Model: MeMO Pad HD
Why we love it
➝ For about the cost of a pair of light hikers, score a trail-friendly Android tablet that packs front- and rear-facing cameras (5- and 1-megapixels, respectively), plus a microSD slot that offers flexibility to expand the memory. For a first-time tablet user, the ease of operation and low price make this an ideal entry-level device.
In the field
➝ Despite its discount price, the MeMo isn’t chintzy. And for bulk-conscious hikers, the petite size (7.7-by-4.7 inches) is ideal (think cargo pocket). To switch from photo to social to mapping apps while on the go, testers relied on the options ring that pops up from the home button. Just hold your finger on top of the home icon for a split second, and a set of app and widget shortcuts opens. “I love the mini compass overlay (see right) for in-field orientation,” says one navigator. Though it has the smallest screen here, with the lowest pixel count (1,240-by-600), one tester says, “I was still able to preplan routes on Google Earth’s interactive globe without blurry imagery, and I could scrawl handwritten notes (with my finger or a stylus) using the preloaded SuperNote app.” Some of the budget-price sacrifices include the 1-megapixel, rear-facing camera, which captures somewhat grainy images, the shortest battery life in the test (about eight hours while running GPS), and a sluggish processor that loads apps slowly and bogs down while streaming videos. But in the end, this tablet delivers killer performance for the price. $149 (Wi-Fi only; no 3G option); 12.6 oz.; asus.com
Slim Folio Book
Get a bargain case to go with your bargain tablet. This simple faux-leather hardback case, while basic and not weather-sealed (for cheap waterproofing, grab a zip-top bag), still kept the MeMO secure from low-impact drops and dings. Bonus: A loop on the side holds a slim stylus (included). $13;
3.2 oz.; i-Blason.com