While a commercial version of that Transformer prototype went onsale as early as June 2011 and quickly garnered industry accolades, the Slider hove into view only in late autumn of last year.
And even then, it is not widely available in this country. We'v only seen it on sale through a few smaller online retailers.
Since its eventual launch, Asus has now announced a second version of the Transformer, known as the Prime. But there’s still a lot to recommend the Slider, not least the fact that it doesn’t come ‘locked’ (as the Prime is), which prevent users from installing their choice of Android upgrades.
Look and feel
Looks-wise, the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 is attractive when viewed front on, with a gently bowed edging delineated with a smart silver bezel. It’s actually quite chunky, though, to accomodate a full Qwerty keyboard under the screen. The rear has small pads to prevent slippage and four very slightly raised feet that prevent the smart brown livery from getting marked.
The display itself is a 10.1in multitouch IPS panel, 1280x800-pixel. The usual shine issues apply, but we found the screen responsive and colours well reproduced.
Setting up the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 involves either logging into or creating a new Google account. We slid out the physical keyboard to enter these details, but found the device doesn't immediately recognise its orientation, even though the screen can only be raised in one direction. It turns out this is a general issue with this tablet. It simply takes a while to recognise the change of orientation. We've clearly been spoiled by other tablets that are quicker to respond.
Asus offers a couple of features beyond the standard Honeycomb interface. The first is Eee Cloud, a web-based storage and backup system that claims to synchronise your tablet's content with a Windows PC or Mac. Despite the exhortion to download the software from asus.com/support, we were unable to find the relevant tool to share content between our MacBook Air and the Slider.
It's a different matter with Windows, although to download the software does require Microsoft Internet Explorer.
The document syncing aspect works by scanning for available Windows PCs or other devices through Splashtop Remote app. This initiates a remote access pairing, allowing you to get at music, photos and documents stored within Wi-Fi range.
Create an Asus @vibe email account and, once connected to the server, you can tune in to the likes of Radio Caroline via the web radio or music. Audio is plenty loud enough for personal listening and the output from the small speakers sited midway up on the back are very listenable, though lacking mid depth and a little thin. The sound becomes more muffled when the screen is docked over the keyboard and the speakers are blocked.
A narrow volume rocker on the left edge of the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 tablet sits dangerously close to the power button. More than once, we accidentally initiated a power off when tweaking volume. Thankfully, we found our text documents and emails had autosaved.
The email app offers no particular advantage over any other webmail service (in contrast to the Sony Tablet P with its infinite scroll, or HTC's dual-pane message displays).
Typing using the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101's keyboard is much faster than the software equivalent. It came as a mild surprise that the keyboard isn't revealed by a push-to-slide mechanism but by prising the screen apart on the farthest edge. The sliding action is smooth and a clever hinge keeps the screen upright as you type. Importantly, the tablet remains well balanced even with the screen up.
We've certainly used much poorer keyboards on netbooks, but after tapping out a 1000-word review on the Slider's, we were thoroughly fed up of the Page Up key immediately to the right of the Shift button and were feeling the effects of typing on a too-small keyboard and the resulting inaccurate keystrokes.
Yet the fact we even contemplated such work on a tablet proves Asus' point: a keyboard is a useful addition to a tablet. At £400 for the 16GB model, we didn't feel it too expensive either. At under 1kg and 19mm thick, the Slider is a modestly proportioned travelling companion.
In general use, the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 ticks the boxes for speediness, battery life and web browsing that we'd expect from an nVidia Tegra 2 tablet.
Not everything is well executed. Asus doesn’t appear to have a UK version of the Slider, and the keyboard is set up for US users. There’s no £ key and the @ button isn’t mapped correctly between the hardware and the OS.
On the other hand,the preinstalled Polaris Office and a likable Supernote application allow for document creation and editing. A spellcheker for the latter would have been welcome.
Photos can be taken with the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 closed. Holding up the tablet to take a shot feels unnatural, but the image stabiliser does a decent job and we weren't too disappointed with the close-up photos we took, given the absence of flash and the slow operation of the camera.
We can't see ourselves using the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101 for taking photos, but they display relatively well on the Slider’s colourful IPS screen. There’s no option for recording video.