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.
The pearl-white version we reviewed picks up smudges and marks quickly, although they come off easily thanks to that same rubbery, leathery material. Also, the metal Asus hinge plate on the back is a lightning rod for fingerprints.
Typing on the Slider
Typing on the Slider feels a bit cramped for someone with large hands. Also, we noticed that although we thought we were pressing it each time, we missed the spacebar about once per sentence. On the front of the keyboard section, right past the spacebar, the plate curves up and becomes level with the spacebar. When typing fast, our thumb would strike the edge of the curve instead of the spacebar. Once we noticed this happening it was easier to avoid, but it still occurred more times than we'd like. A slightly different design could have made a huge difference here.
The keys are small, but for the most part accuracy isn't a problem. The keys depress just enough for a satisfying feeling of feedback. The lack of a touch pad takes some getting used to, especially when typing text and attempting to go back and edit portions. A tablet screen is certainly not the best tool for placing a cursor between letters in a word. Like the Transformer, the Slider keyboard has home, back, and menu buttons.
Overall, typing on the keyboard feels somewhat cramped, and it's not an ideal typing environment, but it definitely beats typing on the screen.
The Asus Eee Pad Slider is available in 16GB and 32GB capacities. The tablet takes advantage of a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of RAM, and also boasts 802.11n Wi-Fi, support for Bluetooth 2.1, a gyroscope, an ambient light sensor, GPS, a digital compass, and memory expansion via microSD.
The speaker, located on top side of the keyboard plate, provides adequate if unimpressive sound that could have used a higher volume threshold and extra bass. When the Slider is in tablet mode, the sound gets muffled somewhat thanks to the speaker's location.
The Slider ships with Android 3.2 and takes advantage of the improvements Google's made since the first iteration of the operating system, like smoother Web page scrolling and the ability to load files directly from a microSD card.
As with the Transformer, Asus has tweaked the Honeycomb interface a bit for the Slider, adding a cool background image of ice water, the relative level of which directly corresponds to the current battery life. Asus recommends turning this off though as, perhaps ironically; it drains the battery something fierce.
Asus MyCloud enables users to access free (for one year with the purchase of the Slider), unlimited cloud-based storage space in Asus WebStorage, remotely access the desktop of a PC or Mac, and access the @Vibe online music and radio service. MyNet lets you stream content to DLNA-enabled devices on your network, and with MyLibrary, Asus' book e-reader software, you can read and purchase new books directly through the interface.
Asus gives owners of the Slider a way to practice their newly minted keyboard skills by including Polaris Office, which provides an interface for editing Word docs, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint files. There's also a file manager interface that allows you to see everything installed on your storage drive or any removable storage attached to the tablet.
Asus includes an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel for the 1,280x800-pixel-resolution, 10.1-inch screen, delivering wide viewing angles and a high and vibrant brightness. The screen has a glossy finish and like most tablet screens is reinforced with Gorilla Glass.
|Tested spec||Asus Eee Pad Slider||Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1||Apple iPad 2||Toshiba Thrive|
|Maximum brightness||323 cd/m2||336 cd/m2||432 cd/m2||337 cd/m2|
|Default brightness||323 cd/m2||336 cd/m2||176 cd/m2||131 cd/m2|
|Maximum black level||0.34 cd/m2||0.3 cd/m2||0.46 cd/m2||0.24 cd/m2|
|Default black level||0.34 cd/m3||0.3 cd/m2||0.19 cd/m2||0.1 cd/m2|
|Default contrast ratio||950:1||1,120:1||939:1||1,310:1|
|Contrast ratio (max brightness)||950:1||1,120:1||942:1||1,404:1|
Camera performance is nothing we haven't seen from other Honeycomb tablets, especially first-generation ones, like the Transformer and the Acer Iconia Tab A500. The cameras are adequate but don't produce the vibrant images of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 or match the fine clarity of the Sony Tablet S' images. Also, good luck taking pictures in low-light situations, since, as mentioned before, there's no LED light on either camera.
The battery drained about 50 percent every 5 hours under periodic use. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video battery life (in hours)|
|Asus Eee Pad Slider||7.7|
The Asus Eee Pad Slider is available for $480 for the 16GB model and $580 for the 32GB model. It's a tablet with a unique and useful sliding keyboard feature that gives the device the girth of a small laptop. If you're looking for a pure tablet experience, this isn't it and you'd be better off with the slimtastic Sony Tablet S or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer with the keyboard attachment earned its extra thickness by providing a more spacious keyboard, a touch pad, and an extra battery. Plus, you could at any time remove the keyboard and just walk around with the tablet itself. Thanks to its girth and weight, the Slider feels bulky and slightly unwieldy to carry compared with other tablets.
However, if the idea of typing on a tablet screen keeps you up at night, you'd still like to benefit from most of the advantages of using a tablet, and you don't mind not being able to detach the tablet from the keyboard, the Slider is a worthwhile investment.