The VivoTab Smart is a tablet PC running full Windows 8 on an Intel Atom (Clover Trail) processor. It compares in size to a Microsoft Surface RT device although it is actually slightly smaller (same screen dimensions) and feels lighter in the hand (which I wasn’t expecting). The specs say that the Asus is 580g which compares favourably to the Surface RT at 676g and iPad 3 at 652g. An optional keyboard acts as a stand and effectively turns the device into a Laptop – a surprisingly useful feature that is missing from the Surface and many other tablet devices. (As I write this the keyboard section is currently undergoing a re-design before being shipped).
My first impressions of the device are very favourable. I had originally thought that it would be ‘too underpowered’ for any developer related activities (I use Visual Studio a lot) but looking at the internal benchmarks the performance looks conquerable to my ‘old’ PDC laptop (see below) so out of interest I have installed Visual Studio (+ Advertising SDK + Azure Mobile Services) and opened and compiled/run a few of my own Windows 8 Apps and found no great issues with performance. A welcome surprise! (Don’t get me wrong – this is not the device to buy if you are wanting to do development but it might just do very well for short periods of time or in an emergency!)
Anyone with an interest should look up the full specifications on line but all the basics are covered – mini HDMI, Micro SD and Mini USB are all present, as are physical buttons for Volume and Windows itself. I paired the device with a Microsoft ‘wedge’ mouse which performed flawlessly and being Bluetooth, this kept things nice & tidy. My understanding is that the optional keyboard/dock, as well as increasing longevity with its built in second battery, also has additional full sized USB ports. Without the dock the battery life is specked around 10 hours, which is very respectable for an Intel based device and shows how far they have come with their own low-power chips.
I was pleasantly surprised that charging duties are supplied via a standard Micro USB cable, definitely an improvement on the Surface which has it’s own bespoke (and somewhat fiddly) magnetic power attachment cord.
Storage wise the Asus is respectable with 64GB. I also flipped out a 64GB Micro SD card from my main development machine and used it without any issues in the Asus (effectively upping the storage to 120GB total).
Happily Asus haven’t gone overboard with ‘bloat ware’ and I found the few additional bits and pieces that they supplied to be quite useful. Asus also features as a category within the Windows Store with some useful suggestions as well as a few bespoke Asus Apps.
Asus above and my wife’s Surface RT below
Asus Vivo Tab
Acer 1420P “PDC Laptop – 2009” Intel Centrino Duo / 8GB Ram
Samsung “BUILD” Slate (Intel i5 / 4GB Ram)
So spec wise the Asus is not that far removed from devices that I have used quite recently for development work, and I am thinking that it might be worthwhile for short spells away from home and/or ‘light dev. work’ – an unexpected bonus (especially as I do not have access to a Surface Pro). That said I found I lamented the fact that the RAM (2GB) is not easily upgradeable (?) as I feel this could have made an even greater difference.
Incidentally I fitted the Acer with a fast SSD otherwise I believe the hard drive rating would be below that of the Asus!
Who is it for?
I would say that anyone who likes PC’s but wants an iPad would do well to look at this device as an alternative. It runs all legacy and new PC software as well as the new Windows 8 Apps making it an attractive proposition over a Surface RT (though that comes bundled with the latest version of Office, which is not to be sniffed at).
I am looking forward to trying this device out with its’ keyboard dock and will update this post once I have it.
Because the ASUS only has a ‘mini USB’ without it’s keyboard attached I picked up this from Amazon which allows full size USB accessories to be utilised (I have not had reason to use it yet):
The Microsoft wedge mouse is also a great partner for this device as it doesn’t require a dongle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005GI2VMG/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (currently discounted down to £35.00 which is a great price)
Finally a big thank you to Marsha at Future Publishing, Paul Lo and to all the other guys at Microsoft involved in ‘Creative Bloq’! For reasons I won’t go into this ‘win’ provided me with a lift on what was otherwise one of the worst days of my life!