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ASUS Tablet 600 Hands-On: Speedy Windows 8 RT, Incredible Endurance

On Monday, ASUS unveiled its Tablet 600, the first official Windows 8 tablet powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3, quad-core CPU. Unfortunately at ASUS's event, we were only able to photograph the slate and keyboard combo device from a distance and nobody was there to demonstrate all its capabilities. But today, Nvidia showed off the Tablet 600's key strengths and its ability to run Windows 8 RT, the ARM version of Windows 8, with great aplomb.

In a brief demo, an Nvidia rep showed us how quickly the Tablet 600 can move through menus and launch apps in Windows 8 RT. He also showed the benefits of docking two apps next to each other when he placed a weather report and a photo side by side. He was unable to get Internet access working on the Tablet 600 so we didn't experience Web surfing or the Internet-driven news app, but clearly the device is capable of performing those tasks easily.  

Right now, Windows RT is only capable of running Metro apps and the current build preview does not include Microsoft Office, which will come standard with the final build of the operating system (Windows RT only).  The real test of the Tablet 600 and its Tegra 3 CPU's performance will come when it can run games or compute-intensive tasks like video editing. No doubt that time is coming soon, and Nvidia told us it is actively working with software publishers to port their games and other advanced apps over to Windows RT. Our rep confirmed that there will be a Windows 8 version of the popular Tegra Zone app store of Tegra-optimized software, though it will run as a section of the general Microsoft app store.

We also expect the Tablet 600 to have epic battery life, as Nvidia said the slate itself will last through more than 10 hours of HD video playback, and that number will rise to 18+ hours with the keyboard dock attached.

Overall, we were struck by the beauty of the Tablet 600's 600-nit screen which, even though its resolution is only 1366 x 768, looked really sharp. When we looked at photos of flowers and other colorful subjects, the images popped as much as if we were viewing them on a a gorgeous AMOLED phone screen. We were also impressed by the way that the Tablet 600 blends together so seamlessly with its keyboard dock. Because the snap-in hinge is actually below the deck, the tablet looks more like a notebook than a slate that's just been slapped onto a dock. The raven black color reminded us more of an HP netbook than an ASUS tablet, which is a nice departure from all the champagne-colored ASUS tablets we've seen lately.

We were also pleased to see that the Tablet 600 has a USB port on the side of its dock. That means it can connect with just about any Windows peripheral you throw at it, from a printer to a barcode reader, because all the common drivers are the same between Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 for x86 processors.

We look forward to really putting the ASUS Tablet 600 through its paces sometime closer to its launch. In the meantime, check out the photos and video to get a closer look.