Asus Windows Slate EP121 Coming to CES, I’ve Pretty Much Already Got One and I’m Already Not Impressed

Posted on 24 December 2010, Last updated on 24 December 2010 by

ep121Looks like it’s hard for most huge companies to do anything these days that hasn’t already achieved band-wagon status. I mean, what do we expect… that these companies will actually take a risk one of these days? Yeah, right.

Case in point, Asus is teasing a Windows slate to be released at CES 2011 (which Chippy will be attending). They’re calling it the EP121, and it’ll have a 12 inch capacitive touchscreen, HDMI output, SD slot, webcam, and “full HD playback inch. Exhilarating features, I know. Here’s their promo video:

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IMG_3696But here’s the thing… I’ve pretty much already got one of these slates. The Onkyo TW317 is a solid 10 inch slate running Windows 7, and is more or less identical to any Windows 7 slate offering that we’ll see from CES. The TW317 has everything mentioned in Asus’ promo video (though the screen is slightly smaller) except for the full HD playback, which likely means that the EP121 will have NVidia Tegra. This is Asus we’re talking about though, so you can be sure that they’ll be demoing some useless applications produced in-house for photo-viewing, eBook Reading, and music/video playback – non of which will be as good as you’d find on something like the iPad. Beyond these things, it’ll be the same old song and dance… a Windows device with no keyboard/mouse and a shallow software overlay does not make for a good or productive computing experience. We saw this in the past, and we’re about to see it again as computer manufacturers try to ride the tablet bandwagon and fool consumers into thinking that a keyboardless/mouseless Windows 7 slate is even remotely as useful or usable as the iOS or Android devices that are currently on the market.

35 Comments For This Post

  1. UMPCPortal says:

    Asus Windows Slate EP121 Coming to CES, I’ve Pretty Much Already Got One and I’m Already Not http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=22967

  2. Anuj Purohit says:

    Asus Windows Slate EP121 Coming to CES, I’ve Pretty Much Already Got One and I’m Already Not… http://goo.gl/fb/h68hk

  3. Gretchen Glasscock says:

    Asus Windows Slate EP121 Coming to CES, I’ve Pretty Much Already Got One and I’m Already Not Impressed: Read mor… http://bit.ly/ecJyWN

  4. Alltop Mobile says:

    Asus Windows Slate EP121 Coming to CES, I’ve Pretty Much Already Got One and I’m Already Not Impressed http://bit.ly/gOQRmD

  5. Josh's Tech Items says:

    Asus Windows Slate EP121 Coming to CES, I’ve Pretty Much Already Got One and I’m Already Not… http://goo.gl/fb/GyDtR

  6. Saber Mode says:

    Who thought slates were a good idea in the first place anyway?

  7. Ben says:

    A question I ask myself every time I see one of these slates… they have very few practical uses for the every day consumer. I could see them functioning well in a few niche places, but other than that, they are pretty useless.

  8. magicuser says:

    the 12″ Asus EP121 will be powered by a core i5. that is very different from an intel atom 1.6 which the Onkyo TW317 is using.

    however, Asus will also be releasing 2 10″ tablets, one using the new oaktrail, and another with tegra 2.

    source: http://www.alltouchtablet.com/touchscreen-tablet-news/asus-shows-teaser-of-its-eee-pc-121-12-inch-tablet-6187/

  9. Ben says:

    Magicuser, regardless of whether or not the EP121 will be using a Core i5 (I don’t think it will, otherwise the battery will be horrible and it’ll be overpriced) it’s still a Windows slate with no keyboard and no mouse and is thus inherently less useful than such a device with a keyboard and mouse.

  10. magicuser says:

    “But here’s the thing… I’ve pretty much already got one of these slates. The Onkyo TW317 is a solid 10” Slate running Windows 7, and is more or less identical to any Windows 7 Slate offering that we’ll see from CES.”

    My reply was targeted at this comment. To iterate simply: it’s a different product.

    If what you’re looking for is something with a keyboard and pointer control, then please buy a notebook. There are plenty out there for you to choose from.

    These devices are meant for media consumption as their primary role, and secondly; with any specific application catered for touch, becomes useful.

  11. dood says:

    The video says it’ll have a Core i5 and will run Windows 7. Anyway, I agree that all these slates are pretty stupid. They offer nothing more compared to just getting a notebook. If anything, they offer less by lacking a mouse, keyboard and being very non-ergonomic.

  12. ktol says:

    Yes, we’re going to have a future of hunchbacks because of these tablets. I already see so many people hunched over their iPads pretending they have something more portable than a notebook. You still need some sort of bag to carry it.

  13. Chippy says:

    I use my tablet a lot while sat back on a good chair. Got to be better than the Netbook on a table right?

  14. BedIntruder says:

    OK, you win! In today’s consumer culture when any idiot can buy and use a computer to get on the Internet and most people who have been covering technology have long since succumbed to the emotional addiction that big business interests and their shareholders depends on, anybody can spout off half-truths or out right lies as if they’re totally valid. However, your remarks are still silly. There’s an entire industry of computers targeted at vertical markets which is apparently a huge scam thanks to your brilliant logic. It’s too bad that my sister who is an EMT and uses an Xplore tablet with Windows 7 is stuck with a useless device because it doesn’t have a keyboard or mouse. Apparently, she isn’t able to save people’s lives. Apparently, she isn’t able to assist them medically. Apparently, shy should have just bought an iPad so that she play Angry Birds, piss away her life tweeting to 6 friends, and update her facebook status so that everybody can be reminded “I scam the medical community with fraudulent computing practices!” When I call her tonight to wish her a Merry Christmas, I’ll shred her to pieces for living in a delusional world on your behalf. From what I can tell, the lack of keyboard and mouse doesn’t make her Windows tablet hard to use. She enrolls several patients into hospital systems while en route in the ambulance using little more than a touchscreen, pen, and her voice. She dictates initial chart notes, she fills out and signs forms, and she navigates though their software just fine. It’s too bad that your tablet sucks so bad, but if you want to pretend like you’re not a moron then don’t assume that everybody’s experience is identical to yours and therefore just as invalid. Either that, or learn to say only what you mean. There are just certain things that certain tablets can do that no other device can do. That’s why they’re called tablets, which has nothing to do with being a slate or a laptop or a convertible. Not all computers are “inherently less useful than such a device with a keyboard and mouse” in Windows. Some are inherently differently useful, and some are more useful than anything else given the particular application. You honestly sound like a guy who tried to eat his hat and then complained that hats are worthless because they were too hard to eat.

  15. Ben says:

    I should have elaborated, here’s some follow up comments from the article that I previously wrote and linked to:

    “I have an HP tablet as well, I love the inking on it. It works great for me when I want to take hand written notes. I’ve actually disabled the resistive touchscreen though because it tended to hurt the inking experience.
    I also recognize that Windows based UMPCs are much more flexible than something like the iPad. I’ve used my Sony VAIO UX UMPC for something like 5 years now… it’s an awesome device with a touchscreen. But it isn’t a SLATE which is what I’m getting at in the article. The UX has a great mouse and a decent keyboard, and because of that, I can use Windows effectively. If it was just a slate, I’d be annoyed at having to use a terrible OSK, and if the mouse implementation wasn’t really good, I’d become frustrated with just the touchscreen when I needed precision.

    The issue is that these upcoming Windows based slates are being positioned for the casual user. They want the same market of people who might be interested in the iPad. The companies think they can attract people with some poorly designed, in-house touch interface which really only assists with maybe 5% of what the computer can actually do. For the other 95% of the OS (which is designed with a full keyboard and mouse in mind) the user is stuck with extremely sub-par input tools.”

    Here’s the thing, you’re sister works in a niche industry environment. Some tools work great there, but for the casual computer user who wants to do word processing, web browsing, and view streaming media, etcetera, Windows Slates do not work well. When I say slate, I mean a device with no keyboard and no “usable” mouse. My definition of “usable” mouse extends to devices with active digitizers, of which the Onkyo TW317 does not have an the Asus EP121 likely will not have as well. If I gave the Onkyo TW317 to my Father/Mother/Siblings/Aunts/Uncles/or 99% of my friends, they would be frustrated and confounded within their first hours of use and would demand their notebooks back. The first time they got stuck in a full-screen YouTube video with no way to escape (because of the lack keyboard and lack of escape key), they’d be very confused. If they ever ended up in the BIOS during a lock up and hard-reset, they’d probably be pretty annoyed that they needed a USB keyboard just to boot their machine, and probably be pretty upset if they didn’t have one on hand.

    These devices are not good for the casual consumer. Your sister is clearly not a casual consumer, and she’s using a device that has good input (an active digitizer).

  16. animatio says:

    nothing to add.

  17. Jeff Roach says:

    As someone who has used Tablet PCs exclusively since 2003 (Toshiba M200, M400,Fujitsu U810, Lenovo X61T and X200T both with touch and pen) and as the owner of a Toshiba Libretto W105 and soon the HP Slate 500, I find this constent panning of Windows 7 on Slates is a waste, App Stores are a joke and a vendor lock-in yet the computer media pundits have bought it lock, stock and barrel. I believe this generation of press really discount the ability of Windows in a Touch Environment. I use Outlook and the rest of the Office Suite with both pen and touch. And lets be frank, everyone points to Excel and Touch, most of us will never try to create an Excel Spreadsheet while mobile, even with a Netbook or Laptop but we will refer to the data and a spreadsheet while in the field which we can do in a touch environment. With a Windows Based system we have the ability to get add-ons of software and hardware from any vendor usually much cheaper, so I can add the keyboard and mouse to my desk setup and take the device with me into the field and use the touch for lite productivity and consumption. I’m sorry the Ipad and Android systems do not allow for this. A Windows Slate allows for the consumption and productivity I need. Someone is going to throw out some LOB App, well if it is built on Excel or Access with a DB in the background it will be created with a shell that allows for input. This article isn’t up to what we should expect from UMPC Portal. And sadly Gottabemobile is becoming the same…

    Ipad and Android are not computers they are aplliances and people are creating very kluggy was of making them computers and are found lacking…

    Oh well, my rant is over and I look forward to my 3lbs of Windows Touch Systems that will be in my bag, the W105 for personal use and the Slate for work, no more 4lbs of Convertable Tablets for me and all we be running on Win7 and all of my normal software and it will be with me and I can move it to wherever I need, no iTunes, no Goggle spying from their MarketPlace and no storing my personal or work docs on their servers. Windows allows me to control how I share.

  18. Ben says:

    See my response to BedIntruder above.

  19. Jeff Roach says:

    Ben,

    I still disagree with your assumptions, the casual user wants Internet, ebooks, email, music….all of these are supported very well and are touch friendly in Windows 7. Plus a Windows 7 slate can consume the entire web, including flash. All of the app store madness allows the Ipad access that is available via the browser on a Windows computer. All of the slates I’ve used has keyboard lunching via hardware buttons.

    I get the added benifit of having the ability to run all of my Windows Applications….

  20. Ben says:

    These aren’t assumptions Jeff, we’ve been testing these devices for years:

    http://www.umpcportal.com/2008/12/asus-r50a-full-review/

    The removal of a keyboard and usable mouse (including an active digitizer) does nothing but limit what you can do on a computer. Think about if, you’ve got a full blown computer in your hands that would normally be able to play lots of great Windows games, or do extremely efficient word processing, great web browsing, edit videos, and run all sorts of programs. But, you’ve chosen to remove the mouse and keyboard, making the great majority of games unplayable, making input horrendously slow (I can type way faster on iOS/Android than with the Windows 7 OSK) which is a bottleneck for every single application that requires text input. Mouse control is so imprecise that any time you need to control a small on screen object, you’ll just end up frustrated. Try seeking through a YouTube video, or making slight adjustments to a video timeline in an editing program… good luck. It isn’t even possible to float the mouse on the above mentioned devices; I shouldn’t need to remind you that a floating mouse is part of the foundation of the Windows interface design… the removal of it causes all sorts of problems.

    There are very few instance where a slate device with no active digitizers is beneficial over a convertible device or a regular notebook. I’m not saying that the iPad/Galaxy Tab, etc. do everthing better than a Windows machine, I’m saying that they excel in areas that Windows does not, and when Windows attempts to emulate those devices, they turn their backs on their strengths and all that sacrifice is for a sub-bar iOS/Android-like experience.

  21. Jeff Roach says:

    All of these devices would work well without a 3rd party shell if the OEMs would configure Windows properly for touch, the need to increase the scroll bar size and the menu bar,I usally do around 25 on the scroll bar and 36 on the menu bar, they can setup the icons on the desktop to be touch friendly as well. I guessing we will see something from MS at CES, a touch friendly theme…

    I think we have different expectations in a touch device, I like that I can easliy use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and use it as a pure slate to consume ebooks, web, etc.

    I think that most people who are buying the Ipad are trying to do this as well, I was at BestBuy today in the Ipad stands and keyboards were flying out the door…yet they are hobbled by a phone OS just like Android…

    Ben – I appriciate your position, I don’t agree with it but I can respect it, we at the end of the day have different expectations for the devices…

  22. animatio says:

    “most of us will never try to create an Excel Spreadsheet while mobile, even with a Netbook or Laptop ” ….
    well that is THE REASON, why i use my mobile devices for. creative, active and passive data handling of any kind. document management, calculus, scientific applications, communications, handling of multimedia incl internet content (btw of any kind, thus meaning programation). mobile because these tiny guys are capable to do so at any place / any time i am moving to.
    anything else represents only half of the cheese and that stinks. writing a small text or punching in a number or reading stuff or lucking at it has nothing, but really nothing to do with productivity.
    that e.g today’s media people claim to be productive is one of the biggest hoaxes of our times ever. what these guys are doing in fact is: wasting time, money, expensive equipment and a terrible lot of precious energy to produce piles of crap and hot air (called non-information).

  23. Lucien says:

    “non of which will be as good as you’d find on something like the iPad”

    Does someone really need to explain the difference between a windows device and an iPad? If you’re only reading (buying) books, half-HD video’s, and some other basic stuff then I can see all Windows netbooks/slates will disappoint you and you don’t need that flexibility. But that may not be the opinion of all of your readers and they use these devices quite differently.

    I 100% agree with the previous comment incl gottabemobile.com. It should be clear those are different markets for different scenario’s and vast majority of notebook sales are still windows devices.

  24. Ben says:

    My point is that companies churning out these slates are trying to market them as though they’ll do the same stuff that the iPad or Galaxy Tab will, but in the end, they are bogged down by software that wasn’t designed from the ground up with finger based input in mind. They advertise to that demographic using key terminology like “multi-touch” (someone let me know when there’s a practical use for this in Windows 7 besides drawing with two fingers in MSPaint and emulating the ctrl+ keystroke in browsers). And from Asus’ video… “Games”? They must be joking. Remove a keyboard and mouse and you are cutting that games that you can effectively control in half, if not more. These are the issues with Windows Slates being targeted toward casual users.

  25. Lucien says:

    The Galaxy tab is an Android device so not sure how that’s related. Neither have I seen companies selling them as iPad’s (and I hope not since those are quite different unless you do basic stuff).

    Based on your multi-touch response I don’t think you have used much a Windows 7 multi-touch device. I use it a lot to zoom a book/magazine pdf or browser screen (pinch). Also rotating pictures works great. Pretty much everything in Windows 7 supports touch like the photo file explorer where you can swipe up and down smoothly. I.e. see here examples:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/JesseBAndersen#p/search/8/iTRxuRsWncQ

    Gaming is actually biggest strengtn in my opinion on a windows 7 device compared to an iPad. With the USB port you can hook up pretty much any controller even retro joysticks and there are tons of free emulators. Also many have VGA/HDMI connection as well.

  26. magicuser says:

    “My point is that companies churning out these slates are trying to market them as though they’ll do the same stuff that the iPad or Galaxy Tab will, but in the end, they are bogged down by software that wasn’t designed from the ground up with finger based input in mind. They advertise to that demographic using key terminology like “multi-touch””

    in that case, i wholeheartedly agree with you. you should have made this point clear in your article.

    attempting to dethrone apple at its own game is folly. compare the UI response of the iPad to a Windows 7 device to the iPad or even the Galaxy Tab and the consumer tablets win everytime.

    My antivirus program still lurches up occasionally and the casual computer user doesn’t know how to go deeper into the system, eg device manager or control panel to solve issues if the computer hangs up. That is the legacy problem of Windows and a full OS.

    Most people see this as a negative user experience and unfortunately this is inherent in all ‘PC’ devices.

  27. zeo says:

    Ben, do you actually know anything about the Asus EP121 Eee Pad?

    It’s being marketed as a laptop replacement, so it will be running a CULV, and Asus will be providing two docking stations for it. One will be for home use and will have a bluetooth keyboard. While the other will convert it into a laptop with internal battery to increase run time and 500GB HDD for added storage, and you can even close it like a laptop to carry it with you.

    So it’s actually a Hybrid product and not strictly a Slate. It’s the other two 10″ models that will be marketed more as Slates.

    All this was revealed back during Computex 2010…

    http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/mobile/2010/06/12/asus-eee-pad-101tc-and-ep121-hands-on/1

  28. jb82 says:

    Umm multi touch – pinch zoom for one. Piano and other music applications. Shortcut touch gestures (have you heard of the application called flicks2 which utilizes multitouch). Also touch typing probably requires multitouch.

    I agree that the video is really bad and is focusing on the wrong things but your article is also way off with win 7 slates. Just because they aren’t totally designed for touch doesn’t mean they aren’t easy to use. Plus they give you so many advantages over devices like the ipad that for many people outweighs the simplicity/ease of use/long battery life devices like the ipad offer.

  29. jb82 says:

    I agree that in a pure slate form windows slates are not the best fit (I personally don’t like the keyboard, the gaming is cut in half like you say and really with a full os you miss out on a lot of the benefits that brings)… these devices with special laptop/keyboard docks are the way forward for win 7 slates… win 7 works well for touch only with certain things like web surfing, movies, note-taking and pdf annotation (and some other things)… but add to that the ability to turn it into a laptop and you have virtually no weakness at all. These are better than convertible tablet pcs because they have less weight in slate mode whilst still offering everything a convertible can do.

  30. Chris says:

    I must admit this looks tasty as a music score reader for my piano and violin playing.

    I just hope it lasts for a long session. And hopefully the screen can be used to annotate scores – it’s not as good as sheet music, but boy do I hate turning the page!!!

    As for vids + browsing I’m sure it’s ok – just a little heavy and silly, needing a stand…and ofc you would need a bluetooth keyboard.

    I really don’t think I could ever use a 12″ as an unassisted tablet – not sure I could’ve ever used such a device for investment finance – and certainly not as a barrister. Not sure what I would use this for as it’s just too heavy+big to be used unsupported – in which case I would rather a thin and light laptop with a keyboard……

  31. jb82 says:

    This is the worse article I’ve read in ages. This guy should be fired for his poor journalism.

    The ep121 is supposed to have at least a core2duo so will blow a stupid onkyo 10″ atom tablet away.

    12″ vs 10″ is a big difference

    It “may” have a duo active digitizer which will blow away any stupid toy like the ipad if you care for precision input (which there are plenty of people who do)

    If they continue with the prototype it will have an innovative keyboard dock that will make this slate into a laptop… so you can have the best of both worlds + extra battery life. This completely nullifies your argument about keyboardless slates as this will have a keyboard dock if the prototype is anything to go by… have you even seen the prototype?

    Plus it is unlikely to have nivdia. Full HD playback can be achieved with a decent processor and intel integrated graphics depending on the core speeds. Or a broadcom crystal HD card.

    I agree the video sucks but the product is still much better than you are making it out to be.

    Finally win 7 slates are a viable choice. It is only a blind fanboy that would think otherwise. I love my ipad but when a decent win 7 slate comes out I will switch in an instant….
    SD expansion, video calls, USB expansion including game controllers, ability to make it into a full laptop, flash, SPEED (the ipad is slower at rendering some webpages and youtube than a netbook!), ablity to run decent full os application and business enterprise applications, full file access and customizability.

  32. daceaki says:

    you should bear in mind before posting that it’s just talking trash comparing a Wintel tablet with an ipad…could Apple get their osx running smoothly and finger-friendly on a tablet? What’s more, just forget about the Tegra chips when you’re talking about Wintel tablets, that’s what?
    It seems that you prefer convertable netbooks, which is not bad, but just too heavy a hold when I’m lying in bed. The keyboard issue is a problem, but it could be partially solved if Asus could integrate a good onscreen keyboard for finger input into the OS, which Viliv has done so with its umpcs but because of its resistive screens it’s just far from useful. However, I’m sure that Asus will give us a keyboard for the tablet to attach to, tranforming it into a netbook like form factor, which is in fact what I’m looking for

  33. Owen Williams says:

    http://is.gd/jNATQ A negative review of a Windows 7 slate. Windows 7 slate slated! Don't bother with #CES try the drawing board.

  34. A Project Manager says:

    My 2 cents worth; as a PM for a large Aerospace company’s software/services division, evaluating slates/pads/tablets for a variety of productivity and niche applications.

    Why a slate/pad/tablet for project manager? Active Digitization: 60-80% of my time is in meetings, using visualization to build consensus; basically an electronic whiteboard using the HDMI or USB to connect with projector. Also, a Project Notebook: plan/control multiple significant projects – Outlook/OneNote “Getting Things Done” system as well as many “live project management deliverables” that get updated/reviewed during meetings.

    HOPE: Asus eee Pad EP121 delivers active digitization with good handwriting recognition. Great form factor – if need keyboard, slot the tablet into the laptop dock, bring to meeting, lay flat – type/draw as needed. Otherwise, the tablet will simply replace the paper notebooks at meetings (need handwriting recognition).

    IF Asus active digitization a dud – will wait for second HP 500 Slate production run and buy that one (N-Trig active digitization very good).

    Why Asus and not HP 500 Slate? In general, Asus has better Mean-Time-Between-Failures rate (i.e. build quality) than HP; Asus op in one survey based on 30000 consumers, HP last, Apple fourth). Also, Asus EP121 specs indicate tablet is lighter and thinner than HP (fyi, iPad as well), and has 12″ screen.

    Why Not iPad? Very so what for me. No apps I can use, no active digitizer.

  35. Ian says:

    Stick a convertible touchscreen and gyro on a MacBook Air (and a Windows equivalent with the same form factor)and all of the tablets will disappear.

    I’m sure something like this will be with us soon. Tablets have always been killed off by advances in laptop technology. I suspect it’ll happen again. People don’t have money to burn. They’d prefer once machine to be a media creation and consumption device. And that means keyboard.

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