Tablet PCs came out of the closet in record numbers at the recently concluded CES 2010, but Asus had one out for a while. The Asus Eee PC T91 doubles up as a netbook and low-cost tablet PC with touch input support on its 9-inch screen.
The Asus Eee PC T91 sports an all-black look, overflowing with gloss on the screen lid - and it's a huge fingerprint magnet. Its overall dimensions are smaller than the Eee PC 1008HA or Eee PC 1101HA, tinier than most mainstream netbooks found in the market these days.
It is also extremely lightweight, weighing just a shade under 1-kg; easy enough to tuck away in a handbag. The Asus Eee PC T91's touch-enabled resistive screen is 8.9-inch wide, LED-backlit, and swivels around to nestle upside down on the keyboard to become a tablet PC. No complaints on the unit's build quality; it's nice and solid and doesn't feel cheap in any way. An easy-to-use stylus is tucked away in the right corner of the front edge.
The Asus Eee PC T91's resistive touchscreen was a bit of a mixed bag. Navigating your way around was okay with the included stylus: touchscreen accuracy here was good. But when we started using a finger to navigate through the screen, the mouse pointer and our finger-on-the-screen were misaligned: e.g. we put our finger over a window's minimise button only to see the mouse-pointer go hit the close button instead. One had to consciously aim left of the intended target, and it wasn't a great touchscreen experience navigating with the finger.
The touch-tuned interface, however, isn't as bad. App icons are nice and big, typing on the on-screen keyboard is largely easy with the stylus, and handwriting recognition (for the most parts) works well. But apps take a while to load, and there's a distinctive lag while interacting with the touchscreen - not a party pooper but enough for you to take notice.
Part of the reason for its sluggishness lies with the Asus Eee PC T91's internal hardware, which is very netbook-like.
Like the Acer Aspire O751h and Benq Joybook Lite U121, the Asus Eee PC T91 runs on an Intel Atom Z520 1.3GHz processor - slower than the newer Pine Trail Intel Atom processors. It complements it with 1GB of RAM and a paltry 16GB SSD. Asus tries to sweeten the storage deal by bundling in a 16GB card and the option of utilizing 20GB online Eee Storage.
Apart from the standard offering of a card reader, audio jacks, and VGA-out, the Asus Eee PC T91 has merely two USB ports which is disappointing. It supports Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 but not the faster Gigabit Ethernet standard. It comes with Windows XP Home edition, another reason why it isn't really touch-optimised.
For video chatting, there's a 0.3Mp webcam recessed on the Asus Eee PC T91's top screen bezel - and it isn't the best we've seen.
The Asus Eee PC T91's performance was like other Atom Z520-based netbooks we've tested, not better or worse, and the bundled SSD does no favours.
Aside from its hit-and-miss touch interface, and despite its smaller form factor, its keyboard and touchpad were quite nice to use: keys were tightly packed (unlike on the MSI Wind U135) and offered very little flex, and the touchpad was very responsive. It couldn't play HD 720p video files smoothly, but we could listen to music and browse the internet over Wi-Fi without a hitch. Its integrated battery lasted close to five hours (4 hours 48 minutes) while we browsed the net over Wi-Fi, which isn't too bad.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>