Design and Function – Hardware Designs that Affect Usability
When it comes to these two tablets, they are fundamentally very similar as they are both Windows 8 tablets with keyboard docks that have built-in batteries and full-sized USB ports. Here alone, these two tablets already put almost every other tablet to shame. Neither of these tablets sports a full-sized USB port built into the actual tablet, but rather on the keyboard dock. This is in contrast to the Microsoft Surface tablet, which actually has a full-size USB 2.0 port on the tablet itself. We believe this to be a fairly major drawback of these two tablets compared to the Surface.
The Acer Iconia W510
) has a mostly plastic housing which has a bit of a more modern feel. The plastic itself is pretty solid and does not necessarily feel cheap at all, even though it does have a bit of flex to it, which is necessary. It does, however, have a multitude of unique hardware features that make it a versatile PC tablet. First, it features a sharp and bright 10.1” IPS screen, which runs at a relatively low resolution of 1366x768 with multi-touch.
We would have liked to have seen 1080P, but that’s available on the more expensive W700
, which comes in at a more expensive $899 price point and features faster, more laptop-like hardware. The W510 also has a slew of expected features like an 8MP backwards-facing camera with flash and a 2MP front-facing camera with 1080P video on both.
It also has a microUSB port as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card slot for additional expandable memory, along with a microHDMI port. The Acer W510 also has a stereo speaker set built into two very thin slots on the sides of the tablet. This is all powered by a 27 Watt-hour Lithium Polymer battery, supported by an additional 22 Watt-hours (Wh) from the optional keyboard dock with a similarly sized battery. Do note that there are no official specifications for the $150 optional keyboard dock (included with this model of the tablet). The Acer Iconia W510 also weighs in at 574 grams and 1269 grams with the keyboard dock.
The ASUS VivoTab RT
) is very similar in terms of connectivity and hardware specifications. The first thing we must note, though, is that the ASUS VivoTab RT feels significantly sturdier than the Acer Iconia W510. This is primarily due to the fact that the entire body of the tablet as well as the keyboard is actually made from metal. This gives the tablet a very unique feel compared to the Acer Iconia W510 and many users will find themselves gravitating towards the feel of the VivoTab RT. This physical feel is very similar to their Transformer line of Android tablets which also feature metal casings and keyboards that add functionality and battery life.
(left to right: Keyboard Charging Port, Dock Release, Speakers, MicroSD Card Slot, MicroHDMI)
(left to right: 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack, volume rocker, full-size USB 2.0 port)
Just like the W510, the ASUS VivoTab has a 10.1” screen with a resolution of 1366x768 and similar IPS multi-touch display. The VivoTab RT also has an 8MP back-facing camera and a 2MP front-facing camera with 1080P video on both. The tablet also has a microHDMI port which is hidden behind a plug to make the tablet more aesthetically pleasing. The VivoTab also has a ‘quad-speaker’ setup with ‘SonicMaster Audio Technology’. Since the tablet does not have any flat sides, the speakers are built into the tapered edges/back of the tablet.
Bottom of the keyboard dock
Similarly to the Iconia, the VivoTab RT packs a 25 Watt-hour battery with a 22 Wh keyboard battery. So, the battery capacity is in fact quite similar to the Acer Iconia W510. The ASUS VivoTab RT loads all of this into a relatively lightweight package weighing in at 1085 grams with keyboard and tablet, while the tablet itself weighs in at just 538g, only slightly lighter than the Iconia W510.
In terms of internal hardware, as we stated earlier, the Acer Iconia W510 features an Intel Z2760 Atom dual core CPU and the ASUS VivoTab RT features an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core CPU. The Acer W510 packs 2GB of LPDDR2 while the ASUS VivoTab has 2GB of LPDDR3, which theoretically should give it more memory bandwidth. We will have to see how this affects performance in our follow-up benchmarking article. This VivoTab stock model comes with 32GB of flash memory, while this model of the Acer comes with 64GB. From what we have seen so far, a 32GB tablet turns into a 16GB tablet after OS install + ASUS Software and a 64GB tablet turns into 25GB after the OS install + Acer software. Since both of these tablets come with microSD card slots, a 64GB microSD or microSDHC card is almost a must for any type of media (music, movies, etc).
Both tablets require an (included) adapter in order to connect a full-size USB device directly to the tablet without the presence of the keyboard dock. This is something that the Microsoft Surface tablet does not have to deal with.Software – Stock Software and Differences on Windows 8
When it comes to stock software on both of these tablets, there are a few differences. The first and most noticeable one between the two tablets (and operating systems) is the fact that Windows 8 RT ships with Microsoft Office 2013 RT Preview. This gives you the ability to use Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote on the tablet, free of charge. It will eventually get updated to Office Home and Student 2013 RT once it launches. The regular Windows Iconia W510 has a pre-installed version of Office 2010 that requires a key to activate and use. This is Microsoft’s attempt to even out the disparity between Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT. Windows 8 RT currently does not have enough applications or enough support from developers to be used as a desktop Windows computer.
After this big difference is recognized and understood, one can see that Microsoft is pushing a few of the same apps across all Windows 8 devices. These apps are found in the first block of applications starting from the left. These are likely to be the most heavily used applications like Desktop, Mail, Photos, People, and Microsoft Store among many others.
Following those applications, you have the ASUS and Acer productivity and cloud applications. Each of the manufacturers has their own gallery application as well as their own camera application. They also implement their own cloud services in addition to the Microsoft Cloud also known as Skydrive. Personally, I would have preferred that these companies just used Skydrive as the primary solution, however, Microsoft now only offers 7.5GB of storage as opposed to the 25GB they originally offered to the first users of Skydrive (myself included).
Admittedly, there is some bloatware on both of these tablets even though most manufacturers had made quite a bit of headway with bloatware on Windows 7. Applications like HuluPlus and Amazon are found on these tablets as well as eBay. Admittedly, it is not difficult to remove some of this bloatware, but we would definitely like to see less of it rather than more.
In terms of browsers, both tablets ship stock with Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), which is designed specifically for touch. There is no doubt in my mind that IE10 is the best browser that Microsoft has put out, especially with the tablet in mind. This is most evident when comparing Chrome against IE10 on the Acer Iconia W510, since the W510 runs full-blown Windows 8 and allows you to install virtually any application you want. Because you can install Chrome, you can compare the two on the Acer tablet and see that IE10 is without a doubt more touch friendly with tabs showing up as small windows rather than hard to touch tabs at the top of the browser. IE10 simply has more gesture support for Windows 8 than Chrome, even though in our testing we found that Chrome was faster than IE10.
The ability to install essentially any application that we desire led to quite a few differences that affected the user experience in daily use. This leads us into our next section that covers user experience including both hardware and software.
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