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Asus VivoTab RT – Not all its cracked up to be

Cracked speaker in Asus VivoTab
Cracks from the keyboard docking station & from the moderate grip strength required to keep the slick device from being dropped

I received the recently released Asus VivoTab RT, one of the two Windows RT release devices shortly after the late October launch. My decision to go with the Asus product in-lieu of the semi-popular Microsoft Surface RT tablet was made, in part, due to an excellent experience with the Asus manufactured Google Nexus 7 tablet. A few of the other factors involved in making my decision included items like GPS support, NFC support and a LED flash, items missing on Microsoft’s recent foray into OEM products. My initial impression was that while the new tablet OS lacked certain features, the overall experience was good and Windows RT allowed me to do more out of the box work-wise, than iOS or Android combined. As much as I wanted the Windows RT product to be a success, after three weeks, my Asus VivoTab RT tablet has been officially and unceremoniously retired, permanently retired.

Much of what I stated about the Windows RT products still hold true. Windows RT is a solid performing operating system that already does so much and still has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, while Windows RT is a great operating system, it sorely lacks a great hardware home. Currently, the RT tablets available are limited to the Microsoft Surface, lacking in hardware features, or the Asus built VivoTab RT, which is far from the solidly built Asus/Google Nexus 7 product that redefined the seven inch tablet market.

The Asus VivoTab was easy to setup and superb at performing many tasks with the included products from Microsoft’s Office suite. However, the light weight feature packed tablet is poorly constructed and incomplete with non-functioning hardware, due to a lack of driver support from the manufacturer. The first issue to rear its head was with the LED flash, an item missing from the Surface, and a feature that does not work on the Vivo, as the LED flash driver is still in the developmental phase according to Asus officials. The LED issue was not a “deal breaker” for me, especially since I had already received one hundred dollars back, the result of price matching, but it did leave me feeling like an uncompensated beta tester. Despite the non-functional LED, the device still did many things right and was a great productivity tool on a recent business trip to Chicago. I overlooked the LED issue and was quite happy with a number of the RT tablets features, as well as the rapidly expanding number of RT compatible apps in Microsoft’s Windows 8 Store.

While the LED flash issue was not reason enough to consider returning the Vivo, this past weekend my opinion of the Asus VivoTab, as well as my recommendation to thoughtfully consider the product as a great alternative to a laptop, changed and the device instantly joined the ranks of my “buyer beware” list. The reason for this decision was a result of shoddy product engineering and/or poor materials quality control.

While using the device in landscape mode, I decided to read in portrait mode and as I slightly increased my grip on one side of the tablet, in order to keep the slick aluminum device from shooting out of my hand, I felt a small change in rigidity and I had to quickly get my other hand on the device to stop it from dropping to the floor. I immediately placed the tablet into the keyboard docking station and as I closed the laptop-like form, I heard a faint but perceptible snapping sound. I closed the device, and immediately noticed what appeared to be two sizable scratches on the brushed aluminum-alloy back plate of the tablet. Upon closer inspection, I found the “scratches” on the back plate were not “scratches” at all, but were in fact cracks that spanned the entire length of the tablet, from the speaker holes on one side, to the docking release tab on the other. I decided to take a trip to my local BestBuy the following day to see about exchanging the tablet for a new device.

Asus VivoTab RT poorly manufactured
Buyer Beware! Cracks in the VivoTab’s chassis & missing drivers ensure the tablet will not be a big winner this holiday season.

When I arrived at my local BestBuy, I asked the sales associate patrolling the Windows 8 area to show me to the Windows 8 tablets. Once in the Windows 8 section, I asked the associate to open a document and to then view it in portrait mode. As he rotated the device in his hands, it got to a nearly vertical position and the device nearly slipped from his hand which forced him to tighten his grip. I asked to see the tablet and as I rotated it to view the back side, sure enough, the device had small, but clearly visible, cracks running the length of the tablet. I di not notice the cracks before this point, but it is likely they were there and clamping down on the device just made them more visible. Once I saw them however, I immediately returned the tablet and started writing this piece to warn consumers of the issue.

While Windows RT is a great operating system, currently I would recommend anyone thinking about buying a Windows RT tablet to reconsider. The devices that are currently available force consumers to sacrifice either features, in the case of the Microsoft Surface, or durability in the case of the Asus VivoTab. The Windows RT platform has a lot of potential, as well as some amazing features, but it is not ready for prime time. In the case of the Asus VivoTab, I was left with the impression that it is a product that was rushed out the door to take advantage of the Surface’s hype, as well as its shortcomings. The Asus VivoTab RT eventually left me with the distinct impression that it was an unfinished and untested product, unworthy of comparison to the iPad, not to mention Asus’ own Nexus 7 tablet.

In closing, if a Windows RT tablet is on your holiday shopping list, carry it over to the 2013-2014 holiday season, when you are likely to have more manufacturer choices and better finished products. As for the Asus VivoTab RT, it’s definitely not all its cracked up to be.

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