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A closer look at Asus’ $299 Wacom-equipped Windows tablet

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Gallery Photo: Asus VivoTab Note 8 hands-on photos
Gallery Photo: Asus VivoTab Note 8 hands-on photos

Asus launched its 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet earlier this week and surprised everyone by including Wacom stylus support for just $299. At the Consumer Electronics Show today I got a closer look at this small Windows tablet and compared it to Dell’s Venue 8 Pro. The stylus is the main selling point, and as you’d expect it works well. There’s pressure sensitivity and the stylus can be stored inside the bottom of the tablet so you don’t lose it.

The implementation feels similar to the Surface Pro, and you can glide the pen across the top of the screen to move the cursor without ever touching the display. I wasn’t able to test the pressure sensitivity fully due to a lack of apps installed on the tablet, but inking with the built-in Windows 8.1 apps worked just fine. If you want a miniature Windows tablet with a good stylus then this has the best implementation so far.

One thing that’s really noticeable about the VivoTab Note 8 is the Asus branding at the front of the tablet. There’s usually Windows buttons in this area, but Asus has decided not to include one here. Like Dell, Asus has moved the button to the side, but the company really wants you to navigate Windows 8 on this particular tablet with the built-in swipe navigations and gestures. It’s an odd decision to move it to the side, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Asus’ VivoTab Note 8 is very similar in dimensions to Dell’s Venue 8 Pro. It’s slightly thicker, but it’s not noticeable and it’s certainly not a chunky heavy tablet. That’s important for a device that includes a stylus, and during my brief testing it never felt uncomfortable in one hand while using the pen. As this is a full copy of Windows 8, you could install apps like Photoshop or Illustrator and really take advantage of the Wacom stylus. That’s precisely what this tablet is ideal for. It doesn’t have a high-resolution display like Lenovo’s new ThinkPad 8, and it’s not as well built, but if you really need a stylus then there’s no better Windows alternative right now.

Update: Asus originally informed us that the device comes without a Windows button, but we've checked with the company and it does include one on the side. The article has been updated to reflect this.