Friday 24 May 2013

Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C review!

   The tablet market is very difficult to navigate at the moment for everyone. There's so much choice it's simply mind-boggling you can get devices at almost every price point from £40 upwards and to know conclusively that you picked the right device is almost an impossible challenge.

   We've spent a lot of time with Android tablets here at TTF: the Sony Tablet S has been a loyal servant for a couple of years now, but it's showing its age. So where is the best place to look now? Are tablets at the point where they could replace your computer or are they still reserved for casual gaming and watching some online videos? That's why we have the Asus VivoTab in for review. It's a full Windows 8 tablet and hopefully we can shed some light on whether this tablet can do just the job as your every day driver!

Key specs:

  • Intel Atom Z2760 Dual-core processor clocked at 1.8Ghz.
  • 10.1” IPS display with 1366 x 768p resolution.
  • Weighs in at 580g and is 9.7mm thick.
  • TranSleeve keyboard attachment.
  • 9.5 hours of battery life.
  • NFC capable.
  • 64GB of internal storage which is MicroSD expandable with cards up to 64GB.
  • 8MP rear-facing auto-focus camera with F/2.2 aperture & back-illuminated CMOS sensor, as well as a front facing webcam.


   The VivoTab's design is understated, but it feels absolutely great in the hand. On the front of the tablet there’s not to be seen except for the Asus logo, the capacitive Windows home button and the front camera and if you're like us and notice that it's off-centre then you will never forgive yourself for noticing because it seems to haunt you!

   The rear of the device is the best bit though: the use of soft touch plastic was an inspired choice, making the tablet a joy to hold and it's curved just enough that it doesn't dig into your hands after holding it for a while either! Aside from being soft touch it's also this really good matte black colour, which contrasts nicely with the shiny silver Asus logo, which strangely makes the whole
thing feel expensive, but in a non-brushed metal sort of way. As you can see in the image on the right, it is prone to picking up finger prints a bit though!

   Aside from that the back of the device is also home to the 8MP camera, which also has a flash and there's the nice array of stickers which you normally find on a laptop, which detract somewhat from the back of the device, but we're to scared to go ahead and pull them off just in case they bring something with them or leave something behind! There's also a little sticker telling you where the NFC is housed, which we assume you're meant to pull off too.

   Around the sides you’ll find the volume rocker on the right next to the headphone jack and the microphone hole. The left is where the Micro USB charging and connection port is and on the top of the left hand side you can find the SD card slot and right up on the top side there’s the on/off power button and the light to show you when the device is charging.


   If you're looking to browse the internet, do a bit of word processing, check your emails and do the every day tasks such as playing Jetpack Joyride, then this tablet and Windows 8 will keep you perfectly satisfied.

   Everything is really snappy thanks to that dual-core Atom processor. Browsing the internet is an absolute joy and we've even found ourselves using Internet Explorer 10, purely because it is much more suited to the touch experience then Chrome is. Seeing as the tablet runs full Windows 8 you get the added bonus of using the apps designed for laptops and desktops and that means things like SkyGo work a treat and there's none of that pesky compatibility rubbish which you might have got on your Android tablet!

   Things will start to slow down on the dual-core Atom processor if you get a few programs going, just as they would on any current tablet and we can't see you doing any heavy editing on this thing, it's simply not designed to do that. For browsing, word processing and listening to music at the same time, it will be more than satisfactory though.

Windows 8 on a tablet:

   At the moment the best Windows 8 can be described as is a good fit for this tablet; it’s great for work , but one place it’s a bit of a let-down is when it comes to apps. There’s not many of them at the moment, but games like Cut The Rope, Jetpack Joyride and Angry Birds are already in the Store and you've got your Evernote, but we will say that since we've had the tablet the range of options has grown and bear in mind we've only had it a month and things have been improving the whole time!

   Aside from the apps there’s a bit of a divide in Windows 8 which you might not expect. There’s the famous 'Metro' or live tiled interface and then there’s something called desktop mode, which looks like Windows 7. When you open desktop programmes the tablet puts you into desktop view and believe us when we say it makes everything smaller and the close, minimize and maximize buttons become next to impossible to hit with your finger. That's probably why Asus sells the Transleeve keyboard as an add on, but we'll come onto that one later. It's for this reason you'll probably prefer using IE 10 to browse the internet on the screen itself!

The Screen:

    The touchscreen on this tablet offers you everything you fundamentally need; it’s responsive, relatively sharp and it makes the Windows 8 look good. The resolution is slightly disappoint at 1366 x 768p on a 10.1” screen, which means things are acceptably sharp, if not on the level of 1080p tablets which we've seen and it wouldn't pass as Retina either.

   To be fair though the screen gets nice and bright and we had no problem using it inside and we could just about get by when it was overcast outside, but you certainly won't be using this in direct sunlight! If you're anything like us you'll have that brightness cranked up at 75-100% brightness most of the time to enjoy it fully.

   One thing to mention is that whatever the screen is coated in it isn’t very scratch resistant. There was a nasty chunk taken out of our unit within two days and that was just from having the tablet around the house, so if you're planning on using this on the fly you will definitely want to invest in a screen protector and or case!


   Asus promised us up to 9 hours of usage from this tablet and they definitely don't disappoint. In our experience with light usage and the tablet being left on all the time, it can get through three or four days no problem and if you want to use it intensely then you can expect to get through most if not all of the day without any issues at all!

   We were actually very impressed with this aspect of the tablet and it's one of the stand out features compared to how long Android tablets have lasted in our experience.

 "Asus promised us up to 9
 hours of usage from this
 tablet and they definitely
 don't disappoint." 


   This was one department where the VivoTab let us down. The Asus VivoBook S500 blew us away with its speakers, but things here are a totally different kettle of fish!There’s only one speaker on this tablet and it’s a diddy, little grill on the back left of the tablet if you’re holding the device face on.

   Unfortunately this thing won't even get through the qualifying rounds for sound output or volume, but it does a job if you're wanting to watch a movie or put some music on for personal use. It's a bit of a shame that the tablet doesn't have dual speakers to make the sound more even, but if you cup your hand behind the speaker it does help!

   Just by way of comparison the speaker on the Samsung Galaxy S3 goes marginally louder at full volume and to our ears the quality of the music sounded fairly equal across both devices, although the VivoBook had a less tinny output.

   Not to worry though because all of this can be overcome by the headphone jack on the right hand side of the device. If you listen through headphones or bigger speakers then everything is much better!


   The tablet has two cameras, but if you already have a tablet you'll probably have noticed that you don't tend to utilise the rear one. If you do choose to use this 8MP camera on the tablet then you can get some good pictures out of it, but you have to try to hold the device as steady as possible and you're likely going to get better results from your smartphone.

 The front one camera, on the other hand proved to be great for Skype and it's hard to fault it really, aside from the annoying placement, which we mentioned earlier.

Connections, ports and storage:

   The VivoBook offers you the connections which you need with WiFi and Bluetooth being the two staples which are on board here and you'll be using them most of the time, especially if you have the Transleeve keyboard. Asus also added in NFC which is actually quite useful for sharing photos from people's phones in particular!

   As there are no full size USB ports on the tablet, we'd recommend picking up a microUSB to USB host cable, they’re less than a £1 on Amazon and that will open up a wealth of new options, especially if you have a USB hub to attach to the host cable. It’ll let you use USB sticks, a wired keyboard, a mouse and your external hard drive, which is great if you want to use your music on one of these tablets!

   We didn't initially realise, but there's also a micro-HDMI out port, which is especially useful for making presentations and group work in the workplace or for people at school!

   When it comes to storage though, this thing excels. When you've got the tablet, installed your copy of Office, good old Google Chrome and a couple of games then you’ll have somewhere in the region of 30GB of free space. We know that's not much for a computer, but compared to other tablets, that's great! Then if you remember there's that MicroSD card slot which supports up to 64GB cards, so theoretically this tablet gives you 94GB of storage space on the fly, which for this sort of price is simply fantastic!

Transleeve Keyboard:

   If you want to get this tablet then we whole heartedly recommend you pick up the Transleeve keyboard too. It's expensive, but it makes the whole experience, especially for email, word processing and for desktop apps so much more practical and enjoyable!

   The keyboard’s battery is also great, it's rechargeable and to be totally honest we've had trouble making it run out of charge! We've been using the device for a month now and the keyboard has needed two charges in that time, so without a doubt the tablet and keyboard are meant to and probably should be bought together!


   This tablet isn't going to be for everyone and Windows 8 isn't going to be for every one. If you want the best of Windows, a great price and plenty of storage then you won't find much else on the market which is either better value, or a better solution.

   Assuming Microsoft can keep the apps and updates coming for Windows 8 then the OS has the potential to grow into the fantastic base which has been laid out. We would say if you're heavily invested in Android and iOS and you think you can go without one of Microsoft's products, then this tablet probably isn't for you. But, if you want a very capable tablet that’s great for browsing, has plenty of storage options and has stellar battery life then look no further then this VivoTab, you won't be left disappointed!

   The VivoTab Smart can be picked up for £399


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