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Asus VivoTab 8 review: Asus VivoTab 8 is a Windows tablet built around stylus use

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The Good The Asus VivoTab 8 includes a Wacom stylus, something other 8-inch Windows 8 tablets lack. Battery life isn't at the top of its class, but it's close.

The Bad Fewer connections than some similar tablets; no Windows button on the tablet face; not as slim as the competition.

The Bottom Line The 8-inch VivoTab 8 is a Windows tablet that doesn't particularly stand out in a crowded field, until you discover the Wacom stylus tucked inside its body.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 8

There's no shortage of 8-inch Windows 8 tablets right now. We've recently reviewed models from Acer, Dell, and Lenovo, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but also largely similar in terms of components and price.

Standing out in this crowd is tough, and Asus at least makes a good attempt with the $329 VivoTab 8, which is the only one of our current 8-inch Windows 8 tablet review systems to include a stylus. The Wacom stylus tucks into a tiny recess in the bottom-right corner of the system and supports the standard Wacom 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, although the VivoTab doesn't exactly come packed with compatible software (you do get OneNote from Microsoft, however). Aside from that, the system is largely comparable to the Dell Venue 8 Pro or Acer Iconia W4 (although the Acer has a larger 64GB SSD at its $349 starting price).

Performance is generally in the same ballpark across the four Windows 8 tablets in this size category that we've tested recently (the fourth being a $500 Lenovo ThinkPad 8 , which has a higher-resolution screen), and the Acer W4 wins for best battery life. The Asus VivoTab sits firmly in the middle of the pack, and doesn't have as many ports and connections as some others, so I'd recommend it primarily if you're looking for a stylus-friendly tablet.

Specs compared

Asus VivoTab Note 8 Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2 Acer Iconia W4-820-2466
Price $329 $599 $349
Display size/resolution 8.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 touchscreen 10-inch, 1,920 x 1,200 touchscreen 8.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 touchscreen
PC CPU 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740
PC Memory 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz
Graphics 32GB Intel HD Graphics 32GB Intel HD Graphics 32GB Intel HD Graphics
Storage 32GB SSD hard drive 128GB SSD hard drive 64GB SSD hard drive
Optical drive None None None
Networking 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (32-bit) Windows 8.1 (32-bit) Windows 8.1 (32-bit)

Design and features

While the 0.90-pound VivoTab 8 isn't the thickest or heaviest of our Windows 8 tablets, it's not the most petite, either. In this particular grouping, the Dell Venue 8 Pro was the lightest, at 0.86-pound, while the Acer W4 was the heaviest at 0.92-pound.

eight-inch-windoes-8-tablets-02.jpg
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Four 8-inch Windows 8 tablets compared. Sarah Tew/CNET

The VivoTab 8, however, has smooth edge-to-edge glass over its front face, as opposed to some of the other models which have either a tiny raised lip at the very edge, or in the case of the Acer W4, an odd plastic outer border.

Including a stylus is a plus, and making sure to find room to store it is even better. The stylus slot is discreet, and even hard to see if you don't know to look for it. The stylus itself is small and plastic, and it doesn't telescope into a longer version as some examples do, but it's perfectly serviceable, and fun for quick sketching or note-taking.

The black back panel has a matte finish that resists fingerprints well, but the camera lens placement is unusual. It's in the horizontal center of the back panel, toward the top edge when held in portrait mode. Most other tablets, as well as phones, phablets, and other handheld devices, put the camera in the top-left corner.

asus-vivotab-note-8-product-photos-product-photos03.jpg
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Another annoyance, the all-important Windows key, a key (no pun intended) part of the entire Windows 8 experience, is relegated to a tiny, hard-to-see button along the left edge. Of course, you should make sure to not confuse that with the nearly identical button along the right edge -- that's the power button.

While some other Windows tablets have a physical or haptic touch button on the front face to act as a Windows key, your only other option here besides the semihidden button is to physically swipe out the Charms bar from the right hand side of the screen. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you may want to prepare for some Windows 8-operating-system culture shock.

The 8-inch display has a native resolution of 1,280x800, which is the same as the other lower-cost Windows 8 tablets. Add another $150 to $200, and you'll be able to trade up to a higher screen resolution, although on such a small display, that's not a must-have. The IPS screen in this case is clear and bright, and it responds quickly to touch or stylus input. Off-axis viewing angles are also very good.

Ports and connections

Asus VivoTab 8
Video None
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 Mini-USB 2.0, microSD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery

The most basic ports are here -- a micro-USB that doubles as a power connection, a microSD card slot, and an audio jack. But there's no video output (some other tablets have Micro-HDMI ports), and even to use the ones here, you'll need the appropriate adapter or cable.

For an extra $50, Asus offers a configuration with a 64GB SSD instead of a 32GB one. If you're planning to store a decent amount of apps, or frankly, any HD video content, it's a worthwhile upgrade.

The 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3740 CPU is par for the course with similar systems, and it won't surprise you to see that they all performed reasonably closely in our benchmark tests, although the VivoTab 8 wasn't the top performer in any individual test.

For an 8-inch experience, an Atom CPU should be fine, and the tile-based Windows 8 interface and apps optimized for it work especially well. Drop back to the traditional desktop, and some programs may feel a bit sluggish, but on such a small device your expectations are in line with that.

The Acer W4 is the king of battery life in the 8-inch arena, with a duration we clocked at 8:36, but the VivoTab 8 is a strong second, running for 7:39 on our video-playback battery drain test. The best laptops and tablets (especially OS X and iOS devices) run longer, but seven to eight hours for a handheld device running a full version of Windows 8 should be more than enough for most scenarios.

Conclusion

Eight-inch Windows 8 tablets are finding their own in their second or third revisions, with decent battery, solid performance, and a fairly uniform set of designs and features. Of the current crop, the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 costs more but has a great design and high screen resolution, and the Acer W4 has the longest battery life.

The Asus VivoTab 8 could use a thinner body and more ports, but it includes a Wacom stylus. If that's a feature you think you'll really need, you can probably look past its other shortcomings.

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2
13,870
Dell Venue 8
14,177
Acer Iconia W4
15,224
Asus VivoTab Note 8
15,400
Lenovo ThinkPad 8
15,801

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Multimedia multitasking (iTunes and Handbrake)

Lenovo ThinkPad 8
1,051
Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2
1,001
Asus VivoTab Note 8
958
Acer Iconia W4
953
Dell Venue 8
947

Note:

In seconds, shorter bars indicate better performance

Apple iTunes encoding test

Dell Venue 8
426
Asus VivoTab Note 8
399
Acer Iconia W4
398
Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2
398
Lenovo ThinkPad 8
315

Note:

In seconds, shorter bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test

Lenovo ThinkPad 8
422
Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2
442
Dell Venue 8
450
Asus VivoTab Note 8
459
Acer Iconia W4
516

Note:

In minutes, longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Asus VivoTab Note 8

Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB SSD hard drive

Lenovo IdeaTab MIIx 2

Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 128GB SSD hard drive

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom 3740D; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB Sasmung SSD

Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Pro

Windows 8.1 Pro (32-bit); 1.46GHz Intel Atom Z3770; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB Sasmung SSD

Acer Iconia W4

Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SSD hard drive

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