You know how ASUS started with one Transformer tablet and then quickly grew that line to, like, half a dozen models? Yeah, well, the company's about to do the same thing for Windows 8 slates. The outfit already announced the VivoTab and VivoTab RT, and now it's about to start selling the VivoTab Smart, which comes with an optional cover. Yes, very similar to that smart cover. The difference, though, is that the "TransSleeve" here doesn't just protect the screen; it also doubles as a stand. Just fold it up, origami-style and you can rest the tablet against it without worrying about it toppling over. As it happens, we stumbled across it at a CES-related event here in Las Vegas, so naturally, we gave it the hands-on treatment. Follow past the break for the full spill.
Asus VivoTab SmartSee all photos
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The tablet itself goes for $499, but the sleeve costs you an extra $129. Don't worry, though: you're not spending all that money just on a piece of cloth with a metal fastening strip attached. That $129 bundle also includes a thin, lightweight Bluetooth keyboard. It's exceptionally travel-friendly, as we found in our hands-on, but the keyboard basically marks a return to the netbook era. It'll probably be serviceable for pecking out emails on the go, but we wouldn't want to type anything long-winded on it; too little key travel, and too many cramped keys.
The tablet itself almost seems like it's beside the point, considering the real star of the show is that cover-and-keyboard set. Still, what kind of gadget blog would we be if we didn't give you a quick rundown? Though we weren't in a position to do a side-by-side comparison, the VivoTab Smart feels thinner and more compact than other Atom-powered tablets we've tested.
The design is also a surprise -- at least for those of us who've spent a lot of time testing ASUS' tablets. Whereas the old Transformer line was marked by its spun metal lids, this has a unibody polycarbonate lid, done up in white. It's similar to other gadgets you've seen, like the HTC One X, but it's new for an ASUS product, and we have to say we enjoy it. Other than that, the specs are pretty standard: dual 8MP / 2MP cameras, microSD expansion and a duo of micro-HDMI / micro-USB ports. As you can imagine, we very much hope to test one out soon but in the meantime, we've got hands-on photos and video which should hopefully satisfy your curiosity.
Steve Dent contributed to this report.