Asus Vivo Tab (x86, not RT) review

On paper, it sucks: a hybrid with a high price ($999 with dock), a 1366x768 screen, an Atom processor, and 2GB of RAM. Let me explain why it's displaced all of my other devices after having it for only a week.

Preliminaries

  • Buying experience: wretched. The MS store still isn't selling it; finding a vendor with stock is difficult. It's 11:30 and Windows 8 hardware still hasn't showed up to the party. Then again, buying from Apple and Google kinda sucks, too.
  • Unboxing experience: get a life.

Design

  • Build: slim, competent, and attractive. It's boxier than a MacBook Air. The Gorilla Glass looks good. The body flexes about as much as an iPad.
  • Hinge/docking mechanism: functional, but not incredibly satisfying. The screen will not move backwards when you tap it, but it *does* jostle in the dock if you pull it. Aligning the screen with the dock is initially tricky; clicking it in is somewhat difficult on a soft platform. The disappearing hinge looks nice during use.
  • There's no place to put the stylus; the device is far too thin for that.

Performance

  • CPU/memory: snappy. During usual tasks, there is no appreciable difference between the Atom and my Core i5.
  • Screen: very bright, though the low resolution is apparent.
  • Wifi: good; on par with the iPhone 5.
  • I/O: booting and starting apps is fast, but sustained throughput seems pretty bad.

Usage:

  • The battery life is unbelievably good, thanks to the additional dock battery. I haven't run it below 40%, but anywhere between 13 and 18 hours seems reasonable. It erases years of distrust and paranoia engendered by crappy laptops, which, in this regard, includes basically all of them. This makes you realize how much of the perceived mobility of a tablet is due to battery life.
  • The S0ix sleep mode doesn't just save battery life; it makes the device immediately accessible, like a tablet. Again, this dramatically changes your perception of the device, and no laptop can compare.
  • Due to the multiple input modes, x86 compatibility, and general mobility, it will immediately become your daily driver, relegating your iPad and Nexus 7 to occasional specialized use.
  • Portrait mode is great. It's hard for a 675g device to be unwieldy, regardless of how it's held. Due to the small width, typing is slightly *more* comfortable than on an iPad. Being able to see a full page of a document is essential for many kinds of work. Browsing the web would be very fun - imagine an information-dense magazine - but 1366x768 is hardly "dense."
  • The stylus is excellent, though poorly calibrated from the factory. You need to find and enter a command-line incantation. This issue contrasts Microsoft's incompetence with Apple's blithe disregard of functionality.
  • Windows 8 and/or ASUS' drivers are still kinda buggy. In particular, the mouse cursor might disappear upon waking from sleep.
  • There is no such thing as "tablet mode" and "laptop mode". When docked, you will simultaneously perform stylus pecks, finger swipes, keyboard presses, and touchpad taps. You might keep it docked even when you're watching video on the couch, with the keyboard on your stomach and both hands gripping the sides of the screen. It's not appropriate to evaluate it by the separate standards of tablets and laptops, but you already know that.

Conclusions

  • If you're a student, academic, academically-inclined professional, document-pusher, or road-warrior, you should seriously consider one of these devices. The flexibility and mobility is unparalleled.
  • If you're a gamer, media consumer, spec queen, are too dainty to bear a few hardware quirks, or are too timid to use something that Tim Cook would call "compromised", then don't bother.
  • The Verge would probably give it ~7.8 due to the low-res screen, hardware quirks and high price.

At some point, I'll post pics of it next to an iPhone 5, MacBook Air, and Nexus 7.