Asus VivoTab Smart ME400 review: Clever accessories make this inexpensive tablet

Asus includes some custom software in the Windows 8 UI, ranging from useful to pointless. For example, the Asus Guide is a handy visual guide to Windows 8 gestures, but the Asus@Vibe Fun Center (no, I'm not making that up) just seems like a collection of links to online radio streams.

The 10.1-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is standard for these Atom tablets. It's fine for less expensive tablets with smaller screens, just try not to think about the screen resolution Apple offers in its Retina iPads for the same starting price.

As with the other Windows 8 Atom tablets we've tested, there are twin Webcams, a 2MP one on the front and an 8MP one on the back, both available via Asus' basic camera software.

Asus VivoTab Smart ME400 Average for category [tablet]
Video Micro-HDMI HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, (combo) headphone/microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 1 Micro-USB 2.0, microSD card reader 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

Connections, performance, and battery life
Taking the kind of ports and connections people rely the most on, USB, SD card, and HDMI, and making them all the "micro" versions of these ports can be frustrating for anyone who wants to actually, you know, use these features. You end up walking around with a pocket full of adapter cables, which defeats the purpose of a slim, light, portable device.

Try not to be too shocked, but when compared with tablets from Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and others with nearly identical hardware configurations, the Asus VivoTab performed just about the same. That means it runs some of our benchmark tests up to five times slower than a more expensive Intel Core i5 tablet or laptop, such as the Surface Pro.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Spend a good deal of time in the traditional desktop mode, and you might find the performance too slow for full-time use. But, if you stay in the confines of the snappy Windows 8 UI, and use apps, such as IE10, that are very well optimized for the Atom processor, and there's a good chance you won't feel like you're using a low-power system, at least if you keep to simple, single tasks, such as e-mail, video viewing, or social media sharing, as opposed to gaming or heavy multitasking.

One thing all these Atom tablets do well is giving you a full day's worth of battery life. On our video playback battery drain test, the VivoTab ran for 8 hours and 29 minutes, which is more than 2 hours less than the category-leading Acer W510, but still very impressive and more than any Core i5 tablet or ultrabook.

Conclusion
The Asus VivoTab Smart ME400 has a hard time standing out from a crowded field of Windows 8 tablets. Several have better battery life, the Lenovo ThinkTablet 2 has a nicer industrial design and optional keyboard, and for higher-end use, I'd invest in a more expensive Microsoft Surface Pro. The combined price of the VivoTab and its quirky accessories (including a great little Bluetooth keyboard) is better than the competition, however, and you won't lose out on any performance or real-world usability by choosing it.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1366 x 768 ( HD )
  • Installed Size 2 GB
  • Color white
  • Weight 20.5 oz
  • Graphics Processor PowerVR SGX545
About The Author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.