Review: Asus Vivo TAB RT TF600T

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My daughter returned in the beginning of last week from a 2.5-month long trip to South America to find her computer dead as expected (it was dead when she left), so it was time to go with her to buy a new computer.

Still from South America, she had already told me she had one thing in mind: a computer that can also be used as a tablet whenever needed. According to that instruction, I went around the shops here in the Tel Aviv area to see what was available and lose less time with her at the moment she was here.

Then last Tuesday, among others, I took her to the Asus distributor here to take a look at the Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600T, and this was the chosen computer.

(all the pictures in this article can be enlarged by clicking on them)

As you see, it is a small and sleek device, which can easily compete in size and weight with any netbook we are used to see. But it is much more than that.

The special characteristics begin with the fact that it runs on an quad-core ARM processor clocked on 1.3GHz, and it runs Windows 8 RT.... yes, the same one running on the Surface RT.

It is the first time I touch a device using Windows 8, and as well regarding Windows 8 RT. I was quite amazed to see how fast I felt at home with this computer. You see, even considering that during 2 days of the last week it was far away from me in Eilat, in the following day I was ready to begin writing this review in its original Hebrew version and even demonstrate it in video. Actually I can say that in two days I managed to get acquainted to it, to learn it, to solve some initial usage problems which needed to be solved, and finally, to love it!

So please let me tell you the full story, show you a movie, and give you the full specs after the break.

Hardware

This is the way the computer looks from the top. Two things immediately call for our attention, the camera and the big transparent label near it. 

The camera is an 8MP AF camera with flash, able to take great pictures.

The big transparent label is the NFC label of the device. That label identifies the device to NFC receivers. For what I have seen, NFC is being used in this device in order to quickly pair and share information with other devices. But I haven't seen any other application for it on RT at this moment, surely not financial apps or payment apps.

This is the NFC label in close-up. Don't remove the label, according to the manual removing it will stop the support for NFC.

Here is the right side of the device. We can see on the back the USB port used for connecting external USB accessories, and in the front the ear-plug and the volume button.

From the left, in the back there is the connector for the external power and the button to eject the screen from the keyboard. In the front (or top), we can see the MicroSD port with a MicroSD card in it, and the little door that occults a MicroHDMI connector.

Here is the MicroHDMI connector which is revealed when I open the little door.

In the picture above I have ejected the screen and I am using the computer as a tablet. The tablet has an internal battery sufficient to keep it working for 9 hours by itself. The keyboard, or the docking-station as Asus calls it, has its own battery, which adds-on to the tablet battery to give it an autonomy of up to 16 hours of use between charges.

Above you can see the hooking of the tablet and keyboad, at the side of the keyboard. There are two hooks and one connector which connects both functionality and power.

The hooks hold the connected device very firmly. You can shake it as much as you want, and as long as you don't slide the eject button, the tablet won't be released from the dock.

Here are the connections from the side of the tablet. two wholes for the hooks and one connector which can be used either by the dock or by the power source directly, in case we have left home without the keyboard and need to charge the battery.

Software

Regarding software, I believe that the best is to walk through the 28-minute video that I have recorded to demonstrate the device.

Please note that I talk about two tips in the video, one regarding the connection of the mail client with Exchange 2003, and the other regarding viewing video and using flash-based websites in IE in Metro mode. Both this tips will be completely explained after the video in the continuation of this article.

So here is the video:

So what can I tell about Windows 8 RT?

First thing: considering that this is a full-fledged computer running on a platform of a mobile phone, I can say that the result is brilliant! The UI is sleek, everything moves quickly and well, and I can do in it most of the things I can do in my computer.

Secondly: for almost everything that I have done with it, after I've done it for the first time with touch, it was almost impossible for me to go back to use a mouse. Gee, I didn't expect that..... I am an old dinossaur, and I expected I would resist more strongly to this change. But it is happening in front of my eyes, and it is surprising me.

Third thing: the thing that really makes the difference between this device and other tablets has a simple and well-known name: it is called Office 2013 Preview. Having a full, official version of Office in the device gives me the ability to do things with it that I cannot do in any other tablet, definitely not in Hebrew. But here, opening a Word document, an Excel sheet, a Powerpoint presentation or even a Onenote Memo is as easy as in every other computer or notebook. And this certainly makes the difference.

Fourth and last thing: I won't recommend this computer to anyone who needs to operate complex, heavy and specific software. It was not built for that. It was built having in mind people who most of the time use their notebooks and tablets to browse the web, receive mail, connect to social networks, see internet and mobile content, and use Office documents and files. For these uses it is perfect. But if you have to operate your own work's software package, do complex algorythms, complex software and specific demos with non-standard software packages, you should check for compatibility and also for performance issues.

Tip no. 1: The mail client and Exchange 2003

Well, I can't deny my past.... first thing I tried to do was to connect the mail client to the mail account in my SBS 2003 Server.... and it did NOT connect.

Tried again and no better results. And third time, with no better results. And then I understood it would be kind of dumb to keep doing the same and expecting different results.

OK, I admit, that was a moment of real panic. My first thought was that Microsoft, from the top of their Olympus, decided to discontinue the use of Exchange 2003 in Windows 8. Only the thought of it terrified me.

After some moments, I calmed down and began searching the Internet. It took me 3 minutes to begin finding articles which told me that I was temporarily right, that the first version of the client for RT did not know how to connect to Exchange 2003, but there was already an update available which fixed this issue.

So I entered the Store for the first time, found how to check for updates, and among the updates available for download there it was, the update for the mail client. I downloaded and installed all updates, and the issue got better.

Next obstacle, was the SSL Root Certificate. I use a private self-generated certificate, and found out that just as in Windows Mobile in the past, or just as I need to do in my computer when I desire to use RPC over HTTPS, I need to manually install my certificate in the computer. That was an easy task to do with my experience, and after some moments everything was running, email, contacts and calendar were downloaded, and everything was fine.

Tip no. 2: Videos on Internet Explorer

One of the main uses my daughter makes from her computer is to see all kinds of videos from all kinds of websites in Israel, Latin America, and all kinds of strange places. Well, 5 minutes after she sat down to see her first video in her new computer, she came to me. This time she was in panic, and told me she could not see any video in the computer. It sounded strange to me that this wouldn't work in a Windows computer, so I began to check.

Checked YOUTUBE - it worked.

Checked VIMEO - it worked.

Checked a number of other well-known websites with videos, like Facebook, Google+, etc - it worked in ALL of them.

Checked my own website www.mobilityfreak.co.il - it did NOT work, even though the video there came from YOUTUBE !!!

I understood there was something fishy in this story. According to the ADOBE website, support for flash is preinstalled in this computer. But something was troubled in viewing videos from specific websites.

Well, the internet never disappoints. A simple search for Windows 8 RT flash brought me to this list of articles on troubles with this subject.

Well, after some minutes of reading, I understood what was happening. I don't know if this was a political or a technical decision, but MS went the Apple way when it regards to our ability to see flash movies: it is practicing censorship on which domains we can see them from.

There is a file, iecompatdata.xml, which rules over the compatibility mode of Internet Explorer on Windows 8. One of the sections of this file regards flash compatibility, and it is a list of domains. Any domain presented on the list will work flawlessly with flash videos, and any site not presented on the list will simply not work.

Luckily, the same sites that explained the problem explained as well the workaround (which was found, as usually, by someone in xda-developers.com).

So here is the workaround. It consists of three steps:

1. Disconnecting the online automatic update of the compatibility tables from Microsoft (otherwise every time MS updates it all your lists will be erased).
2. Update the list in the iecompdata.xml file
3. Erase the browsing history

In details:

First we need to enter the Desktop version of IE, open the Tools menu and choose "Compatibility View Settings". This is what we see in the page which is opened:

Whenever we first see it, the third option is marked. We need to unmark this option to prevent from Microsoft to continue updating it and erasing our changes.

Now we need to find a file at the following path:

%HOMEPATH%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\IECompatData\IECompatData.xml

In our computer, %HOMEPATH% was actually C:\Users\username, (change  username to your user name). Sometimes the folder APPDATA is hidden, so probably you will need to go into the File View Options and tell the OS to present hidden files.

Well, now we know where the file is, we can open it with Notepad. You can either double click the file in the File Explorer or just search (using the Search charm) for Notepad and open the file from there.

Now search within the file for "/flash" to get to the bottom of the flash compatibility list.

You can add additional lines in the same format of the existing lines (<domain>domain-name</domain>) just above the </flash> line.

When finished, just exit and save the file.

Next and last step, we need to go into IE in the Metro UI and delete the Browsing History. 

Go into IE from the Metro UI, then pull the Charms overlay, choose settings, then Internet Options, and click the first button which says Delete Browsing History.

That's it, you are ready to go.

All this process was found at the REDMOND PIE website.

Too complicated
Well, in another website called NEOWIN, a user called DROIDKID also got furious on how complicated it was, and decided to put an end to it. He wrote a command-line utility that makes all these operations, whenever you need them, with 2 or 3 clicks.

You can download Neowin's command-line utility from this link and copy it to your computer. Than attach a shortcut to it either in the Desktop or in the Metro UI, and you are ready to go.

Tip no. 3: The Store 

First time I opened the store, in every category there were 2-3 applications only. That was very strange for me considering that I had information which said that there are more than 100,000 apps in the store. So what was happening?

After some seconds, I noticed that all the applications listed were in Hebrew. So I came to the conclusion that the store was only presenting applications which worked in the language my default UI was set to.

I went into the general settings of my PC, changed the UI language to English (by downloading the English language and setting it as the first language in the language list. It comes out that the first language is the UI default language.

After doing that, I was presented with the many thousands of applications that I was expecting to see.

 

Conclusion

Windows 8 RT notebooks/tablets can easily substitute the old generation of Netbooks which is still in the market. The devices are sleeker, lighter and thinner, the OS runs better, and the screen has a greater resolution and quality than it had in these old netbooks. Every user using mainly email, internet, office, multimedia and VOIP will find in these new devices the perfect companions for their daily lives.

The problem is still in price: the devices being substituted (netbooks), cost in general around the $300, while you will find these new hybrids on a pricepoint of $499-$599. This is too expensive for the use being made of it, and I believe prices will go down in the next months.

However, the Asus Vivo Tab RT is a very well projected computer, with everything in the right place, great for everyone who makes the average use of notebooks and netbooks, without any special and hardware specific software needs.

It got a gold-medal in my Hebrew website www.mobilityfreak.co.il, and I truly recommend it.

 

Next, the full specs of this computer as they were found in the www.pdadb.net website and confirmed by Asus.

Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600T Specs

 
Release-Date: October, 2012
Dimensions: 263 x 170 x 9.4 millimetres
Mass: 525 grams (battery included)
Software:Environment
Embedded;Operating_System: Microsoft Windows RT 
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Microprocessor,;Chipset
CPU:Clock: 1300 MHz
CPU: NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L 
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Memory,+Storage-capacity
RAM:capacity: 2 GB
ROM-capacity: 29.8 GB
Display
Display+Type: color Super IPS+ TFT , 16777216 scales
Display-Diagonal: 10.1 "
Display+Resolution: 1366 x 768
Video_out: 1920x1080 (1080p) resolution
Sound
Microphone(s): mono
Microphone;Input: 3.5mm
Loudspeaker(s): stereo
Audio_Output: 3.5mm
Control_Peripherals
Positioning-Device: Multi-touch screen & TouchPad/TrackPad
Primary;Keyboard: Attachable QWERTY-type keyboard
Directional_Pad: Not supported
Scroll-Wheel: Not supported
Interfaces
Expansion:Slots: microSD, microSDHC, TransFlash
USB: USB 2.0 host/client, 480Mbit/s, OTG 1.3
USB A
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0
Wireless:LAN: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
   
Multimedia;Telecommunication
Analog:Radio_Receiver: Not supported
Digital:Media;Broadcast-Tuner: Not supported
Satellite+Navigation
Built-in+GPS-module: Supported
GPS_Services: Assisted GPS, Geotagging
Built-in_Digital:Camera
Main-Camera: 8 MP
Autofocus;(AF): Supported
Optical:Zoom: 1 x
Macro:Mode: Supported
Built-in;Flash: mobile light (LED)
Secondary_Camera: 1.9 MP
Additional+Details
Built-in+accelerometer: Supported
Battery: built-in
Battery+Capacity: 6760 mAh