As the tablet wars rage on, the iPad 2 is still one of the slickest tablet experiences around, while Windows 7 is generally regarded as the worst. That's hardly surprising, since Microsoft's OS wasn't primarily designed for either tablets or touch. Unfortunately, sub-par implementations on Windows tablets like the Acer Iconia Tab and MSI WindPad 100W didn't do it any favours. However, since Asus has produced one of the best Android tablets available today with its award-winning Eee Pad Transformer, we have high hopes for its Eee Slate EP121.
The Eee Slate takes a slightly left-field approach to the tablet market, in that it goes for the biggest and best of everything, a fact that's reflected in its £997 asking price. Where most of the competition offers tablets of around 10 inches or less, the Slate's screen is a relatively huge 12.1in – and with an IPS panel protected by Gorilla glass it's as good as it gets. Where rivals contain underpowered Atom processors and max out at 2GB of RAM, the Slate rocks on with a full fat mobile Core i5 and 4GB of RAM. Combined with a 64GB SSD, it offers more power than many budget desktops, allowing for effortless productivity and multi-tasking.
For artists, designers or just those fond of handwriting, the integrated Wacom Digitizer with included stylus is a dream come true, and for regular finger interaction the screen offers capacitive touch too. And finally there's the bundled wireless Bluetooth keyboard. Rather than an average first-party keyboard, Asus has made the laudable decision of going with the Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000, which takes typing comfort to a whole new level.
Unfortunately, the included case doesn't really keep up the premium impression. Though it's well-made with a sturdy leatherette finish, it relies on a Velcro strap to hold the tablet in securely and doesn't offer much flexibility when trying to stand the tablet up. You only get the choice between a 30 degree incline in either portrait or landscape orientation. What's more, it weighs a whopping 376 grams - as much some smaller tablets!
The tablet itself restores our confidence with a seamless glass front overlaying the black screen bezel, framed by a metal surround. Asus has gone with white plastic for the back, which isn't the most premium looking material but at least it keeps the weight down, and it's textured rather than glossy. This prevents fingerprints, decreases wear marks and provides a better grip.
Large ports are hidden behind strong-hinged flaps, buttons are chromed and build quality is generally excellent with no creak and minimal flex. Our one minor concern is that putting pressure on the centre of the tablet's rear affects the screen. However, with a little care when handling, this shouldn't become an issue.
Considering its 312 x 17 x 207mm dimensions and high-power internals, the Eee Slate is not too heavy at 1.17kg, but it's certainly not a tablet you can hold comfortably one-handed for any length of time.