Asus VivoTab 8 Review and RatingsLike everybody else, we expected great things from Windows once it became more touchable, and, no matter how disappointing Windows 8 has turned out, it has (for the most part) accomplished that much. Despite the flaws (yes, some were serious) and the circuitous route it took to get there, today we enjoy relatively easy-to-use, high-quality, and affordable touch-screen Windows tablets and convertibles—as demonstrated by Asus’ Editors’ Choice recipient, the $329.99 VivoTab Note 8 we reviewed back in April 2014.

One of that slate’s most notable features was its built-in, pressure-sensitive stylus, which, considering how small many of the menu entries, buttons, and icons were (especially in desktop mode), came in quite handy not only for taking notes and drawing, but for navigating Windows in general. And at the time, its price was remarkably low.

Now Asus has introduced another 8-inch Windows tablet, the $199.99 VivoTab 8 (only $149 at the Microsoft Store as we wrote this). For the most part, this is the same tablet as last year’s VivoTab Note 8, but without the stylus and with a few other minor differences we’ll get to over the course of this review.

Asus VivoTab 8 landscapeFor example, the Note version contains a slot on one edge for housing the stylus, which in turn makes for wider bezels, and display hardware for supporting the stylus. This means that the VivoTab 8 is a much leaner tablet—both smaller and lighter than the VivoTab Note 8.

That said, many users won’t mind the extra girth. For them, giving up the stylus for navigating this small screen is no small sacrifice. On the other hand, if you can live without the pen, this VivoTab is, in terms of screen quality and performance, a winner in its own right.

Granted, the display resolution of 1,200×800 pixels isn’t particularly high, but it’s plenty high enough for this petite screen. The Web sites, photos, games, and videos we looked at were…well, not necessarily spectacular, but certainly sharp enough to deliver great-looking images and graphics.

And that’s just it—if you don’t mind the concept of Windows 8 on an 8-inch screen, which will inevitably present you with buttons, icons, and menu entries small enough to sometimes require multiple attempts at manipulating them, you will probably like this tablet. We did.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper

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Asus VivoTab Note 8 ReviewAffordable 8-inch Windows 8 tablets are becoming ubiquitous, and we’ve found the more recent models, such as Dell’s $299 Venue 8 Pro and Lenovo’s $299 Miix 2 8, impressive—at least in terms of overall performance and battery life. Granted, these compact Windows devices tend to cost a little more than the average like-size Android slate, but keep in mind that what you get for the few extra bucks is essentially a full-blown handheld PC that can run the majority of Windows’ entertainment and productivity programs.

In addition to providing access to millions of Windows apps, Windows tablets provide several other advantages over Android devices. For example, Windows slates deliver a much wider range of compatibility with most people’s desktop PCs; they utilize Windows’ network and security features more efficiently; and they save many folks the trouble of learning and working with two different operating systems, thereby decreasing the learning curve and increasing overall productivity.

Asus VivoTab Note 8 Start

Alas, this is not to say that these Windows handhelds are perfect compared to their Android counterparts. Despite the respectable performance and miserly power consumption delivered by their latest quad-core Intel Atom (a.k.a. “Bay Trail”) processors, most can’t match the battery life of Android compacts. And the Android OS handles relatively high resolutions more gracefully—especially when the Windows device is running in desktop mode.

In fact, objects such as icons and pull-down menus are often far too small to manipulate comfortably with your fingers, which can make using the tablet frustrating—so much so that some manufacturers, such as Dell with the Venue 8 Pro, have added stylus or pen support to help you get to those tight spots.

However, the Dell slate’s stylus support seems like an afterthought: You must purchase the pen separately, and Dell doesn’t provide any way to store it on the tablet. By contrast, the subject of this review, Asus’ $329-list VivoTab Note 8, not only comes with a stylus but also a compartment to store it in.

Asus VivoTab Note 8 landscape

And that, the bundled and neatly stowed away Wacom active stylus, is what makes the slightly more expensive VivoTab stand out from other recent Windows slates. Otherwise, it runs on the same processor and comes with mostly the same software and feature set as the Lenovo and Dell models mentioned above—two tablets that, by the way, we liked a lot.

In addition to the $329 VivoTab Note 8, which comes with 32GB of storage, Asus also hawks a 64GB version for $369. Given their low prices, all three of the Windows tablets mentioned on this page are solid buys, but we think that the Asus, with its well-performing stylus with 1,024 pressure sensitivity levels (which we’ll discuss in a minute), delivers better all-around value.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo Miix 2 8 Review and RatingsIt wasn’t that long ago that 8-inch Windows tablets were rare. In fact, prior to Windows 8 and its by-design touch capabilities, the few Windows tablets available in any form were inconsistent in terms of comfort and usability—and compact models just didn’t exist. (We consider tablets with screens 9 inches and under “compact” models, and between 9 and 11 inches “full-size” slates.)

In mid-2013, Acer was the first out of the 8-inch gate with its lukewarm Iconia W3 (soon to be supplanted by the Iconia W4, shown at CES 2014), and a few other major tablet makers have followed suit. Among them are Dell, with its recent release of the Venue 8 Pro, and Lenovo, with its $299-MSRP Miix 2 8, the subject of this review.

In many ways, the Miix 2 8 reminds us of the full-size (10.1-inch) Miix 10 tablet we looked at back in November of last year. However, in our tests, thanks to a much more powerful Intel Atom CPU (a member of the chip maker’s new “Bay Trail” family), this compact Miix ran circles around slates running on previous (“Clover Trail”) iterations of the Atom chip. (We’ll talk more about processors and benchmarks in the Performance section later on.)

Lenovo Miix 2 8

Meanwhile, though: Yes, the latest Atom chip in this Miix (the 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740) is much faster. But there’s a caveat: The Miix 2 8 (and all other Windows slates built around that CPU, for that matter), still can’t execute 64-bit applications and are precluded from accessing more than 4GB of RAM. Because of that, these tablets typically ship with 2GB. Programs like Photoshop, for example, require more memory than that to execute most processes successfully.

According to Intel, 64-bit Bay Trail chips won’t be available until early 2014 (i.e., soon). So where does that leave this last round of tablets built around this Atom processor? As our charts in the Performance section attest, this Bay Trail chip is certainly faster than the “Clover Trail” Atoms we saw in a few tablets, but, alas, it still has most of the same shortcomings we discussed in our review of the Miix 10. According to several reports, support for 64-bit processing—in both Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4—on Atom processors should happen early this year. However, since you can’t update the RAM in this or most tablets, the point is somewhat moot. What you buy now is what you get.

Lenovo Miix 2 8 (Low Angle View)

You can buy the Miix 2 8 with either 32GB or 64GB of storage, for $299 or $339, respectively. This Miix is light, thin, and attractive—not to mention well-built and durable. Beyond the restrictions placed on it by virtue of its processor, it’s not a bad little tablet, especially considering it sells for under $300. The fact that it’s a full-Windows slate at that price and comes with a full license for the Home & Student version of the Office suite makes it an even better value.

Plus, you can accessorize this tablet pretty cheaply. For an additional $20, you can pick up Lenovo’s optional “smart” cover, which also comes with a stylus. The cover protects the tablet, of course, and it also lets you position the Miix 2 8 upright for video viewing or screen sharing…

Lenovo Miix 2 8 (Cover)

 

Unlike the optional cover for the Miix 10, however, this one does not include a physical keyboard. (Our review unit did not come with the cover and stylus, so we weren’t able to review them.)

Overall, the Miix 2 8 felt good in our hands, performed reasonably well, and delivered decent battery life. Our primary concern? Bay Trail may support 64-bit code before too long, and that might be worth waiting for. Otherwise, this tab is a solid buy.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 Review and RatingsIn 2013, we’ve seen a lot of innovation in Windows-based tablets, in the form of hybrid/convertible tablets and laptops. One of the leaders in delivering new, cutting-edge devices has been Lenovo, notably in its line of Yoga convertibles, including the IdeaPad Yoga 11 and IdeaPad Yoga 11s we reviewed earlier this year, as well as the IdeaPad Yoga 13 we looked at in December of 2012. All three of these machines easily convert from laptop to tablet and back, via a 360-degree articulating hinge that lets you fold the keyboard fully behind the screen.

Now, the company has extended the Yoga brand to include two new Android devices, the $249 Yoga Tablet 8 and, the subject of this review, the $299 Yoga Tablet 10. (Our review of the Yoga Tablet 8 will go live shortly after this one.) At these prices, both models come with 16GB of storage. For a little extra ($50 for the Yoga Tablet 8, or $20 for the Yoga Tablet 10), you can get a storage bump to 32GB, which in both cases (but especially in the case of the Yoga Tablet 10), seems like a better value.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 (Lying Down)Lenovo’s Yoga approach is a little different here than in the Yoga laptops. Unlike in those, these new Android models don’t come with physical keyboards. The Yoga lineage, though, means you can still operate the tablet in various modes, or positions, here via a small kickstand that runs across the bottom rear of the chassis (when you hold the slate in wide, or landscape, orientation). We’ll look more closely at the Yoga Tablet 10’s modes on the next page.

Looking past the kickstand and the flexibility it affords in positioning the tablet, the Yoga Tablet 10 at the core is a midrange 10-inch Android tablet with a moderately strong feature set. Granted, its screen is low-resolution (1,280×800) and therefore far from the best on the market, but that’s not a surprise for the price. During our hands-on evaluation, we found that, for a 10-inch-class screen in a $299 slate, the display panel wasn’t half bad. In addition, the tablet performed reasonably well on our benchmark tests, the most impressive result being its nearly 14 hours on our demanding battery-rundown trial.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 (Modes)We also liked the Yoga Tablet 10’s built-in sound system. Couple the speakers with its decent display panel, and this Yoga plays movies well considering its $299 price tag. We should also add that Lenovo offers an optional, attachable Bluetooth keyboard dock (sold via its Web site for an additional $69.99) that allows you to use the slate as a sort-of Android-based laptop if you position it on a stable base.

Granted, the Yoga Tablet 10 doesn’t bring anything particularly new (aside from the kickstand and the positions it enables) to the Android-tablet market. But it’s well-built and attractive, and it performs relatively well—all for an on-target price.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo Miix 10 Review and RatingsTrying to shoehorn hardware that can run full Windows 8 into a thin tablet often requires significant performance compromises—especially in brute processing prowess. As a tablet maker, to create a slim, attractive device that’s easy to operate with one hand while you hold it in the other, you have to settle for a tablet-grade processor. By far the most common of these to date in Windows tablets have been Intel’s Atoms, which can run on much less power than the average laptop chip. But, until recently, they put out performance that matched their power-conservative habits.

The chips typically do a decent job stretching battery life, though. Tablets built around Atom processors tend to last longer between charges than slates powered by Intel’s more powerful Core CPUs—often as much as three to four hours longer. And constructing a slate around a lower-power Atom processor also allows manufacturers to make less-expensive devices, like the subject of this review: Lenovo’s $479-list Miix 10, a tablet that comes in at a price point closer to those of Android-based devices.

Lenovo Miix 10 Angled ViewThe trade-off, though—and there’s always a trade-off, isn’t there?—is speed. The Miix 10 turned in a score of 0.53 on our CPU-centric Cinebench benchmark test, whereas full-Windows tablets and hybrid laptop/tablets built around Intel’s laptop-grade Core CPUs, including Lenovo’s own ThinkPad Twist, typically turn in scores four or five times faster. While it doesn’t feel particularly slow for basic tablet tasks, demanding Windows programs do lag, and some won’t run at all.

The thing is, though, because of some recent moves by Intel, it’s more complicated than that: Atom itself is evolving. Most of the Atom-based Windows tablets and hybrid laptops on the market when we wrote this (in late October 2013) were based on Intel’s “Clover Trail” generation of Atom chips. (Indeed, the Atom Z2760 in the Mixx 10 is the same Clover Trail chip powering most of the lowest-cost Windows tablets and hybrids we saw through much of 2013.) That CPU is much slower than a laptop-grade Core i5 or i7 processor, and it supports only Windows x86, 32-bit architecture, as opposed to the 64-bit architecture supported by the higher-end Core CPUs.

Where it gets complicated is with Intel’s recently debuted next generation of Atom chips, code-named “Bay Trail.” Hybrid laptops and tablets based on Bay Trail Atom processors are just now starting to hit the street, and if the first we saw is any indication, Clover Trail machines will need to head toward the discount rack, and fast. The vanguard model we tested, the Asus Transformer Book T100 is an 10.1-inch Bay Trail Atom-based Windows 8 hybrid, and it’s a killer value at $349 to $399, depending on its internal storage. As you’ll see in our test results, it delivered roughly twice the performance of the Miix 10 and its Atom Z2760 cohorts, and it blew them all away on battery life. The T100T isn’t perfect (for one thing, the touch pad is balky), but it rewrites the price and performance equation for low-end Windows 8 tablets and hybrids, and more models like it are imminent. The divide within the Atom ranks will get even greater in early 2014, when a version of Windows 8.1 will roll out that should allow Bay Trail Atom devices to support 64-bit processing.

Lenovo Miix 10 Straight-On View

Bay Trail or Clover Trail, there’s still a sizable performance difference between Atom tablets and Intel Core-powered ones, but the early Bay Trail models appear to reduce that delta by quite a bit. They are looking robust enough and price-aggressive enough to make the Clover Trails look like yesterday’s news.

This brings us back to the Miix 10, which doesn’t differ much from several other Clover Trail Atom-based slates we’ve looked at over the past few months, in terms of configuration and performance. As you’ll see in our Performance section, the Miix 10’s numbers were quite similar to the other Clover Trail slates we’ve tested. Its price, at least within the Clover Trail world, is also aggressive: At $479 list, it was a few hundred dollars cheaper, at this writing, than several competing Clover Trail Atom/Windows 8 models. HP’s business-oriented ElitePad 900, for instance, listed in early November 2013 for $699. But the 10.1-inch elephant in the room (the Asus Transformer Book T100T) seems poised to upend all of the furniture in Clover Trail’s den and crush it underfoot.

It’s not just the chip difference that’s shaking things up, either. Sometimes, a competing tablet costs more because it comes bundled with attachable keyboard cover or a docking station. In the case of the Miix 10, the combination keyboard dock/cover will cost you an additional $99 (list), bringing the total price up to about $580, which was on the low side for a Windows 8 tablet-plus-keyboard until not very long ago. But the clincher for the Transformer Book T100T is that the $350-to-$400 priceincludes a pretty good keyboard base that turns the tablet into a quasi-laptop.

Taken against its Clover Trail competition, the Miix 10 is a capable entry, but nothing much about it—appearance, battery life, or performance—sets it apart. We’d like it better with the optional keyboard case, but our bottom line is that this Lenovo is as middle-of-the-road as current Clover Trail-based Windows tablets come. It’s a decent tablet at a fair price, in the moment in time we write this. But similar Bay Trail models are poised to invade the Windows tablet and hybrid market, and if the first we’ve seen is any indication, they’ll be well worth holding out for.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

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