Windows is a notoriously inhospitable operating system for tablets, and while we wait for the more finger-friendly Windows 8 to appear, manufacturers struggle along with Windows 7. Asus may have got the closest we've seen to producing a usable Windows 7 tablet with the Eee Slate EP121.
The display is vast for a tablet at 12.1in., and it delivers 1,280 by 800 pixels of bright, clear content on a screen which, although reflective, is great for viewing video.
The operating system is Windows 7 Home Premium, which won't endear the Eee Slate EP121 to business users. But what will cause the sharpest intake of breath is the eye-watering price. Looking online, as we write, we found the Eee Slate EP121 for just shy of £1,000 (inc. VAT). That price makes it far too expensive to be an adjunct to a main computer for many people. It'll have to be their one and only.
Asus provides a nicely made, comfortable to use Bluetooth keyboard, which helps with the idea of using the Eee Slate EP121 as your only computer. Still, without a built in kickstand for the tablet you’ll have to use the bundled protective case to prop the slate up for typing when on the train or sitting at your desk. Using the system on your lap, notebook style, is out of the question.
The case also protects the Slate EP121 in transit, but there’s nothing provided to protect the keyboard, which could also do with some sort of slipcase.
The general specifications aren’t too sloppy as far as tablets are concerned. A Core i5-470um processor is supported by 4GB of RAM and there is 64GB of SSD storage built in. An SD card port caters for storage expansion.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built in, but sadly neither mobile broadband nor Ethernet, which many business users will require. A 2-megapixel camera on the front caters for video conferencing, and there are two USB ports protected by hinged covers, plus HDMI-out and a combo audio jack.
The screen is responsive to the finger, and pinch-to-zoom support is well implemented. There is a digitiser pen in a housing on one edge of the chassis; this is pressure sensitive, which can prove useful with applications that support the feature. The system is easy on the eye, with an attractive white backplate and silver edging.
The relatively large screen means this is a sizeable tablet, measuring 31.2cm by 20.72cm by 1.69cm; it's quite heavy too, at 1.16kg. We've come across notebooks with integrated keyboards that don't weigh a great deal more. And there's no optical drive.
Acer estimates the Slate EP121's battery life is estimated at 4.5 hours, which isn't great by today's notebook standards. We got 3.5 hours of video playback — a result matched by many notebooks we review, although not really acceptable in a business context.
It's difficult not to be impressed with what Asus has done with this tablet, but also difficult not to be a little disappointed. The overall specifications are above average, although the low-voltage processor is a bit of a let down. The hardware is robust, but the lack of a kickstand rankles. The screen is responsive and usable but we'd prefer a 1,366 by 768 pixel resolution. In the end, if we had £1,000 burning a hole in our pocket, we'd probably spend it elsewhere.