Asus released one of our favourite Android Honeycomb tablets this year, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Now it’s rocking the boat with an even more unusual model. The Eee Pad Slider features a keyboard, but this one doesn’t simply fold out like a laptop – it slides out along a hinge and only sits happily in two positions, open or closed. If the Transformer wasn’t quite different enough for you, perhaps the Eee Pad Slider is the tab to go for.
Fitting a full keyboard into its frame, the Eee Pad Slider is predictably a lot thicker than most Android Honeycomb tablets, but we were surprised that in use it doesn't feel obese. The specs don't lie though, and at 17.3mm thick it's almost twice as thick as the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The Slider is also significantly heavier than all of its non-keyboard rivals at 960g. That's about as heavy as a netbook, demonstrating this is not a tablet you're going to hold casually in one hand, reading the e-newspaper on the way to work.
That's not really what this tablet it about, though. It excels in the lounge or office - any place where you can sit down, really. It's not a tablet to use on the journey between point A and point B, but it's a cracker while you're at either end. That said, it's stable enough to use perched on your knees, during a longer train journey perhaps.
To slide out the keyboard, you pull upwards on the top of the screen. It's connected with a double hinge that connects to the middle of the screen's back, leaving the bottom floating free rather than sliding along a rail. However, there are a couple of hooks that latch onto the bottom when it's fully extended, keeping everything in place. That there is a bit of give to the mechanism stops it from feeling perfectly smooth, but the hinges are made of metal and are reassuringly strong.
Upon first seeing the Slider earlier this year, we weren't convinced it had a place on the market. The design seemed a little ridiculous, trading the desirability of a tablet for the geeky quality of a laptop, in a way that didn't quite add up. But in person, the Eee Pad Slider makes perfect sense. It's not slim or light, but the essential lifestyle angle of tablets remains intact here, and we can imagine it looking the business in a stylish lounge atop a terribly stylish glass coffee table.
Decked out in purplelish brown, glossy black and silver, it's a reasonably good-looking tablet. Some concessions have had to be made for practicality, most notably the five rubber feet and raised ridge on the back that help to stop it slipping off your lap. But viewed from the front with keyboard extended, it looks great as the purple-brown is used on the keyboard's keys as well as the surround.
If you're attracted by the productivity leanings of this tablet, the full-size USB on the right edge is another bonus, letting you easily plug in a mouse or external hard drive. And on the left edge sits a microSD card slot - there's just 16GB of internal memory built-in, but there's plenty of additional storage potential here.
On the top edge there's a miniHDMI socket to let you feed the video signal over to a TV, while next to it is the Slider's one connectivity sore point - the proprietary connector. To charge the tablet or transfer data to it, you use this iPod-like connector. As there's no need for an additional dock here, we'd rather have seen a standard microUSB slot. Asus used the same connector in the Eee Pad Transformer. Unless you have an insatiable hatred for all things proprietary, it won't pose too much of a problem, as you still have access to tablet's file system when connected to a PC. Drag and drop transfer of files is in.