There are a myriad of Android tablet PCs out there. Motorola, Samsung, Toshiba, Acer, they all have one (at least), and there are more on the way. The problem is that they all, more or less, look the same. However, ASUS is trying something a little different.
Enter the ASUS Eee Pad Slider.
At first glance, it’s YAAT (Yet Another Android Tablet), but upon closer inspection, there’s a keyboard hidden behind the screen that slides out (hence the name) to give you something more akin to a netbook.
Does it bring the best of both worlds? Read on to find out!
We’ve seen this all before in other Android tablets: an NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC with a dual-core CPU clocked at 1GHz, 1GB of RAM, WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, 16/32GB of internal storage expandable by up to another 32GB via microSD, 3.5mm audio jack.
A mini HDMI and a full USB port are nice additions, but neither are new or unique to the Slider.
What really makes it stand out is the hidden slide-out keyboard, but more on that later.
All of this fits into a 273mm x 180.3mm x 17.3mm and weighs 960g.
For those interested, the iPad 2 is 8.6mm thick and weighs 600g, but lacks a keyboard. The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer with the keyboard attachment measures somewhere in the high 20’s (in mm) in terms of thickness, and weighs around 1.3Kg.
AnTuTu benchmarks gave the Slider a score of 4775.8 (averaged over 5 runs), which is nipping at the heels of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (4782.6), while keeping just ahead of the Transformer’s 4762.2.
Design and build quality
ASUS has mostly stuck with the colour scheme of the Transformer – the keyboard part is mostly bronze, though the bottom of the back along with the screen edges are silver for some reason. The entire body is plastic, though it doesn’t feel like the cheap stuff.
The back is bare except for the 5 megapixel camera at the top, while the front is all screen except for the 1.2 megapixel camera at the top.
On the left side of the Slider (when held in landscape orientation), you’ll find the microSD slot, a sunken reset button, the volume rocker and power button. We’re not entirely sure why ASUS felt it necessary to include a hardware reset button, but thankfully they did see fit to make it difficult to press.
In our use, we only ever managed to press the reset switch when we were trying to (and we only pressed it when trying to find out what it did). The volume rocker and power buttons are, unfortunately, easier to inadvertently press, and we did do so, especially in the beginning. Reversing the placement of the buttons and microSD slot would have been better in my opinion.
On the right side is the 3.5mm jack along with the USB port.
The top holds the mini HDMI port as well as the proprietary charging/data transfer port. The charging port and cable are the same ones used by the Transformer, and hopefully this means that this is a standard that ASUS will stick to in the years to come.
Along the top of the screen edge is a little handle to help with sliding out the keyboard. Once you know it’s there, it’s easy to slide out the keyboard, but trying to do it in a different way is nigh impossible (as can be evidenced by an early hands-on at rAge). The whole sliding mechanism looks and feels quite sturdy.
Something completely absent is a notification- or power LED.
Overall, it’s a clean and simple design with only some minor problems with the button placements.
Screen and responsiveness
Watching movies and videos, reading (and writing) articles, and gaming were all pleasant enough on the 10.1″, 1280×800, 10-point multi-touch display. Image quality, and responsiveness were both excellent in use.
However, there was quite a bit of noticeable light bleed on the bottom, top, and right side of the screen. Obviously it gets more noticeable depending on the darkness of the room and the elements being displayed. Whether this is an issue with just a few units (of which our review unit was one) remains to be seen. Whether it’s a deal breaker depends on each person and their usage. In typing out this review, it was never an issue, but when watching movies or videos it can become a little distracting.
Sound quality was a little bit mixed. With the keyboard tucked away, things were a little soft. Flick out the keyboard, and the quality becomes oodles better than before.
One thing worth noting here is that the sound did bomb out once. A quick logcat (a command used to view system debug output) revealed that there was indeed an internal issue, but a reboot fixed the problem in user-land. We suspect it was due to the crazy amount of cables used at the same time to test various features.
The rear-facing 5MP camera actually took some good shots, though they did become quite grainy in even slightly dim situations. Video recording was more or less the same – good in lit areas, but grainy in darker lit scenarios.
The 1.2MP front-facing camera is nothing spectacular (as can be expected), but it’s good enough for video conversations.
In daily use involving browsing, reading, some light gaming, and typing out a few paragraphs, the battery lasted around two days.
In our usual video loop (where we set the screen brightness to around 65% and keep WiFi on), the battery went for about 7.5 hours, which is fairly close to the advertised limit of 8. This also places the Slider at the top of our battery chart (for Android tablets), with the Samsung Galaxy Tab and ASUS Transformer trailing close behind at 7 hours.
The keyboard on the Slider has 5 rows of slightly spaced keys. This means that it lacks the top row of toggle buttons on the Transformer’s keyboard, though it does attempt to make up for it by offering some quick functions as secondary functions on other keys.
There are still some handy Android-specific keys on the keyboard. “Home” and “Back” are to the left of the spacebar, while “Menu” is to the right of the spacebar. The “Search” key can be found all the way on the right, by the arrow keys.
The keys are spaced evenly and have just enough resistance to make it easy to type, while still allowing you to know that you’ve pressed them.
If the keys are smaller than on the Transformer, then they aren’t by much, but even so I found it much more challenging to type out longer documents on the Slider than on the Transformer without making mistakes (mostly in the form of missing letters, not incorrect ones).
If this were a contest between the Transformer and Slider keyboards, I would pick the Transformer. The Transformer has the extra row of useful keys that also allows the back button to be placed in the more familiar position of top left corner (where Escape would be on a regular keyboard), not to mention the addition of the bottom stretch that contains the trackpad and has some space for your palms to rest on. However, the Slider does win out in terms of compactness.
The Slider runs Android 3.1 out the box, but it is upgradable to 3.2. According to ASUS SA, the update is rolling out already, though our device hadn’t received it yet by the time of publication. There’s no official word on whether the Slider will be getting the next iteration of Android (Ice-Cream Sandwich), though judging by ASUS’ commitment thus far with updates, I am hopeful that it will get the update if it is possible.
As with the Transformer, there’s a lot of software pre-installed on the Slider.
Kindle, Zinio, and Press Reader take care of your books, magazines, and newspapers respectively. MyLibrary aggregates most of that content quite nicely, giving you a central place to go to if you’re in your reading mood.
MyNet lets you share and view shared media on your network.
MyCloud gives you access to ASUS’ cloud products which includes free storage for a year (complements of ASUS WebStorage), a remote desktop applicaton, and @Vibe – an Internet streaming service that doesn’t seem to be operating in South Africa (we tried to use it and just got “Service not available” in rather large letters).
There’s the same file manager application as on the Transformer – it’s still not particularly good looking, but it’ll get the job done.
For office-type things there’s Polaris Office. There’s little to complain about here, as it is quite fully featured and it’s nice to have a decent office suite installed right out the box.
Lastly, there’s Spider Man. It’s not listed anywhere in the spec sheet for the Slider, but it was on our device and couldn’t be removed even with a factory reset. Unfortunately, the game requires you to download a substantial amount before you can play.
So what’s the final word? Is this a buy, or a skip? As one of my lecturers once said: “It depends.”
Some people want just a tablet PC and for that I still recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Others may want a tablet PC with a decent keyboard for those times when you need to type out long e-mails or maybe a document or two.
I’ve been thinking of the Slider as an open-faced netbook: the touch screen is always there if you want to quickly check or read something, and the keyboard is tucked away, ready to come out at a moment’s notice when you want to do some real work.
Personally, I still prefer the Transformer’s flexibility with its detachable keyboard, but I know there are people who may find it more of a hindrance than a help, and that’s what the Slider is for.
The RRP for the 16GB WiFi ASUS Eee Pad Slider is R5,999, which is about the same as that for the Transformer + Dock.
In closing: if you’re looking for a tablet/netbook device, the ASUS Eee Pad Slider is worth considering.