$149 Asus Memo Pad pushes Android tablet prices to new low

New Memo Pad tablet presents challenge to $199 Google, Amazon tablets

Asustek has lowered starting prices for Android tablets, announcing the $149 Memo Pad tablet, which has a 7-inch screen and Android 4.1.

Android tablet prices from top vendors hit lows last year, with Google's 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD tablets becoming available starting at $199. Google made the Nexus 7 tablet in conjunction with Asus, but that didn't stop Asus from going even lower on price with the $149 Memo Pad (pronounced Mee-mo Pad) tablet.

Asus' new tablet weighs 370 grams and offers seven hours of battery life, which falls in line with other 7-inch Android tablets. But the Google and Amazon tablets have superior processors and displays to run applications faster and show better graphics.

The Memo Pad has a screen that can display images at a 1024 by 600 pixel resolution, while the Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD have a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels. The Memo Pad is powered by a single core Via WM8950 CPU, which is based on the ARM Cortex-A9 processor design. The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD are powered by quad-core and dual-core Cortex-A9 processors respectively.

The tablet has the older Mali 400 graphics core from ARM, which is in theory capable of handling 1080p high-definition graphics. However, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD have more advanced graphics cores.

The Memo Pad tablet has 16GB of storage and a MicroSD slot for 16GB of additional storage. Other features include a 1-megapixel front camera, Wi-Fi, and a micro-USB port.

Asus is also offering 5GB of online storage along with the tablet. A keyboard dock accessory will not be available for the tablet, so users will have to use the on-screen keyboard to type, Asus said in a statement.

The tablet will be available in "select markets," Asus said.

The Asus tablet could also spell competition for low-cost tablets from small vendors in countries like India and China. Some non-branded tablets from vendors in China have aging components like old CPU designs. They may not have support and are sold for under $100 in some cases. Tablet vendors like Karbonn Mobiles and Micromax in India are also selling Android tablets locally at low prices.

The Memo Pad is being announced just a few days after the International CES show, which was a launching pad for new Android tablets from companies like Archos, Coby, Polaroid and RCA. Asus' big announcement at the show was its Qube media-streaming device, which is based on Google TV software.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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