Power or Battery: Lifehacker Tests The Asus VivoTab 810

Is having lots of battery power more important than having lots of processing power? I've been testing out Asus' VivoTab 810 for the past couple of weeks as a writing companion to work out where the best balance lies.

It seems as though Windows 8 has as many detractors as it does fans. One of the key difference points undeniably lies on whether you're using it with a touchscreen or not. It is certainly feasible to use Windows 8 with just a mouse and keyboard combo, but it's all too apparent that this is a halfway house solution, and touch is where it's going to shine.

Or at least, should shine. My previous Windows 8 (OK, Windows RT, but don't try to tell me that they're meant to be different UI experiences) touchscreen experience was with the Surface RT, a superbly built tablet PC that I simply couldn't get along with due to the floppy keyboard case and stand making it less than optimal for lap-based work. Asus' VivoTab 810 offers a more traditional laptop style layout with a proper hinge, meaning that this problem simply doesn't exist. But would it work in the way that I'd like a proper Windows 8 device to operate?

What I loved

It's running full Windows 8. Windows RT is rather looking like the black sheep of the Windows 8 family given both the relative scarcity of apps for a tablet platform and the incompatibility with full Windows 8, especially as it presents itself identically. As such, the VivoTab 810 is capable of installing any Windows app that you'd care to throw at it. I've chosen my words carefully there, as I'll get to shortly.

It's a solidly built tablet. This does introduce one issue, in that it's a bit tough to unclip the tablet from the keyboard dock with one hand, but on balance I'd rather have a unit that stays together well rather than one that might slip and shatter.

The battery life is great. My regular working laptop is a Macbook Air, and I still do like the Air a whole lot, but the VivoTab's battery performance leaves it in the dust. I can easily manage ten hours on the VivoTab 810 when it's plugged into the keyboard dock, which is very nice indeed.

Asus provides a Wacom stylus to use for digital note taking. My own drawing efforts are beyond pathetic and I'd rather type than scribble, but I can appreciate how this could be a useful feature for others.

What I hated

It's running Windows 8, but that solid battery life is achieved by using an Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, which means that this isn't so much a notebook as it is a netbook. As such, for such tasks as writing and web surfing it's great, but as soon as you want to do anything crunchy such as video or photo editing, it grinds to a near halt. You can install anything you'd like, but actually having it run optimally may be challenging. It's not impossible to use it for more complex tasks, but it's inadvisable, because it simply doesn't have the grunt.

The charger is really fiddly. At one point in testing, I couldn't get the VivoTab 810 to power on at all, despite having sat on the charger overnight. I was in the process of returning it to Asus as a faulty unit when I noticed that the charger plug -- which is of the international type where the Australian plug slots into the charger base itself -- was ever so slightly out of alignment. Fiddling with it got the power flowing again, and all was well, but it's annoying having these kinds of issues. Once again I was reminded of netbooks, as my original Eee PC has pretty much exactly the same power plug adaptor woes.

The asking price is too high. Asus' RRP for the Vivotab 810 is $1,099, which is on the painful side for what is a souped up netbook with a touchscreen. For the same price I could get an entry level ultrabook, and while I wouldn't be looking at the same kind of battery life, the tradeoff is that I'd be able to do a whole lot more with it.

Would I buy one?

Not until the price drops a fair amount -- there simply isn't enough processing power for my needs.


Comments

    Cheers for the review. I was looking at this or a Lenovo ThinkPad 2 but was uncertain about the Atom processor.

    The whole Windows 8 experience feels disjointed but at the same time it feels like there's a lot of potential behind it. I love the touch experience with the Modern UI but I'm torn between purchasing something that's a media consumer (like the iPad) vs a productivity tool (like a MacBook Air).

    Alex, are you using a 13" or 11" Air?

      Now I've lived with the clamshell/tablet convertible, I don't want to go back. I have no need for processing power when I'm on the move but do value the flexibility of my Transformer. Proper keyboard for typing, but pull the screen off for reading web pages or PDFs in portrait. The price of the product being reviewed does seem a bit steep though.

    I'm on a 13" Air, albeit not the most recent refresh of same. That came down to a different choice; the 11" is more portable, but I had (and have) need of the SD card slot.

      What's the battery life like on the 13? I've been had a week with a Surface RT and a Vaio Duo 11 and I'm pretty sold on the smaller screen with touch but also need to balance that with performance/battery life

    I was deciding between this and the TF700T - that's the Asus Transformer - a 10.1" android tablet with a keyboard dock.

    I went with the TF700T in the end and I'm happy with it. It has a good keyboard, it has a 1080p screen that is extremely bright, it gets up to 18 hours battery with the keyboard dock,

    What really sealed it for me is with my poor eyesight - when i had a look at 11-13" Windows 8 machines in store, there is no way I could see the screen properly in desktop mode, even if i put my face very close to the screen - and it's very hard to use Win8 without touching the Desktop - on my HTPC i'm on desktop mode all the time. In android that's not a problem - the icons and widgets are easy to see and use, plus gmail and firefox both have very good pinch to zoom options (in firefox i use an add-on for this so that I can even zoom in on text in mobile sites like facebook which is painfully tiny on the official app, especially on my phone).

    Anyway it was the TF700T for me - 1 more activation to android and 1 less Windows 8 install in my home - Microsoft really have to do something about that for the next release.

    Who can see a 1080p desktop mode screen on a 11" ultrabook and be happy with it?

    I like my TF101 and believe the clamshell/tablet convertible to be the best compromise for most use cases. At conferences and seminars, I can undock the keyboard when it runs out and leave it charging at the edge of the room (assuming security isn't an issue). When the battery on the tablet runs low I go grab the base and redock. This lets me keep running even through the most intense days.
    The biggest issue I have with the form factor is that it's just too big to pop into a pocket or type on in touch-screen mode. Because of this, I hope that ASUS bring out a larger or smaller range of their convertibles to either be small enough to fit in a pocket (our 9" Dell Mini 9 is handbag size where the TF101 isn't) or large enough to provide a more useable screen (I'm hoping for 14"). A 14" tablet might seem odd to those who equate tablets with portability, but I tend to use my tablet within my home or office and so portability isn't a major issue.

    I use Windows 8 on the desktop and had a brief trial of a Surface RT. I can see that by the time I come to replace the TF101, Windows should have sufficient apps in the store to make RT relevant and most major developers (I'm looking at you, Adobe) should have recoded for the RT runtime meaning I can buy an RT machine without suffering as early adopters have.

    In short, I see the Vivotab as a very interesting machine whose [larger-screened?] descendants will probably end up in my possession.

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