A tablet with built-in accessories
The VivoTab RT comes with a camera connection kit and a digital AV adapter, accessories that are sold separately with the iPad 3. Just kidding, sort of. The VivoTab provides similar functionality via built-in ports and slots. With the iPad, you have to cough up $70 at the Apple store to get external adapters.
Digital A/V output is handled by a Micro HDMI port located on the left edge of the tablet. The port hides behind a little plastic cover that's probably going to fall off and get lost if it's used enough. Then again, if you're using the port on a regular basis, you probably won't want to have to mess with the cover every time.
A microSD slot is tucked next to the HDMI out, making it easy to bolster the tablet's storage capacity with a memory card. The slot supports the SDXC standard, and the compatible cards I see selling online offer 32 and 64GB of storage for less than a dollar per gig. Considering how much tablet makers charge for more built-in flash, it's nice to have the microSD option.
Still, I wish the keyboard dock followed up with a full-sized SD slot. Most digital cameras use larger SD cards, and previous Transformer tablets have provided compatible slots in their keyboard docks.
I'd be more peeved about the lack of SD connectivity if Asus didn't add a little something extra to make up for it. Transformer tablets have long offered USB connectivity in their keyboard docks, and so does the VivoTab RT. This time around, though, the tablet half of the convertible equation has a USB port all its own.
Unlike the Microsoft Surface, which has a full-sized USB port built right into the edge of the chassis, the VivoTab relies on an adapter that plugs into the tablet's docking connector. The port is only accessible when the tablet is separated from the dock, so it's not a second port so much as it is a transferable one. I'll take it, though, especially since the required adapter is included in the box.
The VivoTab's USB connectivity is limited to 2.0 speeds, but it's not restricted to storage devices. USB keyboards, mice, and game controllers are supported. Whether other USB devices work with the system will depend largely on the availability of drivers for Windows RT.
If you're using the VivoTab RT in notebook mode, the USB port will be on the right side of the dock. The right edge of the tablet hosts the volume rocker and a combo jack for headphone output and microphone input. The VivoTab has an internal mic and speakers, as well.
The mic is situated on the right side of the top edge. The speakers can be found along the left and right sides of the back panel, and they sound surprisingly good. There are four speakers in total, two per side, and the associated chambers have been enlarged by 60% versus the Transformer Pad Infinity, which has speakers on the right side only. The VivoTab RT definitely sounds better, but you'll want to plug it into better speakers or headphones for serious listening.
When I took the picture above, I was all set to gripe about the fact that the VivoTab doesn't have a removable panel that provides access to the memory and solid-state drive. Except those are in the tablet, not the dock. The dock contains only a keyboard, touchpad, USB port, and auxiliary battery. The secondary power source is rated for 22Whr, and it charges the tablet's 25Whr cell when the two are attached. Asus claims the VivoTab RT offers nine hours of run time on its own and an additional seven hours with the dock.
Those battery life estimates are roughly in line with what we've seen quoted for similar tablets running Google's Android OS, which should come as no surprise. The VivoTab RT is, after all, based on the same Tegra 3 processor found in numerous Android tablets, including Asus' own Transformers. However, it doesn't use the Nvidia SoC in quite the same way.
Nvidia likes to tout the fact that the Tegra 3 has five processor cores, or 4-PLUS-1, because marketing droids like to shout. The cores are all based on the ARM Cortex-A9 architecture and split between a quad-core cluster and a single "companion" core optimized for low power consumption. On Android-based devices, the Tegra 3 shifts between its companion core and the accompanying quad based on system load, never using both at the same time. Windows RT ignores the companion core and instead uses only the Tegra 3's quad-core cluster. The clock speeds and voltages of those cores can be adjusted individually, and entire cores can be powered down if there's nothing for them to do.
The particular Tegra 3 variant in the VivoTab RT is the T30, which ramps up to 1.4GHz with single-core loads and 1.3GHz when more than one core is active. Those speeds are a little slower than the T33 version of the chip in the Transformer Pad Infinity, which tops out at 1.6 to 1.7GHz depending on the number of active cores. The T30 is a closer match for the T30L in the Nexus 7, a processor that peaks at 1.2 to 1.3GHz.
|Processor||Nvidia Tegra 3 T30 1.3GHz with GeForce graphics|
|Display||10.1" SuperIPS+ TFT with 1366x768 resolution|
|Ports||1 analog audio headphone/mic port
1 USB (tablet, via adapter)
1 USB (dock)
|Input devices||10-finger capacitive touchscreen|
|Dimensions||Tablet: 10.4" x 6.7" x 0.33" (263 x 171 x 8.3 mm)
Dock: 10.4" x 6.7" x 0.4" (263 x 171 x 10.2 mm)
|Weight||Tablet: 1.15 lbs (520 g)
Dock: 1.16lbs (524 g)
|Operating system||Windows RT|
Apart from a different take on the Tegra 3, the VivoTab RT is pretty typical of a modern, ARM-based tablet. The SoC features integrated GeForce graphics, like every other Tegra 3 chip, and it's backed by 2GB of DDR3L memory. That's a little more memory than we're used to seeing on Android tablets, but it seems to be the norm for Windows RT convertibles.
On the wireless front, the VivoTab RT comes equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. NFC is included if you want to transfer files via
fist device bump, as well.
There are also two cameras: an eight-megapixel shooter at the rear and a two-megapixel unit that faces the user. I can understand the inclusion of a front-facing camera for video conferencing and Skype sessions, but I don't get the appeal of rear-facing tablet cameras. Have you ever seen someone take a picture with a tablet and not look like a complete idiot? Asus claims the VivoTab RT's camera is the best in its class, but I'd rather use my smartphone camera. At least that can be operated discretely, with one hand, and without being that guy.
Asus is offering two versions of the VivoTab RT: the 32GB flavor we tested, which sells for $599, and a 64GB model that costs $699. In the near future, a variant with 4G cellular broadband connectivity will be sold through AT&T. We don't have pricing for that particular model, though.