The Asus VivoTab Smart looks like any one of a number of iPad knockoffs: with a thin black plastic frame and a 10.1-inch screen, at a glance it could be just another forgettable Samsung Android tablet. But this is a different beast entirely: it runs full flat Windows 8 Pro, just like your laptop, giving you access to a wealth of desktop apps. Is the Intel Atom processor enough to keep things running smoothly though? And isn’t the problem of using a full desktop on a slate why the iPad doesn’t run OS X anyway? Let’s take a look.
Ignore all the hype about the Microsoft Surface: Asus’ hardware puts it to shame. Typically, Intel-powered tablets are thick, noisy affairs, but this model’s just 9.7mm thin and at 580g, pleasantly light too. Though it’s non-descript, it’s a whole lot more portable than Microsoft’s clunky Surface - and that doesn’t even run full Windows 8 like this does.
On the sides, you’ll find a micro HDMI port to hook it up to your telly, and the HD screen is crisp and easy on the eye. There’s even GPS and NFC built in for tap-to-share tech in the pipeline. In fact the only problem with the build is the tightly wound, springloaded memory card slot, which we mistook for the power button at first, only to see the card pop straight out and soar across the room.
Windows 8’s finger friendly mode is easy to use, and if you’re a power computer, you might love the option to switch to the old-school desktop mode, and install any and every Windows app you can find on the internet. Spotify on a tablet without having to pay for Premium? Yes please.
Or, sadly, you might hate it.
If it’s ease of use you want, avoid the Asus VivoTab Smart. Yes, you can have more than one app on screen at once, and yes, you can use whatever web browser you like. But it can be daunting for tech newbies, and more than a little fiddly tapping the right icon and moving windows around on a relatively small touchscreen. To get the most out of it you’re better off plugging in a keyboard and mouse, but at this point, you really should just be considering a laptop instead.
There’s also the issue of battery life. With an Intel chip inside, you simply won’t get the same runtime as you would a top notch tablet like the iPad. It’s not really noticeable when you’re using it - 8.5 hours of quoted runtime seems fair, and not far off iOS and Android rivals. But it’s very noticeable on standby: the VivoTab Smart drains to flat in days, where the iPad can go for weeks - even more than a month - without a charge.
Of course, that’s not like for like, since iPads and Android slates use an entirely different type of processor - but try explaining that to the man on the street when they still look so similar.
For £400 (if you shop around online), you might also expect a bit more bang for your buck: there’s no 3G data option, and the Atom 1.8GHz processor does occasionally lag while switching between and loading apps, something we’re just not used to on an expensive tablet - but then of course it can do things other pricey rivals can’t too.
The bottom line
The Asus VivoTab Smart is absolutely not for everyone. If it’s a bargain you want, get a £159 Google Nexus 7. If it’s smarts and sexy looks, you can nab an iPad mini for just £269. But there’s still an audience out there, who ever since day one have been calling for a tablet that will let you install whatever you want, run desktop apps and play Flash. Are you one of these people? If so the VivoTab Smart might before you: it’s certainly our favourite Windows 8 Pro slate yet.