The Asus VivoTab RT is such a device. With its 1366 x 768-pixel 10.1-inch Super IPS+ screen, Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor running a 1.3GHz, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of data storage, expandable with microSD cards, the tablet is impressive in theory. Still, compared to Surface RT (as well as Transformer Pad), it has a few shortcomings, as well as advantages.
Build and Design
Weighing 1.2 lbs (535 grams), the Asus VivoTab RT is one of the lightest 10-inch tablets on the market, and is also one of the slimmest, with its dimensions being 10.3 x 6.3 x 0.3 inches (262 x 171 x 8.3 mm). This is one of its best features. The device leaves the impression of exceptional elegance, and despite the lush diagonal, it does not seem like a heavy load when held in hand: the user can hold it for longer periods of time than the 1.5-lbs iPad (662 grams) or Surface RT (680 grams) before the feeling of discomfort hits the wrists.
The body is almost entirely made of aluminum, even though about 20% of its upper back cover is plastic, with an embossed surface, making the device cling to the palm better (or any other surface). Similarly, thanks to a 'rough' back part, the user knows whether they are holding the tablet the right side up or not just by feeling it, which proved to be quite useful in practice. The device would probably leave an even more convincing impression if its entire back was made out of aluminum, but I cannot say it is not solid, robust or compact enough - such craftsmanship is praiseworthy.
Asus VivoTab RT comes with a 1366 x 768-pixel, Super IPS+ display, which brings a humble pixel density of 158 ppi on a 10.1-inch diagonal. This pixel density is equal to that of the rival Surface RT, and the feeling while using the screen is just about the same on these two devices.
This means that the very Windows RT desktop, i.e. live tiles and the user interface with the official name Microsoft Design Style look exceptionally sharp, contrasting and vivid on this display. However, text in smaller or slimmer fonts, does not appear sharp, and evident teething occurs, especially on slanted lines. It doesn't matter if the font is displayed in the Office package, Internet Explorer, or any other software. When compared to the iPad Retina and Android tablets which have a greater pixel density than the VivoTab RT, the difference is visible to the naked eye.
Perhaps we would not have been bothered by this imaging imperfection in the past, but today we are used to tablets and notebooks with displays that offer significantly better readability and more comfort while working with text. The viewing angle is excellent on this Asus tablet, regardless of your angle. The colors are very expressive and the contrast is constant even when the device is exposed to direct sunlight. The cunningly-designed interface of Windows RT (i.e. all variations of Windows 8) is largely credited for this.
Other Buttons and Ports
Above the 10.1-inch screen is a 2-megapixel camera (not quite centered, but slightly moved to the right). There is a capacitive Windows key below the display. It is a bit unusual that the upper and lower edge of the screen are visibly thicker than the left and right edges, thus the tablet seems somewhat asymmetrical at first glance.
The tablet's sides are rounded towards the front, which is the best solution for devices that are more often held than set up on a desk or on a lap. Because of this and its light dimensions, it is clear that purchasers will be subliminally motivated to use the VivoTab RT more as a tablet and seldom as a notebook, connected to a physical keyboard.
The upper side includes just a small power-key, while the lower holds two docking ports. The right is used for connecting with the power charger which is, unfortunately, proprietary and different from the one on any other tablet. The right side also includes a 3.5 mm headphones slot, as well as the volume control switch, while the left side includes the micro HDMI port with a rubber cover, a microSD card slot, as well as a sliding switch for separating the tablet from the dock.
All those who did not like Surface RT's Touch or Type Cover might be happy with Asus's removable keyboard for the VivoTab, which also has a touchpad and an additional battery. The accessory is rather heavy, and doubles VivoTab RT's mass and thickness -- but on the bright side, battery life is doubled as well. The removable keyboard's upper side is made out of aluminum, while solid matte plastic with rubber footing dominates the lower side.
The tablet connects to the accessory into a joint situated above the keyboard, and it can be hinged closed just like any other notebook. Once the keyboard is covered with the tablet, it automatically switches to stand-by mode. When it is opened again, it automatically turns back on, just like any other notebook.
Given its limited dimensions, the keyboard itself is praiseworthy. The keys are big enough and at the same time, spaced enough apart than anyone with average hands and fingers can type just as well as on a 'regular' keyboard from the word go. The key travel is also deep enough to provide a realistic feeling of pressure. It is also praiseworthy that Asus has managed to 'squeeze in' a line with functional keys on the keyboard, even though these are significantly smaller.
The touchpad that's part of this accessory, however, does not deserve any praise at all, mostly because it is quite small. Furthermore, the touchpad only supports a few finger movements specific for multitouch. Thus, it is possible to scroll the desktop or a web site with two fingers, but the highly-used pinch-to-zoom is not supported and needs to be applied on the screen itself when the user wants to zoom in on a web site or an image.
The keyboard dock has just two slots: one for connecting the VivoTab RT with a charger (given that the charger on the tablet itself becomes unavailable once the tablet is docked) and a very useful USB 2.0 slot. An incredibly great range of peripheral devices for this tablet can be connected via this slot, like any printer, additional USB hub (if it has its own power source), mouse, even a bigger keyboard.
Just like with Surface RT, the USB slot gives Asus' VivoTab RT a great comparative advantage compared to the iPad and tablets with Android OS, but it would be even more practical if it were located on the tablet itself, just like on Surface RT, and not the docking. This way, it is necessary to first connect the tablet with the dock so that it can be used.
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