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Asus EEE Slate EP 121

September 12, 2011

I have been using the Asus Slate for about 1 month now and I absolutely love it. In fact, I am sitting in my living room right now. I have it sitting on a stand on the end table next to me and I am typing this using the BT keyboard that came with it.

Technical Specifications

To run through the specs real quickly, the slate is a 12.1 inch capacitive display with a Wacom digitizer (more on that later). It has 4GB RAM and a 64GB SSD hard drive.

I am not going to write this and tell you that the slate is100% perfect, because it’s not. However, I will tell you that the many, many reviews I have read about Windows 7 not being built for touch, well, those people have clearly not gone through to customize the device properly. I would grant that some of the changes I made might not work as well with a smaller screen, but on a 12.1 inch display, the changes make the device 100% touch friendly.

Configure for touch

For starters, in the control panel there is a configuration to make icons and display items larger. I have played with the percentages and ultimately I have settled in at 138% (under appearance and personalization).

Next, I right clicked on the start menu, properties and then customize. Scroll down to the bottom of the menu and choose “large icons”. This setting makes the start menu icons perfectly sized for fingers.

The last thing is once again in the control panel, go into Appearance and Personalization, click on Personalization and choose window color and advanced. In this menu, you can change a ton of things. I have gone back and forth between making scrollbars wider (40), or setting them to ultra thin, where the scrollbars are gone. For apps that are touch aware, the almost invisible scrollbars works perfectly. But there are legacy apps, or if you use something like Citrix to connect to a remote office where the fat scrollbars are so much nicer. By using the fat scrollbars, it’s extremely easy to grab the scrollbars even in the non-touch based applications. In the same area where you modify the scrollbars, I also modified a few other settings. The most important are the caption buttons (the close, maximize minimize buttons at the top left). You can play with some of the settings but at the end, you will definitely have a computer that is 100% touch friendly.

Using the Device

Let me start by saying, I have both Windows based machines and Macs. I have an iPad and iPhone along with a Windows Phone 7 device. I can get into more on that later. My main point in telling you this is so that you know, I play with different technologies all the time.

I have a very different use case for my Slate than for the iPad. To be fair, I did attempt to use the iPad for work purposes and found the device to be full of unacceptable compromises. The lack of real multi-tasking, the inability to easily connect and share data with other machines on my network, the lack of a real stylus or writing, lack of easy networking capabilities for printing, and the missing ports for USB or HDMI type connections simply caused too many limitations to make the device a real work device. I am not saying it couldn’t work in a pinch, it could.

As for the slate, at home I have two stands. One that is also an iPad stand sitting by my bed, I have another stand sitting down in the office (I have one more stand that I put in my bag and I use it both at home and on the road).

In the home office

In the office, I have a large monitor with a HDMI cable connected. I leave the cable connected to the tablet stand. I also have a power cable sitting right next to the stand. I have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse (the Arc mouse touch and the arc keyboard) When I walk in, I place the tablet on the stand, connect the monitor cable and connect the power cable. At that point I have a dual monitor configuration and I use the computer just like I would any laptop or desktop. I have a machine that is fully functional. It can print to the network printer and it can pull files from any of the computers in the house including my home server.

BTW – I am also running Office 2010. With this software, the ribbon is tablet aware and it becomes better spaced out and completely finger friendly. One of the biggest improvements over the 2007 version is that the ribbon disappears too so that you don’t waste the screen real-estate with the ribbon.

On the couch

When I am in the house and just surfing the web consuming content, I will generally hold the tablet on the couch. However, there are times, like now, where I will place the tablet on a stand in the end-table and I will just use a Bluetooth keyboard in my lap. Overall, because of the size of the screen this device is great for content consumption. In fact, surfing the web is a 100 times better on the Slate than on the iPad because it plays everything just like any other computer (flash etc).

In the office (and attending meetings)

When I go into the office, I no longer use the machine provided by my company. Instead, I use the tablet and have an identical setup to my home office. However, when I am going to meetings, I just take the slate. If I am going to be gone less than 5 hours, I take the slate with nothing else. If I might be away from power for over 5 hours, I will throw the Energizer 18000 into the bag just in case (more on that later).

For meetings, that’s where the tablet really shines. The Wacom digitizer makes writing on the slate just like writing with a pen. You can even turn the pen over and erase. Using Microsoft OneNote is quickly becoming my favorite app for note taking, research or writing. It’s an absolutely phenomenal application (for another post). In short, you can take almost any app, any screenshot, anything that can be printed and then you can write over the top of it. For note taking or editing.

What’s not so good?

By a long shot, the largest negative is the battery life. I have run multiple tests and streaming videos on my wireless network the machine will only get 3 hours of batter life. I have had tests where I had as little as 2 hours 45 minutes. For that reason, I ended up ordering the Energizer 18000. It’s about $130 device that can charge the slate, cell phones and just about any other device. The nice part about the Energizer is that I can run the battery on the slate to about 10-15%. For normal purposes, not watching movies, that will be about 3-4 hours. Over the next two hours (while I am still using the device), the Energizer will re-charge the slate. Then I will be good for another 3-4 hours. So, in all, I get 8-10 hours of constant use without need for an outlet. In the worst case scenario, I am still getting about 7 hours (2.5 + 2 + 2.5).

Truthfully, outside of that, I would say that this device has been just about perfect. I do think that it’s incredible that Microsoft, or the OEM’s haven’t configured these devices so that Windows 7 is truly touch capable.

That concludes my product review at this time, but as I work with it more over the next couple months, I will add notes as appropriate.

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