Connectivity on the Eee Slate EP121 is excellent. All of it
can be found along the left side of the tablet, where you’ll discover a mini-HDMI
port, combined headphone and microphone jack, SDHC-XC/MMC memory card reader and twin
full-size USB 2.0 ports hidden behind sturdy flaps on flexible hinges. This
makes it easy to hook the tablet up to a TV for playing back Full HD video, or
to connect a monitor and mouse which, along with the keyboard, gives a full
desktop experience. There’s also a front-facing 2 megapixel webcam, though none
at the rear.
On the wireless front, meanwhile, there are both Bluetooth
and Wi-Fi N, though unfortunately there’s no physical switch to turn these on
or off – a small yet annoying oversight on Asus’ part. A more serious issue is
the Slate’s lack of 3G, which you would expect to be included on a tablet
costing nearly £1,000.
On the other hand, the tablet’s internal specifications do
help to justify that price a little. The highlight, of course, is an Intel Core
i5-470UM processor. This dual-core CPU runs at 1.33GHz as standard, with a
maximum Turbo Frequency of 1.86GHz. It also supports Hyper Threading for up to
four virtual cores. As it’s a low voltage model, it sucks down only 18W, which
is very frugal for such a powerful CPU but more than double the 8.5W demanded
by a dual-core Atom.
It’s backed by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, an almost unheard of amount
for a tablet and plenty for high-intensity productivity and demanding
applications. For storage, meanwhile, there’s a 64GB SSD, of which around 32GB
is left free by the Windows 7 install. This should be adequate if you keep your
application and video count frugal, and don’t forget that you can expand the
tablet’s storage by up to 128GB (and more as larger SDXC cards become available) using its memory card slot.
Only the graphics card is a disappointment. It’s Intel’s
older generation integrated effort, meaning even a relatively undemanding 3D
title like Stalker will run at a frame rate of single digits. However, it’s
adequate for casual gaming.
Thanks to these laptop-like specifications, the 64-bit
edition of Windows 7 Home Premium is a perfectly smooth experience on the Eee
Slate EP121. In fact, this is the first Windows tablet we’ve come across where
the OS doesn’t feel like a burden, and where you can load applications and keep
multiple windows open while playing HD video, all without feeling constrained
by the hardware.
A handy dedicated button – the only one on the tablet’s
front – gives access to Windows Flip 3D with a short press, or to the Windows
Security screen (from which you can access Task Manager) with a longer one.
An orientation sensor ensures the screen will match the way
you’re holding the tablet. If you want to keep it the same there’s a handy
orientation-lock switch, an essential but oft-neglected addition to any tablet.
Asus’ premium tablet isn’t just impressive on the inside. As
with its Eee Pad Transformer, the company has wisely gone with an IPS panel for the
12.1in screen. Until larger versions of the AMOLED display used on the stunning
Samsung Galaxy S II come along, this is as good as it gets.
Viewing angles are flawless, colours vibrant yet accurate
and blacks deep and detailed. Along with the unmatched codec and container
support offered by Windows, the large, 1,280 x 800 screen allows you to enjoy
720p video material in all its glory. This is something the iPad 2 can’t claim because of its lower 1,024 x 768 screen resolution, while
Android tablets like the Eee Pad Transformer are hindered by a poor selection of media players.
only caveat is that the Gorilla glass layer does cause reflections, but this is
the price you pay for the added protection, and a glossy screen finish is
common to most tablets.
Considering the Slate’s speakers are tiny, the sound they
produce is undeniably impressive, especially since they do so without
distortion. There’s more depth, bass and detail then you would get from many
netbooks, and though headphones are still recommended, they’re certainly not