Review: Asus Vivo Tab RT: One Up On The MS Surface?

Our score: 4/5
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January 31, 2013 2:05 PM
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Published: January 31, 2013 2:00 PM
By Romain Thuret
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
Asus seems to like having its fingers in as many pies as possible. It was therefore no real surprise when the firm announced its Vivo Tab RT (TF600) series—Windows RT versions of Windows 8 hybrid tablets, in turn inspired by the firm's Transformer Pad range of Android devices. The Vivo Tab RT is a 10.1" touchscreen tablet that runs on the Windows RT operating system (effectively a scaled-down version of Windows 8). It has an accompanying keyboard-dock (optional) with a built in battery and an extra selection of connectors.

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - from the back

This tablet has a Super IPS+ display with 1366 x 768 pixels (16:9 aspect ratio) and runs on the widely used Nvidia Tegra 3 mobile processor, clocked at 1.4 GHz here. There's 2 GB of RAM, a 32 GB internal memory (17 GB available) that can be expanded via the microSD card slot, and a micro HDMI audio/video out. Plus, there's a USB 2.0 port on the keyboard-dock. A 3.5 mm headphones jack is on hand for audio, and the Vivo Tab RT has an 8-Megapixel rear-facing photo and video camera, as well as a front-facing 2-Megapixel webcam. Connectivity is covered by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi b/g/n and NFC. All in all, apart from its OS, the Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 tablet has a pretty similar set of tech specs to the latest Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 on Android.

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - homescreen

Design & Handling3/5



Asus hasn't looked far for inspiration with this Windows RT tablet, designing it along the same basic lines as the Transformer Pad Prime and Infinity TF700. The main change here is that the button used for releasing the tablet from the dock has been moved from its position next to the hinges on the dock to the left-hand edge of the tablet. This is certainly more discreet, but the new location does lead to a few minor handling issues. 

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - with keyboard dock

We're not so keen on the speakers being placed on the back of the tablet either, as these fall right under your fingers when you're holding the tablet in two hands. The tablet, like the keyboard-dock, sometimes get a little warm. It gets warm enough to notice—although not hot enough to be truly problematic. But when this warmth does start to develop, it kicks in a few minutes after you turn on the tablet (using the switch in the bottom right corner of the tablet's back casing, accessible with your left hand when facing the screen) and doesn't go away again. 

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - tablet and dock

The hinges need flagging up here too, as they're very stiff and reluctant to open. That's the price you pay for keeping the screen held sturdily in place when using the Vivo Tab in notebook mode with the screen open. The keyboard also has a few slightly disappointing details (see inset). 

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - closed like a laptop

In spite of all that, general handling is actually pretty good. Although we do think that Asus could have done something a bit more original with this product's look, the design this tablet has inherited still stands it in good stead. The tablet feels nice to hold and its weight is distributed evenly. Although the materials used aren't quite as sleek as the aluminium and rubber casing of the TF700, they're still pretty good quality. The general finish is pleasing and Asus has cut down the tablet's weight compared with its last Android model, trimming it from 590 g to 545 g (without the keyboard dock, which weighs an extra 520 g). 

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - homescreen windows

Display3/5



With a Super IPS+ screen taken straight from the Transformer Pad series, we had high hopes for the screen in the Vivo Tab RT. And the average contrast is as impressive as expected, reaching over 1190:1. Although Asus promises brightness levels of up to 600 cd/m2, thanks to Super IPS+ technology and LED backlighting, we actually found it was nearer 500 cd/m2. Still, that's an excellent maximum brightness level. The high contrast and brightness ensure that the Vivo Tab RT screen stays nice and easy to read both indoors and outdoors, in spite of the screen's very glossy finish. 

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - modern ui

Colour fidelity, however, is a different matter entirely. The average Delta E—which measures the difference between "perfect" colours and those displayed onscreen—is at 13.5! For accurate colours, the Delta E should be as close as possible to zero, and we start to get twitchy when it creeps up to 5 or 6. Imagine our reaction when we saw this monster reading. Colours are all over the place! Magenta, greys and flesh tones are rendered relatively well, but primary colours and most other shades in the spectrum are verging on crazy. The red and yellow, for example, are much, much too red and yellow—if that makes sense. And with such a brightly coloured OS, Windows RT ends up looking like a gaudy interface that screams out for attention.

Thanks to IPS technology, viewing angles are good. Plus, we measured the average ghosting time at 24 ms. The Vivo Tab RT display has 1366 x 768 pixels over its 10.1" screen which makes for a pixel density of just 155 pixels per inch. That's a fair bit lower than in many of the latest flagship tablets launched since autumn 2012 or due to land in 2013. Text looks fine onscreen but we've seen better readability elsewhere. In portrait mode, you'll probably need to use the zoom function. 

Interface & Navigation4/5



As for the OS, there's not much more to add to what we've already said in our Microsoft Surface RT review. In a nutshell, we found Windows RT quite frustrating, as the RT OS plays at being Windows 8 without ever really allowing itself to fully be Windows 8. You get the same touch-control interface, a Windows Store that's still lacking in content and a classic Windows desktop mode but—unlike the full-blown version of Windows 8—you can only install software downloaded via the Windows Store. 

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - tiles on the screen

One good thing about this RT tablet is that it comes with the Office 2013 software suite. However—this being Windows RT—it's not a full version. For example, you don't get the full range of functions in Excel, which ultimately limits the possibilities for anyone thinking of using this tablet for office computing. 

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review - windows store

Asus has added a few of its own extras already seen in its Android tablets. These include the Supernote app for taking and organising written, photographic or voice-based notes in a single exportable file, and My Dictionary for looking up words or translating text (English, French, Arabic, Bulgarian). Some of these apps double up with services already provided by Microsoft. The Asus Storage cloud-based storage drive, for example, is a direct competitor for Microsoft's SkyDrive that already comes with Windows RT (7 GB free). Then again, maybe you can't have too many online storage options when running an OS that already takes up half of the physical memory on offer in this device. 

Otherwise, we noticed the same basic software issues as with the Microsoft Surface RT, with occasional slow-downs and hangs, applications that often take over 20 seconds to start up, and the odd random app crash (in spite of the latest firmware updates). We also had the same niggling feeling that there's something missing in this OS.

Ultimately, Windows RT and its Modern UI interface are nice enough to use and mostly run smoothly, but these few blips could be enough to put some users off. 

Multimedia4/5



Web browsing is fast thanks to a new and improved Internet Explorer 10 offering an excellent online experience. The navigation gestures for Modern UI are simple and effective. Everything is nice and easy to read in landscape mode, but quality is obviously nowhere near as impressive as with products like the latest iPad, the Google Nexus 10 or even the Asus Transformer Pad TF700 and the Acer Iconia Tab A700, all of which boast resolutions above Full HD for similar or equivalent screen sizes. In portrait mode, you'll often need to zoom to improve the precision and readability of onscreen text. Note that the zoom function is smooth and accurate.

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 review -  web browser

The Tegra 3 chip means you can download the TegraZone platform for access to a whole load of specially optimised games. Although there's not as much choice as for Android—for the time being, at least—there are a few standard titles that help get the best out of the Nvidia SoC (Horn, Riptide, ShadowGun, etc.). To be honest, it's a good job that the TegraZone is there, because the Windows Store has quite a pitiful selection of decent games.

The photo and video camera in the Vivo Tab RT is actually pretty good. The 8-Megapixel sensor gives neutral results and captures a good level of detail. Whether you'll actually take that many photos with this 16:9 tablet weighing 545 grammes is another matter entirely. Video is filmed in 1080p Full HD (30 fps). Quality is fine, with no major glitches to report.

Battery Life5/5



Asus hybrid devices often have a dual-battery design (one in the tablet, one in the keyboard dock). They should therefore have an advantage over stand-alone tablets running on one single battery in the tablet casing. The Vivo Tab RT tablet promises 8 hours of battery life, while the keyboard dock is supposed to add another 6 hours onto that.

In practice, we got 9 hrs 30 mins of use from the tablet alone. Add on the keyboard dock and the Vivo Tab RT can run for 13 hours—or even 14 hours if you don't go too crazy. With or without the dock, those results are excellent.
4/5 Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 DigitalVersus 2013-01-31 15:00:00

Pros

  • Excellent screen contrast and maximum brightness
  • Battery life
  • Good rear-facing camera
  • Slim design
  • Relatively light (tablet and tablet+dock)

Cons

  • Windows RT can be frustrating
  • Physical keyboard could be better
  • Some hangs and slow-downs in the OS and the apps

Conclusion

Although it has the same basic flaws as the Microsoft Surface (largely due to the rather limited Windows RT OS), the Asus Vivo Tab RT still has plenty of qualities, such as smooth general navigation (most of the time), Office 2013 (albeit a limited version), a reasonable weight and a keyboard dock that boosts battery life and versatility. And, like with Microsoft's Surface, we'll no doubt get a bit more enthusiastic when the Windows 8 model (TF800) arrives.

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