This will be a multi-part review that will focus on the different aspects of Windows 8 tablets and will be entirely written using these tablets. We will compare the two most capable tablets from both Windows 8 versions, Windows 8 vs. Windows 8 RT. We will cover the differences, similarities, shortfalls, and benefits of each platform while simultaneously comparing two of the largest Taiwanese computer vendors in the world, ASUS and Acer.

In this review we will be pitting the Acer Iconia W510 against the ASUS VivoTab RT. Both tablets are 10.1” tablets with very similar specifications and hardware capabilities. These two tablets will likely be the most popular among the majority of people looking for Windows 8 tablets that come with keyboards. If there is one thing we can say from the very beginning it is that both of these keyboard dock tablets really feel like touchscreen laptops with impeccable battery life. The difference between using one of these versus a touch screen laptop in most scenarios is marginal at best.

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In our review, we will be comparing the hardware, software, user experience, and benchmarks. We will save the majority of our benchmarks for a later date because at the time of this writing there really are no good benchmarks available for us to get a reliable and easily comparable benchmark across all platforms. We will, however, compare browser benchmarks as those are available cross-platform without any issues.

Hardware Affecting Software

In terms of hardware, these two tablets are very similar with one major exception, their processor. The ASUS tablet is running an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core processor while the Acer tablet is running on an Intel Atom Z2760 1.8GHz dual core processor. What makes these two so different is the fact that the 1.4GHz Tegra 3 is based on the ARM processor architecture while the Atom Z2760 is based on the x86 processor architecture. These two architectures have mostly stayed within their own respective camps, with ARM being mostly inside of low power devices like smartphones, routers, and other embedded applications. The x86 architecture is one that was originally devised by Intel and later on adopted by the majority of the PC industry as a standard for most personal computers and servers. For the last 20 or so years, Microsoft’s market has been primarily been on x86 based systems. This is applicable in both the PC and server markets where Microsoft has been present for quite some time.

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These two architectures have for the most part stayed out of each other’s own markets up until very recently. Microsoft, a traditional PC company, has recognized the growth of the ARM architecture into the consumer space and has worked with ARM vendors to try to release a version of Windows that works on ARM. The real truth is that Microsoft is worried that ARM has seen a great amount of growth on the Android and iOS platforms and the tablets and smartphones using ARM may erode Microsoft’s market share if they have not yet already. There is a strong argument that many users are replacing their netbooks and Windows laptops with Android and iOS tablets.

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s attempt to cater to the new tablet market while enabling full Windows functionality that many users are accustomed to. They have done this by introducing a new tablet-friendly user interface (UI) across all devices. This UI was formerly known as the Metro UI which was ported from the Windows Phone platform with live tiles. This decision has been met with quite a bit of apprehension because it completely changes the way people interface with their computer. Frankly, Windows 8 is a fantastic operating system as long as you have touch; be it a touch screen all-in-one, a touch screen laptop, or a tablet like one of these.

Personally, I believe that Microsoft made the mistake of not allowing users to pick which UI they would prefer, be it the original Windows Desktop UI or the ‘Windows 8 Style’ UI. Nevertheless, the decision has been made and the experiences between different Windows devices have been modified, to a certain degree.

What has happened with Windows 8 on tablets is a rift between the Windows 8 tablets running x86 processors and the Windows 8 RT ones running on ARM processors. There are some serious differences between Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT and their overall functionality. We can see that Microsoft has made an attempt to unify the experiences but currently there are still some drastic differences that we will address in this review.