The Keyboard

The Slider's keyboard is unbelievably convenient. In the opening of this review I lamented the fact that switching between two separate devices depending on whether or not I had to do a lot of typing seemed silly. The Eee Pad Slider almost completely addresses this issue. You can relax on the couch and use the Slider as a tablet, but the moment you need to do a lot of typing you've got a full blown keyboard at your disposal.

The keyboard doubles as a convenient stand for the Slider. Unlike the iPad 2's smartcover, the Slider's stand holds the tablet significantly upright. If you're lying down on a couch you can use the Slider just as you would an ultraportable notebook or netbook.

The slider mechanism doesn't work like a phone with a sliding keyboard. Instead of pushing the display up along the horizontal plane, you actually grab onto a lip at the top of the screen and pull up along the vertical plane - almost like you're opening a container rather than sliding up a smartphone display. The process is surprisingly fluid and confidence inspiring. The mechanism is spring loaded so after you've got the screen lifted up by about 15 degrees the rest goes a bit quicker. The process can be as quiet or as noisy as you want depending on how quickly you slide the screen up.

The screen is fixed at a ~45-degree angle. There's no tilting it once it's in its final resting place. For the most part the angle of the screen works well. Although I didn't spend any time on a plane with the Slider I don't anticipate someone reclining in front of you impeding your ability to use the tablet in the air.

Build quality is surprisingly good although there's obviously some movement in the slider hinge. When closed the Slider feels remarkably sturdy with little to no flex in the chassis itself.

The keyboard is wired directly to and powered by the tablet. Unlike the Transformer, the keyboard doesn't contain a separate battery. The keyboard layout is very easy to get used to. There are 66 keys and nearly everything is where you'd expect to find it. There's even a cute little capslock LED on the keyboard. Just as with the Transformer, there are dedicated home, back and search keys. There is no alt-tab equivalent however, which is more of an Android limitation than an ASUS one. Unfortunately there's also no way to bring up Honeycomb's recently used apps list from the keyboard. The keys are hardly full sized, I measured 14 x 11mm compared to 16 x 16mm on Apple's chiclet keyboard. Unless you have huge fingers however the key size is a non-issue. For the editors in the audience ASUS was sure to enable function+arrow key combinations for home, end, page up and page down. All four functions work perfectly in Polaris Office.

This is still Android so there's no way to control things like key repeat rate, although you can enable/disable auto-correct and configure how aggressive the auto-correct should behave. These configuration options only apply to the virtual keyboard (which is only visible when the slider is closed), with the physical keyboard in use you get no auto-correct.

Typing quickly on the Slider's keyboard can be a problem. Unlike a traditional notebook there's no trackpad, which means there's also no wrist rest. There's also a tall lip that borders the keyboard and is taller than all of the keys, which occasionally got in the way of me hitting the space bar. The keys aren't always super responsive either. My main issue was with the space bar but occasionally I'd miss a letter here or there. Shifting my typing style to being a little more deliberate with each finger press generally addressed the problem.

If you're hoping for the quality of a high end notebook's keyboard, you will be disappointed. The Slider's keyboard is functional and it gets the job done, but set your expectations accordingly. It's not hard to get used to, but it's definitely not the best keyboard I've ever used.

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  • Impulses - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Very odd that there's no alt+tab functionality, since that's something that the Transformer has... Alt+tab on the TF works like WinXP, you just get icons, I wish it cycled thru Android's own recent app menu with previews but at least the basic functionality is there.
  • lemonadesoda - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    12 years ago the Psion 7 netbook was launched. The ASUS Slider pays homage to that design. What a shame the slider isnt x86. I would love to run window on that!
  • bhima - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Nice video review. I'm impressed with your presentation style and content.
  • lemonadesoda - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Anand, it is great that you are doing these videos. It's a nice communication format. But please work on getting the videos and the presentations shorter and more punchy. You are in grave danger of having lost all respect for pace and timing, and risk being as dull and as boring as that new Apple CEO whatshisnameis.

    Set yourself a deadline of a 3 minute or 6 minute format and work to that deadline. A 21:41 video is unacceptable no matter how good the content might be! You killed the audience...
  • tech6 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Anand: I must say that I love the new video reviews - they are polished and informative and you deliver them perfectly. More please.
  • tbutler - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    "I understand the appeal of tablets. Regardless of OS, they all provide a far more intimate experience when browsing the web and reading emails."

    "I'm actually very happy there is a reset button the tablet. As these devices become even more PC-like expect them to encounter the same sort of stability issues any hardware running complex software has to deal with."

    With respect, I don't think you do fully understand the appeal of tablets - at least in the post-PC sense of the current iPad-driven tablet explosion. I disagree strongly with your contention in other tablet reviews that tablets will have to grow more PC-like, and the second quote is a perfect example of why.

    While the ergonomics you describe in the first quote are a strong factor, I think a big reason the iPad has been the main success of this tablet wave is that *a lot of people are willing to trade functionality and flexibility for simplicity and stability.* Tablets that "encounter the same sort of stability issues" simply won't succeed in the market the iPad's defined, in my view. They may capture the attention of small groups of tech enthusiasts, but they won't have mass-market impact. Tech enthusiasts may be happy to put up with stability issues - and actually love complexity, in the sense of putting together an intricate system that works just the way they want - but most users aren't like that.

    (I'm dubious about Win8's prospects in the tablet realm for the same reason - while Metro seems like a nice touch UI, it looks like it still carries the legacy baggage of Windows underneath the surface.)

    The key here, I maintain, is that most users don't actually expect "post-PC" tablets to be everything and do everything. They're happy to have a large subset of common computing functions, done with a minimum of the kind of configuration, maintenance and stability hassles that you refer to above.
  • ed_ed - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    1. Very nice video review.
    2. Just noticed how fast the battery life indicator /animated wallpaper water thingy goes down on the slider only 20 minutes of doing nothing.
    (Compare its position at the beginning of the video and at the end)
  • mlabrow - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Umm, I don't think Windows is actually going to be the game changer you think it will be.

    They have stated that on ARM architecture's the only game is Metro apps. Metro apps are full screen, and ape the functionality you lament of other Tablet OS's. Showing the desktop is a bit disengenous since I'm not even certain they've indicated that it will be available as an app on non-x86 architectures.

    If Atom hardware comes out that is competing head to head with ARM tablets, then obviously that changes things. But as things stand this second, if you were to somehow get Windows 8 onto a Slider, I don't think you'd have the multi-tasking dreamland your looking forward to.
  • Nihility - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    The ARM demo Microsoft showed had an ARM tablet running the Windows desktop. That being said, an ARM processor cannot run x86 applications. We also don't really know what Microsoft will end up doing with Windows 8, they might really dump the desktop in the final version (ARM).

    About the mutitasking: Metro does support the same split-screen mode that is shown in the screenshots. Presumably, you could have a metro chat app and a metro browser running side by side.

    Personally, I'm hoping for low power x86 hardware in future tablets.
  • Drizzt321 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    So, do you think 16:10 is making a comeback? Any chance that laptops will start carrying 16:10 panels again? Since apparently there's a market for 16:10 hi-res panels again, maybe we can move back? I've always hated the forced move to 16:9 in laptops & desktops.

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