Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

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 Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Overview

The burning question with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer prime release, as with any tablet, is this: is it better than the Apple iPad 2?

The immediate follow-up question is usually a bit less thrilling: can it beat the reigning champion of Android tablets, the super-slim and light Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1?

We’ll explore both questions in depth, but for those whole don’t like to wait around for the punch line, we’ll say that the super-thin and light Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime might just be the best tablet ever made.

But first, the basics – in the UK, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime will go on sale in January 2012. There’s only going to be one version over here, which is a 32GB SKU bundled with the keyboard,a charger, cleaning cloth, USB cable and earbuds.

This bundle will cost you £499, which is £70 more than the 16GB tablet-keyboard bundle that the original Eee Pad Transformer came in when it launched earlier in 2011.

The most important spec on the new Transformer is the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. Everything amazing about the Prime tablet rests on this quad-core, 1.3GHz chip.

HD videos play smoother (and longer, with up to 12 hours of battery use for video) than ever before. Games suddenly look fluid and dynamic, with water ripple effects, smoke, fog and explosions that mimic what you’d normally find in a PC game.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The super-crisp IPS display, which is similar to the one used on the iPad 2, is refreshingly easy on the eyes even in outdoor locations or with incandescent bulbs blazing around you.

The rear 8MP camera is a wonder of engineering. In several tests, HD videos recorded at 1080p looked smooth and clear, unlike the grainier results from the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Even the 1.2MP front-facing camera worked well for video chats, without the typical fuzziness of other tablets.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime also includes a free intuitive Asus webstorage app for offloading your files, and you can pop in a microSD card in a left-side slot up to 32GB each.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

All of the typical connection options are here: Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right and a micro HDMI port (also on the left) for connecting to an HD TV.

The 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm tablet is wider than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, although the screen, at 1280 x 800p resolution and 10.1 inches, is the same size.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

At 586g, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is lighter than the iPad 2 but a touch heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, although nobody will notice a few grams.

It’s also the thinnest tablet on the market today, bar none.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The 25Wh lithium-polymer battery lasts for about nine hours on a charge for normal use. Asus claims a battery life of 12 hours if you watch mostly videos, because of the way the Tegra 3 manages power.

The tablet comes running Android 3.2 Honeycomb, but Asus says it’s compatible with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, if you wish to upgrade when the update becomes available next year.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Features and interface

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Features

We said up front that we will answer questions about whether the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime beats the Apple iPad 2 and the leading Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Truth be told, some of the factors that will help you decide between the three similar tablets are subtle, yet important.

Let’s start with the hardware design. All three tablets look remarkably similar. An untrained eye wouldn’t know the difference between them.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Turn the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime over on its back, and there’s a silver back cover that looks much more durable than the white plastic back of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and grey back of the iPad 2. The front IPS screen, made with Gorilla Glass, is also durable and sharp.

There’s a proprietary charge port below the main horizontal screen on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. This is the same port you use to pop the device into the laptop dock.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

There are two extra ports that secure the tablet to the dock, and when housed that way, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime works reliably as a touchscreen laptop.

The dock isn’t ideal for long typing sessions, and matches the quality of other lapdocks such as the one for the Motorola Atrix 2. In other words, they are functional and provide a mouse pad, quick access function keys, a USB port and an SD memory card slot. But otherwise it doesn’t match the responsive typing of a regular full notebook computer.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Some of the port covers on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s dock are a bit hard to remove. For example, the one that covers the USB port might require some prying loose with a knife.

Overall, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is easy to handle. It’s wider than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, so is easier to grip, with a slightly wider bezel. But it seems a bit less portable for that reason as well.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The back is metallic and durable, but not exactly scratch or smudge-resistant, as we found out. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a bit more of a pick-up and go feel to it only because the Asus is wider and felt just a hair wider and longer.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Interface

Asus packed some choice extras onto the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, but generally stuck to the basic Android 3.2 Honeycomb user interface. In fact, there are just a few extra widgets for quickly reading your emails, seeing the weather forecast and controlling music tracks.

There’s a goofy app called MyZine that automatically adds your photos into a magazine-like layout, but it has a limited purpose and might be the first one you drag to the trash.

There are no extra app widgets like there are on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet for adding favorites to an app wheel or an app launcher. Frankly, these additions offer a nebulous value beyond the stock operating system.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus used a slightly modified treatment for the bottom row of icons. There’s a back button, a home button and a pop-up multitasking button that shows you open apps and enables you to switch between them. Here you can also click a small X that shuts down any open app to save memory.

There’s not too much more to say about the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s interface, because Asus kept things simple. There are no extra tools for storing apps like there is on the Toshiba AT100 (known as the Toshiba Thrive in the US), but some of those enhancements don’t really add to the value anyway. The simple core Android OS makes the Prime easy to use.

Market and apps

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Android Market and Apps

The Android Market included on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has been upgraded with a new interface that is surpassingly easy to use. Following the lead of the well-designed HP TouchPad app store, there are panels with rich photos that draw your eye and make you want to purchase more apps. The new look also mimics the Windows Phone 7 look, in that it is image-centric to draw the eye.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Of course, once you drill into the Market a bit you will realise that this glossy magazine-like front-end interface is just icing on the old cake – the Market works about the same as always. You can rent movies and television shows through the Market as you can on other recent tablets.

Where Asus scores extra points is with the included apps. It has quite outdone itself for this model.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

First, there’s a MyLibrary app for ebooks, magazines and newspapers. Then not quite as extensive as the Amazon Kindle Store (OK, far less extensive), the Asus @Vibe store, which is really just a portal to Versent Books, lets you buy major bestsellers such as John Grisham’s The Litigators.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Pricing is suspiciously the same as most Amazon Kindle store bestsellers. Some books were noticeably missing, including the latest Michael Lewis book called Boomerang, which is featured prominently in the Kindle store.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus @Vibe Music is a welcome addition. With functionally similar to the Google Music app, this music app works like Last.fm in that you can search for an artist and play their songs.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Each “station” lets you play random songs by that artist. The @Vibe store also lets you play songs you have purchased from the Asusvibe.com store, as long as you have used a supported Asus laptop or netbook.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus MyCloud is a handy cloud storage portal similar to Dropbox. You can use 2GB of storage for free, or pay about US$9 for three months of unlimited storage. Keep in mind, though, that the service limits file size to 500MB per file for the free account.

Also, while the app lets you offload files to the cloud, you can also access files on one computer that is sharing files through the service.

The Asus MyNet app works exactly like the Samsung Allshare service, in that you can set up a connection to and from another computer on the same router network to share music, photos and videos. We tested the app with a Sony all-in-one desktop PC and could easily share files between the tablet and the desktop computer.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime we tested also came pre-loaded with a wide selection of pre-release Tegra 3 games, including BladeSlinger, ShadowGun and Davinci THD. These titles will be available through an app portal called the TegraZone, and generally cost about the same as normal Android games.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

One important point to make about gaming on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is that the games look astounding – the best we have seen on any tablet. ShadowGun in particular uses water effects that look ultra-realistic for a portable device (although nothing like, say, Battlefield 3 on a console).

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The most interesting comparison we discovered was between the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime playing the same game, Riptide. On the Prime, the water effects were much more convincing, with waves flowing back and forth and whitecaps that change as you drive your jet ski.

At the same time, the Apple iPad 2 may not play games as smoothly, but there is a much wider selection of games, and many are arguably more in-depth. For example, the gameplay for Infinity Blade II on the iPad 2 is far more advanced, with magic ring power-ups, duel-wielding options and collectible gems.

Many of the games on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime are more like visual effects demos, with limited gameplay value.

Office

The Transformer Prime also includes the Polaris Office app for opening and editing word processing and spreadsheet documents. It’s completely compatible with Microsoft Office.

The app does add value, especially since competing office apps like Openoffice cost £9.99 or more.

Screen

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Screen

The 1280 x 800 resolution, 10.1-inch screen on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is sharp and easy to read.

We had no complaints reading an entire ebook on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and browsing dozens of websites. Finger swipes and presses registered accurately, and typing was fast and responsive.

Asus chose to use a Super IPS display for the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, and there are pros and cons with this.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is not as bright, colourful, or crisp as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, so if you plan to watch movies and view photos routinely, the Samsung is the better tablet.

In comparing the exact same videos and photos on both devices, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has a slightly dull and washed out look. The Apple iPad 2 looks marginally better than the Prime (they both use IPS displays) but not as vivid as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Clearly, Asus decided to make functionality a higher priority than superior colour reproduction.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime works better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in a variety of lighting conditions. There’s even a super-bright outdoor mode that makes the display easier to read.

There is much less glare on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which means the screen works better, for reading emails and books and for browsing the web.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Unlike some recent tablets, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime doesn’t use haptic feedback for the keyboard or for any parts of the touchscreen. Presumably this is a trade-off with the IPS screen tech that makes it easier to view the tablet from an angle or to view the screen in bright sunlight or by a lamp.

It didn’t hamper the experience of using the tablet, though some users might find that haptic feedback on other tablets gives you a tactile sense that the tablet has registered your finger press.

One surprise is that the screen uses an oleophobic fingerprint-resistant coating. Even more surprising is that it actually works. The chemical agent reduced grime and finger print build-up. We found that movie-watching was more enjoyable when there wasn’t a thin residue coating parts of the screen.

Usability

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Usability

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is one of the most user-friendly tablets we’ve tested, and matches up easily with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Apple iPad 2 in terms of portability, user interface and media playback.

Between the three tablets, the only major difference is that the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is just a little wider and longer, even though the screens are all the same size. That’s not a negative pronouncement, and in fact means the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is a bit easier to grasp for long web browsing sessions or for watching movies.

The original Asus Eee Pad Transformer felt bulky, overly thick and designed from a bygone age of Windows slates.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus skipped any dramatic interface enhancements and sticks to the basic Android 3.2.1 Honeycomb user interface. That means three buttons for navigating back, home, and to a pop-up app list on the lower left.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The newly designed pop-up menu on the lower left (which shows a taskbar for time, app downloads and open apps) is a pleasant departure, though. You can quickly see the Wi-Fi network you are using, your battery level and access settings.

There are three icons you can use to set the power level – eco mode, balanced and performance. You can also enable screen rotation, check Wi-Fi level and enable Bluetooth connections. There’s an option for setting the brightness level, or using auto, and enabling the outdoor brightness.

Otherwise, this pop-up then shows notifications about recent downloads, schedule reminders and email alerts. You can also view Gmail chat messages here. In general, the new design for this pop-up works remarkably well for controlling basic functions on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. The pop-up is well-designed as well.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

One gripe, though, has to do with accessories. Sure, there is a lapdock included as a bundle for the UK version. However, the Apple iPad 2 offers many more choices for docking stations, covers, cases and even microphones you plug into the 30-pin connector.

The original Asus Eee Pad Transformer didn’t become iconic in the sense that hardware accessory companies started making add-on devices for it. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime may catch on, but we doubt it will develop the widespread third-party support that the iPad 2 enjoys, or even come close.

The keyboard dock is helpful for a few purposes, though. For one, it adds another 8 hours to the total battery life (the dock itself can take a charge, and then charge the tablet.) The dock has a USB port and an SD port. Measuring 263 x 180.8 x 8 to 10.4mm, and weighing 537 grams, the dock is small enough to fit into a laptop bag, but is like carrying another tablet around all day.

And then there is the quality of the keyboard. If you’ve used a netbook before, you already know what this dock is like – typing speed suffers from the slightly cramped confines of the lapdock, but you get used to it after a while and it’s still easier than typing on the screen.

There are dedicated keys for changing brightness level, volume, and wireless, which makes it easier to control the tablet. When docked, you can use the mousepad or finger input on the tab. One helpful software change would have been to disable the mousepad when you type because the small size of the keyboard makes it easy to inadvertently brush the mousepad. In a pinch, the keyboard helps you type up longer docs but it in no way competes with a full notebook keyboard.

Battery life

For battery life, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime lasted about nine hours on a charge but of course with the extra 8 hours provided by the keyboard dock, that’s a battery span of 17 hours which is phenomenal.

Media

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Media

Our first experience with media files was a bit of a letdown. We download the movie Conanthrough the Android Market and were greeted by an error message. Asus said it must be a Google problem, but the same file and same Android version on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 worked fine.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Otherwise, all of our media tests were blazingly fast, smooth and played without any problems. One of the most impressive tests was for the Battleship trailer, which used a high frame rate, looked colourful and clear, and played in full 1080p resolution. Every video we tested played smooth and fast.

Music playback on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime also worked reliably and sound quality was excellent.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Like most tablets, the speaker on the Prime isn’t exactly state-of-the-art quality, and is only serviceable in a pinch when you absolutely can’t use headphones. Yes that is just the one speaker, instead of the two speakers we saw on the side of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

That said, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is just a bit louder than both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2 when we cranked up the volume, even if the sound quality wasn’t that great and sounded a bit distorted at times.

No tablet on the market has really exceptional sound, though, and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is in the same league.

We tested both H.264 movie files and those encoded as MPEG as they worked smoothly. This tablet does not support Quicktime, but the Tegra 3 does support H.264 1080p30/60i (HP @ 40Mbps), VC1-AP 1080p30, MPEG2 1080p30/60i, MPEG4 1080p/30, DivX 4/5/6 1080p30, XviD HT 1080p30, H.263 4CIF/30, Theora, and VP8 720p30.

Audio files like MP3 and AAC played without any problems. For audio, the Tegra 3 supports AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, MP3, MP3 VBR, WAV/PCM, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, BSAC, MPEG-2 Audio, Vorbis, WMA 9, WMA, Lossless, WMA Pro, G.729a, G.711, QCELP, EVRC.

Camera

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Camera

Photos we took with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime looked clear and colourful.

In a few cases, the colours weren’t as vivid as those taken with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but they were always sharper than the somewhat blurry images we took with the Apple iPad 2. All three tablets were used for the same photo comparisons below.

Taken with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime…

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Taken with the Apple iPad 2

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1…

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus doesn’t offer any extended features for taking photos on the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, but you can change basic settings such as white balance and choose from a few scene modes including Indoors or Night.

None of the settings really add to the value of the camera or compete with a more powerful smartphone or digital camera. Photos, like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s screen, tended to look a bit washed out but still useable.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has a much faster shutter release than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. However, the focus wasn’t always as reliable. The Samsung tablet tends to focus slowly, but the results are sharper Asus.

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Video

YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0bsHgWZQo4

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

One initial complaint when shooting video with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime was that, when we recorded a 1080p video with the tablet, we noticed a few stuttering problems during recording. But playback of this file was smooth and didn’t have any stuttering.

Asus recommended we try again without any apps running in the background, and the test recording didn’t stutter at all when doing this, with smooth-as-butter playback.

Recorded videos also looked super-crisp, which is an important finding compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which tends to film grainy and almost unusable videos.

As it stands, no tablet is ideal for shooting photos or recording video, because you can’t hold the device in a way that makes it easy to capture stills or video – there is often a shaky-cam look no matter how you hold them. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is no different, although the somewhat more rigid design and wider bezel makes it a hair easier to grip.

In one case, while shooting a video, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime suddenly went in and out of focus sporadically, trying to focus on the subject. The problem never happened again, though.

Verdict

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Is there any reason not to rush right out and get the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime when it starts shipping in January?

Not really. The Prime is an outstanding Android 3.2 tablet.

It is also the first tablet to use the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor for faster gaming, better movie playback, and long battery life.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is light and thin, with a durable design that will withstand a few spills, and even a drop or two. The device uses an understated slim design with a metallic back cover that seems durable.

The included Asus first-party apps add to the value: they enable you to store files in the cloud, buy music and books, and stream content from a desktop or laptop computer on the same network.

The two major reasons we would avoid this model are relatively minor.

One is that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 does have a brighter, more colourful screen. Games and movies tend to pop off the screen in a more vivid way than they do on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. This is a trade-off though, because the Prime is also easier to view in direct light or from a side angle.

The other reason to delay an impulse purchase has to do with apps. Asus does include quite a few compelling first-party apps, and they make the device more enticing.

That’s all well and good, but the Apple iPad 2 is still a better choice if you prefer quality apps that offer unique features. For example, many of the games on the iPad are superior to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime in terms of gameplay options and variety.

We liked

More than any other spec, we liked the Tegra 3 processor on this tablet. It’s fast and nimble, pumping new life into apps we’ve used for the past nine months and speeding up the operating system overall. HD movies played smooth and fast, without the typical stuttering (for the most part) of other tablets.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is one light and thin tablet. In fact, it’s the thinnest tablet available. Any thinner and we’d start wondering about durability.

Battery life was good, at about nine hours, and video playback lasts up to 12 hours.

Games were visually superior to every other tablet. Smoke and water effects looked convincing, and frame rates were exceptionally high. Most apps ran faster than we’ve seen on any other Android tablet, without any stuttering, memory pauses, or crashes of any kind.

The lapdock, which is included in a bundle for the UK and sold separately in the US, is a smart addition. It turns the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime into a notebook for typing longer documents in a pinch, and has a built-in mouse pad and USB port.

We disliked

We’re fans of the IPS display tech, because it means getting more use out of tablets in a variety of lighting conditions and at a side viewing angle, but the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s screen is still just slightly less colourful than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

To test this theory, we asked various people in the office to give us their first response to the same photo on both tablets, and everyone said they preferred the Samsung’s screen.

There’s also still a lingering question about apps compared to those available for the iPad 2. We just can’t get around the fact that the iPad has superior apps – one called Djay that works like a real DJ turntable, the Apple first-party apps such as GarageBand and Keynote, games such as Infinity Blade II that offer deeper gameplay and so on.

Asus can’t do too much about this problem, but if you want to have the best apps for a tablet, the iPad 2 is a better choice.

Of course, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime won’t attract nearly as many third-party hardware companies to make add-ons for the device, even if Asus does offer a handy lapdock accessory. That’s not a ding against the Transformer per se, but a praise for how popular the iPad has become.

Camera and video quality were good, but we ran into a few snags here and there. The resulting photos were usually sharp and focused, but not as colourful as those taken with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Final verdict

There’s a nagging sense with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime that holds us back from declaring a sweeping victory compared to the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Overall, when you consider the specs, we know the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is the better tablet. For hardcore tech enthusiasts, this is the tablet you want, because it has the latest next-gen processor and supports true HD movie recording and playback.

For the masses, and just for the overall top spot in the tablet market, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime can’t compete with the iPad 2 for app selection and quality.

And we have to give the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 the nod for a superior screen. That’s hugely important: the screen is what you look at all day.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is faster than any tablet, and matches the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2 for size and weight.

But we can’t quite declare the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime the winner overall. The iPad 2 still has that honour.

For Android tablets, we’ll say that the faster, lighter Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime ties with the excellent-screened Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

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Review: Asus Eee Pad Slider

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Review: Asus Eee Pad Slider

Overview and design

We were totally taken by the Eee Pad Transformer when it came out because it did something different to the iPad, and so gave itself room to breathe away from the tablet big guns.

Now its brother, the Asus Eee Pad Slider has arrived, and manages to stand out in much the same way.

The specs are fairly typical for tablets these days. The Eee Pad Slider features a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip, offering dual-core power and good graphics performance, which powers Android 3.1 out of the box (though you can upgrade to 3.2 as soon as you get it connected to the internet, and an Android 4.0 update is on its way).

There’s 1GB of RAM to keep multitasking smooth, along with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, though a microSD card slot means you can boost this. Wi-Fi is present up to 802.11n, as is Bluetooth.

The screen is a generous 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 IPS affair, so there’s plenty of space for Android 3.2 to show us what it’s got. We’ll go into full details about the screen’s quality on the Performance page.

Asus eee pad slider

Of course, behind the screen is where things get interesting. By grabbing the top of it, you can pull it up, so it slides back and sits up at an angle to reveal the built-in keyboard.

The front of the device is glossy black with a silver rim, like a lot of tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but the keyboard and rear case of the Eee Pad Slider are a kind of chocolate colour, with a matt finish.

Asus eee pad slider

It’s an unusual direction for tablets, but one that we think works for this one. The more we used the Eee Pad Slider, the more we found it to be an office-focussed tablet, and the aesthetic really fits that. Overall, it bears far more of a resemblance to a BlackBerry Boldhandset than the iPhone, and we doubt thats coincidence.

Asus eee pad slider

The build quality of the two halves of the Eee Pad Slider is excellent, feeling totally solid and without any noticeable give. Our only (admittedly very mild) concerns are with the joins between the two.

We don’t expect the hinge to break on anyone for no good reason, but the way the screen just sits loose and wobbly when in the upright position is odd compared how solid the rest of the device is.

There’s also a ribbon connecting the screen to the keyboard. While we’ve no doubt that this offers a huge power consumption advantage over using Bluetooth to connect the two, it’s an obvious weak point if your Slider should take an unexpected trip to the ground.

Around the sides, you’ve not only got your microSD card slot, but also the Lock key, a volume rocker, a reset button that’s far too easy to press, a mini-HDMI port for video output, Asus’s proprietary connection for USB connectivity and charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a full-size USB port.

Asus eee pad slider

Having two separate sliding halves in this tablet inevitably means it’s a lot thicker than the competition. At 273 x 180.3 x 17.3mm, it’s around twice as thick as an iPad 2, and at 960g it’s around 50 percent heavier.

The weight difference really does tip it from being comfortable to hold to being just too heavy to keep in one hand for long. Between this and the slide-out function, which puts the screen at a great angle for both desk and lap use, it becomes clear that the Eee Pad Slider is less of a competitor for tablets like the iPad, and is more targeting replacing netbooks and smaller laptops.

The Eee Pad Slider looks set to be available for around £450 in its 32GB version, which isn’t as cheap as the keyboardless half of the Eee Pad Transformer, but is good value compared to most other Android tablets.

Features

Asus eee pc slider

The obvious major feature draw for the Eee Pad Slider is its slide-out keyboard. Offering a wide range of keys, it’s got options for Home, Back and Menu, as well as a few keys to help you quickly conserve power if you’re concerned about your battery life. Specifically, you can turn Bluetooth on and off, turn Wi-Fi on and off, and adjust the brightness.

Asus has taken the same route as other manufacturers when it comes to customising Android on tablets, and has included a carefully picked selection of apps and an original widget to make the Slider stand out.

Asus eee pc slider

The Asus Launcher is a slick widget that displays various bits of information, including the last website you left open, the currently playing music, calendar appontments, the weather, the date, and a slideshow of your photos.

Asus eee pc slider

It’s a lot of stuff to cram into a widget, but it works really well thanks to a simple, no-nonsense design. We certainly prefer it to the utilitarian launcher widget included on the Lenovo IdeaPad K1.

As far as the apps go, the most useful is surely Polaris Office, given the nature of this tablet. It’s a really good inclusion, with a slick, surprisingly powerful interface and options to create text documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Asus eee pc slider

The word processor is particularly impressive, with tools for indenting, reflowing text, including media, tweaking fonts and loads more. In fact, we used it and the Slider’s keyboard to write this entire review, with no problems in general (though a regular auto-save function would be gratefully received).

Cleverly, Asus is including an impressive cloud deal with the Slider. Asus’ WebStorage offers unlimited online storage free for a year with the Slider. The app for it is easy to use, though it’s a shame that you’re unlikely to see it integrated into apps in the way Dropbox often is.

Asus eee pc slider

Amazon’s Kindle client is included for readers, as is Zinio for buying and reading magazines, along with Press Reader for getting the newspapers right on your device. They’re a killer trio of apps, all offering a great array of content, even if Zinio and Press Reader don’t give you the flexibility in the publications that you get from Apple’s Newsstand on the iPad.

Asus has also beefed up the built-in media options with MyNet, which adds media streaming both to and from the Slider.

The USB port on the side adds a few handy features, too. The first is that, like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, you can plug in a USB mouse and control the tablet that way. If youre doing a lot of word processing/spreadsheet work, you might find this quite useful.

It also works a USB host for mass storage, so you can plug in USB drives or memory cards (with an adapter) and use the included File Manager app to browse and move files.

On top of all this are the usual Google apps, including the Android Market. Nvidia’s Tegra Zone is also bundled, making it easy to find games, if you want. No games are included, which is unsurprising considering how this tablet feels more work-focussed.

Performance

Asus eee pc slider

The Asus Eee Pad Slider earns itself a huge tick in the performance column in one very simply way: this is the smoothest Android tablet we’ve seen yet.

Scrolling between Home screens is as slick as you like, the app list flashes up and away in an instant, apps load quickly, the multitasking list is smooth and stable – this is Android at its very best, for general use, without a doubt.

Asus eee pc slider

It still suffers from Android’s common imperfections, though. When zooming or panning in the browser, it’s fast and responsive, but there can be a stutter, which makes it difficult to be precise. Sometimes, particlarly in the browser, there will be a mysterious lag when typing in the URL bar, which is frustrating.

The browser is fast to load sites, certainly, but consistently lagged just behind an iPad 2 running iOS 5 in head-to-head tests (both with Flash turned on and off). Android 4.0 looks set to boost Android tablets in this area, but that’s the situation as it stands.

Asus eee pc slider

And yes, Flash 11 is available as ever from the Android Market. And yes, browsing a page with Flash content will drastically reduce the responsiveness of the browser. In addition, many iPlayer videos had an odd black mark that appeared occasionally, while going between fullscreen and a smaller window within the browser often caused the audio to go slightly out of sync.

However, the videos did play, and play smoothly, so for those of us who can’t live without Flash, performance is about as good as we can get at the moment.

Asus eee pc slider

Media stored on the device played impeccably. HD video in particular was absolutely brilliant, with both 1080p and 720p files playing back smoothly. The killer is the crisp, clear screen, though. It’s absolutely perfect for video, and the way the screen sits up on the Slider when the screen is out makes this an ideal tablet to keep you entertained on a long journey (well, save for the battery life, as we’ll explain in a moment).

That screen really is the best thing about the Eee Pad Slider. At 1280 x 800, it’s nice and high resolution, with text appearing crisp and easy to read. More than that, though, colours are vibrant and hugely appealing, and the viewing angles are excellent. It’s also brighter than a lot of Android tablets. It’s one of the best tablet screens we’ve seen, to put it simply.

Of course, the keyboard is a big feature for the Eee Pad Slider, since it’s pretty much its reason for existing. And the good news is that is isn’t bad. The keys are fairly small, but a nice gap between them makes them easy to find without concentrating.

Asus eee pc slider

In fact, we found it easy to hit the right key first time over 90 per cent of the keyboard, despite its size. You will inevitably miss more keys than you would on a full-size keyboard, but no more so than other small, portable keyboards.

Most of the 10 per cent where we weren’t hitting the right keys was hunting for things like Control and Alt, which are slightly displaced because of the Home, Back and Menu keys.

The only really annoying aspect was that it’s ludicrously easy to hit the up arrow button instead of the right Shift key. We did it constantly throughout this review, and it gets more annoying every time.

You will, of course, come to accomodate the layout as you get used to it, but even after hours of use, we were still nudging that damn up arrow.

Still, though, we give the keyboard a thumbs up, and the angle of the screen makes the while thing reasonably comfortable to use. Any small mobile keyboard has layout foibles, so we don’t begrudge them too much, even if they can be annoying.

Asus eee pc slider

The last big thing for tablets is battery life, and this is probably the Slider’s weakest area. It’s rated for eight hours, but when we tried streaming video over Wi-Fi with the screen’s brightness turned all the way up, we got just under five hours out of it.

This isn’t terrible, though. You can expect a good deal more battery life than that if you’re just using it type documents, for example. Though it’s certainly well behind what the iPad can give you, let’s remember that this is more focussed on the netbook/small laptop market than the iPad, and compared to most laptops this is great battery life in a far lighter package.

And as is so often the fashion, the Eee Pad Slider features front and rear cameras. The 1.2-megapixel front camera is as good as it needs to be, picking up a decent amount of light. The angle of the screen when slid out will give the person you’re chatting to a lovely view of your nostrils, but it works well enough.

YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fH8sE-xIRM

Asus eee pad slider

The rear five-megapixel camera turned out to be surprisingly good on a sunny day, though the 720p video footage it takes was rather weak, with a huge amount of artefacting ruining any semblance of detail.

Asus eee pc sliderClick here for full-size image

Verdict

Asus eee pc slider

It became clear to us when using the Eee Pad Slider that Asus isn’t going after quite the same market as the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s too heavy and too thick to be in quite the same bracket, because of its keyboard.

But as an alternative to a small laptop, it really comes into its own. Suddenly it seems small, and light. Fast, too, compared many lower-powered Windows 7 machines. It even comes with a great office suite ready to go. This is a tablet for the office, the desk at home, or the briefcase, and it really works.

We liked:

The screen is absolutely brilliant, which is always the first thing you want to see a tablet get right.

The same goes for the touch control and overall performance. Though smoothness in the browser and some other areas isn’t quite as perfect as the iPad, this is a more than capable machine.

The way the keyboard slides out puts the screen at an ideal angle for on a desk or your lap – something that’s clearly been thought through. And the keyboard itself is pretty good for a small mobile offering; good enough to write this review on.

The included apps are very useful, but quite understated, too. It’s not bloatware – this is a great suite to have available from the off.

We disliked:

The only real disappointment with the Eee Pad Slider is the battery life. It’s well below the likes of the iPad, and we’d hoped for better. As we said before, though, it holds its own against the kind of laptops it’s most likely to replace, so it’s not a deal breaker.

Similarly, it’s chunkier and heavier than other leading tablets, which is a shame, but inevitable when you consider the extra mechanics and casing required for its two halves. And again, it compares favourably to laptops.

Our other gripes are only very minor foibles, really.

The keyboard is still harder to use than a full-size one, even if it’s very good overall. Some people may never find it comfortable, but this is true of all small keyboards.

Android still needs some spit and polish here and there – hopefully Android 4.0 will bring at least some of that, and we’re really looking forward to seeing the Slider with future versions of Android on.

Verdict:

As a tablet, this is a slightly flawed gem with a gimmick that not only makes it stand out, but makes it genuinely useful.

But as a laptop replacement, this is nippy, light, versatle and hugely desirable. As tablets increasingly become work tools, we fully expect the Eee Pad Slider to be right at the forefront of the revolution, thanks to its smooth performance, stunning screen, handy software and more-than-adequate keyboard.

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