The ASUS Eee Pad Slider was initially planned to be released together with its sibling, the Eee Pad Transformer. However, ASUS had to push back the release due to some technical issues with the Slider. Our first hands-on with the Eee Pad Slider was during the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 in January, where it was showcased together with the Transformer. While the Transformer features a detachable keyboard docking station, the Eee Pad Slider comes with a slide-out keyboard underneath the tablet - kind of like a slider smartphone. We were duly impressed during our review of the Eee Pad Transformer as it brings mobility and functionality of tablets to the next level. Naturally, we had high hopes when the review unit of the Eee Pad Slider came in. Read on to see if the ASUS Eee Pad Slider can one-up the Transformer and the rest of the tablets.
On the outlook, the Eee Pad Slider looks just about the same as any other tablet in the market and there seems nothing outstanding about it. In fact, the Eee Pad Slider has a rather thick black bezel around the 10.1-inch display just like the Eee Pad Transformer which makes it look bulky. Along the top center portion of the bezel, a 1.2-megapixel front camera and light sensor are embedded. As for the main 10.1-inch display occupying most of the Eee Pad Slider's front face, it continues to attract fingerprints easily, just like most tablets. The screen is also too reflective for our liking.
Considering the fact that the Slider has a built-in keyboard, it is not surprising to feel the weight and thickness of the tablet in your hands. Tipping the scales at 960g, it is currently the heaviest single-device tablet in the market (the Eee Pad Transformer and Acer W500 are two-piece devices), hence we highly recommend using the Slider with both hands. Incorporating a sliding keyboard also means that the Eee Pad Slider is far from being thin as it measures 17.3mm - that makes it the thickest tablet at the point of writing. For comparison's sake, the Eee Pad Slider is almost twice as thick as the Apple iPad 2, which has a slim profile of 8.8mm. In terms of handling, it does not perform as well compared to the Transformer and the other tablets in the market due to its bigger bulk and build.
Next, we explore the tablet's sliding mechanism of the keyboard. Unlike what most people would have come to expect (including ourselves), the sliding mechanism does not work the same way as those in slider phones such as the Motorola Milestone 2. On slider mobile phones, you tend to use your thumb(s) to slide the screen out to reveal the QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately due to the size and bulk of the ASUS Eee Pad Slider, you will have to lift the top part of the tablet a little to slide up the tablet and reveal the keyboard. When passing the tablet to many colleagues in the office to give it a shot, we noticed that all of them instinctively tried to slide the screen out like a mobile phone without success. To overcome this, it's a good thing that ASUS included arrow stickers on the black bezel and body of the keyboard to guide users on this aspect. Apart from this minor quibble, the sliding mechanism worked fine and locks the tablet firmly in place with a "click sound".
The built-in QWERTY keyboard is quite a looker with its bronze tone and brown keys. Compared to the Transformer keyboard docking station, the keyboard on the Slider is smaller and feels slightly cramped. Fortunately, the keys are sufficiently raised for good tactile feedback. In the end, the overall typing experience leaves us wanting more as tactile feedback couldn't compensate for the cramped keyboard layout. While your typing experience is definitely faster than just relying on the onscreen virtual keyboard on most tablets, it's not able to match that of a good keyboard. So don't expect to write essays on the Slider, but it will suffice for updating your social media needs quickly.
On the left side of the keyboard, you will find the microSD memory card slot, a reboot button, volume controls and the power button. Similar to the Transformer, we would have prefered the memory card slot to be covered and protected. While we have no problems accessing the volume controls, we found the Power button a tad too small. The location of the Power button also puzzled us as most tablets have their Power buttons at the top corner whereas on the Eee Pad Slider, it is located at the bottom left corner.
At the top of the keyboard you will see the proprietary connector and the mini-HDMI port. The proprietary connector allows you to charge the Slider and perform data transfers. As mentioned in the Transformer review, it is inconvenient for users to bring a proprietary connector for the purpose of charging and performing data transfers when most tablets nowadays use microUSB ports. A universally used connector would mean easy replaceability and a far higher chance to be you might already have that cable or be able to borrow one in an urgency.