Review Price £700.00
Asus Vivo Tab preview
This preview was written by Andrew Williams.
Asus has just unveiled its first wave of Windows 8 tablets, and probably the most interesting of what’s a pretty interesting bunch is the Asus Vivo Tab. Is this the tablet that has it all? Power, a great screen, a proper pressure sensitive stylus and a great keyboard dock... it certainly sounds like the ultimate hybrid.
The Asus Vivo Tab is the upper-class cousin of the Asus Vivo Tab RT. It runs the full version of Windows 8 rather than the RT version and boasts a “proper” x86 32nm-arcitecture Intel Atom processor rather than a Tegra 3 SoC design. This is just one aspect of the tablet that lets it become a true crossover device – the perfect melding of tablet and laptop.
Sounds dramatic? Perhaps, but there are several legit reasons why the Asus Vivo tab could really replace a laptop.
The most important in this case is the Vivo Tab’s keyboard module, which has its roots in the keyboards of the Transformer tablets. This one is a little larger, though, because the Asus Vivo Tab’s screen is 11.6-inches across, rather than 10.1-inches like the Asus Android tablet crew.
Wielding the tablet alone, it does feel a little large for portable use – in spite of being very light at just 675g – and doesn’t have quite as dense a feel as Asus’s smaller tablets (again, even though it’s just 8.7mm thick. However, the larger frame will make it feel much less compromised when typing than a smaller tablet. The keyboard module quality is also great. Would you expect anything less from Asus?
Its frame is metallic, and uses a chiclet keyboard that offers a nice, crisp action. This is absolutely dedicated notebook-grade fare, although it doesn’t offer its own backlight. The keyboard module also comes with its own battery, to boost the Asus Vivo Tab’s stamina up to 13 hours. It also adds a bit of chunkiness to the otherwise super-slim 8.7mm tablet part, but the full package will happily slip into a small bag.
Asus has redesigned the keyboard dock, too. It now sports what the company calls a “hidden hinge”. In previous Asus hybrids, you could see the hinge while using the tablet, but now it’s all hidden out of view. And there don’t seem to be any compromises as a result – the laptop-like action is smooth and sturdy, in spite of using a new smaller proprietary socket.
Part two of why the Vivo Tab should be able to properly take on dedicated laptops is less to do with Asus and more to do with Microsoft Windows 8 software. It’s a two-part system –a desktop half that looks and feels just like Windows 7, and the Metro UI, which is a fully touch-driven interface that looks more like Windows Phone 7. This arrangement of multiple personalities offers good “zones” for both wasting time in the usual tablet vein – browsing, gaming, video-watching – and more serious applications. The desktop side should also offer compatibility with most current Windows apps too. Just like the removable keyboard, Windows 8 lets you flip between serious and fun sides in an instant.
The third feature that adds to the flexibility of the Asus Vivo Tab significantly is the inbuilt Wacom digitiser. This lets you use a stylus to bring far greater fidelity to handwriting and drawing apps than a bog-standard capacitive stylus. Rather like the Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1, the Asus Vivo Tab’s digitiser can sense 1,024 different levels of pressure.
We got a feel of the pen, which was pleasantly light and – well – pen-like, but haven’t yet had a chance to check out its pressure sensitivity in action. It should hopefully be able to play ball with serious image editing and art apps. The one sour note to the stylus is that it doesn’t fit into a cubbyhole in the tablet. You’ll need to keep the thing in a pocket. Other Wacom-equipped Windows 8 tabs are appearing at IFA 2012, and some do have space for a stylus.
The digitiser layer helps to further justify the larger screen size. By tablets, not every aspect of the screen is all that impressive. Most notably, the screen resolution is “just” 1,366 x 768 pixels. This is a more common resolution for laptops with larger screens than the Vivo Tab’s 11.6-incher, but next to the Apple iPad 3 and Asus Transformer Pad Infinity it seems rather pixel-poor. It’s not something that sticks out too badly in-use, though – text and images still appear sharp.
Arguably more important than simple resolution, the Asus Vivo Tab’s core display tech is excellent. The tablet uses a Super IPS display, which brings superb viewing angles, good colour reproduction and class leader-matching top brightness (rated at 600 Nits).
Other more commonplace features compare well with the best tablets around, too. There are two cameras, the rear offering 8-megapixels and an LED flash and the user-facing one using a 2-megpixel sensor. Connectivity is fairly good too, with a microSD memory card slot and a microHDMI video output hidden behind a little flap on the tablet’s side. And while we obviously weren’t able to test this in a brief demo, Asus says the tablet will last for up to 13 hours with the keyboard module’s battery working alongside the tablet’s one.
Is the Asus Vivo Tab the perfect bridging of worlds? To an extent, it depends on a factor we don’t yet know – the price. Running an Atom processor, it doesn’t quite have the power to do justice to many more demanding desktop apps, and with many touchscreen laptops on the way, including the convertible Transformer Book, the jury’s out. But count us intrigued.