Asus already makes some excellent hybrid laptops, powered by the Android operating system and featuring decent keyboard docks. While Android is a great platform, it's unlikely to convince many shoppers to chuck out their Windows-powered laptops though. Windows 8 is built for touchscreens, however, so it's only natural that Asus has a go at creating a PC hybrid in the vein of its Transformer gadgets.
The Vivo Tab RT is the company's first effort, and I've been hands-on ahead of its official release in October, when it will launch alongside Windows 8. Read on for my first impressions and keep an eye on this page for future updates, video and -- before too long -- a full review.
Design and display
The look of the Vivo Tab RT will be immediately familiar to anyone who's held one of the Android-powered Transformer gadgets. That's a good thing, because I think design has been a strong point of the company's recent tablets.
It sports a brushed metal look, with a darker patterned stripe across the top of the Tab RT's rear end.
The wrist rest on the keyboard dock, meanwhile, has the same brushed effect and there's a thick glossy bezel surrounding the 10.1-inch screen. The tablet measures 8.3mm thick and weighs 520g, though it feels bulkier with the keyboard dock connected.
With a weighty metal construction, the keyboard portion of this docking device feels substantial, like it would survive being jostled around inside your rucksack or handbag. The dock tapers off to a sharp wedge-shaped point, much like Asus' ultrabooks or the MacBook Air.
The tablet itself doesn't feel quite as robust when you hold it, unfortunately, but this gadget could be tweaked to feel more sturdy by the time it goes on sale.
The tablet connects to the keyboard dock via a small port on it's underside. Once connected, the tablet is held fast, until you move a catch on its left flank, at which point it disconnects with relative ease.
I've seen a lot of these docking Windows 8 tablets, but so far this is the one that's impressed me the most, with a slick design that -- on first impressions at least -- makes it stand out from the competition.
The 1,366x768-pixel screen didn't blow my mind, but it looked colourful enough to do video and photos justice. My only concern regarding the design is that the tablet's docking platform is attached to the keyboard with a hinge, so when you tilt the display backwards, it alters the position and angle of the keyboard dock. It's a minor gripe but it could become annoying.
The processor inside the Vivo Tab RT is a quad-core Tegra 3, which should make this gadget capable of handling graphically punishing games, and will hopefully deal with plenty of Windows multi-tasking without breaking a sweat.
Meanwhile, there's an 8-megapixel camera sitting pretty on the tablet's rear and the keyboard dock boasts a secondary battery.
This means you can give the tablet an extra boost by plugging it into the dock -- very handy if you find yourself out of juice in the middle of the day.
There's a healthy port selection on offer. I spied a teeny HDMI socket for hooking the Vivo Tab RT up to your telly, and a microSD card slot, which you can use to bulk out the 32GB of on-board storage. I spied a USB socket on the right side of the keyboard dock too.
The Vivo Tab RT, as the name suggests, is powered by Windows 8 RT. This delivers the new tile-centric interface and more familiar desktop Windows experience, but has one fairly drastic limitation -- you can only install software that you find on the Microsoft Marketplace app store. That's something to bear in mind if there's a suite of programs you'd want to install on a new gadget immediately.
I'm feeling positive about the Vivo Tab RT, with an eye-catching design and potentially very useful software making me eager to spend more time with this new chunk of tech. Asus has form when it comes to hybrid devices, so there's no reason it can't create a compelling Windows 8 tablet-cum-laptop.