Asus VivoTab Smart ME400 – a cheap(er) Windows 8 tablet-laptop
Asus VivoTab Smart ME400 – what is it?
It’s another take on the tablet-laptop hybrid, albeit with the emphasis on the tablet. Like the high profile Microsoft Surface RT, it’ll cost £399 for the tablet alone or £479 with the keyboard accessory and ‘smart’ cover.
Unlike Microsoft’s tablet, however, which runs the more limited RT version of Windows, the VivoTab Smart runs full Windows 8, which means it’ll run all your desktop apps in addition to tablet ones. It has a 10-inch screen, 32GB of storage and a dual-core Intel Atom processor.
The following is not a review, but our first impressions of the product based on a short time using it. Pricing and availability is tentative and subject to change.
Asus VivoTab Smart ME400 – what are the key features?
- It’s Windows 8, so it’ll run desktop apps and tablet apps
This is a big deal. Unlike Microsoft’s similarly priced tablet, this one runs full Windows 8 and thus runs desktop apps in addition to the new tablet-friendly ones. Best of both worlds? It’s pretty close.
- Optional keyboard for ‘desktop’ use
It adds a little to the price, but the keyboard is probably essential for use in desktop mode. It’s Bluetooth, which isn’t ideal, but thanks to some nifty magnets attaches onto the iPad-esque cover, so it can be carried with the tablet.
- It’s cheap for a Windows 8 tablet
This point bears repeating. This is a Windows 8 tablet for the same price as most Windows RT tablets – read our Windows RT guide to explain the (rather confusing) difference. Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet, meanwhile, is expected to cost around £850. It makes something of a mockery of Microsoft’s split between the two versions, but in some respects this is a netbook descendent, albeit (keyboard cost included) a mite more expensive.
Which? expert first impressions
I was drawn to the VivoTab not because of its dreadful name, but for its audacity. As outlined above, it basically beats Microsoft at its own game by giving people a full Windows 8 tablet for the same price as its Windows RT effort. That’s the good bit…
But…there are some issues. Asus claims 9.5 hours of battery life, a claim which I find hard to believe. Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet, for example, reportedly manages around five to seven hours. If the claim is true then great, but I’m sceptical. More pressing is the whole folding cover, magnetic keyboard affair. As you’ll see if you watch the video above, unfurling it all is a fussy business, and the way the case folds to hold the tablet up will only appeal to fans of origami. I’m not among them.
Finally, some corners have been cut to hit that wallet friendly (-ish) price. So far as I could discern, there’s no video output, no memory card slot and no USB ports. Three things, in my book, any tablet-laptop hybrid needs.
A marmite affair, then, but one I’ll be interested to see in our labs once it goes on sale in February.
Andy Vandervell, deputy technology editor
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