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Is a tablet with a keyboard really a tablet?

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The Asus Eee Pad Slider Android tablet is expected to launch this month, and an Australian blogger has one of the first hands-on looks at the unique slate. On Monday the CarryPad blog pointed me to Ritchie’s Room, which provides a full first look at this 10.1-inch Honeycomb tablet that comes with a twist, or rather a slide. The entire display can shift up at an angle, revealing a full QWERTY keyboard. That gives the tablet a laptop-like form factor when needed, in addition to the standard touchscreen-slate use.

In addition to the always-attached keyboard, the Eee Pad Slider adds a full-sized USB port and microSD card slot for memory expansion. Adding these ports and the keyboard adds some bulk and weight, however, two things I’d say actually reduce the portability of the tablet. The slider is larger overall than the iPad (s aapl) or Galaxy Tab 10.1, for example, and at 31.3 ounces, weighs just under two pounds.

Yes, that’s still lighter than a notebook or netbook computer, but it is noticeably heavier than comparable tablets. From a design standpoint, Ritchie says the sliding mechanism on the tablet works well. It’s a spring-loaded design that Ritchie claims is “very smooth action.” The screen angle is a fixed position, however; don’t expect to tilt the screen at different angles.

Maybe I’ll feel differently once I get an Eee Pad Slider to look at, but I’m not sold on the design for my personal needs. Honeycomb is a touch-driven interface, so your hands will be moving back and forth between the keyboard. Even though the distance looks small, it’s not ideal from a usability standpoint. With either the USB port or Bluetooth radio, you could add a mouse to address that problem, but that’s more to carry, which reduces portability even more. And the added weight of the keyboard and sliding mechanism is something buyers will be carrying the whole time, although they do gain a stand out of the design.

Again, perhaps the heavy slate will impress me when I see it for myself. And I’m not suggesting the Eee Pad Slider is a nonstarter: It will surely appeal to some who don’t mind carrying a larger device in order to gain an integrated keyboard. My concern is that I’d be “carrying” the extra weight and size for the keyboard all the time, yet I’d likely be using the keyboard for a very limited amount of time. Folks that are supplementing a true slate with some type of wired or wireless keyboard would likely feel the opposite and for them, the Eee Pad Slider might press all the right buttons, assuming Google Android (s goog) is their platform of choice.

Keyboard or not, I haven’t been impressed enough by any Android Honeycomb tablet to buy one for myself. I actually still prefer Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, on my lighter 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab. And that’s a problem that no keyboard will fix.

14 Responses to “Is a tablet with a keyboard really a tablet?”

  1. The beauty about what Asus is doing, is designing their devices as springboards for our creativity, its what we do with them that defines what they are. In my opinion, what Apple denies you, Asus brings freedom to work out of the box. Achieving new levels of creativity and convenience. Don’t be a clone!

  2. Patrick

    I saw something similar (laptop with hidable keyboard and (primitive) touch screen) in 2001 or 2002. A guy a work bought one in – you could use it as a regular laptop, or twist the screen around and put the back of the screen over the keyboard, which would allow the screen to be used in touch mode (exclusively for drawing/note taking as far as I could tell). It ran some brand of Windows, the touch screen was used never used to interface with the OS, it was only used for drawing.

    It turned out to be not very useful. Maybe these new tablets with keyboards will be useful, but I don’t see it for mainstream use.

  3. “Is a tablet with a keyboard really a tablet?”

    …or is it pretending to be a more useful netbook?

    You highlight many points in your post Kevin that actually underline the advantages of netbooks over slates. But if I had to make changes to today’s slate designs I would be adding these items in lieu of a sliding keyboard:

    1. Handwriting recognition
    2. Productivity apps
    3. Full-size SD slot
    4. Better video support

    I can see the benefits of separating screen from keyboard, however, but we’re still a long way away from getting the right hardware/software combination that works.

  4. So is it a tablet – sure. A slider tablet. Like convertible laptops where tablet too. Its a sub-category of a tablet since you still experience it some as a tablet.

    Now talking about Android 10″ – I have tried both the Transformer and the Iconia and have mixed opinion. That said the Samsung 10.1″ feels just so – so much superior! Justifying a 100$ diff in price maybe.

    Then there is the question if 10″ is worthy for Android. I think NOT. I am a fan of Android but I doubt Google can do everything and in such a short time. They need to evolve in the “mobile tablet” market and leave the “in-door tablets” for others. I prefer MS. And Fujitsu and Samsung are bringing very soon (actually were supposed to already) 10″ tablets with Windows 7. I like the idea. With about 2 pounds weight and specs that can answer most productivity scenario.

    Last but not least is my personal story. I was trying like crazy deciding lately what to buy as my 10″ solution. I also wanted it to go with me on business trips. I then took out of the desk my old Aspire One 8.9″ netbook. And it fit my needs for now. Lol. Will buy soon though the Samsung slate win7. Sounds like a perfect solution given than I dont plan on using it outdoor. 10″ is in-door and for all that I am going to use it for, its going to be just fine. And very easy to carry on the go (in contrast to using on the go).

  5. I can live with a virtual keyboard. The thing I need is a way to move the cursor more accurately than my fat fingers can. A mouse makes document editing viable on a tablet-size device. So my vote goes to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer plus dock, which has a keyboard trackpad.

  6. I’m not sure about this one yet, but I know I’d prefer a Transformer over it. In fact, I prefer a Transformer type of tablet with a keyboard dock over any other kind of tablet. If you want to do some serious writing/work on a tablet you’re going to need a keyboard dock, so why not get one that has that flexibility?

    • The Transformer makes more sense for my needs as well given that the keyboard dock is optional. That doesn’t mean the Slider won’t sell, but I don’t see it selling nearly as many units as the more flexible Transformer.

  7. trollCall

    “Is a tablet with a keyboard really a tablet?”

    Does classifying it as a “tablet” even matter? The better question is “is it worth the purchase?” “Is there longevity in this device?” Those kinds of things. Fickle questions like this take too much real estate in deciding on whether to actually buy the dayum thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s to be called a tablet or not. It only matters if it works well and lasts long.

  8. I think it’s an excellent design in space management, while still being a tablet. Virtual keyboards on tablets have one problem with virtual keyboards which is a stretch for your thumbs. Having the slide out keyboard gives you choice and the best of both worlds. I enjoy the choice of of virtual or physical keyboard on my Asus EEE transformer. This slider frees you up from the docking keyboard, from disconnecting and connecting. Of course you loose battery time, but I think nine hours is good enough for a day.

  9. I think the weight is more of an issue for holding it than carrying it. A tablet is meant to be held and 2 pounds is too heavy to hold for any period of time. I have an iPad 1 and think that it’s a little too heavy.

    Frankly, Asus doesn’t seem to get it. These guys tried a tablet and found that it’s biggest problem was the lack of a keyboard? Even Blackberry realized that a keyboard wasn’t only not necessary, but would actually make the device worse because of the added weight.

    • Jimmy, I completely agree. That’s why my larger tablets don’t leave the house, while the lighter 7-inch Galaxy Tab often does. I can use that device pretty much anywhere for any length of time. Doing the same with a larger tablet is a challenge.