The biggest problem with the first-generation of Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets is their exorbitant pricing. From the $850 HP Envy X2 to the $710 Acer Iconia W510, these systems cost a great deal more than the $499 iPad or the average PC laptop, which clocks in at just over $500. Fortunately, ASUS has an answer with its $499 VivoTab Smart and matching $129 TransSleeve / Keyboard combo that provides both a stand, a cover and typing ability.
We had a chance to spend a few moments with the VivoTab Smart and its accessories at CES last week. Though we didn't get to run many apps on the device, its 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 IPS screen seemed bright and sharp while its 1.3-pound, 10.4 x 6.7 x .4-inch body felt quite light, particularly in comparison to the 1.44-pound iPad. Though the VivoTab Smart won't win any design awards, its smooth plastic back panel, which comes in white, black or red, adds a touch of style to an otherwise average-looking tablet.
The Transleeve cover reminded us a great deal of the iPad's Smart Cover, with its colorful lightly-textured surface and ability to form a stand. A very powerful magnet on the VivoTab Smart allows the cover to snap into place and hold securely, even as you flip it behind the slate and fold its edges over to hold the tablet in place.
The Bluetooth keyboard looked and felt nearly identical to ASUS's other tablet keyboards, including those that support the TransformerPad series of Android tablets. When we touched the relatively-small keys, they appeared to offer a reasonable amount of feedback, but we'll need to type on them before we make a final judgment. We were disappointed to see that the keyboard does not attach to the VivoTab Smart in any way, but just connects via Bluetooth.
On the inside, the VivoTab Smart offers similar specs to other Atom-based Windows 8 slates, including a 1.8-GHz Intel Atom Z2760 CPU. 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Rear-facing 8-MP and front-facing 2-MP cameras allow for photo shooting or video conferencing.
The VivoTab Smart is up for preorder right now on a number of sites, including J&R Computer World. We look forward to taking a closer look at it in the near future.