A long lasting multi-talented tablet.
At 1,366 x 768 pixels, the VivoTab won’t blow you away with its resolution, but it’s comfortable enough for web browsing and watching media on it. The only downside to the screen is that it’s quite glossy, so viewing content in brightly lit areas or outside may pose a bit of a challenge.
The keyboard dock is a star in itself simply because its included battery greatly boosts the longevity of the VivoTab. But apart from providing some extra juice, the dock does actually have some flaws to it. The keys provided sufficient feedback when typing, but I felt the keys to be slightly smaller than I would have liked, so I often found myself hitting incorrect or multiple keys if I typed too quickly. Even when I passed the VivoTab to other people to use, they complained of the same thing, so hopefully ASUS will have another look at the keyboard in the next version of the VivoTab. The other thing I didn’t like about the keyboard dock was that it often wasn’t that simple to dock the tablet into it. There are tiny arrows that you can line up to dock the device properly, but these should be made a bit more prominent as it can be a bit daunting to try and dock the device if you’re in a hurry. Lastly, the keyboard isn’t backlit, so you’ll always need another light source nearby to see the keys properly.
At the bottom of the keyboard dock is a trackpad which was surprisingly responsive to use – in my experience trackpads on most keyboard docs are often quite terrible, but the one on the VivoTab was a breeze to use. It also supports Windows 8 gestures, so you can swipe from the right to bring up the Charms menu, or from the left to bring up the last app you accessed. The lower half of the trackpad also doubles as the left-click button, so you don’t necessarily need to press near the bottom of the trackpad in order to click.
As mentioned before, the VivoTab comes bundled with a Wacom digitizer stylus which works well with the bundled SuperNote app for taking down notes and diagrams. It’s also pressure sensitive, so artists and designers will certainly enjoy using their illustration applications on the VivoTab. The only downside is that there’s nowhere to really ‘put’ the stylus when you’re done with it, unlike on devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note II which have a hidden compartment to slide the stylus out of view.
Camera & Sound
I’m really not a fan of using the cameras on most tablets, simply because you look ridiculous holding up something that huge to take a photo. But if you’re inclined to take photos with your tablet, the bundled ASUS Camera app is a much better option than the stock Windows 8 camera app. It allows you to apply various filters and make finer adjustments before you take your photos. For the most part, pictures do look half-decent, but some brighter colors did appear slightly washed out if not lit up properly. The only annoying thing about the ASUS Camera app is that there is a bit of a delay when taking photos, so if you move the camera after hearing the sound, you’ll get a blurred photo.
Sound on the VivoTab is courtesy of two speakers hidden at the back, on the left and right sides of the screen edges. Despite pointing away from the user, audio levels were decent but the speakers were better at handling tracks with vocals than those with a heavy bass line.
Heat levels & Battery Life
Throughout my testing and usage, the VivoTab never got very hot or uncomfortable to use or hold. When undocked and playing back HD video the tablet did get a little warm at the top, but it wasn’t very noticeable. Battery life without the keyboard dock was around seven hours with moderate usage, while plugging it into the dock took the battery life to just past 12 hours. That’s a serious amount of battery life, and if you just use the VivoTab occasionally you’ll at least get a two days of usage or more before you’ll have to charge it up again.
So does the ASUS VivoTab measure up as a Windows 8 tablet that can quickly transform into a functional laptop? The answer is a mixed bag – while the keyboard dock is an excellent idea, it’s actual usability is hampered by uncomfortable keys and the fact that it adds considerable weight and thickness to the device. The bundled stylus is a unique addition, but is yet another thing that you’ll have to carry around or stow away safely if you end up using it. Sans the keyboard dock, the ASUS VivoTab is a great Windows 8 tablet that could use a few more tweaks to make it truly incredible.