Asus T91 touchscreen tablet netbook: 'Fun,' 'glorified app launcher,' 'not worth wait'

Asus T91 touchscreen tablet netbook: 'Fun,' 'glorified app launcher,' 'not worth wait'

Summary: Asus' Eee PC T91 touchscreen tablet netbook first debuted at CES 2009 way back in January to high hopes: a fairly inexpensive ($499) touchscreen tablet PC for the masses.Turns out you're better off sticking to your iPod touch.


Asus' Eee PC T91 touchscreen tablet netbook first debuted at CES 2009 way back in January to high hopes: a fairly inexpensive ($499) touchscreen tablet PC for the masses.

Turns out you're better off sticking to your iPod touch.

The first flood of reviews for the device have arrived, and it ain't pretty.

First, the facts: the 8.9-inch, 2-lb. T91 offers a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520 processor (1400 MHz), 1 GB of DDR2 memory, a 16GB solid-state drive, Intel GMA950 graphics, 802.11a/b/g/n wireless connectivity, 10/100Mbps Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, a Lithium polymer battery rated at 5 hours and Microsoft Windows XP Home. The display rotates 180 degrees and folds down

With that out of the way, reviewers weren't that impressed. Perhaps touch technology has come a long way since January?

CNET calls the T91 a "pokey" iteration of already "pokey" netbooks:

"We appreciate Asus' attempt to keep the price firmly in traditional Netbook territory, and a convertible tablet laptop for only $499 seems like a good deal, even for one with a smallish 9-inch screen."

Engadget said the T91 was "worth checking out," even though they'd "have a hard time" justifying buying it:

"The software included with the T91 is really nicely designed, and operates pretty much as advertised. There are limitations to the CPU and the resistive touchscreen...but the touch interface also functions better than we expected...[it's] a product we'd have a hard time justifying the purchase of -- because the custom apps aren't that useful, but they are kind of fun."

Gizmodo was typically more aggressive, calling the T91 "much better as the glimmer of hope in our eye" at CES:

"I'm just not sure why anyone would want this...with the exception of being able to literally scribble notes and some whizbang photo flick gestures, there's nothing you can accomplish with Asus's custom widget OS overlay you couldn't do on a regular netbook with a regular Windows XP build. And a glorified app launcher for a handful of custom apps + a widget desktop that essentially exist just to lie on top of Windows XP to make touch actually usable aren't exactly compelling reasons to spring for a tablet."

LAPTOP magazine simply called the T91 "underwhelming" and "not worth the wait":

"We give credit to ASUS for innovating; the touch features on the ASUS Eee PC T91 definitely break the netbook mold. However, its underpowered processor results in an underwhelming experience...also, at $499, the Eee PC T91 is $100 more expensive than other netbooks that, while lacking a touchscreen, have larger 10-inch displays, and have batteries that last twice as long."

Would you buy a $499 Asus T91 touchscreen tablet?

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • If this were a 10 or 11 incher

    I'd buy it in a heartbeat. 9 inches is just a bit to small for me to pony up the money.
    Michael Kelly
  • What reviewers were expecting?

    I think it is great when laptops have screens that can swivel 180 degrees. Every laptop should have that capability. They do not even have to be touchscreens!

    For example one place where swivel screen is great is the economy class seat on the airplane. Regular 14-15 inch laptop cannot be fully opened in most cases. Swiveling screen would be great in that case. Keyboard is not necessary when watching DVDs, showing presentation to someone or reading a book (Amazon should be worried).

    I would gladly pay $50 extra for any regular laptop to have a swivel screen capability.
  • The limiting factor is always the applications

    Touch has been around forever (like me). I see it re-surge with a flurry of new product introductions every 5-7 years or so. It never succeeds. Companies thought the popularity of the iPhone and iPod Touch meant touch had finally arrived. It hasn't. There must be applications that just work better with touch before touch will ever take off. The iPhone and iPod Touch are devices where touch makes sense mainly because their applications are all written to be touch applications. You can't just glue touch on top of old desktop applications. All of the disappointments expressed are centered on the disappointing touch applications. Design those first and then design a device to use them.
  • With Linux this thing would fly

    You only think it's slow because you put MS bloatware on it. How about using software whose hardware requirements actually match the device?
    • Linux vs. MS debate almost irrelevant

      The myth of bloatware on MS software is a pernicious. However, it is mostly FUD. Both OSS and commercial software achieve about the same performance. Comments like "MS is bloated" are not especially helpful or useful.
    • Linux support?

      I am gonna buy it. Of course only if I can run Linux on it (for performance and security reasons).
      Has anyone experience with Linux on this Asus?
  • Nope - not a buyer here!

    Apple said it months ago, and most people just laughed at them; the netbook is more hype than substance, and there's no reason to try to compete in that space.

    Rumors now indicate that Apple has some kind of "response" in the making, but you can be sure it won't be some sluggish, half-baked touch-screen netbook like this Asus. My guess is, they'll do the R&D to make it right, instead of trying to rush to market with all these lukewarm product releases.

    I could see doing a tablet computer with a 9" or 10" version of the iPhone's touch-screen. Maybe put a small keyboard on the bottom (like Amazon's Kindle reader has?) too, to make typing a little faster and easier? Maybe stick with the iPhone's basic "launcher" concept, except with some additional options like a "terminal mode" for power users, and allow installing applications from remotely mounted CD/DVD drives on a PC or Mac over a network?

    Because currently, people *love* the iPhone and iPod touch touch-screens, while finding all these other devices with touch-screens relatively useless. Why? Because it doesn't make sense to cobble together "touch-friendly" control panels and apps over the top of an OS that was designed for a mouse and keyboard all along!
  • RE: Asus T91 touchscreen tablet netbook: 'Fun,' 'glorified app launcher,' 'not worth wait'

    We are using these netbooks to replace our swipe card time clocks which cost $2500. With the built in web cam, employees take their picture and we get a face and time. Not someone swiping there budies id cards.
  • RE: Asus T91 touchscreen tablet netbook: 'Fun,' 'glorified app launcher,' 'not worth wait'

    Only convertible netbook? It's what I've been waiting for and will do everything I need it to. Between the light weight and the tablet screen, all my wishes have been granted. It can give me internet and Office apps like any other ultraportable, so the tablet touchscreen was all that had been lacking. I'm getting one as soon as I can scrape the price together and, preferably, find a color other than black.