So many Android tablets popped up at CES 2011 that we were starting to take them for granted. But, having played with the tablets that Asus will be bringing to market in the coming months, we're starting to get excited again. One particularly interesting device is the Eee Pad MeMo, a 7-inch tablet that will be running Android 3.0 when it launches around the middle of the year, for a currently undisclosed UK price.
The new Asus tablets feel particularly classy. Shiny, robust and carefully designed, they're far from hastily thrown together, plasticky affairs.
The MeMo's design is really slick, with a chrome strip around the edge lending a touch of class to proceedings. There's a black glossy bezel around the display that plays host to three touch-sensitive buttons familiar from other Android devices -- menu, home and back. This is definitely one of the better-looking tablets we've seen.
The MeMo weighs only 389g. That makes it light enough to hold in one hand without your arm getting tired.
The display itself looks great. It's a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen with a maximum resolution of 1,024x600 pixels. It looks really sharp, and rather demure -- this isn't a colour-drenched display like the one on the Samsung Galaxy S for instance. Colours seem more natural.
The screen is still quite bright, though. We weren't able to take the MeMo out of the relatively dark confines of the Asus booth at CES, so we don't know how it'll perform in the brutal glare of the British sunlight, but it looks promising.
Walking around with the MeMo is quite feasible -- Asus has designed the tablet to be used with just one hand, which is why one edge of the bezel is thicker. This feature, coupled with the lightness of the tablet, makes us believe that one-handed use would be comfortable, even if it won't be practical for typing.
A stylus slides out of the chrome strip. We know what you're thinking -- styluses are the preserve of horrible, clunky tablets and phones that don't deserve your attention, much less your money. But this one is different. The idea is that it'll help with handwriting when using the tablet. There's a little rubber tip on the end of the stylus that will activate a larger portion of the touchscreen as you apply pressure, squishing the rubber part into the panel.
We tried this out using a Paint-style app and found it to be fast and responsive. We were able to move from a thin line to a great thick blotch with just a little extra pressure.
There's a 5-megapixel camera on the back of the Memo, and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera to boot. There's also a microSD card slot and micro HDMI out.
When it launches later this year, the MeMo will run Android 3.0 Gingerbread, although the one we played with was stuck on version 2.2, and Asus had slapped a skin on the operating system. As such, we expect Asus will put its own twist on Android 3.0 when it launches.
The tablet runs quite snappily, thanks to a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor on the inside. We're told the MeMo will come in a few different capacity options -- you'll be able to choose between 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions.
The Asus Eee Pad MeMo might not offer anything you wouldn't get on rival machines, but it seems to pack a great screen and be well-built. If the price is right, it could be a real contender in the tablet wars of 2011.
Edited by Charles Kloet