Although tablet sales have exploded worldwide, creating a successful tablet isn’t such an easy task as it may seem. Alongside Apple’s iPad as the undisputed market leader, other manufacturers have to distinguish themselves from everyone else in order to attract buyers. ASUS’ engineers have successfully done this with their Transformer model, which enabled tablets to create useful content as well as consume it. A few months later, ASUS is presenting a new tablet with a somewhat different concept, which took us by surprise, so we eagerly got down to testing it.
If Transformer was a tablet that could convert to a netbook when needed, Slider is both a tablet and an ultra-portable netbook simultaneously. Whereas Transformer concentrated on user comfort when inputting text via the keyboard, Slider concentrates on maximum mobility with relatively frequent input. At first glance, it looks like a typical upper-class tablet. However, a good finish and an unusual colour choice announce something extra to an experienced eye. After a short while spent in looking “around” the device, it becomes visible that this tablet can be opened, which only serves to further fuel interest. After a less-than-swift deployment process, the mechanism clicks when the final position has been reached, leaving the screen fixed at an angle of about 60 degrees. Working with the device like this feels natural when you have a hard surface such as a desk at disposal, but its low weight and small dimensions make lap work unstable at best. Although the opening mechanism seems trustworthy (especially during actual opening), the fully opened position doesn’t seem perfectly firm, and we’d like to see a bit more tightening in this respect.
All remarks are crushed when the keyboard is opened, though, as Slider occupies very little room even when fully deployed like this. Of course, the main reason for this is the exclusion of a touchpad, which is rendered useless when you have a touch-sensitive screen. The keyboard is of acceptable quality, good enough for typing a longer e-mail or document. It’s definitely not your primary tool for everyday work, though, and less bending would have contributed to a better overall impression. Although relatively small, the keys are clearly separated, and if you’re familiar with blind typing, it’s very easy to get used to the new keyboard. Expectedly, Android environment shortcuts are also making an appearance, which might be confusing to Windows users at first, but only for a short while.
The outer edge contains a USB host port, which has to be commended in particular, as the lack of one was Transformer’s main flaw. The USB port acted flawlessly, working with mice and keyboards, and handling all USB disks, even HDD-based and NTFS-formatted, with ease. The edge also contains volume regulation buttons, as well as the power/lock button and the microSD card slot, enabling users to extend memory for up to 32 GB. There was even enough room left for a mini HDMI connector, one which is much more usable than a micro HDMI port, as the cables are much more widely available for the former. Next to it is a large charger connector, which suggests that there may be additional accessories available for the device in the future, such as a docking station. The speakers are hidden around here somewhere, and we can’t escape the impression that they had to be sacrificed for the higher cause. They are powerful enough for normal use, but we wouldn’t have minded them being a little louder. Whereas they can be comfortably used while the tablet is kept open, closing it results in the sound becoming supressed and warped, so don’t even consider using them for serious purposes in this mode - watching films may not be as taxing, but playing some of the phenomenal games Slider is capable of with this sort of sound just ruins the entire experience.
The box also contains the manual and USB-equipped charger for the tablet, as well as a very nice Targus carrying bag. The bag is done in a faux leather fashion and fits Slider perfectly, removing the need to search for a carrying bag that would fit your new device, as well as any worries that you might damage it in transport.
The screen is likely the most important bit of every tablet, and ASUS’ engineers know this well, so no compromises have been made in this respect. Everything that we said about Transformer applies to Slider just as well: IPS panel, excellent viewing angles, even better brightness under sunlight, pronounced colours. As for sensitivity, the screen responds to touch very well and precisely, making it a true enjoyment to work with. Camera specs are yet another thing common to both Transformer and Slider, with a 5 MP back camera for taking pictures and recording video, and a 1.2 MP front camera for video calls. Both work exactly as expected - satisfactorily as long as your demands aren’t too great. We have to say that we had our concerns about the battery department, as the new mechanism seems like it requires a lot of energy, draining the battery faster in the process. Luckily, this is far from true, as the battery capacity has been increased a little, totalling to a very nice grade overall on our test. Under full load, with maximum brightness, simultaneous video playback and download via Wi-Fi, it held for about four hours. Average use, including some music, a few YouTube clips, quite a bit of surfing and typing on a few occasions during the day, we got about two days on one charge, which is a good result.
Checking the operating system version resulted in a pleasant surprise. It was instantly visible that we were dealing with Honeycomb, but instead of the usual, default 3.0 version, we were greeted by the improved 3.1. This results in far fewer bugs, with everything running perfectly smoothly and no slowdowns even when the device was under maximum load. We were even more surprised after learning from ASUS directly that the system is about to be updated to 3.2 automatically, with no user action necessary.
The hardware platform is NVIDIA’s Tegra 2, as expected, the 1 GHz dual-core CPU of which meets every user’s needs, together with an excellent graphics card. Opening web pages, playing Tegra games, watching video with MX Player, editing documents in the excellent Polaris Office suite - everything is working smoothly and swiftly. Although some may claim that this is to be expected in this product class, reality has shown that this isn’t always the case, especially the first time a new concept is implemented, so ASUS should absolutely be congratulated for not letting us down. We did a round in the Quandrant synthetic benchmark, more for the hell of it than for any usable result expected; a result of over 1500 points is an excellent one, especially for a display resolution of 1280x800.
Our brief encounter with this tablet has left us satisfied. Although there are drawbacks, as ever, this is a high-quality product nevertheless, and one that has many imaginative new aspects well thought through and implemented. Slider is another device to join ASUS’ Transformer and HTC’s Flayer in proving that tablets can be good, mobile data entry devices, and not just simple browsers. If you’re wondering why ASUS would put out Transformer and Slider on the market simultaneously, the answer is simple - Transformer and its docking station cater for the netbook audience a bit more, whereas Slider is much more of a tablet. That said, you’ll actually be using Slider as a tablet most of the time, but when the need arises to type something, it will no longer be a bothersome and excruciatingly slow process, but a simple and streamlined one. Which in turn enables you to get back to entertainment more quickly, in form of Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds or casual surfing.
|ASUS Eee Pad Slider SL101|
|Chipset||NVIDIA Tegra 2 (dual-core Cortex A9 1 GHz, ULP GeForce GPU)|
|Memory||1 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage|
|Display||10.1" IPS, 1280x800, Gorilla Glass|
|Operating system||Android Honeycomb 3.1|
|Cameras||5 Mpix (front), 1.2 Mpix (back)|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, USB Host, Bluetooth, GPS, 3.5 mm audio jack|
|Size||271 x 176 x 13 mm|
|Misc||Attached Qwerty keyboard|
|Price||470 € (16 GB) / 535 € (32 GB)|