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Hands-on with Asus’ Atom-powered Memo Pad 7 & 8, new Transformer Pad (video)

Asus is back with a trio of new Android 4.4-powered tablets, all powered by Intel’s 64-bit quad-core Z3745 Atom SoC running at 1.33Ghz.

While the company has been rolling out a bevy of Android and Windows tablets for years — sometimes combining them into quirky hybrids — this year’s barrage is a little more focused.

asusmemopad78-02764The Memo Pads 7 and 8 are practically identical but for different display sizes, camera resolutions and price. The former is a 7-inch slate with a 1280×800 pixel IPS display, the aforementioned quad-core Atom chip, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 2MP rear camera, 0.3 MP front camera, a 3910mAh battery and Android 4.4.2 with Asus’s new ZenUI. It weighs a scant 0.65lbs and comes in at 9.65mm thick.

The Memo Pad 8 maintains the same screen resolution, but the quality is slightly higher than its smaller equivalent. It also has noticeably slighter bezels, and thanks to its larger chassis is noticeably thinner than the Memo Pad 7 at 8.4mm at its widest. The 8-inch device also boasts better camera modules, with a 5MP shooter on the rear and a 2MP selfie cam up front.

asusmemopad78-02762Neither tablet is remarkable in looks, but priced at $179.99 for the 7-inch and $299.99 for the 8-inch ensure affordability, and undercut rivals Samsung and LG for the same hardware specs. Asus also seems to be taking its software a little more seriously this time around: its Android 4.4.2-based ZenUI more closely resembles the flatter designs we’ve seen from Korean OEMs, and appear to be fully optimized for the rather-scant 1GB of RAM.

Intel’s 64-bit Atom chips run Android quite well, too, and most apps appear to have already been updated to support the x86 architecture.

asusmemopad78-02760In our brief tests, apps loaded quickly and ran without lag. Asus has also taken special care to cater its first-party apps to new users. Super Note, a mainstay of Asus tablets for some time, has been redesigned along with the company’s gallery, music and task apps.

asusmemopad78-02754Asus has also released a new version of its popular Transformer Pad tablet, also at $299.99, with the same specifications as the Memo Pads. The 10.1-inch 1280×800 IPS display is a little light on pixels, but the hardware should be sufficient to provide most core Android app experiences.

asusmemopad78-02758To save on component costs, the updated Transformer Pad sports an underwhelming combo of 2MP rear camera and 0.3MP front camera, sufficient for basic videoconferencing but not much else. The keyboard is compact, and lacks the feedback we’d expect from a laptop, but it should do the job for casual text input. On its own, the tablet is 10.1mm thick, while docked the width is doubled to 20.3mm, and the 1.2lb tablet adds an extra pound when docked.

A full laptop experience for $299.99 and 2.2lbs is certainly competitive, especially since a number of Android productivity apps have been updated to take advantage of the larger screen real estate since Asus’s last Transformer Pad release.

asusmemopad78-02755A number of Canadian resellers like Newegg and Canada Computers are offering all three products, while big box stores like Best Buy, Future Shop and Tiger Direct have chosen to stock just the Memo Pad 7.

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