ASUS MeMO Pad Smart 10, VivoTab Smart Compared

VivoTab Smart Design and User Interface

Windows 8 has given birth to a generation of hybrid designs that sport funky designs. None of them have really caught on with consumers, perhaps an indication that manufacturers have been trying a little too hard to think outside the box. Or maybe some find changes in physical design hard to swallow when they're already tasked with learning a "re-imagined" OS, to borrow Microsoft's term. That being the case, ASUS may have chosen wisely to build a Windows 8 device that simply looks like a tablet. It doesn't do yoga or contort itself in ways that would make Windows 7 systems cringe, it's simply a slab of glass that, when paired with the TranSleeve, can sit upright and function like an entry-level notebook.

The VivoTab Smart is roughly the same size and weight as the MeMO Tab Smart 10 and the construction feels the same too. If it weren't for the Windows logo on the bottom bezel and the rubberized backing (as opposed to plastic), you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between these two slates, at least until you fire them up.

A rubber-coated back panel feels a little better in our hands than the plastic back of the MeMO Pad Smart 10 and is probably less prone slips (we never dropped either one, so it's not worth overstating one design over the other). It has a similar look with the ASUS logo in the middle and silver ring surrounding the camera, but three things that separate the VivoTab Smart fron its Android cousin is the integrated LED flash, NFC sticker, and the Microsoft and the product stickers, including the Microsoft logo, Intel Atom Inside logo, and a strip with identifying information.

On the bottom-left (or top, depending on how you're holding it), there's a single speaker grill (dual speakers inside). It's a bit of a weird placement for watching movies in landscape mode with all the audio coming from the left (or right) side. But the real shame is that it doesn't produce audio quite loud enough, which is a bummer whether you're trying to video conference in Skype or rock out to Slacker.

The placement of the ports is very similar, only this time ASUS has a bigger argument for putting the volume rocker on the right side when in landscape mode, which is the orientation you'd use when viewing it like a laptop. Other ports and buttons include the power button, microUSB port, 3.5mm audio jack, and a mini-HDMI port hidden behind a small plastic door.

If you pony up for the TranSleeve, which is basically a take on Apple's SmartCover, you'll be able to more easily use the VivoTab Smart as a laptop. The cover attaches with an audible just like what you may have seen in the Surface RT/Pro commercials, keeping the the tablet protected when closed and serving as a stand when folded back.

The keyboard connects via Bluetooth. It has a trackpad, Function Keys with integrated media controls, arrow keys, and pretty much everything you'd find on a traditional keyboard sans numpad.

Key spacing is a little cramped, but at minimum it's a serviceable solution for hammering out emails, work documents, love letters, breakup letters, or what have you. We wouldn't want to use one of these every single day as our go-to workhorse, but as a secondary PC, it's more than sufficient.

Let's face it, the design of the two tablets ASUS sent us is very similar, but all that goes out the window as soon as you fire them up. These represent two very different platforms. What we like most about the VivoTab is that it's running a full version of Windows 8 even though it costs about the same as a Surface RT slate.

Of course, it's only sporting an Atom processor, so you'll have to temper your enthusiasm. This isn't a machine for heavy content creation chores, but it's more than sufficient for using Word, PowerPoint, and other productivity apps. There's even an Office tile pre-installed, however it directs you to Microsoft's website to sign up for a free Office 365 Home Premium trial.

The VivoTab handled streaming music and video without issue, though like the MeMO Tab Smart 10, Full HD 1080p content is somewhat wasted since the resolution is lower.

If this is your first rodeo with Windows 8, you should spend some time learning the gestures and nuances of the OS. For all the criticism it receives, it's actually a pretty slick interface for touchscreen panels, and in this case, we'd consider the VivoTab Smart a tablet first and a notebook second.

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