Asus VivoTab RT review

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Asus VivoTab RT
Asus has a tradition of producing tablets with keyboard docks, but itsTransformer 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
recognizes multitouch gestures accurately, although Windows RT is best suited to touchscreen use.

The 10.1-inch 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.

Powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset running at 1.3GHz and 2GB of RAM, the VivoTab coped well in everyday use. Windows RT has been optimized for low-power processors and we certainly had no trouble running basic applications. It completed the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in 994.8ms, so it's as fast as the current crop of Intel-powered smartphones and WindowsPhone 8 devices when it comes to web rendering. We couldn't run our usual desktop benchmarks or mobile tests, so it's tough to make like-for-like comparisons. It had no trouble loading full-screen apps from the Start Screen, but running several desktop apps would slow the system down significantly.

Windows RT will be a familiar experience for anyone who's used Windows 8, but we struggled with it because we couldn't install many ofthe applications we take for granted, and you're limited to downloading applications through the Windows Store. Conveniently, it comes with Office 2013 RT, which lets you create word documents, spreadsheets and presentations with Microsoft's fantastic Office applications. We've reviewed the £540 64GB version of the VivoTab. Add the keyboard dock and you'll have spent over £650, which is over £100 more than an equivalent Microsoft Surface . You can pick up a 32GB model and add a 32GB MicroSD card to save yourself some of the initial cost, but even at this price, we feel the hardware has some build quality concerns and that Windows RT is far from ready to replace your existing laptop or tablet.

The uncomfortably compact keyboard makes typing a challenge for long periods of time and there's presently a lack of good software. Microsoft's Surface might be thicker and heavier, but its keyboard
covers are far easier to type on and its build quality is far superior. If you're determined to buy a Windows RT device, we think you should opt for that instead of the VivoTab RT.
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