Asus VivoTab Smart 2014
Not so long ago on a tablet market you could choose between Android devices and iOS powered iPad. It is good to see that new devices, this time with Windows 8 and Windows RT are coming to the market. One of the latest that was delivered is the Asus VivoTab Smart2014.
It is not surprising, but the overall design and appearance of the Asus VivoTab Smart is reminiscent of the VivoTab RT that we looked at a couple months ago. It remains relatively compact for a tablet (10.4”3 x 6.73” x 0.38”) and is easy to carry around at only 20.46 oz (560g).
This time around, the VivoTab Smart has a white backing instead of the brushed metal on the VivoTab RT, but the front is still uncluttered by the display, 2MP front facing camera, and capacitive Windows home key. Along on the left edge is the microUSB port, and the hidden microSD memory card slot and covered microHDMI video port. Up on top is the raised power button, while on the right edge is the large volume rocker and 3.5mm headset jack. Around on the back is the 8MP auto-focus camera with LED flash, which can also record 1080p video, as well as a small external speaker hidden behind a group of small microdots.
Keyboard dock:
One of the must-have accessories for the Asus VivoTab Smart is the TranSleeve Keyboard. The sleeve is magnetic and can “grab” onto the bottom edge of the tablet, while the larger area of the sleeve grabs the keyboard. This allows for almost a laptop-type experience. But if you want to have the tablet stand on its own, you then have to take the keyboard off the sleeve and fold the sleeve behind the tablet to prop it up. Then you can just rest the keyboard on your desk or lap.
The Bluetooth keyboard is 10.25” wide, which should provide enough room for even large hands. We had no issue typing on it, and we like that it uses real physical keys that have a nice response to them, and even provide a traditional “click” sound when pressed. The trackpad at the bottom also works well, showing an on-screen mouse pointer, and there is also a left and right mouse-type buttons on the bottom. Since the keyboard is separate from the tablet and is connected via Bluetooth, youalso have to charge the keyboard via the microUSB port on its side.
Just keep in mind that the TranSleeve Keyboard is an optional accessory that you have to purchase, and does add 445g to the weight.
Interface and Functionality:
Unlike the Asus VivoTab RT that is limited by Windows RT, the VivoTab Smart comes running the full Windows 8 32-bit operating system. This means that instead of only being able to run Modern UI programs that are designed for ARM processors, the Intel Atom-based Asus VivoTab Smart2014 can run standard Windows programs, including ones for Windows 7.
We won’t go into great detail about the Windows 8 platform, since we’ve covered it most recently on the Microsoft Surface Pro. When it comes to personalization, Windows 8 isn’t as deep as Android, but it’s far better than what the iPad delivers. Windows 8 also incorporates social networking services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but the People Hub, which aggregates all social networking content, doesn’t execute well with its layout. Making matters worse, third party offerings don’t do the platform justice just yet; however, it’s something we’re certain that developers will improve over time.
Gestures for closing apps, swiping between them and viewing the Charms Bar on the right are quite basic and easy to learn once you get the hang of it. But if you don’t want to bother with the Live Tiles, you can always go into the desktop view, which has a traditional Windows 7-style desktop. Though missing is the popular “Start” button on the lower left, which is replaced by the full Start Screen in the Modern UI.
The Asus VivoTab Smart comes with two camera programs. The first is the standard one that is part of Windows 8, which is pretty much no frills and gets the job done. But our favorite is the Asus Camera program, as it is easier to use when changing between the camera, video recorder, and panorama modes, as well as selecting options, effects, and settings.
Images that we took outside were by no means jaw-dropping, but still quite good for a tablet with an 8MP autofocus shooter, as colors were natural and there was plenty of detail. Inside images were also good if there was plenty of light, though they did start to appear grainy with lower-light levels. We found the LED flash to be plenty bright to illuminate a dark scene, but the camera likes to focus first (which it can’t do well in the dark) and then turn the flash on to snap the image. It would be better if the flash came earlier to help the camera focus, like we’ve seen on some smartphones.
Recording video at 1080p is common these days, and VivoTab Smart does an OK job, though some detail is lacking. However, we did like that it maintains autofocus during the recording process, and playback is smooth and stutter-free at 30 frames per second.
Just like with Windows RT, the Photos Hub with Windows 8 doesn’t offer anything out of the ordinary with its feature set, but rather, it’s a basic picture viewer that offers us the ability to crop and rotate images. As for sharing, there isn’t a native option, and instead accessing the “Charms” section of the Windows 8 interface will present us some of the apps that can handle the sharing process.
The new Music Hub for Windows 8 is deliciously sweet looking, as it incorporates the Modern UI style of the platform into the music player – and also offers synchronization with your XBOX Music account. All in all, it’s one of the better looking music player interfaces out there. With the speaker discretely hidden behind the microdots on the tablet’s rear, it doesn’t produce anything spectacular with its output. Instead, its weak and mute tones make it notoriously difficult to hear in noisy environments. Thankfully, you can overcome this by plugging in a pair of wired headphones to the 3.5mm headset jack, or by using wireless Bluetooth headphones or speakers.
The Asus VivoTab Smart supports various video codecs out of the box (DivX, H.264, MPEG-4, and Xvid), though MKV is not supported and will require you to install a 3rd party player. Video playback is smooth and looks well on the 10.1” display, through we can’t help thinking how much better it would be if the display was full HD resolution.
With the Asus VivoTab Smart currently priced at $499, it’s a compelling option for those looking for a moderately-sized tablet running the full Windows 8 platform without breaking the bank. But when adding on the $150 TranSleeve Keyboard option, you’re now in the price of some Windows 8 notebook PCs.
Overall we like the VivoTab Smart as a Windows 8 tablet, since it has a lot of features for the price, and can run pretty much any Windows program, though the Intel Atom processor does seem to hold back performance.
Asus VivoTab Smart Back