Eight days ago I went through the five Kübler-Ross stages of grief in about 490 milliseconds as I watched my Surface Pro fall out of my backpack and kiss the concrete directly on the upper right hand corner. I didn’t even have to open the Type Cover to know that the glass would have made a spider proud. The Microsoft hardware designers should be happy to know that the machine still boots and is functional, but touch is not so hot when a swipe leads to a bloody finger. While I’d been eying the ASUS Vivo Tab Note 8 because of its form factor and pen support, I couldn’t really justify it because I already had an excellent tablet. By dropping my Surface Pro, I was able to justify taking the plunge on the ASUS.

While most people using the Surface Pro are using it 60% or more of the time as a desktop replacement, my usage had become more and more pure tablet. I’d still occasionally do development on my Surface Pro, but it’s hard to beat my Macbook Pro as the best machine for running Visual Studio. As a tablet OS, I very much like Windows 8.1 so was reading with the Kindle app, the Economist magazine app, web browsing, and doing a lot of email with the very good Windows 8.1 mail app. However, with the Surface Pro being a two pound tablet, I was wishing for something more portable and the Vivo Tab Note 8 has that requirement completely and totally covered. It’s wonderfully balanced and is very comfortable in both portrait and landscape with one handed usage. I especially like that the back is a “grippy” plastic. The word “grippy” is not right because it’s not a soft rubber but your fingers and hands do not slide around so you feel confident that you aren’t going to drop it. When my wife first held it she immediately noticed and said that the back was not as slick as her iPad.

ASUS has rightfully touted that the IPS high definition display is something special in the Vivo Tab Note 8. It’s plenty bright and can be clearly viewed at any angle. However, the only time the screen will be streak and finger oil free is when you first take it out of the shrink wrap. Even when I’ve cleaned the screen with those fantastic Zeiss Lens Cleaning Wipes, you can’t get all the oil off. At least if you recover the device after someone steals it from you, you won’t have to dust for finger prints because you’ll have many perfect samples on the screen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a touch device that shows the touches as much as this one. It’s not a deal killer but if you have a bit of OCD you’re going to be cleaning the screen all the time.

While there are other 8 inch tablets running Windows, the Vivo Tab Note 8 is the first to have a full Wacom stylus system and joy doesn’t begin to describe it. Long time readers of my blog know how much I love the combination of the pen and OneNote. Now I’ve got the small and convenient device for note jotting I’ve always wanted. I use a long discontinued but awesome Cross tablet pen, but I love how ASUS managed to integrate their pen directly into the unit so well you almost don’t know it’s there. The engineers deserve some extra pay for that design and Microsoft should really take a lesson on the next generation of Surface devices.

With the pen I have been alternating between OneNote Store app and OneNote desktop. I could almost stay in OneNote Store app all day long except that the narrowest pen width offered is just too fat for me. I know I don’t have good penmanship, the narrowest pen looks like I’m writing with a magic marker. With the new free desktop OneNote I get to have my narrow pen and the touch goodness so I’m happy.

One hardware feature I did find very slick was the USB miniport charger. Being the same kind of charging cable that so many phones and devices use, if you forget the cable you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one in any medium sized town. I do have to laugh that the actual plug unit is nearly twice the size of an iPhone wall device. I’ll be picking up an extra one from Apple to save space in my bag as I verified it works with the ASUS. One thing I would like to see on future devices is that the charging light is a little brighter. On the subject of power, I haven’t done any battery tests in the two days I been playing with the Vivo Tab Note 8, but I’ve been working all day and using the device like I normally would and I have 65% left.

With Microsoft relaxing some of the device requirements the Vivo Tab Note 8 is the first tablet that doesn’t have the home button (aka Windows button) on the bottom front of the device. There’s space for it under the ASUS logo, but it’s on the right side. Honestly, I would have preferred to have a traditional home button because when you need to use the device, you have to feel/fumble along the edges for the slight bump. I’m getting used to it but the design is still more awkward that it should be especially since the power button is on the opposite side and you’ll end up pressing that 20% of the time thus wondering why the device won’t turn on.

Something I’ve seen, but haven’t diagnosed if it’s a constant problem, is that when I woke the unit from deep sleep this morning, the device had some trouble. The screen stayed black and when it eventually came on the device was super sluggish. I was finally able to get into Task Manager and there wasn’t a lot of CPU activity so I suspect a firmware or driver problem. Coming out of light sleep and hibernation work great so I haven’t been able to fully reproduce the problem. If you have the same issue, I’d love to know so we can discuss in the comments what’s happening and how to work around it.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the machine and if you’re thinking of getting one I would give it a thumbs up. The device weight and size are perfect to be a real Windows tablet and the addition of the pen support means you’ll be productive and cool jotting things down in OneNote during meetings. While the Dell Venue 8 Pro has pen support, it’s not done by Wacom so the reviews haven’t been great. The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 looks interesting but without pen support it’s not a table. Only the ASUS Vivo Tab Note 8 has the best of everything.