Review: ASUS Vivo Tab RT

The Asus Vivo Tab RT is a fantastic lightweight tablet computer, but its bulky, snap-on keyboard turns it into a netbook knock-off, which ultimately muddies the intended demographic for the device.

Still, Asus proves that it has learned a lot from its previous tablet line, the Transformer, which ran on Google’s Android operating system. The Vivo Tab runs on Windows but keeps much of the Transformer’s sleek styling, while adding a few features.

This tablet, for instance, has two speakers, allowing for stereo playback. It has two upgraded cameras, front- and rear-facing. The rear camera is capable of taking photographs at eight megapixels and video in full 1080p high definition. The camera works best with optimal lighting and really seems to struggle in low light.

It’s also equipped with near field communications technology. NFC is expected to take over from the aging Bluetooth system. This addition is welcome news for people who plan to use their portable device to make wireless payments, or take advantage of a slew of new wireless devices that are being released.

ASUS Vivo Tab RT

It has a MicroSD port so users can expand the device’s memory. And a micro HDMI port, allowing it to be connected to a projector or TV.

The screen size is 10.1 inches, comparable with Apple Inc.’s iPad device. However, thanks to a slim bezel, the tablet itself is actually slightly smaller than an iPad. It weighs a tad more, coming in at 675 grams (the fourth-generation iPad weighs 652 grams). The screen is capable of displaying video in true 1080p HD at 1366 x 768 pixels.

The slim form of the device leaves no room for a USB port, which is the same approach Apple took with the iPad, but differs from other competing tablets, most noticeably Microsoft Corp.’s Surface.

It runs Windows RT, the tablet version of Windows 8, which gives users access to Microsoft’s well designed Metro tablet interface and, at the tap of a button, a more traditional Windows desktop, complete with Microsoft Office staples such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

This is where the Vivo Tab begins to show some of its weakness. To get the more traditional Windows look and software, users need a keyboard and trackpad. Asus has made a keyboard attachment available, but it more than doubles the weight of the unit and results in a clamshell design that removes the tablet feel and essentially turns the device into a netbook.

Attaching the keyboard also gives users access to two USB ports. These are welcome because the trackpad is a little small and an external mouse is more comfortable for lengthy periods of computing. In fact, the entire keyboard is a little small. However, those who are used to working on a netbook will find it familiar. And it is well designed, with buttons that have more of a traditional keyboard feel.

The keyboard dock has its own separate battery. It can be charged in concert with the tablet through one plug, but mobile users will have to keep the keyboard’s charge in mind in case they decide to change into netbook mode. In short, there are two batteries to monitor instead of just one. But the keyboard’s battery can also be used to nearly double the tablet’s battery life up to 16 hours. So, for heavy users it may be a blessing.

Having the keyboard is a bit like Ying and Yang. It makes it super easy to get real work done — you know, the longer documents and Excel spreadsheets that can’t be done on a touch screen.

Yet when it comes to portability, Vivo Tab loses out to Surface, thanks to the latter’s wafer thin keyboard that folds behind the unit and disappears when it’s not needed. With the Vivo Tab, users will have to find somewhere to store the keyboard when they are not using it.

But the Surface keyboard can become a bit tricky to type on when the unit is on a person’s lap, which is where Vivo Tab’s rigid laptop/netbook-inspired design really shines.

The Vivo Tab RT may not be for someone looking exclusively for a tablet device, but for consumers seeking to upgrade from a netbook or Transformer tablet, it’s definitely worth considering.

Aaron Yip

Aaron Yip is an industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience. When not spending time on his gaming PC and consoles, he can be found in Hyrule solving ungodly puzzles and collecting gems.