Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: ASUS Vivo Tab RT

[I wrote this a few months ago and have only just noticed that I hadn't published it]

OK, so our great account manager at Microsoft managed to arrange a loan of the ASUS Vivo Tab RT, my boss wasn't interested (he's still smarting from upgrading his personal laptop to Windows 8 Pro) but I was still quite keen to spend some quality time with A) Windows 8 RT and B) a tablet device.

This post is about the hardware that makes up the Tab RT, I've split my review of Win8RT off into a separate article.

First up, my work PC is a Dell OptiPlex 780 [Core 2 Duo, 4gig RAM, Radeon HD3400 and dual 20" LCD screens] and my personal laptop is an HP Pavilion dv6 [i7 quad, 8gig RAM, Radeon HD6770 and 15.4" LCD] and I also have an iPad v2 16Gig.  So this is what I'm comparing with.

First impressions
It's nice, the 10.1" wide screen is clear, crisp and quite usable inside, though suffers somewhat from reflections. I have large hands and being a wide 10.1" it fits quite nicely in my hand in portrait mode. It thin and light, even with the keyboard attached (which is how I've predominantly used it.)

The keyboard is pretty good, has a nice feel without being too clicky, but it's really too small for me. My girls (aged nearly 10 and 11) love it and are quite happy typing away.

Battery life is good, though I found multinational charging plug a little finicky and I had to pull it apart and put it back together a couple of times to get it to charge.  Plugging into a USB2 port on my wife's laptop was able to power the tablet, but wouldn't charge it at the same time.  It possibly would charge it when off/suspended.
Charge times seemed quite long, though I didn't specifically measure it, but having the extended battery in the keyboard is a must.  Discharge and charge are both smart, with discharge favouring the keyboard battery and charging favouring the tablet battery.

Sound is good, loud enough that when my daughters play games in the same room, we get them to turn the sound off :)

The cameras seem to do a reasonable job, but I've not tested them in a variety of situations.

The scratch pad is OK and I'm getting used to using it for gestures (it has support for a subset of what the touch screen can do), but it's buttons are naff.  Because they are part of the touch surface, you
have to make sure you're not touching any other part of the scratch pad, to make them work and when you click, the whole scratch pad depresses and clicks.

The orientation sensor is a little over zellous, and tends to flip the screen at about 45 degrees, which can be a little early.

The volume buttons are well placed and don't depress very far, but I suspect they'll be the first thing to break, as they're quite tinny.

There's no lights on the tablet itself, so if the screen is blank, you can't tell if the device is on or not, which usually isn't a big deal (touch the screen, press the power button, type on the keypad to wake it up) but if you're having to force a power-off or restart, there are times it would be useful to know if the device is powered up or not.

In the most part it seems pretty good, the UI keeps up with everything I've tried to do and I've only seen it struggle with some games and anything to do with disk IO (the MMC "disk" maxes out at 10MB/s).  Windows updates are a pain and very slow.  I ran the Peacekeeper browser benchmark and it scored about 410 I think, which put it well down the pack, but ahead of the Surface RT.

The disk is also quite small, 32Gig originally, 4gig reserved for a recovery partition and about 16gig for Windows and a handful of ASUS's own apps, leaving you about 12gig tops, which may seem a lot, but after some Windows updates and a weekend of the girls installing games, we're down to 6gig already.  No wonder it's the 128gig Surface Pro's that everyone wants.

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