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.