Editor's note: As of May 2012, the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 is upgradable to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). For details on the advantages ICS offers over Honeycomb, check the Android 4.0 section of the Asus Transformer Prime TF201 review.
Thanks to their slim designs, touch screens, and light weights, tablets have taken off in the last few years as a popular alternative to Netbooks and, in some cases, even laptops. However, a tablet screen isn't the most ideal environment for typing.
By including a built-in keyboard, the Asus Eee Pad Slider attempts to offer a solution to this problem, but does the very inclusion of a keyboard defeat the purpose of owning a thin, light, and cool-looking media device?
Even more than the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which offers an optional $120 keyboard attachment, the Asus Eee Pad Slider is more or less Asus' admission that typing on a tablet screen sucks. This is made apparent by the Slider's inclusion of a built-in keyboard. It's not an attachment or an accessory; the tablet and keyboard are one and the same. Think of it as an oversize smartphone like the Samsung Epic 4G that allows you to snap a QWERTY keyboard out when needed.
From the front, the Slider looks like a typical tablet, but conceals all the really cool stuff underneath. Right above the 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, on the top bezel edge, is an arrow pointing up. Investigating further you'll find a groove on the top side of the tablet, just wide enough to fit a couple of fingertips in. When pulled up, the tablet screen slides back to rest at a 45-degree angle, revealing a fully functional keyboard underneath it.
If, like us, you're concerned that the hinge mechanism that allows the screen to slide back could wear over time, Asus had this to say about the amount of testing it's been put through: "The unit had to pass a total of 30,000 swing counts with the swing duration time being 6 cycles per minute during the test runs with the hinge torsion rate remaining in spec. Basically, this would equal a user opening [or] closing the Pad 20 times a day for right over four years and it remaining within the given spec. We believe the unit will be extremely durable over its lifespan."
Only time will tell how true that is, but it's good to know that Asus seems just as concerned as we are.
The Slider is made of two major parts, the top tablet plate and the bottom keyboard plate. The tablet plate is all black bezel and black chassis with a silver edge on three of its sides. This contrasts nicely with the pearl-colored keyboard plate. Asus has also released a version of the tablet that replaces the pearl-white color with metallic brown.
On the front half of the keyboard plate are the gray keyboard keys, each with easily readable light-gray text denoting its function. On the front edge of the plate are a large number of small ventilation holes.
Along the left side of the keyboard plate are a small microphone pinhole, the power button, the volume rocker, the reset button, and, toward the back, a microSD card slot. On the back edge huddled in the right corner is a 40-pin connector slot for power or connecting to a PC, followed closely by a Mini-HDMI port. Rounding out the connections along the right spine are a headphone jack and full-size USB 2.0 slot. On the bottom of the keyboard panel toward the top is a 5-megapixel camera lens; however, disappointingly, there's no LED flash accompanying it.
At 2.14 pounds the Eee Pad Slider is by far the heaviest Honeycomb tablet to date, not to mention the thickest. The fact that there's no way to detach the tablet portion from the keyboard plate is a bit of a bummer when you just want to leave the business behind and focus on the party.
|Asus Eee Pad Slider||Apple iPad 2||Acer Iconia Tab A500||Asus Eee Pad Transformer||Toshiba Thrive|
|Weight in pounds||2.14||1.34||1.66||1.52||1.66|
|Width in inches (landscape)||10.7||9.5||10.2||10.7||10.75|
|Height in inches||7.1||7.3||6.9||6.9||7|
|Depth in inches||0.75||0.34||0.51||0.51||0.62|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||1||0.8||0.8||1.1||1|
The rubbery, leathery back of the Slider's keyboard plate gave our fingers just enough grip that the tablet didn't feel as if it was about to slip form our hands at any moment. Also, the corners and edges are rounded just enough that we didn't feel them cutting into our palms, as we experienced with the Transformer.