Asus made the first splash at CES 2011, announcing its four upcoming Eee Pad tablets a full day before the official start of the Vegas electronics showcase. And judging by the awards and buzz following the show, the Taiwan-based computer maker made perhaps the biggest splash as well.
The Asus Eee Slate EP121 was chosen by a panel of independent industry designers, engineers and journalists for a CES Innovation Award in the personal electronics category, making it one of eight Asus products to receive honors.
TabletPCReview got to spend time with the four Eee Pads at the Asus CES suite, with Asus reps demoing the very same units that Asus Chairman Jonney Shih carried to the unveiling. And while all the units were pre-production models still in need of some final polish and tweaks before shipping (the four devices will ship between Q1 and Q3, with the EP121 already available for pre-order), they were still fully-functional and near their final builds.
We first focused our attention on the EP121 because it is a large and powerful slate with Windows 7 and Wacom pen capabilities — something we know will please the inking fanatics on the TabletPCReview forums.
The 12.1-inch device is surprisingly light, featuring a textured plastic casing. However, the large size makes one-handed operation and note taking a difficult endeavor at best. That may give the recent HP Slate 500, which weighs a full pound less than the EP121, the upper hand in mobility, but the Eee Slate has plenty of power to go with its size. In fact, an Asus rep referred to it as “the world’s most powerful slate device.”
We’ll be the judge of that when we get a unit for a full review, which Asus promises will happen real soon.
While it has to share the slider spotlight Samsung Sliding PC 7, the Eee Pad Slider is an extremely interesting device. Where Samsung decided on Windows 7 for its operating system needs, that Asus unit will ship with Android Honeycomb, Google’s tablet OS.
The Eee Pad Slider we demoed did not have Honeycomb, but it was fully functional with Android installed, and an overlay that featured the coolest battery meter TabletPCReview has ever seen. Check it out:
Asus faces a real design challenge with the Slider. Specifically, how do you build a device light enough to be mobile and of high enough quality to survive the rigors of daily sliding and use? Once again, TabletPCReview intends to find out when the review unit arrives.
The silver bulge beneath the screen is actually a pop-out stylus, which is not an active pen. But it does make for a fun doodle session on the MeMO’s included paint app, especially with the pressure sensitive screen. In the paint program, a hard press results in a thicker stroke, while a light trace produces a thin line. It’s simple and addictive. Though, TPCR was tempted to make the thickest stroke possible with a mighty press, we didn’t for fear of breaking the screen and getting booted from the Asus suite.
Asus was coy in regards to text recognition, even though they are promoting the MeMO as having “handwriting capabilities.” We didn’t see much beyond the paint app because, once again, this was a pre-production unit. Perhaps the MeMO will ship with new-and-improved note-taking tech, something more than found on the iPad and current Android tablets. We’d love to see it.
Eyes on Asus
We’ll be watching the Taiwanese Eee Pad maker very closely in the months following this CES. With these devices, it seems Asus is poised to compete with the big names in the tablet game through the promise of innovative design choices and a commitment to capactive touch and pen input.
Judging from the tablet competition at CES 2011, the Eee Pads will have to make better than good on the promise to come out on top.