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Asus Vivo Tab RT review

TabletsReviews
7/10
by Joel Santo Domingo, 25 Oct 2012Reviews
Asus Vivo Tab RT review

The Asus Vivo Tab RT is an interesting tablet that can be equipped with a clamshell notebook dock, and the 32GB version is priced at $599 in the US complete with dock (which converts to around £375 over here, though as ever, when officially announced the UK price point will likely be a tad higher than that).

The Vivo Tab makes a little more sense for most business and consumer users than the Sony VAIO Duo 11, because you can go for ultra-portability by leaving the keyboard Mobile Dock at home. With the Mobile Dock, the Vivo Tab RT works just like a clamshell ultraportable laptop. With true "all-day" battery life, the Vivo Tab RT is a good road warrior machine, provided your road warrior's primary needs are the web and Office. There are a few kinks to work out, but the form factor is promising.

Design and features

The Vivo Tab sports a 10.1in touchscreen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 (16:9 aspect ratio), and the tablet's sides are curved for comfort when you hold it, like the Apple iPad. It’s powered by Windows RT, the new ARM-based streamlined version of Windows which runs well on the Vivo Tab’s Nvidia Tegra 3 engine. While Windows RT shares the new Windows User Interface (UI) with Windows 8, it won't run older x86 programs written for Windows XP and Windows 7 like Windows 8 can. But then again, you would be in the same boat if you decided to stop using your Windows laptop in favour of a Mac laptop, Android tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, or the iPad.

The Vivo Tab RT has a pair of cameras, a back facing 8-megapixel affair with LED flash, and a 2-megapixel front facing one for Skype and self-shots. Both are located on the top of the tablet, reinforcing the Vivo Tab RT's landscape orientation. Accelerometers automatically rotate the screen to portrait mode.

At the front, on the bottom of the tablet is the Vivo Tab RT's soft Windows key. The Windows key acts like the Windows key on a keyboard, primarily switching back and forth between the Windows UI (formerly known as Metro) Start screen and the current active app. The screen supports up to five touch points, which is fitting as you'll have one hand free when using the handheld tablet.

The Vivo Tab RT has a microSD slot, micro-HDMI port, and a headphone jack, but that's about it for standard non-proprietary connectors. In addition to the docking connector on the bottom, there's a 36-pin port for the included USB charging cable. The system's 36-pin port also supports an included USB 2.0 dongle, so you can plug other peripherals in like USB flash drives and mice. The dongle is easy to lose, however, so keep track of yours.

The Vivo Tab RT weighs 520 grams, so as a slate (away from the dock) it’s lighter than the iPad which weighs in at 650 grams. The Vivo Tab RT measures about 170 x 9 x 265mm (WxDxH), which is comparable to Microsoft's Surface (180 x 9 x 280mm) and the iPad (185 x 9 x 240).

The back panel has an embedded NFC (Near Field Communication) sensor, in anticipation of NFC becoming a widely utilised standard. The tablet also supports 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, but lacks a radio for the 5GHz bands (the iPad supports 5GHz Wi-Fi). The Vivo Tab RT also has built-in Bluetooth 3.0 (the iPad supports Bluetooth 4.0).

The Vivo Tab RT trumps the iPad by bundling a Mobile Dock with a mechanical keyboard and extra features like a USB 2.0 port and built-in battery. The dock adds 540 grams to the weight of the tablet, effectively doubling it. The Mobile Dock's 22WHr battery supplements the Vivo Tab RT's 25WHr internal battery, giving the combination something approaching double its potential battery life, too.

The Mobile Dock's keyboard is more cramped than a standard keyboard. The measurement from the Q key to the P key on a standard desktop keyboard is about 190mm; on the Vivo Tab RT Mobile Dock, it's 170mm. It's certainly more usable than the on-screen keyboard that takes up screen space, but it will take you a few typing sessions to get used to. Currently, the Vivo Tab and Mobile Dock are sold as a bundle, and individual pricing is not available.

The docking connector is also an adjustment. You have to push a switch on the tablet while pulling the Vivo Tab RT away from the dock to disengage. Latching back onto the Mobile Dock is simpler, and the tablet vibrates to let you know the link is successful. Of course, you don't have to worry about connecting a keyboard to the iPad – on the iPad it's a Bluetooth keyboard or bust.

The Vivo Tab RT comes with the standard Windows RT operating system setup, including mail, music, video, Internet Explorer 10, Maps, the Windows Store, and Xbox Live Games. The system also comes with Microsoft Office 2013 RT (Home and Student), so you can use it for work right out of the box. Office 2013 is the preview version right now, but Microsoft will update Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote to the full versions once they are available through Windows Update.

Asus also added a few programs to the Start screen, including Amazon's Kindle reader, a webcam app, Supernote (note-taking), MyLibrary (an open e-book reader), MyDictionary, 8GB of web storage (for the life of the unit), Asus@vibe fun centre (another game store), and a guide to Windows RT.

Performance

The Vivo Tab RT is pretty responsive to swipe inputs, whether on the screen or using the built-in trackpad on the Mobile Dock. The trackpad was occasionally finicky, but when it did work it was responsive. Hopefully Asus can sort out the occasional hiccups with a software update.

720p HD videos were smooth on the Vivo Tab RT, with only a few dropped frames, and video from Netflix looked great on the bright IPS+ display. Thanks to the IPS+ display, you could watch from a wide variety of angles, above and below the screen. Adobe Flash videos like the “Wreck It Ralph” trailer on the Disney.com website looked great. On Rightmark's Browsermark benchmark test, the Vivo Tab RT was a little behind the iPad, but it still performed well.

The Vivo Tab excelled in terms of battery life. It lasted 9 hours and 37 minutes on our video rundown test, more than its claimed nine hours. The iPad lasted 10 hours and 54 minutes on the same test. We couldn't test the battery life with the Mobile Dock (our test video ends at ten hours and change). That said, using the Mobile Dock should extend the Vivo Tab RT's battery life to a good 15 hours.

Verdict

The Asus Vivo Tab RT certainly scores well when it comes to battery life, innovation, and portability. Usability, on the other hand, is a more mixed bag. It comes with Office RT, a must-have program for workers and students, but the 3,000 app selection from the various app stores (the Windows Store, Asus@Vibe, and Xbox Games) is paltry in comparison to the vast numbers of apps on iTunes and Google Play – and indeed the tons of programs available for Windows 7 and 8.

Until the Windows Store really gets going, you'll still find a better selection of apps on an iPad or Android tablet. There are other flaws here, too, such as the glitchy trackpad, and the USB port dongle (which is begging to be lost). That said, if what you need is a physical keyboard, phenomenal battery life, Microsoft Office, and the web, the Asus Vivo Tab RT is an intriguing choice.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Product

Asus Vivo Tab RT

Screen Resolution

1366 x 768 pixels

Dimensions

170 x 9 x 265mm (WxDxH)

Wi-Fi Compatibility

2.4GHz

Rear Camera Resolution

8 MP

Battery Life

9 hours 37 minutes

Graphics Manufacturer

Nvidia

Storage Type

SSD

Processor Speed

1.3 GHz

Storage Capacity (as Tested)

32 GB

CPU

Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad-Core

GPS

No

Operating System

Microsoft Windows RT

Weight

520 grams

Battery Size

25 mAh

RAM

2GB

Screen Size Type

Widescreen 16:9

Bluetooth

Yes

Tablet Type

Slate

Additional Storage

MicroSD

Front Camera Resolution

2 MP

Screen Size

10.1in

Ports

micro HDMI

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