Asus VivoTab RT review
The keyboard dock provides lengthy battery life, but the VivoTab can't compete with Microsoft's Surface
Review Date: 22 Jan 2013
Price when reviewed: £540
Reviewed By: Tom Morgan
Asus has a tradition of producing tablets with keyboard docks, but its Transformer tablets have always used Google’s Android operating system. The Asus VivoTab is the first Asus tablet to use Windows RT, the cut-down version of Windows 8. It's a major departure that pits the VivoTab RT against the Microsoft Surface tablet, but Asus has stuck with its tried and tested formula and used the Transformer Pad as the base for the VivoTab.
As it's based on an existing design, it's somewhat unsurprising that the VivoTab RT is difficult to tell apart from its Android-powered brethren. Unfortunately, the fantastic build quality and premium materials don't seem to have been carried over from the Transformer Pad Infinity. The brushed metal finish only covers two thirds of the back, with an ugly plastic panel covering the top third. We noticed some flex around the edges, as well as a few creaks and squeaks when we applied minimal pressure in certain places.
At a reasonably svelte 8.3mm thick throughout, the VivoTab is comfortable to hold in one hand and is both thinner and lighter than an iPad. With such small dimensions, it should come as no surprise that connectivity is fairly limited, with the VivoTab having just a 3.5mm audio jack, a Micro HDMI video output and a MicroSD card reader. We’d have liked it to have a USB port too, as on the Microsoft Surface, but you do at least get one on the optional keyboard dock (90NK0000-P30K00, £116 from www.ebuyer.co.uk).
The dock has its own battery that effectively doubles the amount of time between charges when working away from the mains. In our battery test, the tablet lasted almost 10 hours and 22 minutes, but lasted an incredible 16 hours when connected to the dock. The two clip together with a sliding lock that holds the tablet firmly, letting you shut it like a laptop. The keyboard uses proper keys, unlike Microsoft's touch-sensitive Touch Cover, but they’re very small and we struggled to type accurately on it. There's no numeric keypad, but Asus has managed to squeeze in a traditional touchpad for laptop purists not ready to make the jump to a touchscreen. It's small yet responsive and recognises multitouch gestures accurately, although Windows RT is best suited to touchscreen use.
The 10.1in screen has resolution of 1,366x768, which is a far cry from the gorgeous 1,920x1,080 screen used in the Transformer Pad Infinity. It does at least use a Super IPS+ panel, which produces beautiful colours and very wide viewing angles. Text is easy to read, if a little small in places, and images look sharp, but desktop icons, in particular, were a little too small for our liking. It's a shame that the glossy finish struggles with light reflections and that the black bezel is a magnet for fingerprints.
There's a 2-megapixel webcam built into the screen bezel and an 8-megapixel camera at the rear. The rear camera’s surprisingly good at capturing still images, and it can also record Full HD video, but it certainly won't replace a high-end smartphone or compact camera as it struggles in low light and controls are limited.
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