At CES 2011 today, Asus announced three new Android tablets and a Windows 7 based slate PC. The tablets, all Android-based, go by the moniker "Eee Pad" while the Windows 7 device is called an "Eee Slate."
Each one offers some unique features, from stylus input options to sliding keyboards or docking stations. Unfortunately, we don't yet have exact shipping dates or prices for the Android tablets, and the Eee Slate looks to be fairly pricey.
Eee Pad MeMO
First up is themost conventional of the bunch, the Eee Pad MeMO. A 7-inch tablet based on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), it's powered by a Qualcomm 8260 Snapdragon CPU running at 1.2 GHz. You'll also find a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera and 5 megapixel rear camera, along with Micro-SD, Micro HDMI and Micro USB ports. The 7-inch screen has a resolution of 1024 by 600.
Perhaps the most interesting is the built-in stylus for taking handwritten notes. Asus promises 1080p video playback, with pricing and storage size varying by region.
Eee Pad Slider
Moving up in size takes us to the Eee Pad Slider. Again based on Android 3.0, this tablet features a slide-out keyboard, sort of like a giant slider phone, but with a screen that tilts up. The tablet features Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor with either 512MB or 1GB of RAM and up to 32GB of flash storage.
Obviously a tablet with a sliding keyboard will be a little bulkier than one without, but Asus claims the Eee Pad Slider will weigh under 2.2 pounds and be less than half an inch thick. The 10.1 inch uses an IPS panel with a resolution of 1280 by 800, you get a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera and a 5 megapixel rear camera, and a host of ports: mini-USB, an audio jack, micro SD card reader, a docking port and mini-HDMI. Asus promises up to 6 hours of mixed-use battery life.
Eee Pad Transformer
Perhaps the most interesting of Asus' new Android based tablets is the Eee Pad Transformer, as it is specifically designed to go from laptop to tablet and back again. Specs are similar to the Eee Pad Slider: 10.1 inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 by 800, Tegra 2 processor with 512MB or 1GB of RAM, Android 3.0 operating system, 1.2 megapixel front camera and 5 megapixel rear camera with similar ports and plugs.
Instead of a slide-out keyboard, the Transformer has a separate detachable keyboard deck that houses extra USB ports and a card reader along with another battery, doubling the tablet's estimated battery life from 8 hours to 16. When in this docking keyboard deck, the screen folds down like a typical laptop. Also, note the clickpad on the docking station.
Eee Slate EP121
Not to leave Microsoft out in the cold, Asus has a Slate to go along with its tablets: the Eee Slate EP121. Targeting a blend of entertainment and enterprise business use, the EP121 features a 12.1 inch screen with a 1280 by 800 resolution and a nifty twist: this IPS panel is both capacitive multitouch and support for a Wacom electromagnetic digitiser pen.
The unit is powered by an Intel Core i5 470UM ultra low-voltage processor and comes equipped with Windows 7 Home Premium, up to 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD for storage. It comes with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and 2.0 megapixel front-facing camera for online video chat. Of course, it's considerably thicker and heavier than the Android-based tablets at 0.66 inches thick and just over 2.5 pounds.
Asus says the Eee Slate EP121 will go on preorder immediately with shipments early in the first quarter, with prices starting at $999 (c £600) for the version with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The version with 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD should list for only $100 more, which seems like the obvious better choice.
Pricing and availability are not yet known for the Android tablets, perhaps because nobody knows exactly when Google is going to put the wraps on Android 3.0.
All these Android devices with keyboards, and in some cases pointing devices, poses an interesting question: is Google doing something more with Android 3.0 than we anticipate? Will it have more built-in functions that duplicate those found in typical laptops? Or is Google simply banking on the idea that, as screen sizes scale up beyond the smartphone, the need for frictionless text input increases?