We first got a chance to see the Eee Pad Slider at CES 2011, but U.S. consumers are still waiting for their chance to buy the innovative Android tablet with the slide-out keyboard. This week at IDF, our friend Sascha at Netbook News let us use a production-model he’d bought in Taiwan for the equivalent of $450 U.S. dollars so we were able to spend more quality time tablet. In our brief testing, we found a number of reasons to be impressed with 10-inch, Nvidia Tegra-powered Honeycomb slate.
The first thing we noticed about the Eee Pad Slider is the attractive, soft-touch brown back and sides. Not only does this surface make the tablet more attractive, but it also makes it harder to drop. This chocolate brown color scheme is carried over onto the keyboard itself, while a chrome section of the backside adds another touch of style. However, like most tablets, the front bezel and screen are an extremely glossy black color that easily reflects ambient light.
The 1280 x 800 IPS screen provides amazingly bright and vibrant images and solid viewing angles to the left and right, provided that you don’t have too many lights reflecting off of its surface. We particularly enjoyed viewing the screen with the keyboard exposed, because in that mode, the Eee Pad stands up at a 45 degree angle, making it into a tiny notebook or media center.
ASUS has replaced the overused Tron-like Honeycomb theme with wall paper that shows a park on a sunny day. The home / layers / and menu buttons also have a slightly different shape than the stock Android buttons found on the Motorola Xoom and so many others. Unfortunately, at least this Taiwanese version of the Eee Pad Slider didn’t come with much in the way of software. In addition to standard Honeycomb apps like the Google video editor, browser, and e-mail, ASUS has included DLNA app MyNet, a File Manager, and MyCloud which links you to ASUS’s cloud storage services.
The Eee Pad also offers a couple of ports you won’t find on every other Honeycomb device. A mini HDMI out port allows you to output content to the TV while a full-size USB port lets you read and write to USB flash drives and external hard drives (using the bundled file manager app).
The slide-out keyboard is really the star of the show as it offers a full range of QWERTY keys which are larger than any you’ll find on a phone, but smaller than those of most netbooks. In fact, we’d say the look and feel reminded us a bit of the tiny keyboard on Sony’s VAIO P series, which had good key placement but so-so tactile feedback. We’re not in love with the tactile feedback on the Eee Pad Slider’s keys, but we haven’t spent a lot of time typing on them so we’ll withhold judgement on their feel for now. That said, serious touch-typists may have a problem with the lack of palm rest to support their wrists. You’ll also need to lift your hands off of the keyboard to navigate around the screen, because there’s no touchpad or optical pointing device.
Despite its lack of a touchpad, we were pleased to see that we could perform a number of actions with the keyboard alone. Using the arrow keys allowed us to move between apps on the home screen or to move between homescreens. The board features dedicated home, back, menu, and search buttons so you don’t have to touch the screen for those functions. We also appreciate the ability to control the brightness, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth using Fn + Letter key combinations.
We look forward to spending more time with the Eee Pad Slider in the near future and really putting the device through its paces. Until then, check out our hands-on video and gallery below.