Hybrids are always a tricky proposition. The Asus Eee Pad Slider is one such beast, grafting a keyboard under a touch tablet, which, with a little bit of help, "slides" out from under the tablet propping it up monitor style.
It works, for the most part. Asus has done well with the space afforded to it by the keyboard, although typing is still a cramped affair, and you'll want to make extra sure that you've struck each key solidly to avoid typos. It's still faster than typing with a virtual keyboard, and after a brief period of adjustment it's not too bad an experience.
One side effect of the physical keyboard is once it has been "slid" out, the screen is locked, with no adjustment able to be made. This can be particularly vexing when looking for the best angle to avoid glare.
The same keyboard issues arise with the Slider as they do with the Transformer when using its accessory keyboard; many apps simply aren't designed for physical input, as is evidenced by the lack of keyboard shortcuts taken for granted on PC. Using shift in combination with the arrow keys, for example, doesn't highlight text in all apps. You can't skip words using CTRL arrow, and you can't go to the top of a document by pressing CTRL Home. Pressing Enter often doesn't equate to hitting the OK button. Finally, just like the Transformer, Asus has failed to include a delete key on its keyboard. This isn't actually too big a deal — as one of our astute readers pointed out on the Transformer review, SHIFT + DEL gets you the same effect. We're hoping the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android will bring universal keyboard shortcuts to make the experience more palatable.
Slide the keyboard away, and you have a standard 10.1-inch, Tegra 2-powered Android tablet, albeit a bit thicker. Just like the Transformer, Asus uses a 1280x800 IPS screen for the best viewing angles.
Even though there's a mini-HDMI port here, as with almost all consumer devices don't expect a cable to be included — you're on your own here. Just don't get fooled by a sales assistant into thinking a 1-2m cable will cost any more than AU$10 — hit eBay and you'll find a variety of cheap options at your fingertips.
Asus has included a microSD card reader as well, and its power supply is detachable from its cable, one end USB, the other end proprietary. Like other tablets, the Slider won't charge over USB — this is for file transfer only.
The Slider also manages to stand apart in its software bundle. Included is Polaris Office (lacking all the keyboard shortcuts we mentioned earlier, and oddly has no interface to Google Docs); the wonderful Super Note, an app backup tool; a video editor called Movie Studio; cloud storage, a remote desktop app for Windows and OS X; and a DLNA media streamer that lets you send content to different devices. Custom weather, date and mail widgets help the device have a slightly different feel, and Asus' floating ice cube live wallpaper is back, too, dynamically adjusting the water level to reflect the remaining battery life. For those interested in video calls, Skype works perfectly.
Turning off power-saving options and playing back an XviD video with RockPlayer saw the Slider battery last around eight hours, more than the Transformer if you get the non-keyboard-dock version. It's an impressive score for a heavy load test — casual use should see it last days, if not weeks, between charges, depending on workload.
The Slider is another excellent device from Asus, proving that the Taiwanese company makes the best Android tablets in the market. If the cramped nature of the keyboard doesn't suit, it still has you covered with the Eee Pad Transformer and keyboard dock. Personally, though, we can't wait for the successor, which we're dearly hoping will have 3G.
The Eee Pad Slider is available for AU$649 for the 16GB model, and AU$749 for the 32GB.