- Wacom digitized stylus
- Soft-touch back
- Below-average battery life
- Camera quality barely average
Quick TakeThe Asus VivoTab Note 8 makes a good showing as a content consumption unit for surfing the Web, reading books, and watching videos, and its stylus and touch-sensetive display makes it a better than avarage option for note taking.
The Asus VivoTab Note 8 is one of the growing number of Windows 8.1 devices cropping up on store shelves, illustrating an emerging interest in smaller tablets spurred on by the iPad mini and Kindle form factors. The growing category of tweener tablets offer consumers and business users an alternative to larger and heftier full-size Windows-based tablets.
Although I don’t particularly like the long “VivoTab Note 8″ name, the 8-inch tablet is surprisingly decent for this class of lower-cost products. It provides users with a device that lets them comfortably surf the Web while standing or sitting, watch streaming video, listen to music, play a game or read a book. The small, lightweight product also serves as a suitable unit for sending and receiving emails or doing some data creation in a pinch.
The feature that sets it apart from other mid-range Windows tablets, though, is its Wacom digitizer and stylus, so this device is intended for one-handed note taking.
Build and Design
The Asus VivoTab Note 8 is like any other tablet of its class: lightweight and low cost. Although holding the tablet in a vertical mode is slightly large for my small hand, it will work for many users with larger hands. To hold the device comfortably, the tablet rests on your palm while the fingers lightly wrap around the edge of the tablet for extra stability and support. However, even though the grip was a nice touch, the seam between the display and backing felt odd after holding the device for some time.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the solid build and design of the Asus VivoTab Note 8. It doesn’t have the cheesy plastic feel marked by other competing low-cost tablets, and performed better than I expected. The tablet doesn’t have the nice ridged backing like the Dell Venue Pro 8, but it does include a soft, grip back running the tablet’s length to reduce slippage and hand-holding fatigue.
However, like other tablets except for the Surface Pro 2, there is no integrated kickstand. I frequently found myself looking for any item to prop the tablet and avoid hand fatigue.
The VivoTab Note 8 sports a multi-touch IPS panel display with an 8-inch LED backlight screen of 1280×800 pixels (WXGA). The crisp display showed surprisingly clear text and graphics for a $330 device.
If you plan on giving children the tablet for watching videos and listening to music, they’ll be pleased with the crisp video. Indeed, watching the animated HD trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2, the video was incredibly sharp for a low-cost device and one could view it at different angles.
However, when comparing the animated trailer running on an iPhone 5, the colors were richer and truer on the smartphone.
Buttons and Ports
The product includes a single micro-USB port, which coincides with the specialized power adapter, one audio headphone/microphone jack, and one microSD card reader slot.
The power button is located at the top right of the device when held vertically, with the volume buttons just underneath. I would have liked to see a brighter light or some better indication that the power to the tablet was starting, as it was hard to see the backlit light on the button when the tablet was powering up.
Sensitivity for the power button was annoying. Many times I found I had to try numerous times to turn on the tablet after it was shut down. The trick? Hold the power button for a few seconds until you see the screen display light up with the Asus logo.
The home button for the device’s Start screen is on the left top corner. I like the separate button as there was no danger of accidentally hitting the Start screen logo at the front of the tablet. The button was responsive to switching the device back and forth from the last application to the Start screen.
However, that being said, after having used the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 as a companion work machine, I’m used to tapping the logo on the Surface Pro 2 to navigate to my Start screen. I had to train myself not to tap the Asus label on the front of the VivoTab Note 8. For users who’s first experience with the Windows 8 tablet is the Asus tablet, it shouldn’t be a problem.
The micro-USB port for the adapter stays well out of the way when the tablet is either in vertical or horizontal mode. This is important especially if one uses a case cover and you don’t want to remove it when the device is plugged in, or if one is reading an eBook or watching a video in landscape mode.
The device also comes with several sensors including ones for ambient light, compass, gyroscope and G-sensor for the accelerometer.
The Asus VivoTab Note 8′s speakers are located on the rear of the unit above the camera lens when held vertically. As expected in a device of this size and price range, the speakers were adequate for music and video. They were not tinny like some tablet speakers but, of course, plugging in headphones made a world of difference.
In fact, watching the Transformers: Age of Extinction and Edge of Tomorrow trailers on YouTube was almost like sitting directly in a movie theater with the surround sound. The sound quality illustrated from the constant explosions was much better than I expected.
Asus did a fine job of incorporating sound technology to give users a decent quality experience by incorporating its SonicMaster technology into the audio. SonicMaster is certified by audio powerhouse Bang & Olufsen and is included in Asus’ notebook PCs.
Now, I’m a bag-and-case window shopper. I have fun in stores just looking at the different kinds of tablet cases. It’s like looking for a pair of black shoes. There is never just one right black shoe for all the outfits, nor is there ever one right notebook bag or tablet case. The good news is that because the tablet is an 8-inch unit, there are already numerous third party-choices for cases with stands and those without, smart cover cases, sleeves, and other styles from major brand vendors such as CaseMate, Case-Logic, and others.
Asus offers the $30 Versa Sleeve, an integrated case and stand for the Asus VivoTab Note 8. The Asus Vivo TransSleeve Cover sells for $49 and a TransSleeve Cover and Keyboard for $130. All are listed on the Microsoft online store.
Other third-party Bluetooth keyboards also can be purchased separately — one of these is an absolute necessity for those who plan on doing content creation with their device.
We’re just getting started. Page 2 covers the performance and benchmarks of the Asus VivoTab Note 8.