The Asus VivoTab RT joins the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT (Est. $350 and up) as an early flagship for the nascent Windows RT operating system. The inclusion of Office 2013 RT and a keyboard dock should entice productivity-minded types, but said dock has some issues. And where are the Windows 8 apps?
Run of the mill. The Asus VivoTab RT doesn't exactly have a tiger in its tank, with most critics reporting average and occasionally sluggish performance. The bright, vibrant 10.6-inch screen outshines the Surface's, however, and battery life is nothing short of excellent.
A solid array of extras. The VivoTab RT includes both a keyboard dock and Office 2013 RT, which sounds like a match made in heaven -- on paper. In practice, reviewers say the keyboard feels cramped, while the touchpad doesn't support any of Windows RT's new gesture controls. On the plus side, plugging the tablet into the keyboard dock adds to the already stellar battery life.
Port-wise, the inclusion of micro-SD and micro-HDMI impresses experts. There's no USB port on the slate itself, but a USB adapter can be connected to the dock port. Alternatively, just dock the slate and use the single USB port on the keyboard accessory. The tablet includes an NFC chip and onboard cameras that work well; in particular, the rear camera snaps crisp and detailed images.
The biggest flaw of the VivoTab RT and all Windows RT tablets -- Microsoft Surface included -- is they run only new Windows 8 apps; they won't run classic desktop-style Windows apps at all. The app selection in the Windows Store is scant at best, which reviewers call a crippling flaw for this first wave of Windows RT tablets. Full-fledged Windows 8 devices like the Dell XPS 12 (*Est. $1,200 and up) support legacy programs, but they're much pricier than Windows RT tablets like the VivoTab RT.
Not very user-friendly. Aside from the usability issues mentioned above with the keyboard dock, experts say the Windows RT interface requires a steep learning curve. Even once you master the interface, some tasks are more difficult than they need to be. For example, powering off the tablet requires swiping in a hidden Charms bar, selecting the Settings options, clicking the Power button, then choosing whether to shut the device off or simply restart it. However, the touchscreen experience surpasses Android's, reviewers say.
Not there yet. The skimpy app selection leads most critics to warn all but early adopters away from Windows RT tablets. If you like Asus tablets and keyboard docks and don't mind swapping out Office for an alternative, the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 (*Est. $480 and up) and even cheaper Asus Transformer Pad TF300 (*Est. $380) offer a similar hardware experience once you buy the optional keyboard dock accessory (*Est. $150). The Android ecosystem has more than 700,000 apps available, but few tablet-optimized selections.
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In one of this site's trademark lengthy, detailed and highly technical reviews, Gowri says the Asus VivoTab RT is an incredibly well-built device that bridges the gap between PCs and tablets, much like Microsoft's Surface with Windows RT. He says he's replacing his iPad with the VivoTab RT, but since he evaluated a pre-release model, he doesn't overly comment on the general lack of apps available in the Windows Store.
Review: Asus VivoTab RT Review, Vivek Gowri, Oct. 23, 2012
Cunningham isn't afraid to call the nascent Windows app ecosystem to task. He finds the slate nicely designed in general, but the lack of software support means he can't recommend it. "Windows RT shows that Windows on ARM is both possible and usable, but without apps it can't yet replace an iOS or Android tablet, let alone an Intel laptop," he says.
Review: My Kingdom for Some Apps: the Asus VivoTab RT Review, Andrew Cunningham, Oct. 23, 2012
Santo Domingo also finds the VivoTab RT well designed overall, but says the keyboard is too cramped and he's disappointed that its touchpad doesn't support Windows RT gesture controls. The dearth of available apps is another major concern. "There are a few kinks to work out, but the form factor is promising," he writes.
Review: Asus VivoTab RT, Joel Santo Domingo, Oct. 23, 2012
4. The Verge
Pierce voices similar touchpad and keyboard concerns as other reviewers, but adds that the Windows RT operating system "has some serious flaws," especially since its "app ecosystem is basically non-existent." The idea of replacing both a tablet and a laptop with a single Windows slate doesn't work when that slate runs Windows RT, he says.
Review: Asus VivoTab RT Review, David Pierce, Oct. 23, 2012
5. Laptop Magazine
Like other reviewers, Spoonauer takes issue with the VivoTab RT's keyboard dock design and the barren app landscape. "Without the ability to run traditional desktop programs, shoppers will find that devices like this have limited appeal until the Windows Store gets stocked with more apps," he says.
Review: Asus VivoTab RT Review, Mark Spoonauer, Oct. 23, 2012
In addition to criticizing the Windows app ecosystem, Franklin and La say the VivoTab RT's hit-and-miss keyboard dock make it a slightly less appealing Windows RT tablet than the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT.
Review: Asus VivoTab RT Review: Great, But Doesn't Quite Breach the Surface, Eric Franklin and Lynn La, Oct. 26, 2012
Wollman calls the VivoTab RT an Android-based Asus Transformer tablet redone with a coat of occasionally glitchy Windows RT paint. In other words, it's a well-built device somewhat hampered by its cramped keyboard dock. "We'd caution prospective buyers that the selection of Windows RT-compatible apps is far from complete," she warns, but says big-name apps are starting to trickle into the Windows Store.
Review: Asus VivoTab RT Review: Everything You Loved About the Transformer Tablets, but With Windows, Dana Wollman, Oct. 26, 2012
8. PC World
Review Credibility: Excellent Perenson appreciates the solid overall design of the VivoTab RT hardware, but says the nonintuitive Windows RT operating system and lack of available apps hamstring its usability. "Tablets are all about the experience of software married to hardware," she writes.
Review: Review: Asus VivoTab RT Has Thoughtful Design, But Brings a Mixed Tablet Experience, Melissa J. Perenson, Oct. 23, 2012