It may not run a fast Core i5-based processor, but the Asus VivoTab 810 and its Intel Atom CPU is a great choice for anyone who wants a lightweight Windows 8-based tablet with long battery life. It's an 11.6in model that can be used for basic Web browsing and multimedia consumption, and it even ships with a dock and a stylus so that it can be used for comfortable note-taking and other office tasks. Because it features Windows 8 (32-bit), it can also run much of the same software that's already in use on your main laptop and desktop computers, albeit without as much processing power, so you can basically think of this device as being a modern day netbook with a flashy touchscreen. See Group test: What's the best tablet PC?
Features and usability
What's immediately noticeable about the VivoTab 810 is just how light and comfortable it feels to hold. It weighs a shade under 700g and it feels sturdy and comfortable in the hand. The rear has a brushed texture on the main part of its panel, and a lovely line texture on the upper quarter of that panel. There is a sparse collection of connectivity options around the edges of the tablet, including a headphone port on the left side, a power connector on the bottom, and a concealed Micro HDMI port on the right side (for which you'll need to purchase an adapter). There is also a microSD cars slot on the left side that can be used to bolster the tablet's storage, and if you want to plug in a regular USB stick or storage device, you can use the supplied USB adapter, which plugs in to the same place as the power connector. The only buttons are for power and volume. See also Group test: what's the best laptop?
When you want to use the VivoTab 810 as a regular notebook, you can attach it to the supplied keyboard dock. It can be a little fiddly to get the tablet's notches to align properly with the base, and removing the tablet from the dock can be equally awkward; removing it requires you to manipulate the physical release lever on the left side while lifting the tablet upwards at the same time. The base has two USB 2.0 ports, a keyboard and touchpad, and it also includes a battery. When the VivoTab 810 is in the dock, the whole package weighs 1.35kg, so it feels a lot like carrying around a 13.3in Ultrabook. Its power adapter is a small wall-wart that's easy to transport, but we found its cord length to be a little too short.
Purely as a tablet device, the VivoTab 810 is very useful. Its 11.6in size is easy to handle and its native resolution of 1366x768 is fine for most tasks, including Web browsing, although the screen could stand to look a little sharper at times. It's a multi-touch, capacitive touchscreen that can handle five simultaneous finger inputs, but Asus also supplies a digitiser pen so that you can use the tablet for handwriting recognition, which performed well in our tests. There is no slot for this pen on the tablet itself, so you'll need to make other arrangements if you don't want to lose it.
It's a tablet that can be used effortlessly to browse the Web and watch videos, and its capacitive screen makes short work of on-screen typing, too. The sensors in the tablet do their thing accurately, for the most part; you can be assured that the screen orientation will always be the right way up regardless of the way you are holding it. However, the ambient light sensor made the screen's brightness go up and down a little too easily for our liking; we disabled the adaptive screen brightness setting in Windows 8 for our tests.
The screen is based on IPS technology, which makes it look good from all angles, but because it has a durable glass cover, reflections can be a problem. (You'll also need to clean it often to remove fingerprints.) That said, the screen's brightness is good enough to allow the tablet to be used in a well-lit environment, and the overall quality of the screen is vibrant, making it suitable for viewing photos and movies (as long as you've cleaned off the smudges off the glass). The responsiveness of the touchscreen was accurate and swift during our review period and we had no problems using Windows 8 swipe-in gestures or navigating the Desktop.
Within the 9mm thick VivoTab 810 slab lies a configuration that facilitates basic tasks. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, it's more of a netbook than a regular notebook as far as speed is concerned. Rather than an Intel Core i5-series CPU, which can be found on thicker tablets such as Lenovo's Twist and Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro, the VivoTab 810 relies on an Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, which has two cores, Hyper-Threading, a frequency of 1.8GHz and integrated graphics. It's a lot less powerful than a Core i5 CPU, which means you can't use this tablet for tasks that require lots of processing, such as video encoding -- for example, converting a DVD file to an MP4 file using Handbrake took 1hr 27min, whereas a Core i5 tablet can do that in just over 20min -- but the advantage of this CPU is that it won't allow the tablet to get warm and it won't chew through the battery as quickly.
Windows 8 ran very well on this tablet and we had no problems launching applications or bringing up menus and settings -- everything we tried was mostly swift. The Windows 8 Start screen was smooth and it was lots of fun to play games such as Angry Birds: Star Wars, and Riptide GP, which we downloaded from the Windows Store.
The browsing experience on this tablet using Internet Explorer 10 is one of the most enjoyable we've had. We had a mostly smooth experience when scrolling pages and swiping to go back, and the on-screen keyboard popped up promptly each time it detected that we needed it (by us tapping on a text box). We didn't have as much fun using Firefox through the Desktop though. As we've seen on other Windows 8 tablets, pages with Flash elements were sluggish and many stalled or made the browser crash when we rotated the screen or tried to use the on-screen keyboard.
One thing that this Atom-based tablet didn't do well was stream high-quality Flash-based video from the Web.NBA LeaguePass, for example, which provides a relatively high-end streaming experience for basketball games, was sluggish on this tablet. There were dropped frames that made games stutter, which therefore meant that we missed some of the action. Streaming videos from local network sources was no problem for this tablet though, even HD video sources.
The rest of the configuration includes 2GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state drive (SSD), which has a formatted capacity of 49.9GB. It's not a large capacity and during our tests the drive was left with only 11.7GB of usable space -- we didn't even install all that much except for a few apps from the Windows Store and a couple of gigabytes worth of benchmark files. It also wasn't a fast SSD in our tests, and this was shown in CrystalDiskMark, where a read rate of 79 megabytes per second (MBps) was achieved, along with a write rate of only 29MBps. As mentioned previously though, the tablet didn't appear sluggish during general usage. It would be nice if the drive was a 128GB model, given that you are already paying close to £700 for this device.
As far as battery life is concerned, the VivoTab 810 didn't disappoint us. It has two batteries: one in the tablet itself, and one slightly smaller one in the keyboard dock. In our rundown test, in which we maximise screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the tablet on its own lasted 5hr 11min. It's nowhere near the nine hours that the ARM-based Microsoft Surface RT achieved in the same test, but compared to other Intel Atom-based Windows 8 tablets that we've seen, such as the HP Envy X2, it's 44min better. When you add the keyboard, the battery life can be extended by another 4hr 25min to 9hr 36min, which matches the Surface RT. The battery life will vary depending on your usage and also if you make use of a low screen brightness and Airplane mode.
Using the VivoTab 810 as a laptop was as good an experience as using a proper 11.6in laptop. Its keyboard has keys that are well spaced and easy to hit, and they are comfortable enough to type with for long periods of time. There is a Synaptics touchpad installed that is 88x50mm in size and it's a smooth and responsive pad that also supports Windows 8 swipe-in gestures. We had no problems navigating with this pad, except for the fact that Asus didn't seem to install a fully-featured driver for it. This meant that we couldn't adjust the scrolling action (which was reversed by default) and we couldn't enable multi-finger gestures. We also noticed that when the tablet came out of sleep mode with the dock attached, the touchpad often didn't work. We had to disable and re-enable it to get it going. No driver downloads were available from the Asus Web site at the time of review either.
The tablet has two cameras installed. The out-facing one is eight megapixels and is supported by a flash, while the in-facing camera is two megapixels.
Wireless networking is facilitated by a single-band 802.11n adapter (based on a Broadcom chip) and you also get Bluetooth. So it can keep up with the Joneses, Asus has also equipped the VivoTab 810 with NFC. NFC can be used in a very limited capacity to send data from the tablet to a smartphone (such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2). If you are in a Windows 8 app, such as Internet Explorer 10, you can swipe in from the right to bring up the Charms and tap on 'Tap and send' to send a URL to a phone. You have to make sure that NFC is enabled on the tablet first though, by going to 'Change PC settings', tapping on 'Wireless' and making sure the slider for NFC is on. If NFC is enabled, then your phone will receive the NFC transmission when you rest it on the right-rear of the tablet. You'll have to wait for the phone to vibrate or give an audible signal that it received the information successfully.
Overall, we like the Asus VivoTab 810 a lot and think it's a good unit to consider if you want a Windows 8-based tablet with long battery life that can be used for Web browsing, watching videos and even working on office documents. We like its keyboard dock and also the fact that it comes with a digitiser pen. However, the price tag is a little high and too comparable to the price of many convertible Core i5-based Ultrabooks for our liking, even taking in to account the keyboard dock.