CES: Asus launches Honeycomb tablets

The Taiwanese PC maker aims to take on Apple's iPad with three Android 3.0-based tablets featuring a range of input options, as well as a new slate running Windows 7
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor

Asus has introduced four new tablets, three based on the upcoming Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system and one on Microsoft Windows 7.

The Eee Pad Memo, Eee Pad Transformer, Eee Pad Slider and Eee Slate EP121 were unveiled at CES 2011 on Tuesday. They will take on rivals from Apple and Acer by presenting innovative features in a range of product formats, Asus's chief executive Jonney Shih told journalists at the Las Vegas electronics show.

Jonney Shih Eee Pad Transformer image

The Eee Pad Transformer, shown off by Asus chairman Jonney Shih, runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Photo credit: Simon Bisson

"We admire Apple, which offers great innovation, but they provide very limited choices for customers," Shih said. "A combination of innovation and choice is a better way to serve customers."

The Eee Pad Memo is a 7.1-inch Android slate, designed for both touch and stylus use. Built around a Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM processor, it offers 1080p high-definition video playback through a micro HDMI port and supports handwriting recognition.

The tablet comes with basic content creation tools, including Asus's own Media Note text application. Shih said that the Taiwanese hardware maker will provide a separate Bluetooth MeMic phone extender to make and take phone calls.

The Eee Slate EP121 is a 12.1-inch screen device that Shih described as a "no-compromise Windows tablet". Using an Intel Core i5 processor, a 64GB solid-state drive and 4GB of RAM, the Windows 7-powered Slate is designed as a content creation tablet. A demo at the launch showed it running Photoshop CS5 and processing photographs at the same time as playing a 1080p video. Input is via a multi-mode touchscreen, which has support for a Wacom pen as well as for multi-touch.

Asus's other two tablets, the Eee Pad Transformer and the Eee Pad Slider, are both based on the same Nvidia Tegra 2 chip and run Android 3.0, also known as Honeycomb.

Tegra 2 is "the most powerful ARM processor. It has twice the performance of the iPad's A4 and provides the fastest web browsing and multi-tasking, and it gives you the fastest video performance", Shih said.

The Transformer tablet has an optional keyboard docking station, which allows people to use it as either a tablet or a netbook. It has a claimed 16 hours of battery life and provides additional ports. "This was where smart mobility meets casual computing," said Shih.

The Transformer has a 10.1-inch 1280x800 display with support for full web-page browsing.

The Slider has the same size display as the Transformer, but includes an integral full Qwerty keyboard that slides out as the screen tilts up. It also comes with HDMI ports and a card reader, and Asus has said it will offer an optional 3G module.

Asus is providing its own MyWave user interface on top of Android in the Memo, Transformer and Slider. MyWave comes with libraries of ebooks and emagazines, as well as DLNA-based media streaming for playing 1080p video and music on televisions or other devices connected to the tablet.

Shih described how the new devices fit in with Asus's vision of a connected lifestyle. "These are personal cloud-computing devices. The real beauty is Web 2.0 with co-operation between cloud and personal computing, with more knowledge, more creativity," he said.

He pointed out that high-quality hardware is a key part of this corporate vision. "We believe you need to have the best personal cloud-computing devices with wide choices that support very good input and productivity, really contributing to productivity," he said.

The Eee Slate is scheduled for release in the US in January, at a price of $999 to $1099 (£640 to £705). The Eee Pad Transformer is expected to launch in April, priced from $399 to $699, with the Slider following in May at $499 to $799. The Eee Pad Memo is set to be available in June, with price tags ranging from $399 to $699. UK pricing and release dates have yet to be announced.

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