- Full Windows 8.1
- No HDMI
Samsung has dominated when it comes to stylus tablets, thanks to its ever-expanding glut of Galaxy Note devices (bolstered this month by the spangly new mega-sized Note Pro 12.2). They’re great Android devices for keeping productive or creative on the move, rocking the brilliant S-Pen for precise interactions.
Now Asus wants in on the action, with the VivoTab Note 8. This Windows 8.1 tablet packs a smart little stylus that offers 1000 levels of pressure sensitivity, crafted by the same geniuses behind Samsung’s S-Pen. At £300 it’s a little more pricey than the Galaxy Note 8.0, but does the wonderful world of Windows make it a worthy purchase?
Asus VivoTab Note 8 design: Soft touch
The VivoTab Note 8 isn’t a stunner, but it’s a solidly built piece of kit that’s comfortable to clutch and use. The bezels surrounding the screen are a good size, perfect for fitting your fingertips around without bulking up the tablet – you won’t find any huge Nexus 7-style borders here. Around the back, you get a soft-touch surface that keeps the Note 8 glued to your palm.
It’s a little chunky, but not exactly a fat boy – we had no trouble slipping it inside our already-packed-out bag. Weight-wise it’s on par with the iPad Mini with Retina display, so it won’t tire your arm out even if you’re chilling with some Terrence Malick epic.
Speaking of epics, you can fit plenty of full-length films on the 32GB of built-in storage, which can be boosted to almost 100GB via the microSD memory card slot. A micro USB port is used for charging, but sadly there’s no HDMI port for hooking up to your TV, something we almost expect these days on business-type tablets. As well as the usual power and volume toggles, you also get a home button on the left edge, which takes you out of any app and drops you back on the Windows desktop.
Asus VivoTab Note 8 media: Not too bright
The VivoTab Note’s eight-inch screen sports a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution, so expect reasonably crisp images, although like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0, HD films don’t exactly shine. It’s still more than sharp enough to comfortably browse the web, however, and get stuck into some sexy office suites.
Our main issue with the screen is its brightness levels. Even at 100%, we found the display was too dim to effectively use outside, with reflections and glare getting in our way. Whites appear slightly murky, although bolder colours come out well. Rival screens such as the Nexus 7 definitely win here, proving powerful enough to counter all irritating sun glare.
Audio is provided via SonicMaster audio tech, and it’s basically brilliant (for a tablet). On top volume you get plenty of power, with little to no distortion. We tested a range of music, from classical to bass-heavy dance tracks, and the audio quality remained strong throughout. We’re not about to chuck out our stereo, but for enjoying movies or just filling a small room with tunes, the VivoTab Note does the job nicely.
Asus VivoTab Note 8 interface: Pointy Windows
We’re surprised there haven’t been more Windows 8 tablets packing stylus pens, considering you can download a shedload of creative and productivity software from the interwebs. Asus wisely loaded the VivoTab Note 8 with full Windows 8.1 – none of that RT rubbish, ta very much. This gives you the freedom to install what you like, rather than being restricted to the apps store.
Asus has also bundled a couple of handy apps with the VivoTab Note 8, including PowerDirector and PhotoDirector for playing with your media. You also get a code for downloading Office Home & Student 2013. A great little addition also found on the Toshiba Encore, but we’d liked to have seen some powerful design/creative software included, to make use of the stylus pen – the closest we have here is PhotoDirector, which allows you to tweak your snaps.
You’ll find the VivoTab’s stylus tucked away in a handy orifice at the corner of the tablet, and it’s a great little tool that adds a whole extra level of control. The stylus actually works well in combination with your finger, instead of as a replacement – you can scroll through documents or webpages with a swipe of your fingertips, then select text or objects by drawing over them with the pen. This is most handy when you’re fiddling around with complicated design software.
Asus reckons the stylus pen has 1000 levels of pressure sensitivity, giving a realistic drawing experience, and after spending far too much time crafting horrific art abominations, we have to agree. The pen is both accurate and responsive, allowing you to make tiny tweaks to any document. A tiny crosshair appears on-screen just before you touch tip to glass, so you helpfully know exactly which pixels you’re about to manipulate. The only problem we encountered was an occasional pen stroke that was too fast for the tablet to record, which resulted in a curved line being translated into a perfectly straight one between the start and end position.
Just one of our many lovely creations. Eat your heart out, Botticelli.
Definitely worth a quick mention: just £50 more bags you the Asus Transformer Book T100, which ditches the stylus for a dockable keyboard. If you’re looking for a Windows tablet for bashing out emails, Word docs etc. on the go, we’d heartily recommend that device instead.
Asus VivoTab Note 8 performance: Up and Atom
Asus has stuffed an Intel Atom Z370 processor inside the VivoTab Note 8, the same chip found in the Transformer Book T100 and Toshiba’s Encore tablet (both fellow Windows 8 devices). Once again it holds up well, even if it can’t quite match the high-performing Tegras and Snapdragons of the world. We noticed the occasional lingering pause when opening an app or simply turning on the screen, and the generally smooth experience did sometimes stutter. However, we didn’t witness any crashes or other extreme behaviour, even when running some reasonably beefy software.
Battery life is much better, thankfully. We found we could play with the VivoTab almost all day on just a single charge, with around eight hours of mixed use before the battery died. This doesn’t dip much when you start to stream video either: we still wrung out a solid seven hours of life. Only a handful of tablets such as the Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display turn in a better performance.
Asus VivoTab Note 8 camera: Simple snapper
The VivoTab’s five-megapixel camera captures some respectable everyday snaps. Our photos were sharp, comparable to the iPad Mini with Retina display’s iSight snaps, with colours well represented. Video mode is also perfectly serviceable for home movies and impromptu clips of your cat puking on your mum.
In terms of features, the VivoTab’s camera is almost as threadbare as the iPad’s. Aside from shooting photos and video, you can capture a panorama, fiddle with exposure levels and set a timer. You also get some basic editing tools, for cropping and rotating shots before sharing them online. Just don’t expect a Samsung-style gallery of features and gimmicky filters.
Asus VivoTab Note 8 verdict
The VivoTab Note 8 boasts a responsive stylus pen, just like Samsung’s Galaxy Note tablets, which is geared towards the creatively-minded and business types. It works perfectly and is well married with Windows 8.1, which allows you to download any software you like. However, the screen isn’t as sharp as we’d like and it’s also too dim to comfortably use out of doors, while we noticed the occasional stutter during everyday use.
If you need stylus control then the VivoTab Note 8 is a dependable choice offering all-day productivity, else we’d recommend alternatives such as the Asus Transformer Book instead.