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Asus Vivo Tab HD Review: So About Those ARM-Based Windows 8 Apps...

When Microsoft first announced its plans to make Windows 8 an operating system that would work on tablets and traditional PCs alike, many considered the plan ambitious. Now that the OS is here, the Vivo Touch HD will be one of the first third party, ARM-based tablet to take the software for a spin.

What Is It?

A 10.1-inch Windows RT Tablet not made by Microsoft.

Who’s It For?

The Microsoft enthusiast who wants something different than an iPad or Android tablet.

Design

Thinner than an iPad, and noticeably lighter, the Asus Vivo Tab RT is a well-constructed device. When the screen is off, it is a unform black slab, offering little indication where the bezel ends and the screen begins. The backside is a dark, two-tone magnesium alloy, which not only looks classy, but will likely hide scratches as well.

Using It

Once you get used to Windows 8, the general experience of using it as a tablet is enjoyable. The touchscreen is dead accurate and responsive. Switching between apps is a breeze, and calling upon contextual menus using gestures is wonderful. For first generation software, everything is pretty smooth and responsive. And having a Desktop mode and full file manager capable of directly downloading files — including .zips and .rars — is a nice luxury to have. Oh, also, Flash videos do work.

But for a device with a quad-core Tegra 3 chipset and 2 gigs of RAM, everything still feels a bit unpolished. Even compared to an iPad 2, apps take a bit longer to load and pages take a bit longer to render. Little things, like getting a text entry field and the on screen keyboard to play nicely together, or the package camera app, feel wonky and less considered sometimes. And of course, there aren’t many apps yet, which can limit what you do aside from browsing the web, sending some emails, Skyping, Facebooking and watching YouTube.

Hold off if you’re trying to scoop this up in hopes that it will be some sort of instant laptop replacement. Not only is this an ARM-based system with limited developer support, the bundled dock does not lend itself to productivity. However, in all fairness, the apps will surely emerge in time as sales of devices with the platform take off (and they very likely will).

Either way, the keyboard is just a bit too small (though not too bad), but the trackpad will make you want to run your head into a wall. The Vivo Tab adds extra battery life and a USB port, but the Vivo Tab RT should be considered a tablet for all intents and purposes.

The Best Part

The hardware polish exhibited here. It has powerful guts, dashing looks, a lightness few other tablets can match, and a display that would almost be perfect if not for that pesky dimness.

Tragic Flaw

The screen. It’s so dim. So woefully dim. You can see the beautiful colours trying to pop out, and text rendered crisp and clear — for a 1366×768 display, at least — but alas, the screen brightness is holding it back.

This Is Weird…

When using Windows RT without a proper mouse/trackpad, manually closing apps requires you to call up the list of open apps and then drag the app you want to close down until it disappears. Not the most intuitive thing ever.

Test Notes

  • Primarily used as a tablet without the keyboard dock.
  • Rarely did the tablet exhibit any sort of noticeable or unusual lag with multiple apps running. Looks like that automagical resource management is working.
  • The speakers and audio out jack both get the job done. Nothing special, but that’s fine for a tablet.
  • The camera is really laggy. And its auto-exposure UI could use some improvement. The front cam is fine for Skype purposes, however.
  • 7-8 hours seems to be the norm for battery life on the Asus Vivo Tab RT. That includes a lot of web browsing, some Netflix watching, some email and messaging, and some music listening.

Should You Buy It?

For now, the Vivo Tab RT is only worth it for the person who is heavily invested in the Microsoft product ecosystem. This is a fine first generation Windows RT product and the promise is there. But the stripped down OS still has some refinement to undergo before its ready for primetime, and absolutely needs apps to really be worth a shit. This won’t replace any computer — and honestly, nothing with a 10.1-inch screen should be expected to anyways — but until there are more options for media consumption, the vast majority of us will be better served by another platform.

Asus Vivo Tab RT

• Price: $699 RRP in Australia (32GB with keyboard dock)
• Chipset: 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3
• Memory: 2GB
• Display: 1366×768 Super IPS+ LCD
• Cameras: 8MP Rear/2MP Front
• Weight: 598g
• Footprint: 26.28cm x 17.09cm
• Thickness: 8.38mm
• Battery: 7.5 hours (~14 with dock)


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