While most netbooks from the ASUS Eee PC lineup have been of the standard clamshell variety, the Eee PC T91 goes for the twist with a tablet form factor which includes touchscreen capabilities all running on Intel's Atom platform and chipset. Squeezed into a 8.9-inch form factor, this tablet looks ready for our loving fingers.
Right from the start it's obvious that ASUS wants you to use your fingers on the T91. The Windows XP Home interface looks slightly larger then normal, making for easy tapping. There's also a touch-based UI called the TouchSuite that provides an alternative experience to use the tablet. For a start, it brings finger friendly icons to the table and also introduces the concept of flicking gestures.
That said, there's not much flicking you can do as you can either flick to return back to the normal Windows interface or a window where you can add widgets. There's however a drawback to adding too many widgets as the processor can't really keep up and you'll find a really laggy unit on your hands. As far as the UI goes, it's far more usable and much better compared to the ones we previously saw on the ASUS EeeTop.
As for its looks, we've got our usual glossy complaints about the design, and seeing as how it's a touch friendly machine, gloss is really the last thing we want. Then again it does look pretty until the smudge hits the fan. Compromises too have to be made for the 8.9-inch form factor, and it's most obvious in the cramped keyboard that harks back to the older Eee PCs.
While it's a tablet machine, we were still hoping to get a decently sized keyboard, something that this Eee just falls short of. More often than not, it's almost always easier to type in documents and URLs via the physical keyboard, and a small cramped one like the one found on the T91 can be quite a pain to use if you have big chunky fingers.
The trackpad however was generally fine, though we found ourselves making more use of the touchscreen to get to where we wanted to go. And speaking of going places, with a weight of just 0.96kg, the netbook is light enough that you'll barely feel it, making it eminently portable in our books.
Performance wise, the netbook holds up somewhat give its unusual make up. For starters, it doesn't subscribe to the usual Intel Atom N270/280 processor. Instead it opts for a slightly slower Intel Atom Z520 that clocks in at 1.33GHz and uses an SSD instead of the usual 5400RPM HDD. This difference in specifications does show up in our PCMark05 test, with the unit scoring just 1286 PCMarks for the System test while getting higher than average 6864 PCMarks in the HDD test.
Battery wise, the unit lasted for 207 minutes, close to 3.5 hours worth of usage. This is a pretty respectable figure for the tablet, and does mean that the T91 will get you going places. Unfortunately, those looking to get their hands on this netbook will find that the T91 isn't available via the usual retail distribution channels and is only available via ASUS on a project basis. It's quite a shame though, as the ASUS Eee PC T91 is a sweet machine that does offer a lot to those looking for a mini tablet.