Windows 8 tablet showdown: ASUS vs HP vs Samsung

We compare Intel Atom-based Windows 8 tablets from ASUS, HP and Samsung to find out which one is best

The ASUS ViboTab 810, HP Envy X2 and Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T are all hybrid-style Windows 8 devices that can be used either as a tablet or as a notebook. They all feature the same CPU (an Intel Atom Z2760), they have 2GB of RAM and they all come with 64GB worth of solid state storage. Furthermore, they are all the same size — 11.6 inches — and they share the same type of form factor: the screen can be detached from its keyboard dock when you want to use it purely as a tablet.

Performance

If you're considering buying one of these types of Windows 8 machines, you should know that they aren't ideal for heavy processing loads. Because they use an Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, they have more in common with the netbooks of old than normal laptops that use more powerful CPUs such as the Intel Core i3 and Core i5. You can use these hybrid devices easily for browsing the Web and watching locally-stored video files, and even for office tasks such as word processing. Multitasking is a breeze when you're using these basic applications, but bear in mind that the performance will vary depending on what you are viewing on the Web, too. Pages with Flash elements (be it video or ads) can be very slow at times, and when the CPU needs to be used to process other functions, such as the on-screen keyboard and other touch commands, Web pages can become completely unresponsive.

We noticed this with all three of these hybrid devices, but we quickly learned what we could and couldn't use them for. In the end they become quite enjoyable to use as devices on which to experience music, images, video files and most Web pages. Because they run Windows 8, you'll also be able to run many games from the Windows Store, which can provide hours of fun. We particularly enjoyed platform games such as Agent P Strikes Again, racing games such as Riptide GP and basic puzzle games such as Blocked In. The list of games is growing so you are sure to find some stuff in the store that you'll like.

In our tests, we found the HP Envy X2 to be the most sluggish of the three hybrids, primarily when it came to browsing the Web and viewing streaming video. So as far as performance is concerned, you can't go wrong with the ASUS or Samsung units.

Ranking 1. Samsung; 2. ASUS; 3. HP

Screen

All three tablets have a multi-touch touchscreen that's responsive and fairly vibrant, and which features a native resolution of 1366x768. Because they all have protective glass on the front, they also suffer a lot from reflections. You'll have to put up the brightness when using them outdoors or in a room full of light. The HP and Samsung screens suffered from some erratic automatic adjustment of their brightness, which was fixed in the Samsung when we disabled automatic adaptive brightness setting in the operating system. This didn't work for the HP though, which kept up with some slight flickering. We think the ASUS has the best screen of these three hybrids.

Ranking 1. ASUS; 2. Samsung; 3. HP

Pen input

Where the Samsung and ASUS hybrids have an advantage over the HP is in the area of pen input. They both come with a digitiser pen that allows you to easily write and draw on the screen. Handwriting recognition allows you to enter text into documents by writing rather than typing with the on-screen (or physical) keyboard and there are a few drawing programs that you can use if you want to have some fun doodling, or if you want to keep the kids entertained. For the HP, a pen is an optional extra.

The Samsung tablet has been designed with a slot to accommodate the pen. The ASUS tablet doesn't have a pen slot, which means you'll have to make other arrangements for its safe keeping, such as using the supplied sleeve (thanks to reader Keith Dowell for this tip).

Ranking 1. Samsung; 2. ASUS; 3. HP

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, the tablets themselves don't have too much on them, but the Samsung is clearly the best of the three. It actually has a full-sized USB 2.0 port on the tablet, which means you can easily plug in a USB stick or hard drive to transfer files. The HP X2 has USB 2.0 ports only on its dock, while the ASUS ships with an adapter that you have to connect in order to get a full-sized USB port.

All three have microSD card slots that allow you to boost the storage and all three also have combination headphone and microphone ports. The ASUS and Samsung also have micro-HDMI ports on them, but the HP tablet lacks a built-in video output port — on the bright side, the HP's video out port is a full-sized HDMI port on the dock.

If you're interested in the cameras on these tablets, they are all essentially similar. The front-facing cameras are two megapixels, while the rear cameras are eight megapixels and also have flash support.

Ranking 1. Samsung; 2. ASUS; 3. HP

Wireless connectivity

On the inside, all units come with Bluetooth, NFC and the HP and Samsung models also come with dual-band Wi-Fi. We couldn't get the NFC module to work properly in our Samsung test unit — it was enabled in the network settings, but Windows did not let us send anything over it — which is funny considering it's a feature that's pushed in the company's range of smartphones and Android tablets. The ASUS unit has only single-band Wi-Fi, which is a let-down as far as we're concerned.

Ranking 1. HP; 2. Samsung 3. ASUS

Docking

All of these three hybrids ship with a keyboard dock, which has a touchpad and two USB 2.0 ports built in (the HP also has video output here because it lacks it on the tablet itself and it also includes a full-sized SD card slot). In the case of the ASUS' and HP's docks, they also have a built-in battery that can be used to extend each unit's battery life.

We enjoyed typing on all the units and had no problems writing long documents on them, and all but the HP came with a touchpad that could be used effectively for navigating the screen. Indeed, the HP's touchpad was erratic and felt very cheap. We couldn't even get right-click operations to work a lot of the time. If it wasn't for this touchpad, the HP's dock would have won this round due to its ports.

It's worth nothing that the tablet part of each device is a heavy component compared to the dock and this means that each unit can feel top-heavy, especially when used on your lap. We found that it didn't take much for each unit to topple over when we used them on our lap and took our hands off the keyboard.

Ranking 1. ASUS; 2. Samsung; 3. HP

Battery life

Out of these three units, the ASUS and the HP are the ones that feature a second battery in their dock. In the HP's case, it allowed the unit to last a total of 8hr 37min in our rundown test, in which we maximise screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi and loop an Xvid-encoded video. For the ASUS, its two batteries combined to supply a total life of 9hr 36min away from an outlet.

You might think that the Samsung fares poorly in this test because it doesn't have a dual-battery configuration. However, if we just compare the times that each tablet recorded on its own, without the second battery, then the Samsung Ativ comes out on top. It recorded 7hr 24min in the rundown test while the HP and ASUS models recorded 4hr 27min and 5hr 11min, respectively. The Samsung also weighs a little more than the ASUS and HP models (they weight just under 700g compared to the Samsung's 760g), perhaps owing to a slightly beefier battery pack (in addition to the built-in USB port and digitiser pen).

If you want long battery life without having to carry the dock around with you, which is the metric we are using for the sake of this comparison, then the Samsung is the way to go. If you want the best possible overall battery life, go for the ASUS.

Ranking 1. Samsung; 2. ASUS; 3. HP

Storage

All three units have 64GB of flash storage built in to them, which performs at a similar level. CrystalDiskMark tests showed read rates between 78 and 80 megabytes per second (MBps) for each unit, and write rates between 21 and 35MBps. The slowest drive was the ASUS, the HP was the fastest and the Samsung was the piggy in the middle. The 64GB of storage in the ASUS has a usable formatted capacity of 49.9GB, which isn't all that much. It's a tad lower than the 51.4GB formatted capacity that was reported in the Samsung and the 57GB formatted capacity that was reported in the HP.

All three units have microSD slots so that you can add a bit more storage when you want to carry more video or music files, and the ASUS and Samsung models can also be used with USB sticks and external hard drives without having to plug the tablet into the dock (although you will need to use the supplied USB adapter on the ASUS).

Ranking 1. HP; 2. Samsung; 3. ASUS

Conclusion

Overall, the Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T is best option out of all of these hybrids, mainly due to the fact that its tablet has a built-in USB 2.0 port and very good stand-alone battery life. It's also well priced at $999, which includes the digitiser pen. The ASUS VivoTab 810 is a close second though thanks to its better-than-nine-hour battery life when the dock is used, because it comes with a USB adapter and because it also has such a nice screen and digitiser pen. It's a little more expensive though at $1099. We don't think the HP Envy X2 is a good one to choose out of these three, primarily because it was too sluggish, and because the touchpad gave us problems and the screen flickered.

Do you own any of these hybrid tablet devices? Let us know what you think of them in the comments below.

Related Windows 8 laptop reviews:

MSI GT70 Dragon Edition gaming notebook
ASUS VivoBook S400C touchscreen Ultrabook
Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T hybrid tablet
Venom Blackbook Windows 8 gaming notebook
Sony VAIO Duo 11 Windows 8 tablet
ASUS VivoTab 810 Windows 8 tablet
Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (3347-3EM)
Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T (XE700T1C-A02AU)
HP Envy X2 hybrid PC
HP Envy Touchsmart 4 Ultrabook
Toshiba Satellite L850 Windows 8 laptop
ASUS Taichi 21 Windows 8 hybrid Ultrabook
Medion Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) Windows 8 Ultrabook
Toshiba Satellite U920T hybrid Ultrabook
Dell XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook
ASUS Vivo Book F202 touchscreen notebook
Acer Aspire S7 touchscreen Ultrabook

Alternative Windows tablet products

ASUS Vivo Tab RT Windows Tablet
Microsoft Surface RT

Tags notebooksWindows 8hybridslaptopstablets

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Elias Plastiras

Elias Plastiras

Good Gear Guide

1 Comment

Templeton

1

What about the ThinkPad Tablet 2?

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