After being teased mercilessly and getting early hands on look on the Asus’ Eee Pad Slider SL101, we finally managed to grab ourselves a device for review. Does the addition of a non-removable keyboard add to the appeal, or is it a bulky accessory that tablets don’t need? Read on.
One of the biggest strengths of the original TF101 was its ability to take on an add-on keyboard that essentially made it into an impromptu netbook when users wanted it to. The SL101 is simply takes that concept a step further by adding a non-removable, full QWERTY keyboard on the bottom that’s accessible by a sliding mechanism (thus the name of the device). The SL101 sports a 10.1-inch LED Backlight WXGA screen and like the TF101, doesn’t have much in the way of physical buttons when the keyboard is underneath. The physical keys that are present have been relocated to accommodate the keyboard. The volume controls, for instance, have been moved to the bottom of the device (when you’re holding it in portrait mode) along with the power key, microSD slot and oddly enough, a reset button. The top of the device holds a single USB port and a 3.5mm jack for audio.
Accessing the keyboard is a bit tricky the first few times you do it, as you’ll need to lift the top of the screen (when oriented in landscape mode) near the front facing camera to reveal the keyboard and lock the screen in place. The screen locks in a 45 degree angle, giving you a better view of the screen while you type on the keyboard.
The keyboard is, understandably, a little cramped, and does get a bit of getting used to. The keys are island-type ones and unfortunately doesn’t have enough travel to type on comfortably for long periods of time. Of course, the addition of a keyboard underneath makes the SL101 a lot thicker than the device that came before it – measuring in at 273 x 180.3 x 17.3 mm and tips the scales at a portly 960 grams.
Hardware-wise the SL101 doesn’t sport anything that we haven’t seen before – it’s powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, has 1GB of memory, a 5 megapixel camera on the rear and a 1.2 megapixel on the front. Admittedly, it’s now powered by Android Honeycomb 3.2 instead of the 3.0 version that was on the TF101 that we reviewed back in June, which now allows the SL101 to take simple devices like USB mice and keyboard attachments, USB sticks and external hard drives.
We’re not going to dwell into the whole UI experience, suffice to say that what’s on tap is stock Honeycomb. If you’re interested to see how that feels, you can go check out our TF101 review here. The SL101 performs well for the most part, and is able to run everything that the TF101 can which is unsurprising, because the two share pretty much the same hardware. No, what we’re going to talk about is what the integrated sliding keyboard brings to the mix – and that can be summed up in one word: utility.
See, while the TF101 had the ability to take a keyboard, it wasn’t convenient to always do so. Attaching the keyboard onto the TF101 meant that you’d still be bringing an equivalent of a netbook along with you, and you’d still have to take the darn thing off when you just wanted to use it as a tablet, which takes a bit of fiddling and a whole lot of hassle. With the SL101, you just slide the keyboard out of sight, and you can use it as a tablet again.
Unfortunately, the addition of a keyboard doesn’t give users better battery life – unlike the detachable keyboard of the TF101 which also doubled as an additional battery. The SL101 managed about 7.7 hours on battery, a little less than the TF101.
Of course, the addition of the keyboard changes the tablet dynamics a bit. While it’s still pretty portable, it’s not AS portable as the TF101 (it’s not going to fit into any envelopes soon, that’s for sure). The heavier overall weight means that you’ll start to feel its weight sooner when you’re reading e-books and whatnot.
Another small niggle is that the SL101 does not have a hardware orientation lock, which, to be honest, annoys me to no end. You can lock the orientation of the device through the OS, but that’s not as convenient as flicking a switch on the side of the device.
The question now is this: why should you get the SL101 over the TF101, or really, any other tablet in the market? Well, for one thing, the keyboard adds a nice layer of convenience when you’re just randomly surfing the web, and no matter what anybody tells you, typing using touchscreens suck. It also props up the tablet to the optimal viewing position which makes it easier to watch movies without having to hold it on your lap, or on the table.
The Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 retails for Php 26,995 for the 16GB version.
Deploying the keyboard props up the device, making it easier to watch movies
Takes USB devices like external HDDs, mice, keyboards and other peripherals without issues
Heavier than your typical tablet
Still no hardware orientation lock
The Eee Pad Slider SL101 is a great device for people who are looking to get into tablets but are not ready to trade in their physical keyboards for virtual ones.
- Operating System: Android Honeycomb 3.2
- CPU: NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 1GHz
- LCD size: 10.1-inch LED Backlight WXGA (1280×800)
- Physical Dimensions: 273 x 180.3 x 17.3 mm
- Weight: 960 g
- Internal memory: 16GB, expandable via microSD