the memo took 5 seconds worth of shots but had a hard time removing people completely. Only offering me a choice of where the people were. I tried it again at the statue of Molly Malone where there’s plenty of people walking past at a brisk pace. The smart remove worked really well here, removing people from the background, although it did leave a small travel of someone’s leg behind the statue. Still it’s an impressive tool when it works. Definitely something I’d use more often as I prefer less random strangers in my photos if I can help it!
The low light quality was, as you’d expect from a 1MP camera, pretty useless. It’s definitely suited to day time photo taking. The HDR feature worked pretty well though and the time rewind function was handy for action shots while at the “Experience Gaelic Games” tourist attraction, allowing me to pick the best shot from numerous taken. There’s also some strange features in Portrait mode that allow you to distort the photo in real-time. I was able to give my friend huge eyes or a thinner face! Not sure why anyone would want to use this feature but I imagine its popular with kids in Asia where having fun with images is pretty much the main reason kids have a smart phone or tablet.
Keeping in touch
As a travel blogger and social media user I do love to keep in touch in a multitude of ways. Thankfully the Memo Pad 7 made that pretty easy with all the familiar apps I was looking for. It handled Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc really well with handy notifications whenever messages came through. Keeping in touch isn’t just about the apps you use though, it’s about the usability of the device and much of that comes down to it size and power.
The Memo Pad 7 is small enough and light enough that I could easily carry it around all day. I was half expecting to need a day-pack or backpack to put it in as I walked the streets of Dublin but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Weighing just 295 grams it was never a burden and even fitted in the inside pocket of my coat as well as the back pocket of my jeans. So I always had it to hand whenever I decided to keep in touch with my followers, friends, family and my blog too. The battery life was pretty impressive too, I hardly needed to worry about charging it all weekend. I gave it a quick top-up before checking out of the hotel so that it had enough juice to keep me entertained on my flight home. Thanks to the mini form factor of the device it was easy to type on too. I could easily hold with one hand and type with the other or I could hold in both hands for even faster typing. While it doesn’t have a SIM slot for mobile broadband there was plenty of places with free wifi in Dublin so connectivity was never an issue. I actually felt like I could use the device more because it was smaller. It felt more useful than a smart phone as it was bigger, and more useful than a full sized tablet which would be too big for me to carry around all day.
My weekend in Dublin was great fun and I felt I really put the Asus MeMo Pad 7 through its paces. The tablet’s strong points are definitely its price at around £99 and its size which made it very easy to carry around with me and use whenever I needed it. Its camera was a bit of a let down in terms of quality but had some useful features that were definitely something my other devices couldn’t do. All my favourite apps and tools of sharing my trip with the outside world were all there and the battery life was so good I lasted most of the weekend without the need to plug it in.
The Memo Pad 7 is a handy little tablet that has become my go-to device for quick and simple tasks. It may not have the speed of other more expensive tablets but it worked pretty well for all the things I needed it for. While I may not be ditching all my other travel gadgets I will definitely be bringing the MeMo Pad 7 along with me for its perfect size, abundant features and great price.