So, a little background as to why I decided to get this device. I use a Windows 7 PC in a home office, and one thing that is keeping me on windows is a Microsoft Works database going back a decade. It won’t properly display in any other program than Works, and it prints out the information the company needs in a very user-friendly format. The other day, my computer wouldn’t start Windows. I had to restore a system image I backup daily to an external drive, but it took several hours(about 400GB in size). Luckily this was on a Sunday, but if it happened on a weekday I would have problems running the business. While I have a laptop I can use in a pinch, my son uses it for school, and will be starting college soon. So I needed a backup windows device in case the computer freaked out again.
While I wasn’t looking for anything immediately, it happened that Tiger Direct sent me an email ad, and one item was the ASUS Vivotab Smart, for $399. Retail price is $499, generally you can find it for $449, so $399 was a good price. I figured, let me get it and try it, and if it’s no good, I’ll just return it and buy a new desktop. A couple days later, it shows up on my doorstep. Here’s the specifications, to get that out of the way:
Color: Black – (Model: ME400C-C1-BK)
White – (Model: ME400C-C1-WH)
Processor: Intel Atom Z2760 (1.8 Burst)
Operating System: Windows 8
System memory: 2GB DDR2
Storage: 64GB Flash + 32GB free for 36 months
Display: 10.1″ WXGA IPS Touch Panel with 350 nits brightness 1366*768
Video Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator, 533MHz
Video Camera: Rear 8MP Auto-focus w/LED Flash, F/2.2 Aperture, 1080p video recording, front 2MP for video conferencing
Wireless: 802.11bgn (Single band)
Card Reader: 1x Micro SD
Interface: 2-in-1 Audio Jack (Head Phone / Mic-in) / 1 x Micro HDMI / 1 x Micro SD Card Reader (support SDXC compatible card) / 1 x Internal Microphone /Speaker (SonicMaster) / 1 x Micro USB
Audio: Hi-Definition Audio Codec / Built-in quality speakers / Mic
Weight (lb): 1.3
Dimension (in): 10.5″ x 6.7″ x .4″
AC Adapter: Output: 15W / 18 W / Input:100-240V AC, 50/60Hz universal
AC Adapter: 8.5 hours
Sensor: G-Sensor, Light Sensor, Gyroscope, E-compass, NFC
What’s in the Box
ASUS VivoTab Smart Tablet
Adapter & Power Plug
Very nice packaging, as you would expect from a major manufacturer like ASUS. First impressions out of the box were that it is a very solid feeling device, and also very light. Pressed the power button, located on the top left side (when in landscape), and it booted in about 15-20 seconds, pretty fast. There is a setup, for WIFI, password, etc, then you’re on the start screen. And now, a quick Windows 8 story.
My brother came over a couple weeks ago, complaining that he hated his new Toshiba laptop, with Windows 8. Didn’t like the lockscreen, start menu, or lack of Start button on the desktop. After playing around with it a little while, I could see that it wasn’t very good to have touch-designed features on a non-touch device. So with some help from Google I was able to bypass the lockscreen, boot to the desktop, and add a Start button to the taskbar. Basically it was now a Windows 7 laptop.
So now I have a Windows 8 touch-tablet in hand, how would it work? Quick answer is, amazingly well. There is a guide on the start menu, which lets you see how gestures and features work. Swipe from the right bezel towards the center of the screen, and what’s called “charms” appear on the right side of the screen. They are five options-Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. Search is, well, a search function. Share lets you move information between Metro apps. Start takes you to the Start screen, while Devices lets you interact with printers, extra monitors, etc. Settings gives you a number of options, some based on what is on-screen at the time, as well as always having the power option to shutdown or restart, wifi status, and several other settings.
Swipe from the left bezel towards center, and you toggle open apps. This happens very smoothly and quickly, the apps have no lag time appearing onscreen. Much easier than long-pressing home, and selecting an app in Android. Swipe up from the bottom to center, and app-specific menus come up. And a swipe from the top down makes the app shrink in size, until it closes as you get to the bottom of the screen. All in all, a very intuitive way of getting around the OS. At first, coming from Android devices, it was a little confusing. but it quickly becomes something you don’t even think about while using the tablet.
As I said at the beginning, I needed a windows device to use Microsoft Works. I have a cd installation disk, but no cd player in the tablet, obviously. Well, before I ordered it, I made sure it works with external drives. Ordered a USB drive from Amazon-$17. Arrived a day after the tablet, and worked fine. Had to connect it to my PC for power-it has 2 USB cables, power and data-but it did the job. So now I have that Works program installed, and copied the data from my PC to a USB stick, and copied that to the tablet.
The last thing I needed to do was be able to scan and print with the tablet and my Brother all-in-one. There is a Metro app, Brother Iprint & scan. I have the same app on my android tablets, and it works just as well on the ASUS. Combine this with a true desktop browsing capability, and I can use the tablet, in a pinch, to replace my desktop for work purposes.
It doesn’t have much in the way of ports, just headphone/mic jack, micro-HDMI, micro-USB, and microsd. A second USB port would have been nice. And it doesn’t come with an OTG cable, kind of an oversight, I think.You can see the microusb, it’s on the bottom left side when in landscape. The microsd has a plastic insert covering the port, until you put an actual card in, and the microHDMI is above that, also covered.This picture shows the rear camera, the headphone/mic jack, (which is on the right side as you hold it in landscape), and the volume controls that are under that jack. The square panel on the upper right side is for NFC, near field communications.Well, I’ve had the tablet for 5 days now, and I can give some initial impressions. Build quality is very, very good. As it comes from ASUS, I would really expect no less. The screen, while not as bright as my Momo12, is very easy to look at for long periods of time, and the resolution is more than enough for my needs. Battery life is excellent, I would say it can run for 8 hours of usage with no problem whatsoever. The touch response is also very good, although it can be a little tricky when trying to hit an “X” to close a tab in the browser, due to the smallness of the screen compared to a full monitor.
For me, Windows 8 is surprisingly good, even more so when you consider it’s Microsoft’s first real touch interface. It’s pretty bad on non-touch devices, enough so that Windows Blue will be an upgrade to Windows 8, that will give users the option to boot to desktop, and add a start button to the taskbar. But for a touchscreen, it is really easy to use, and get used to. My son owns an iPhone, but doesn’t like android or Apple tablets. He used this one a few times, and his comment was “This is how I expect a tablet should work”.
Of course, there are some things that aren’t good. The Microsoft store has very few apps, compared to Google, Amazon, or Apple stores. ASUS has a program, Live Update, installed to the desktop. It’s supposed to update BIOS and drivers for the tablet. While it failed to do that, it did succeed in freezing the tablet. After a little online research, it turns out this program is universally disliked, and uninstalled by most users(including me). You can download updates directly from ASUS, so it’s not a big deal.
Performance of the tablet is quite good. The UI is more fluid than any tablet I’ve owned. While it takes large apps a few moments to load, once running there is no lag. Users have said Photoshop, or other cpu-intensive programs, will run slowly. However, I think it’s pretty impressive that they do run at all. Youtube plays videos flawlessly. Netflix also works perfectly.
Overall, I find the ASUS Vivotab Smart to be much better than I expected. It looks like it may be the best tablet I have, now.