Decisions. Decisions. I had been in the market for a true Windows 8 tablet since Microsoft released their new operating system but held off because of price. Call me cheap, but many Windows 8 tablets are over-priced in my opinion. This led me to holding off buying a tablet for awhile.
As expected, the price of many Windows 8/RT tablets started to drop so once again I began looking into purchasing a tablet. I eventually narrowed my choices down to the Acer Iconia W510 and ASUS VivoTab Smart ME400. I have to be honest by saying that the Acer was my original choice because I recently have had good experience with other Acer products such as my Acer Aspire V3-551-8887. Oh, did I mention that the Microsoft Store had it marked down at the time to $400? Unfortunately, our local Microsoft Store did not have any in stock. Bummer.
Just like being rejected by the first girl asked to the prom, I went with my second choice: the ASUS VivoTab Smart ME400. My initial impressions were that the build quality was pretty good. It felt sturdy and the soft touch backing is nice (but a fingerprint magnet). The tablet is very comfortable to grip and hold. It weighs only 1.3 lbs. and measures just 0.4″ thin. It is a bit smaller than the Microsoft Surface but bigger than the iPad. The specs for the ASUS VivoTab Smart ME400 are decent and expected for a tablet under $500:
1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 processor
10.1″ IPS 5-finger capacitive touch screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution
64GB eMMC on-board memory for storage
PowerVR SGX545 graphics
2.0MP front-facing webcam and a 8.0MP rear-facing camera with an LED flash
Digital media reader that supports microSD and microSDHC cards
Micro USB 2.0 port
2-in-1 Audio Jack (Headphone / Mic-in)
802.11b/g/n wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.0
25Wh lithium-polymer battery capable of 9.5 hours of life
The ASUS VivoTab Smart ME400 is very similar in physical design to ASUS VivoTab RT, which runs Windows RT. However, unlike it’s sibling, it lacks the metallic-like look and feel of the ASUS Transformer Android tablets. Physical controls are straightforward: a power button on the top left corner, a volume button on the right and the Windows logo Home button. Below the volume button there is a tiny reset hole in case you have to restore your tablet to it’s factory settings. Connectivity is limited to four ports: a micro USB port mainly for charging, a micro HDMI port for video output, a micro SD/SDHC card slot, and a combination headphone/mic jack.
The new Clover Trail dual-core Intel Atom Z2760 processor is more powerful and energy efficient than past Atom processors found in older netbooks. Unfortunately, this still limits the tablet to the 32-bit version of Windows 8. The additional software installed on the tablet is surprisingly limited to a mix of apps from the Windows Store (Netflix, Kindle and Skype) and a bunch of ASUS proprietary programs (ASUS Camera, MyLibrary, MyDictionary, ASUS WebStorage and LiveUpdate), which could be useful to some people. There are also some Xbox Live games pre-installed: Microsoft Solitaire, Microsoft Mahjong, Taptiles and Pinball FX2. No unnecessary crapware installed.
In addition to the tablet, I purchased the ASUS VivoTab Smart TranSleeve Cover. It is basically a foldable cover that can transform into a stand for your tablet. A magnetic hinge attaches the Transleeve to the VivoTab Smart for protection very much like the iPad Smart Covers. Sadly, it doesn’t work as well as a Smart Cover. I found that it detaches from the tablet rather easily. In addition, it doesn’t put the tablet to sleep or wake it when on open or close. While there is also an available ASUS VivoTab Smart TranSleeve Keyboard accessory, I decided to use the Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard and Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse with mine. I couldn’t be happier.
Overall, the ASUS VivoTab Smart ME400 is a fantastic bargain for those looking for a relatively inexpensive tablet running Windows 8 instead of Windows RT. The touchscreen is very responsive and it is comfortable enough to be used for long periods of time. It is a balanced, well-designed tablet that is fast enough for anything except hardcore gaming and heavy media editing.