05
Aug
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We're at a crucial time for Android tablets. The little green robot is finally starting to gain some traction in the tablet space, manufacturers are beginning to realize what users want from their devices on many different levels (price, hardware, etc.), and the newest versions of Android work as flawlessly on large devices as they do on small.

The front runner of this Android tablet "revolution" was last year's Nexus 7, the flagship tablet from Google that literally changed the entire landscape. Like other devices in the Nexus line, the N7 runs a pure, untouched version of stock Android, which is one thing that makes it appealing to some users. Since not everyone wants a stock experience, however, ASUS decided to rehash the N7's design, throw some different guts in it, customize the UI, and release a budget device with a familiar form factor but very different user experience. The end result was the MeMO Pad 7 HD, a $150 7-inch tablet that surprisingly does a fairly good job of keeping up with the rest of the 7-inch pack... for now, at least.

And with that in mind, let's dig in.

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Specs
  • Display: 7" 1280x800 IPS Panel
  • Processor: 1.2GHz MediaTek quad-core
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 16GB as reviewed (11.82 avaialble)
  • Cameras: 1.2MP front, 5MP rear
  • Ports: microUSB, microSD
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Battery: 3,950mAh
  • OS: Android 4.2
  • Dimensions/Weight: 7.7" x 4.7" x 0.425" / 302g
  • Price: $150
  • Pre-Order: Amazon, Gamestop, Newegg, TigerDirect

The Good
  • It's surprisingly snappy. Despite being a $150 tablet with a budget processor, the MeMO Pad 7 HD was able to power through most tasks without a bit of hesitation. The one exception was during graphically intense gaming – a Riptide GP 2 session suffered long load times and the occasional screen glitch, which proved to be quite frustrating.
  • Expandable storage. One of the "downsides" of the Nexus series is its lack of expandable storage. ASUS was able to remedy this with the 7 HD, as it features a microSD card slot.
  • ASUS' customizations. I know, I know – it's a manufacturer skin. In this case, however, I think ASUS left in place most of what makes stock Android great and just added some usefulness to that. The customizations aren't nearly as overbearing as something like TouchWiz or Sense, and parts of it can even be disabled on the fly.
  • Price. It's $150, and that's nothing to shake a stick at. 

The Bad
  • Sub-par build quality. I'm not going to harp on this too much due to the tablet's affordability, but the fit-and-finish is lacking a little bit here. Both the front and back are creaky and flexible, and the unit feels pretty cheap overall.
  • Lackluster gaming performance. If you're after a portable gaming machine on the cheap, the MeMO Pad 7 HD will probably leave you wanting. It can handle basic games – like Cannabalt HD – without problems, but fire up Modern Combat 4 or Riptide GP 2 and you're in for a world of lag and long load times.

Hardware

When it comes to the 7 HD's hardware, there's nothing overly exciting going on. It's a budget device, with budget specs, and budget build quality. However, ASUS has made great strides lately in releasing budget devices that don't work like budget devices. The hardware inside the 7 HD works surprisingly well, and, when combined with ASUS' software modifications (more on that below), makes this an exceptional tablet for the price.

Build Quality and Design

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The MeMO Pad 7 HD takes a lot of the original Nexus 7's design elements, but it's far from a carbon copy. The front of the device looks very similar to the N7, save for the ASUS logo subtly placed on the bottom bezel (in portrait); the volume rocker and power button are in the same exact spot as the N7, as is the rear speaker. The MP7HD, however, also sports a 5MP rear shooter, as well as a microSD card slot on the left side. The overall design is very understated and unoriginal. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're looking for something flashy to impress your friends with, this isn't it. On the other hand, if you're just looking for a general-use tablet that can easily fit in your pocket or purse, the 7 HD should readily fit the bill.

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When it comes to build quality, it's pretty clear that you're handling a budget tablet – both the back and front have a decent amount of flex to them, the sides are slightly creaky, and the overall feel is just cheap. Considering this isn't intended to be a flagship device, but rather an affordable piece of kit that you can easily throw in a bag and take everywhere, I think the fit-and-finish – lacking as it may be – is still passable. 

Display

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The 7 HD's display is what one would expect from a budget device: a slightly washed-out TFT panel. That's not to say it's awful by any standard – a 720p screen on a $150 slate is definitely nothing to scoff at. Color reproduction is pretty good for the most part – quite similar to the original N7, in fact – and the viewing angles are excellent. You shouldn't have any issue watching movies, reading book/magazines, or surfing the web on the 7 HD's display.

Where it falls short, of course, are the black and white levels. Blacks feel more like dark gray, and whites have much the same feel – instead of white, you'll see a sort-of off-white-light-gray blend. That's not a huge deal for the most part, unless you're some sort of color nut. There is, however, an ASUS app called Splendid that allows the display to be calibrated to your liking. It's pretty neat.

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My primary complaint about the 7 HD's display is that it's incredibly glossy. Not only does that make it a fingerprint magnet (more than other displays), but it also makes it even harder to see in bright environments. Still, I found it easy enough to read in most situations, save for outdoor use under the bright (and hot) Texas sun. It's also lacking an ambient light sensor, so brightness is something that you'll have to manually adjust according the situation.

Speakers

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The speaker on the 7 HD is in the exact same spot as the OG Nexus 7's: on the back, at the bottom. Thus, the age-old complaint with ASUS tablets comes into play here, as well: why the hell is the speaker on the back, facing away from the user? After all this time, it still makes no sense.

Still, it doesn't sound terrible when using the device in portrait mode; flip to landscape, on the other hand, and you'll be covering the speaker. If you hold your hand just right, however, you can actually use it to project the sound back to you. Not ideal, but it works.

When it comes to overall sounds and volume, the HD 7's speaker will get the job done in a pinch, but at the end of the day it's still a tablet speaker. It's far from the quality on its older brother, the MeMO Pad Smart 10, but for watching YouTube videos or playing casual games, it's probably fine.

Camera

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The 7 HD has a 5MP rear shooter, which is mediocre at best. ASUS has done its part by adding a rather decent camera application to the device, which makes the cam a bit more usable, if you're the type who likes to take pictures with your tablet, of course.

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L to R: regular, HDR, Beautify

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Storage and Wireless

Since this is a budget tablet, a large storage partition shouldn't be expected here. Surprisingly, however, ASUS bypassed the typical 8GB storage option in the US version of the 7 HD in lieu of the more reasonable 16GB option – but that's the extent of it. There is not, and will never be, a 32GB option. The device does offer a microSD card slot for added storage of local media, images, movies, and the like, so 16GB will probably suffice for most users.

In the wireless department, the 7 HD is sporting 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. I had absolutely zero issues with either during my testing, so there isn't a lot more to add past "it just works."

Battery Life

Battery life is one area where I found the 7 HD to perform extremely well – especially its idle life. Unlike past ASUS tablets, this one can sit idly for days without dying. When it comes to real world use, it's nothing to scoff at either – the 3,950mAh battery is hefty enough to keep the tablet chugging along for at least a day. Of course, that depends heavily on how much you use it – if it spends much of its time with the screen off streaming music, then it's going to last a lot longer than if you decide to power through Modern Combat 4 in one sitting. In other words, the battery life is solid, but your mileage will vary. Either way, it should be able to last a full day away from the wall.

Software

ASUS' Customizations

Considering all other aspects of this device, the software tweaks are easily the most discussion-worthy. In the past, ASUS has gone with a mostly-stock-Android approach – everything from the original Transformer to the more recent Infinity have been stock-ish with a slight tweak to the notification area (and even that was easily disabled in the Settings menu). The MeMO Pad 7 HD goes a slightly different direction, changing not only the notification area, but also the status bar, navigation buttons, and adding a small button for ASUS' "floating apps/widgets."

Status Bar and Notification Shade

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The 7 HD's notification area leaves behind the typical black-and-blue theme of stock Android 4.0+ in exchange for a transparent status bar, white icons, and minimalist, flat green battery. While hardcore Holo Warriors shun anything that opposes the teachings of Sir Matias, I actually don't dislike the look of the modified status bar – it's clean. Perhaps not as clean as stock Android, but it looks good nonetheless.

Like other ASUS tablets, the notification shade has also undergone a makeover; the thing is, though, it doesn't really match with the rest of the device. It looks nearly identical to previous ASUS tablets, sporting weird bluish-purple (blurple?) buttons and a slightly awkward notification area, which just feel out of place to me. It's in desperate need of a makeover. You can customize which buttons are visible... to an extent. You see, there's an option in settings to toggle whether each of the buttons are shown, but it will only let you disable one before getting a warning that you must have at least six enabled. I don't even see the point of disabling the one – either go all out, or don't offer the option at all.

The modified shade also combines the dual notification pulldowns of stock Android 4.2+ for a single, centered pane, much like what was seen in Android 4.1 on small tablets. I actually dislike this design a lot, as I find it more cumbersome than helpful, and far less useful. Thankfully, ASUS includes a simple way to disable its notification customizations and switch to the stock Android UI. This is something the company has been doing for a while, and other manufacturers should take note.

Navigation Bar and Floating Apps

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When I reviewed The Walking Dead: Assault – which was played primarily on this device – someone asked what the small icon is in the bottom left of the navigation bar is. That's actually something I haven't seen on any ASUS tablet before: it's a launcher for floating apps.

This is actually one of my favorite features of the device, as it not only packs several useful pop up apps, but also lets you add widgets to the list, essentially offering access to any widget at any time. Before we get into that, though, here's a look at the full list of ASUS apps offered in floating form:

  • Calculator
  • AudioWizard
  • Video Player
  • Unit Convertor
  • Countdown
  • Stopwatch
  • Compass
  • Browser
  • Buddy Buzz
  • Calendar
  • Email

The apps are accessed by tapping the aforementioned arrow icon in the bottom-left corner of the navigation bar, and they show up in a paginated tray of sorts. They can be easily removed or sorted by tapping the pencil icon in the top right, and new apps/widgets can be added by hitting the icon just to the left of that. Any widget added to the tray will open in its own draggable window, and can be easily closed by the X in the upper-right corner. It all works exceptionally well, and adds a substantial amount of utility to the 7-inch slate. I like it.

Other Tweaks and Bundled Apps

Of course, ASUS included a number of its own apps along for the ride, as well. Some of them are surprisingly useful, and none are all that overbearing, but if you're an Android purist their inclusion will likely make you a little uncomfortable. Here's a look at what to expect out of the box:

  • App Backup – Similar to Titanium Backup, without the need for root.
  • App Locker – Password protect apps.
  • ASUS Artist – A digital painting app.
  • ASUS Splendid – Easily calibrate the display's colors to your liking. Very useful.
  • ASUS Story – Create photo stories.
  • ASUS Studio – A photo manager.
  • ASUS To-Do – To-do list.
  • AudioWizard – For easy audio profile switching.
  • BuddyBuzz – Social network aggregator.
  • File Manager – Um, it's a file manager.
  • MyBitCast – Uses ASUS Web Storage to keep notes synced across devices.
  • MyLibrary Lite – E-Book reader.
  • Parental Lock – Locks apps and allows the device to be remote controlled in case of loss.
  • Power Saver – Battery profiles.
  • Press Reader – Newspaper reader.
  • Setup Wizard – Device setup.
  • Web Storage – The frontend to ASUS' Dropbox-like service.

Aside from the ASUS-branded apps, you can also expect Kindle, HBO GO, Hulu+, Mirror, and Zinio to be pre-installed, for a total of 22 out-of-the-box additions. Not the worst we've seen by any standard, but it's definitely not lacking in the bloatware department, either.

Performance

Some people prefer to gauge their device's performance with sheer numbers – if that's you, you'll find screenshots of a few popular benchmarks down below.

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For everyone else, here's the gist: the 7 HD performs just fine. Its mid-range hardware isn't going to break any records and it's far from the fastest device I've used (or even currently own), but for the price, you'll be surprised at everything it's capable of. The only time I really noticed any sort of lag or slowdown was when playing graphically-intense games, like Riptide GP 2, for example. Even then, that just translated into longer load times, but not much else. Even with several Chrome tabs open and a bunch of apps running in the background, the 7 HD chugged along nicely. It is noticeable when the device is having a hard time handling the load, but it never became unresponsive during my testing.

With that said, here's what would concern me: I don't see this tablet tablet aging well. Future versions of Android are going to come (and hopefully this tablet will see them), and even more processor-heavy applications are going to hit the scene. I'll be interested to see how this device performs a year from now.

Conclusion

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For $150, the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 HD is not only an affordable device, but also a good one. While it gets smoked by something like the new Nexus 7, it can easily hold its own within the market it competes in. The microSD card slot should fare well with those who seek additional storage, while its snappy performance makes it a great little unit for anyone looking to pick up a good sidekick device that won't break the bank. ASUS' software customizations are also useful and well thought-out, which just adds to the overall value of the device.

That said, it probably won't satisfy the most hardcore of Android users – but that's not who this device is intended for. It's for the businessman who travels frequently and wants a lightweight companion device, the soccer mom who wants a device to help her stay organized, or the kid who wants something to play Minecraft on. In other words, it's for casual users. And for them, it's really a tough one to beat.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Kaushal

    And it's only $129 with the JUL20PER coupon code ($139 with the JUL10PER code if you have already used the JUL20PER code for something else) on amazon.com IF you have the Amazon.com Visa credit card.

    • epsiblivion

      thanks

      • rcoopernsw

        One source for Android tablets worth checking out is --T a b l e t S p r i n t-- and one new model available is the 8" Novo 8 Discovery which launched earlier this month for $159 -- made by Ainol Electronics, which won runner up for Best-Tablet-of-the-year at CES 2012 it features Quad core performance, Bluetooth connection, Dual Cameras, MicroSD memory storage and works with the new Chromecast; and compares in size to the 8-inch mini iPad ... the 8-inch size offers 65% more screen space compared to a traditional 7-inch tablet model, which makes quite a difference in user experience.

      • rcoopernsw

        Also consider the new Novo 8 Discovery tablet that launched earlier this month for $159 at --T ab l e t S p r i n t-- the Novo 8 Discovery compares in sized to the 8-inch mini iPad and offers Quad core performance and Bluetooth connection...the 8" size is almost as compact as a 7" tablet but offers 40% more screen space to play with, which makes quite a difference in user experience. It also offers MicroSD storage, 16GB Memory, HDMI, MicroSD Memory card, a front webcam & 2 Megapixel rear camera, a 5000 mAh battery with 7+ hours average use, and has Google Play preinstalled and works with the new ChromeCast adapter for wireless movie streaming...

  • http://www.androidgeek.in/ Serra Stone

    Looked somewhat interesting, until I saw the performance graphs, yuck! Even for $150, I'll have to pass on this one! I'd rather pay double and get something respectable!

    • epsiblivion

      as stated in the review, this device is not for hardcore users.

    • Ravengenocide

      If you are looking for a powerhouse worth of a tablet, why would you even in any way shape or form consider buying a $150 tablet? You know you won't get that performance since they had to remove something to bring the price down.

  • tharealoc

    Might want to take a look at the Sero 7 Pro for a budget power house. It is basically a gen 1 Nexus 7 with a camera, external storage, and mini hdmi out for $150. It's also easily rooted and there are some rom devs for it. I had it for walmart's allotted month and enjoyed it, however the build was slightly cheap so i returned it and now have nexus 7 fhd. If budget is the main seller, the sero 7 pro is by far better than this asus. imho

    • Varu Era

      I had it for few days. I loved it. Very good tablet and GPS worked very well. But I never see a review about it in androidpolice.

  • Can Altas

    This tablet is pretty cool. We got it in Germany a few weeks ago. Its good, but I think with custom roms and kernels it would be nearly as much good as the Nexus 7. Because the processor has about 1.2 GHz and i think he could have 1.4 or 1.5 GHz, so maybe with overclocking it would be much smoother and faster. But sadly there are no custom roms or kernels.. not yet.

    • epsiblivion

      yeah, not being released worldwide yet not surprised not much roms. give it a few weeks

      • Mike Reid

        MediaTek doesn't even release kernel source code as required by the GPL.

        Google "MediaTek AOSP" to see, and throw in "petition" for fun too.

        IMO, Spend the extra $50-$100 to get a new Nexus 7.

        I hate to say that anything is "garbage", but, ummm, it is, pretty much.

        • Joey Combs

          I totally disagree. Although I think for a big time tablet gamer (which most of us are not), it would be well worth spending the extra $100 for the Nexus 7 2nd gen, but at $129 for the 16gb version of the Asus Memo it is in the upper-mid class of tabs in my opinion. I would put the Ipad, Nexus 7, and a few others at the top, but this little sucker has a lot of bang for the buck, especially as a tab for a younger kid who may just want to play Minecraft or something of that nature on it. The screen is fairly responsive, it isn't really slow and does tasks fairly easy. Only the highest end games are where it doesn't do well. You can download a SNES or Sega Genesis emulator and play games the rest of the tabs life on it and have a blast, IMO. My son had a cheap Sophix tab, that one was slightly above garbage level, and this Asus blows the Sophix away in all categories.

  • lordmerovingian

    Ok, some advice from fellow AP'ers. First gen Nexus 7 32GB for $120, good deal or not?

    • firesoul453

      Not bad. Its a great tablet and should be supported for a while

      • lordmerovingian

        A bit concerned about all the lag issues (mostly with the 16GB model), fstrim, lagfix, etc, so a bit wary. 4.3 is supposed to be a panacea but i'm still on the fence. New Nexus 7 2013 is double the price...

        • firesoul453

          For $120 its not going to be perfect. But I don't think you can get a better tablet around that price. But is has the latest android and it does run pretty good. It plays most the games you want and 32gbs is a good amount for storages. I sold mine a few months ago and got a nexus 10 so i dont know if 4.3 fixes those issues.

        • Alex Murphy

          4.3 fixed all the lag issues on my N7 first gen.

  • Doug

    So the HD 7 up for pre-order at a number of web retailers to be shipped starting this weekend ( 8/9/2013 ) but does anyone know if/when it'll be available at any "brick-and-mortar" stores like Best Buy, Fry's, Office Depot, etc.? I would like to see the device in person and do a bit of hands on, even compare it side-by-side to the new Nexus 7 FHD before dropping my money, even if it's "only" $150.

    • Doug

      Seriously? No one knows where you can buy this device "in person"? I've check the sites for most of the major retailers, even the ones that have last years Memo Pad 7 selling for $99. No mention of the HD 7 yet?!

  • gmerrick

    My main complaint with all of these devices with internal storage, is that when they say 16GB, that should be the amount of storage space accessible to the user. Not the max capacity on the device minus whatever OS and crapware installed. If they need 6GB for the OS and crap, then put an additional 6GB of memory in.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=708741524 Robb Nunya

      Yeah, but the added SD micro slot alleviates just about any bitch I have about onboard storage. YOU HEAR ME GOOGLE??? I'M TALKING TO YOU!

    • Tess

      Unfortunately, that's been the way specs on HDDs and SSDs have been reported for decades. The movement to tech sites reporting it as something like "16 GB (10 GB available to user)" is at least a clear improvement on that score.

      (Actually, HDDs are even worse given that GB are specified as 10^9 bytes rather than 2^30 bytes.)

  • GazaIan

    MediaTek processor... The same people who throw out processors at anyone, for which they usually use in cheap clone devices. They're not actually all that bad, but you'll see their ugly side eventually (in this case, shitty gaming was it).

  • marktheshark

    The way AP places tablets screen facing down on rock surfaces for review pics is driving my OCD insane...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      haha, I put a screen cleaning cloth down on the ground before I lay it down. Joke's on you!

  • yankeesusa

    I would love to see a side by side comparison of this tablet and the hisense sero pro 7.

  • imtoomuch

    Is the Splendid app available for download? I couldn't find it. It would be interesting to play with this if it works on the Nexus 7.

  • Talk2Me

    It would be real nice if it had HDMI port !!!

    • Tess

      Yeah, unfortunately almost everyone is going away from HDMI ports now. I'm not sure if it's to make the devices smaller, or because only a tiny minority of people actually want to have to run a cable from their TV to their phone or tablet. Or possibly both.

  • SoWhy

    Is it just my device or does the MeMO Pad HD7 suffer from a glitch that will retrigger the SD-card insert when you put it down too roughly?

  • someone755

    Wow, is anyone working on porting that beootifol skin to the original 7? Those floating apps could be of some use... Unlike the ones Sony puts on <4.3" screens -.-

  • Doug

    If anyone is interested I stopped in at my local GameStop on Saturday and they told me they have the Memo Pad HD 7 in stock on 8/16. The folks at BestBuy, OfficeMax, OfficeDepot & Fry's had no idea what I was talking about. Most of them did try to sell me a Nexus 7.2 though.

  • Serwen

    I'm able to play Modern Combat 4 smoothly and not bad on the load time. As for Riptide GP 2, it does load a little long than usual but you can play it smoothly. Try to enable Force GPU rendering it does help. I would agree that this can't play other high end 3D games but not sure why it can play others (Backstab HD, Avabel online, Mass effect:Infiltrator). This tab can't play the new updated version of minion rush, but can play Shadowgun leftover smoothly I wonder why? Also dont try Nova 3 on this, load time takes like 5 mins or more (disable power saving and turn on GPU Rendering and it can be played if you don't mind the load time).

  • wideallyphan

    I bought the MeMO Pad 7HD roughly two months ago and can't really complain (well, actually, i can, but more of that later).

    If you, like me, aren't a big android gaming aficionado, imho this is the 7"-android tablet to buy.

    After seeing some benchmark results, i was pretty concerned about the overall performance of the Asus device. Luckily, until today, i couldn't observe the smallest lag using the memo pad.
    (Please note that i don't play any games on android at all.)

    Of course, the price/performance ratio isn't that of the nexus 7 (2013), but it's pretty close.
    If you need a low budget 7" tablet for media consumption, social networks and organizing, and can live with a screen protector (the display is a sheer magnet for fingerprints), this thing is for you.
    otherwise buy the nexus 7. But if you need it only to fulfill the tasks above and accept the not so brilliant (but still pretty decent!) display, it's only a waste of money.

  • J

    Um MC4 works just fine with no lag for me

  • Jean

    The Memo pad HD7 now haves his first CWM and Custom ROM, i guess Asus efforst for locking the bootloader where useless hehehe

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2503668

  • ScottyG

    Just picked one up for $119 from NewEgg. Also picked up a RooCase Dual View, MicroSD 16GB & Matte Finish screen protectors (X3) for another $37.61. Total Price $156.61 for the works.

    So far I love it. I read reviews that said it feels cheap, but there's no cheap feeling to me.

    Perhaps those claims come from iPad users who are used to the Aluminum back, but it feels anything BUT cheap to me. Solid & comfortable to hold, quick response & best of all it's Android, so you can actually make it look & work the way you want.

    It's nice to know that you can still get quality electronics without breaking the bank like you MUST do with Apple stuff.

    I have to say I had reservations about it based on reviews. Now that I have worked with it, all those went away.

    I can honestly say it was a great purchase & would not hesitate to do it again nor recommend it to everyone.

  • Lori Foltz

    I have downloaded jewel epic on my memo but just get a black screen when I try to open it,any help?

  • Jance

    Does anyone know how to calibrate this device? My touch screen is acting up very badly. If I try to click on something it doesn't work and I'll have to turn the screen horizontal but sometimes even that doesn't work. Please help me figure out how to calibrate it.