Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C review

The Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C is aimed at the budget shopper who wants a full Windows 8 slate tablet, but it won't replace your laptop.
Photo of Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C

If there’s one area that Windows tablets have failed, it’s in giving the budget-conscious shopper something worth buying. Even lower-powered tablets and laptop/tablet hybrids are priced like a full-featured ultrabook, while failing to deliver comparable capabilities. The Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C makes a strong play for the budget shopper, with a Windows tablet for only $500 that delivers solid performance and battery life. That price puts it on par with other tablets, but don’t expect this tablet to replace your laptop. As a second or third device, however, the VivoTab Smart is an affordable option.

Design
The VivoTab Smart is a small 10-inch tablet, similar to the Acer Iconia Tab W510-1422 or the Asus Vivo Tab RT, but without the docking keyboard that adds laptop functionality. Weighing only 1.3 pounds, the VivoTab Smart is light enough to carry with you anywhere, and the 10.1-inch touch screen has high enough resolution (1,366-by-768) to enjoy video, do some work, and read text comfortably, making it a good device for work, play, or school.

The lightweight tablet has a plastic chassis, available in black, white, or red. Measuring 0.38 by 10.3 by 6.7 inches (HWD), it’s slim enough to put in your backpack or laptop bag, all while being more accessible than your regular laptop or printed textbooks. The tablet features built-in stereo speakers, but the volume is extremely quiet, even when turned up to max volume. When used with headphones, however, the volume is fine, though the sound quality is not fantastic.

Unlike competing tablets, the VivoTab Smart does not come with any sort of stylus or digitizer pen—it’s all fingers. One accessory soon to be available for the VivoTab Smart, however, is the TranSleeve Keyboard Vivo, a screen cover that doubles as a stand, thanks to some origami-like folding, along with a wireless keyboard. The cover and keyboard are not yet available, and details on the accessories—including pricing—were scarce at the time of this review.

Features
The VivoTab Smart has relatively few ports, even when compared with other Windows tablets. Since there is no docking keyboard, the options are limited to what can be fit into the tablet chassis. Even with those limitations the selection feels skimpy—a headset jack, one micro USB port (for charging only), a micro HDMI out port, and a microSD card slot. No adapters are included to convert those micro ports to full-size, so you may need to find a few adapters on your own. And, unlike your Kindle or iPad, plugging your VivoTab Smart into another PC USB port won’t do anything more than charge it; for transferring files or installing programs, you’ll have to rely on a microSD card, cloud storage, purchases through the Windows Store, or whatever you can download on the Web.

Built into the tablet are a few sensors that have become common on Windows tablets, but that aren’t seen on laptops, such as a G-Sensor (accelerometer), Gyroscope, E-compass, and magnetometer, providing all of the automatic screen rotation and positional awareness needed for many tablet functions and apps. An NFC sensor is also built in for wirelessly pairing NFC-enabled phones and peripherals, like the HP Touch-to-Pair Mouse. For network connectivity, the VivoTab Smart has 802.11n Wi-Fi for networking and Bluetooth 4.0—which can be used for pairing a wireless mouse or keyboard, like Microsoft’s Sculpt Touch Mouse or Wedge Mobile Keyboard. The tablet has a front-facing 2-megapixel camera for Skype and similar video chat applications, along with a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera for snapping photos or shooting video.

On the storage front, the VivoTab Smart has 64GB of flash memory, with 33.5GB available out of the box with Windows 8 installed. Asus does bolster that small storage capacity with an additional 32GB of Asus Webstorage, which can be used as either a cloud backup for your data or secondary storage, effectively doubling the storage available during use. You can always use the microSD card slot for additional storage.

Preinstalled on the tablet is Windows 8 (32-bit), which has none of the limitations on programs and apps seen on the Windows RT equipped Asus VivoTab RT or the Microsoft Surface RT. All of your normal software will work just fine, including Microsoft Office, though it’s not bundled with the tablet. Included on the tablet are a few simple apps, like SuperNote, MyLibrary, MyDictionary, Amazon’s Kindle Reader, and a selection of simple games and tools in Asus Vibe Lite. Asus covers the VivoTab Smart with a one-year warranty covering parts and labor.

Performance

Like the HP Envy X2 (11-g012nr) and Acer W510, the VivoTab Smart is equipped with a dual-core Intel Atom Z2760 processor and 2GB of RAM. As a result, performance was generally similar, scoring 1,438 points in PCMark 7, similar to the HP Envy X2 (1,429 points) and ahead of the Acer Iconia W510-1422 (1,212 points). Naturally, when compared with the likes of the Microsoft Surface Pro, which boasts an Intel Core processor, performance wasn’t even close (4,786 points). Cinebench scores were similar, with the VivoTab Smart scoring 0.46 points, ahead of the Acer Iconia (0.30 points) but slightly behind the HP Envy X2 (0.55 points) in spite of the fact all three utilize the same model of processor.

While the VivoTab Smart will do the trick when browsing the Web or watching streaming video, it’s not suited to take on anything more strenuous—it completed Handbrake in 10 minutes 2 seconds. Like the other Atom-powered tablets we’ve seen lately, the VivoTab Smart was unable to complete Photoshop, or any of our graphics and gaming tests.

The VivoTab Smart lasted 8 hours 43 minutes in our battery rundown test, outlasting the HP Envy X2 (7:08), or at least the Envy X2 tablet alone. Current detachable tablet/laptop hybrids put a secondary battery in the dockable keyboard, extending the battery life by hours—the HP X2 lasted 12 hours 34 minutes while docked, and the Acer W510 lasted 10:27 alone and an impressive 17:50 while docked. The VivoTab Smart may not have that sort of battery life, but it will last long enough to take you through an entire day of work or school.

The Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C is considerably more affordable than the recently reviewed Acer Iconia W510-1422 or the ARM-powered Microsoft Surface RT, but that affordability requires sacrificing the productivity and expanded battery life a docking keyboard would add. As a second or third device, the Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C offers solid performance and all day battery life, with multiple colors to choose from, making it a reasonable choice for tablet-buyers on a budget.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Asus Vivo Tab Smart ME400C with several other tablets and laptops side by side.

More tablet and laptop reviews:

Specifications
Networking Options 802.11n
Primary Optical Drive External
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
Weight 1.48 lb
Screen Type Widescreen
Screen Size 10.1 inches
Processor Speed 1.8 GHz
RAM 2 GB
Type Value, Tablet
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 64 GB

Verdict
The Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C is aimed at the budget shopper who wants a full Windows 8 slate tablet, but it won't replace your laptop.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc