We've long berated Android tablets for being "me too" devices. Aside from a few small differences, most of these tablets have the same sized screen with the same resolution, run virtually identical software, and have a very similar feature set and user experience. ASUS at least seems to be trying to buck this boring trend with the Eee Pad Slider, a 10.1in Android tablet that has a built-in, slide-out keyboard.
ASUS Eee Pad Slider: Design, keyboard and display
ASUS is no stranger to new designs. It's Eee Pad Transformer tablet gave Android users the option of attaching a separate physical keyboard. The Eee Pad Slider is a slight variation of that but goes one step further by building the keyboard into the tablet itself.
For users who can’t live without a keyboard, the Eee Pad Slider initially seems like a handy proposition. You don't have to shell out extra money for a keyboard, nor do you have to worry about detaching and attaching it. Simply lift the screen from the top and the keyboard slides open underneath: the screen is propped up at a nice angle when it's opened, too, which negates the need for a stand if you want to watch videos.
The catch with the ASUS Eee Pad Slider, however, is that building the keyboard into the tablet has resulted in a very bulky tablet. At 17.3mm, the Eee Pad Slider is thicker than many ultraportable notebooks and it's also by far the heaviest Android tablet on the market at 960g: by comparison the iPad 2 weighs just 601g. The extra weight and bulk means the Eee Pad Slider is uncomfortable to hold for a long period of time and also a burden to carry around with you.
The ASUS Eee Pad Slider's five-row keyboard is also small and cramped: there is only a small amount of space between each key which makes fast typing a little frustrating. Though it's fine for typing the odd short e-mail or chat message, those who expect to comfortably type up multiple paged documents are likely to be disappointed. The sliding design of the tablet doesn't allow the angle of the screen to be adjusted when it's opened, either.
Things don't get much better when you take a close look at the design of the ASUS Eee Pad Slider. Opening the screen to slide out the keyboard is a clunky process and difficult to do single-handedly. The screen wiggles from side to side, both when closed and opened. The rear case creaks when pressed, especially near the edges. The ribbon cable connecting the screen to the keyboard is also visible when the tablet is opened: though we don't expect it to be damaged in this position, there's something that doesn't sit right about such an exposed cable.
To be fair, there are a few things we really liked about the ASUS Eee Pad Slider. Its larger footprint has resulted in plenty of ports: the tablet has a full sized USB port, a headphone jack, a mini HDMI-out port, a proprietary ASUS port for connecting accessories, and a microSD card slot for memory expansion. It comes in 16GB ($649) and 32GB ($749) models.
The ASUS Eee Pad Slider's screen is also impressive. It's an IPS, LED-backlit panel with a resolution of 1280x800 and it's coated in Gorilla glass. It may not offer anything new or noteworthy over its competitors, but the display is bright and clear. It doesn't perform too well in direct sunlight, but it's no better or worse than almost every other Android tablet currently on the market.
ASUS Eee Pad Slider: Software and performance
Form factor aside, the ASUS Eee Pad Slider offers all the features and functions of most other Honeycomb Android tablets. It runs the latest available version of Google's Android 'Honeycomb' software, 3.2. ASUS has already confirmed the Eee Pad Slider will be upgraded to Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' early in 2012, too.
Though the Honeycomb version of Android isn't as slick or stable as the iOS platform that powers Apple's iPad, it remains a decent package overall. The ASUS Eee Pad Slider supports Flash Web browsing (unlike the iPad), has a built-in GPS receiver, connects to a wireless Internet connection through Wi-Fi and the full-sized USB port means you can connect devices like digital cameras to the tablet. There were a few times during testing when we discovered a bit of lag (most notably in the Web browser) but performance was generally snappy.
The Eee Pad Slider has two digital cameras on board, though neither takes notable photos. There's a front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera that acts as a webcam for video calling, and a 5-megapixel camera on the rear that takes still photos and records 720p HD video. The ASUS Eee Pad Slider is a Wi-Fi only tablet, with no 3G connectivity available.
The software powering the ASUS Eee Pad Slider is largely a 'vanilla' version of the Honeycomb OS, though ASUS has included its Waveshare UI. This adds a handy file manager, a MyCloud storage app, a MyLibrary books app, and a MyNet app for streaming multimedia content via DLNA. The MyCloud app offers one year of unlimited cloud storage. ASUS also includes a few attractive "MyZine" e-mail, calendar, clock and weather widgets, though we found these made scrolling through home screens sluggish and choppy.
ASUS claims the Eee Pad Slider's battery will last eight hours, but we managed a little over five hours in most cases before the battery ran out of juice. This isn't a great result, so you'll more than likely need to carry the charger along with the tablet. Keep in mind the Eee Pad Slider charges through a proprietary port, though this means it charges must faster than a standard micro-USB connection.