Designed for work and play, the Slider might be your dream mobile companion.
We’ve seen a wealth of hybrid Android 3.x “Honeycomb” devices hit the shelves this year, blurring the line between tablets and netbooks. the Eee Pad Slider’s party trick is that the screen slides back and tilts up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard underneath.
the built-in physical keyboard adds to the Slider’s bulk, as to be expected, but not so much that it’s a deal-breaker. the Slider is 17.3mm thick, with slightly tapered edges, and weighs in at 960gm. that makes it around 200gm heavier and 4.5mm thicker than competing devices such as the Motorola Xoom, Acer A500 and Asus Eee PC Transformer. Of course that extra bulk buys you a built-in keyboard, which makes the Slider an attractive option if you’re weighing it up against carrying around an Android tablet and separate Bluetooth keyboard.
if you’re after an Android device with a keyboard, you should certainly weigh up the Slider against the Transformer which is designed to dock with a keyboard that sports an extra battery. the Slider is thinner and lighter than the Transformer connected to its keyboard. to be honest you’ll find smaller, lighter and cheaper Windows-powered netbooks with better keyboards than the Slider or Transformer, which might be a better solution for road warriors. it just depends on whether you’re keen on the Android or the Windows environment. I’m not a fan of the current crop of Windows 7 tablets, but maybe Windows 8 will get it right.
I’ve tested a few Honeycomb tablets and I’m quite taken by the new tablet-friendly interface, but I’ve talked about it at length before so I’ll try not to cover too much old ground here. Running your eye down the spec sheet, the Eee Pad Slider has a lot to offer including;
– Android 3.1- 10.1-inch, 1280×800 IPS display with gorilla glass- NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor with 1GB of RAM- 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz only)- Bluetooth V2.1+EDR- 1.2 MP front camera and 5MP rear- full-sized USB 2.0 port, mini-HDMI, micro-SD, 40-pin USB port and combined headphone/mic jack
the full-sized USB 2.0 port will catch the eye of many people, as it’s a USB host which lets you hook up USB storage and peripherals. unlike the Acer A500, when you slip a USB stick into the Slider it appears in the Android system tray for easy access to the contents. You can also hook up a USB travel mouse, making it easier to interact with the tablet but obviously not always offering the advanced right-click options you’ve come to expect with Windows.
the 40-pin connector on the back is the USB slave connector which attaches to the supplied USB cable for connecting the Slider to a computer. You also get a USB-to-AC adaptor for charging via this cable, but you can’t charge the tablet directly via USB.
the next thing on that spec list that caught my eye was the IPS LCD display, which offers 16:10 aspect ratio and wide 178 degree viewing angles. It’s a gorgeous display and a welcome change to the mediocre screens I’ve seen on some Android devices such as the tiny Acer A100. the Slider offers vivid colours but also very white whites, helping combat outdoor glare. it also offers excellent contrast and viewing angles.
All up I’d say the display on the Slider is as good as the display on my iPad, but with the added benefit of scratch-proof gorilla glass. while the Slider is a fraction narrower than an iPad, it’s about 20mm longer due to the Slider’s 16:10 aspect ratio and slightly rounded ends.
so far, so good, but what of that built-in keyboard? You can’t access it by sliding the display up with your thumbs like most slideout keyboards. instead you fit your fingers into a groove above the webcam and lift the display, at which point the spring-loaded hinge raises the back of the screen while sliding back the front of the screen to reveal the keyboard underneath. the hinge feels reasonably sturdy but I can’t vouch for its longevity and I know a few people who’ve sworn never to buy another mobile gadget with sliding parts after bad experiences with slideout keyboards.
the QWERTY keyboard is around 80mm deep, taking up a little less than half the depth of the Slider. the display comes to rest at a 45 degree angle and there’s no way to adjust this, which is when the wide viewing angles come in handy. You obviously can’t adjust the display to avoid screen glare, but the 45 degree angle means lights directly above you or behind you won’t be visible (assuming your head is higher than the display so you’re looking down at it). the Slider is very well balanced in this position and doesn’t feel in danger of tipping backwards even when resting on your lap.
As someone who spends his days typing, I think the keyboard is the make-or-break feature on mobile gadgets. the Slider’s keyboard is a little cramped but I’m prepared to cut it some slack because I think Asus has done quite a good job considering the space restrictions, unlike the cramped keyboard on the Windows-powered Toshiba Satellite Z80 ultrabook or the disappointing keyboard dock for the Android-powered Asus Eee Pad Transformer. those keyboards are bigger than the Slider’s keyboard but I don’t think they do as good a job of utilising the available space. In their defence they do sport a trackpad, something that’s missing on the Slider, but the Slider’s USB 2.0 port lets you connect a mouse to compensate for this.
to be honest I’d rather type on Motorola’s excellent standalone Bluetooth keyboard than the Slider, but a separate keyboard obviously adds weight, bulk and cost to your portable productivity solution. I think the Slider finds the best balance between those three factors, but sacrifices usability. You have however got the convenience of instant access to the keyboard whenever you need it, without having to carry it around separately or worry that its battery might be flat.
considering all this I’d say the Slider is one of the best tablet/netbook hybrids I’ve seen to date, assuming you’re happy with Android. if you can’t live without Windows then take a look at something like the Samsung Sliding PC 7 series, although I’m still not a fan of Windows 7 on tablets (hopefully Windows 8 will finally get it right).
if you’re just after standard Android tablet then you’ll be put off by the Slider’s bulk – that’s fair enough and you should look elsewhere. but keep in mind the Slider is aimed at someone who really wants both an Android tablet and a physical keyboard. if this sounds like you, Asus’ Eee Pad Slider should definitely be on your short list when shopping for your next mobile companion.
– the Age
Asus Eee Pad Slider – best of both worlds