The Asus Eee Slate EP121 is big. It's bigger than any other tablet in the current crop of iPad challengers, and more powerful too. But, as Jaws from the James Bond films would tell you, being beefy brings as many problems as it does rewards.
The Slate will be available with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. UK pricing and release dates are yet to be confirmed.
Eee Slate great
Its giant screen measures 12.1 inches diagonally, which makes the Slate the largest tablet we've seen. The specs are equally impressive: it's powered by a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 1.3GHz, with 4GB of RAM. On top of the 32GB or 64GB of solid-state storage, you can add more memory by slipping in an SD card.
The Slate includes just about every accoutrement you could expect from a tablet. Alongside the SD card slot, there's an HDMI socket, as well as two USB ports. There's also a stylus hidden in the side if you prefer writing to tapping, but you don't need it -- the touchscreen is capacitive, so you can smear and tap your greasy fingers all over it. Up at the top are the power switch, a button to lock the screen orientation, and a Bluetooth button that lets you pair the tablet with a keyboard when your arms get tired.
The 12.1-inch screen and roomy memory are handy for watching high-definition video. The 1,280x800-pixel screen lets you watch 1080p films, and, unlike the iPad, Flash video is also supported. That's all very well, but this is really a business tablet for business people doing serious business.
Eee Slate hate
As with André the Giant, the Slate's size is both its biggest blessing and greatest curse. Tablets are generally meant to be portable, and easy to whip out and use wherever you are, whether sitting, standing or lounging about. Because they're flat, tablets need to be held or propped up, so, when they reach a certain size, they're just not comfortable to use. Even though it's lighter than it looks, the Slate definitely pushes the limits of tablet portability.
Even with our manly muscles and giant man hands, we'd hate to have to hold the Slate in one hand for any length of time. And you will have to hold it in one hand, because we found that even our enormous ham-hock hands and thumbs designed for hitchhiking wouldn't meet in the middle when we held the Slate in two hands. It's definitely not a tablet for the pixie-fingered, unless you want to build up your biceps as you browse. It's also definitely not a tablet to go travelling with.
There's another reason why you won't want to stray too far from home with the Slate: its formidable computing power eats up battery life like nobody's business. It depends on what you're doing, but the Slate will usually only offer a couple of hours of use before the battery conks out.
The Slate runs Windows 7, which recreates your desktop experience, but with finger prodding required, instead of a mouse and keyboard. Windows isn't specifically designed for touchscreens, however, so some icons and on-screen bits and pieces can be small and fiddly when you're using your fingers.
If the iPad is a sports car that's been stripped of features but remains high on élan, the Asus Eee Slate EP121 is a tank. It's loaded with every weapon in the tablet armoury but it's not suited to venturing far beyond the office. You wouldn't go into battle in a TVR kit car, but you wouldn't take a tank on the train either.
Edited by Charles Kloet