Hands-on with the Asus VivoTab Smart

If you're after a Windows tablet, there's quite a selection to choose from nowadays, ranging from the Microsoft's home-grown Surface line to OEM flavors such as the Dell XPS 10, Samsung ATIV Tab and Smart PC, and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. There's also a range of operating system flavors – Windows RT or Windows 8 – to consider, as well as various processor choices including Intel Atom, Ivy Bridge or AMD options.

Asus is opting for a balance between price and power with the VivoTab Smart, choosing to include an Intel Atom processor alongside a 1366 x 768 display and Windows 8. In a market where the Surface impresses with its magnetic snapping keyboard Covers, the Asus also packs a similar cover with the VivoTab Smart, which includes a folding stand and Bluetooth keyboard.

I've had the Asus VivoTab Smart in my hands for the past few weeks, and while (due to time constraints) I haven't been able to compile a full review, here are some of my impressions of the tablet after a decent amount of usage.

The first thing that strikes me about the VivoTab smart is that it's very light, at just 580 grams, as well as feeling quite thin (9.7mm). The soft-coated plastic build quality leaves a little bit to be desired when put directly up against tablets such as the Surface, but for what its worth it feels very sturdy, and the smooth glass on the front of the device facilitates easy use of the touchscreen.

Around the device you'll find the power button the top left edge, volume rocker on the right side as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack, plus a microUSB port, microSD slot and covered micro HDMI port on the left side. I have no real complaints with any of the placements of these buttons, although I thought the Windows button below the display should have some haptic feedback so you know you've pressed it.

To an extent I was impressed with the display quality of the VivoTab Smart, although I found it disappointing that the resolution of the display was only 1366 x 768. While a 1080p panel would be more demanding on processor and battery resources, the sharp pixel density goes a long way to improve the experience of using the tablet. At the price point of the Smart I understand why Asus hasn't opted for a 1080p display, but nevertheless it would have been great to see.

Aside from the resolution, the actual quality of the LED-backlit IPS TFT LCD panel is quite good. Color reproduction was great and, thanks to the IPS technology, there's also very good viewing angles to work with. I also liked how bright the display managed to go, making it surprisingly easy to use when there's a lot of background light. It's still perhaps not the best panel to use in direct sunlight for reading books, but otherwise the bright panel is decently impressive.

On a tablet, the quality of the cameras isn't hugely important, so I wasn't hugely concerned when I discovered the VivoTab Smart's rear 8-megapixel is a little sub-par. You can get some okay results when the lighting is good, and also the f/2.2 lens seems to work relatively well in low-light situations, but where the lighting indoor lighting is inadequate or hugely contrasting, the VivoTab's camera struggles to produce a decent image.


It may have been cloudy, but the VivoTab Smart still struggled to take a half-decent photo

Performance-wise, the Asus VivoTab Smart packs an Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core processor at 1.8 GHz with 2 GB of RAM, so it's not exactly pushing the boundaries for PC performance. That said, for a tablet the use of an Intel Atom processor means you get a decent amount of battery life compared to a more powerful Ivy Bridge CPU like in the Surface Pro; in my usage of the Smart I estimate I could get 6-8 hours out of the tablet, although I didn't have the time to properly test this.

Around the operating system there were really no performance issues that stood out to me, with the Atom CPU providing enough power to browse the web and use Windows Store apps. Often I didn't realize I was using a low-power machine because of the smoothness of the operating system, but at the same time the system is definitely not capable enough to run intense applications such as Adobe PhotoShop or any sort of modern PC games.

Apart from web browsing and app usage, video playback is likely something you'll be wanting to do on your new Windows 8 tablet, and the VivoTab Smart delivers smooth playback right up to 1080p. One of the advantages of getting a full-blown Windows 8 machine is you can use third-party software like VLC to decode a huge range of formats, and although the Atom processor isn't powerful enough for 4K playback, that sort of content isn't widespread enough right now for it to matter.


The VivoTab Smart with TranSleeve Keyboard (right) next to the Microsoft Surface RT with Type Cover (left)

There's also a decent range of connectivity options in the Smart, including Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (disappointingly no dual-band), Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS and NFC. The lack of a full sized USB port is occasionally annoying went I wanted to easily transfer some stuff from some other computers around my office, but the slimness of the tablet somewhat compensates for this.

When it comes to the software pre-loaded on the VivoTab Smart, you get all the standard features of Windows 8, plus a number of Asus' utilities. There's a custom-made camera application with more features than the in-built one, Asus WebStorage to access the free 32 GB of cloud storage bundled with the device, plus MyLibrary for book reading and SuperNote for notes. Nothing stood out in particular when it came to software on the VivoTab, but Windows 8's features are pretty solid as it's designed for touch devices.

Presumably to compete with the Surface, Asus has a cover and keyboard that are available for the VivoTab Smart, known as the TranSleeve Keyboard. The cover employs a magnetic folding design which allow it to transform into a stand for the tablet, while the cover also attaches to the tablet magnetically. The keyboard is Bluetooth, so it doesn't connect to the VivoTab through connectors or a cable, and it can magnetically attach to the cover for easy storage.

Unfortunately the whole setup isn't as handy, or as simple, as the Touch Cover and kickstand method implemented by Microsoft for the Surface. While the TranSleeve cover feels nice to touch, and appears to be quite protective, it's often awkward to fold into the stand position, and I never felt as if the stand was particularly sturdy or strongly magnetized. Also, if you've attached the keyboard to the cover for storage, you have to remove it to fold the cover into the stand, which again can be awkward.

Despite these annoyances, the keyboard itself is reasonably easy to type on – at least it's better than the on-screen keyboard – although it's nothing to write home about. Often I found the touchpad a little cramped to work with, so I generally preferred to use the touchscreen, although I enjoyed using the keyboard away from the VivoTab as a wireless control pad for flicking through webpages and Twitter.

At the end of the day I enjoyed my time with the VivoTab Smart, and for the price point of around $600 I would tend towards saying it's a reasonable purchase, however I wouldn't go so far to say it's the best Windows 8 tablet on the market. The keyboard is always a useful addition, although the execution of it and the cover isn't the best I've seen, but I did enjoy the overall portability of the system and its full Windows 8 capabilities.

Don't forget that there's also the higher-end Asus VivoTab, which includes similar specifications but with a slightly larger display, Wacom stylus digitizer, larger battery and a design that slots into a keyboard dock similar to their Android Transformer series. Perhaps, if you're willing to spend a few more dollars, that system will be a more solid choice than the decent-enough Smart.

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Regarding the ASUS Smart Tablet, some of the negatives I have found would be the speaker location and lack of a USB port.

I have had the Smart Tab for close to two months. I must say that I EXTREMELY HATE, HATE, the audio / speaker. There is one tiny speaker and it is located along the backside where it gets covered up by my hand when I am holding the tablet. Even if I move my hand, at the highest setting, the audio is just awful and you can barely hear it. I have tried various programs to make sure it wasn't what I was playing. They all were terrible; videos and music. I am seriously close to returning it for this reason. I have also found a bug with the sleep mode, the power button doesn't wake it up as it is supposed to and it returns with an bluescreen/dump error. I will need to take it to the store where I bought it to see if they can fix it. If not, then it will be returned for another windows 8 system. Also, when on the desktop mode, the onscreen touch keyboard doesn't pop up like it would on the tablet mode and depending on the program I am viewing, the keyboard covers up where I am typing and there is no way to fix. When in tablet mode, I have found it seems to adjust the screen so that the screen moves up to make room for the keyboard even if you are on a web page that doesn't have any more page to scroll down.
I don't know if this is a Windows 8 issue and if it occurs on other tablets but I know that on my Windows 8 Phone I don't have the issue. In fact, there are a few things that the tablet could learn from the phone; including how it operates. Oh, and as noted in the article, not having a USB port is a serious issue. I cannot sync my phone because I need a USB port; nor can I connect my USB flash drive where I store most of my files that I take on the road with me to work and such. I also use the flash drive to save music files and conserve space since MP3's can be quite large. I don't want to fill up the hard drive on the tablet; expecially since it isn't all that large. Unfortunately, there are no cables available that have the micro usb on each end or a microusb on one end and a microhdmi at the other end. I did find an adapter with the microusb on one end and standard USB on the other end. However, it does not fit very snug and I am concerned it could get caught on something, bend and break inside the port.

I cannot decide between VivoTab Smart and VivoTab RT. Yes, I know the difference very very well and I am not looking for a laptop/PC replacement, I'm looking for an extension to my PC. By "extension" I mean light Office work on the go, browsing, YouTube and watching movies in bed, emails and stuff and Windows Store is more than ready to meet my needs. For that, RT sounds like a good option because I think it looks and (probably) feels much better than Smart. And I like the dock for the RT. Still, it would be nice to have a full Windows experience "just in case". But in case of what, exactly? My father is going to the US soon and he'll buy one of these, I still have to decide which one. I've read on several places that the Smart has serious issues with updating, when sometimes updates kill the tablet completely or push it in a reboot loop. Since I live in Croatia, warranty is something I can forget (this device costs twice as much in my country, btw, that's the reason why we're buying it in the US), and I've read that RT doesn't have those kinds of issues so I'd rather buy something more reliable...

To the write - The constant bashing of electronics being made of plastic is really getting to be tiring. Out of the 200M+ PC's that sold last year, when It came top laptops, the vast majority are plastic.

If metal laptops were wanted so much, MacBook would be at the top of the selling crowd, and as we see they simply are not.

For a device that is going to get handled often, for a device that is large and can easily slip out the hands, plastic is better./ For one, most of those have a rubber or special backing to help prevent slips, something you don't get on metal tablets. The biggest downside to the iPad is it has NOTHING to help prevent you from dropping it.

And what is the point of it being made of metal, when most people slap a gel or plastic case over it? I rather my device ship with protection than spending an additional $50 to $100 for it.

All I read in your article was, it sucks because its made plastic. How about point out it pluses.

For $600 which is the price of a 32GB iPad, you get a full operating system with full multi-tasking, you get a faster more capable process since it runs X86 applications, you get MORE RAM, MORE STORAGE, a higher resolution, it comes with a wireless keyboard.

Sitting next to the Surface RT, the Asus looks better. The screen is the same size, but has less bulk on the bezel making it look smaller.

I am sure Asus could have duplicated everything about the Surface, accept its all patented. So when you have to make an alternative, I think Asus took a decent route. If you want better, better cost more money.

Unlike the lame poster above who said this is a poor mans Surface. It isn't....its a less flashy alternative...much like most Windows PC's are compared to overhype and over-price options like the Mac.

Some call me a windows hater but this is what windows 8 is made for touch screen only.

It looks great on tablets really good.

They need to just drop out of desktop market from now on

I have used multiple Windows 8 tablets but best so far considering size, weight and build quality is HP Elitepad 900. Surface Pro is good but heavy for me to hold in one hand for longer amount of time. In the past I used to have iPad so anything bigger than 10 inches and heavier than 1.5 labs make me uncomfortable to use as a tablet and hold in one hand for longer hours.

HP Elitepad is built with aluminum and gorilla glass, build quality is as good as iPad, supports digitizer pen, strong WiFi and sounds loud unlike other tablets because of good speaker quality and speaker positions not back faced like many tablets.

HP Elitepad shape is kind of square like iPad unlike all other rectangle/landscape Windows 8 tablets, square shape makes easy to read books in portrait mode and weight distribution make you feel lighter in hand, downside is currently you can't have snap view because of screen resolution(personally I don't care for snap view), next update Windows Blue will enable snap view in this resolution too.

HP Elitepad got NFC like many other tablets, Battery life is approx 10 hours but using a jacket you can add additional replaceable battery(total 18+ hours battery) and multiple ports, you can buy additional docks with HDMI, keyboard jacket etc.

HP market this is as a business tablet so you don't see many reviews about this products and not available in retail locations except few online sites that sells for business or government customers. Little expensive at HP websites but you can buy little cheaper online or at eBay.

In my view this is the best Windows 8 tablet(iPad comparable, not compare with PC) which would give good impression about Windows 8 tablets but unfortunately least visible in the market and least available in the market because of HP's poor marketing decision.

Trend and comfortable is smaller tablets 7" Kindle, Nexus 7 and 8" iPad mini so why HP and other manufacturers are making bigger tablets like 11.6" HP Envy X2 which are not easy to hold in one hand, bigger tablets with digitizer makes sense for business customers but not for consumers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLwFzi8mjo8

Nice. I love the Surface RT, but it seems like HP has a really good product here, at least for business users. Useful accessories too, like jackets, adapters, and a charging dock.

My dad got one of these and comparing it to the surface I got, Windows 8 x86 feels less responsive than RT or maybe its the NVIDIA Tegra giving it the extra kick. As always ASUS provides excellent value for money and the device by no means feels cheap

the gpu in the tegra3 is better than the gpu in the atom z2760. the cpu on the other hand is the opposite,better on the atom,worse on the tegra.

The bigger brother has one, but is almost twice as expensive :-\

The OEM's just don't get it, but keep complaining about the lack of sales..........

I have one of these and while I was initially excited, I kinda regret getting it now, mostly because of poor Asus quality. Their system update mechanism is a joke, sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't. I constantly have to repair the Windows Update mechanism because it gets corrupted quite often.

That said, when it works, it's a great little device and runs circles around my iPad in web browsing. Battery life is very good considering I can run full Windows programs which is the only reason I chose this over a Surface RT.

In the end though, I picked up a Surface Pro and decided I'll make due with the poor battery life but at least have top notch support and no hassles like the Asus. Doubt I'll ever get an Asus again.

What the author completely forgot to mention is that the devices comes with an LTE option which makes it very interesting as a daily companion. I have it and I couldn't be happier. Perfect size, great display, great battery life, great connectivity and great flexibility

The wireless keyboard and the stand are the coolest features.
Much better device than a MS Surface for sure. ASUS rocks.
My second choice would be a Google Nexus 7 or 10.

LUTZIFER said,
Much better device than a MS Surface for sure. ASUS rocks.

Unless you're restricting your comment to be about Surface RT, and not Surface Pro... that's definitely not the case. Yes, it has some additional features, but it's missing some of the advantages of Surface (RT and Pro).

rfirth said,

Unless you're restricting your comment to be about Surface RT, and not Surface Pro... that's definitely not the case. Yes, it has some additional features, but it's missing some of the advantages of Surface (RT and Pro).

Like what?

The Asus has its advantage...Better battery life than the Pro because it uses an ATOM vs a full on i5.

It smaller, so its less bulky to carry around. It doesn't need to be fancy like the Surface.

This tablet baffles me. All I see is the image of a poor mans surface. Crappier materials and specs, identical keyboard and an identical but crappier detachable stand.

When Microsoft released Surface, this is not what they had in mind with regards to spurring innovation.

Russell Green said,
This tablet baffles me. All I see is the image of a poor mans surface. Crappier materials and specs, identical keyboard and an identical but crappier detachable stand.

When Microsoft released Surface, this is not what they had in mind with regards to spurring innovation.

Does surface run windows 8 and not just RT?
Does surface have NFC?
Does surface have GPS?
Does surface have an LTE option?

Its amazing the differences one finds when one actually reads an article. Yes the materials on this device are not as nice as the surface but its still quite a nice device to hold and use especially when one factors in features and uses vs just how things look like some sort of fanboy...whats that other brand that opts for fashion over function >.>

You're not really buying it for quality materials, you're buying it to have a Windows 8 tablet as cheap as possible, and it delivers that somewhat well.

I bought one of these a few months ago and only paid ~$525 AUD. I didn't buy it for its performance characteristics, nor as a fashion statement, I bought it as a simple tablet to tide me over until Microsoft pull their finger out and release the Surface Pro in Australia.

With that in mind, I find the device to be quite good for the casual use I give it. I immediately upgraded it from Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro and encountered a problem that appears to be common on this device to a number of other people in that Connected Standby stops working for some strange reason, and the device reverts back to standard Standby, which takes *ages* to wake from. After managing to resolve this annoying issue by turning off C-State reporting in the BIOS, the experience become a lot better.

I've installed Office 2013 on it and its versatility improves with it. Office 2013, while a little rough around the edges on a tablet, does show a marked improvement in this environment and works quite well. Coupled with Offline Files provided by Windows 8 Pro make it a very handy travelling utility for making edits to documents or spreadsheets on the go, and have Windows automatically synchronise the changes when I return.

I have encountered a couple of slowdowns while using it, but it somewhat quickly recovers from these as Windows will force suspend or terminate troublesome apps causing the grief.

Windows 8 shines on the device and the environment feels natural. I love being able to fiddle with some apps while I watch TV, then switch to my desktop computer and continue where I left off in those same apps (For those that support it). Quick and dirty edits with the thumb keyboard are good and accuracy is somewhat good too. My only concern is the lack of ability to accurately place the insertion point, sort of like on Windows Phone, which makes precise edits very cumbersome, but this is a Windows flaw more than a device flaw.

The main points of grief are that the Microsoft games are not particularly optimised and it shows on this device. Taptiles, a game which really appears geared for touch devices, is slow and clunky at times. Rotating the cubes is annoyingly slow, and it can become frustrating losing your chains because the device can't keep up. The webcams are crap, and the 8 megapixel rating is misleading, because it is only applicable for 4:3 captures, widescreen captures are appallingly bad. The front camera is also annoying for Skype calls when you're holding it. I couldn't find a way to zoom it out, so you have to hold the tablet a far distance away to be useful, plus it's off-centre, making the problem worse.

Despite that, things like Adera work wonderfully on the device, and the gyroscope has been integrated into the game nicely. As a simple companion device for watching TV, on the run edits and whatnot, for ~$550 you can't really complain. It's not a powerhouse sure, but for what I use it for, it's really quite good and better than the other consumer garbage.

While it would've been nice to have the Warcom digitiser version, for nearly $900 AUD that these models go for, it's hardly worth it, especially when the Surface Pro eventually gets here.

Battery life is also very good, and I use it for a whole day. While not intensively, I've never had to charge it after charging all night, unplugging in the morning and putting it back on the charge just before bed.

Russell Green said,
This tablet baffles me. All I see is the image of a poor mans surface. Crappier materials and specs, identical keyboard and an identical but crappier detachable stand.

When Microsoft released Surface, this is not what they had in mind with regards to spurring innovation.

Poor man's Surface? It's $600. Oh and out of the 220M PC that sold last year, when it comes to laptops; the vast majority are plastic.

These are selling quite well due to the price point, in aus without the transleeve the device can be had for $400, which for a full win8 tablet is pretty cool.

I think one of the main advantages of a win tablet is the digitiser though so imo worth spending more for one of those options but hey for those who don't want to ink this is probably one of the best options.

This device doesn't seem to suffer from half the issues that have plagued the now seemingly discontinued 810c (vivotab).