Asus kicks off 2011 tablet barrage

CES 2011: One Windows and three Android tablets unveiled
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Taiwanese Eee PC-maker Asus has unveiled a barrage of tablets at CES 2011 with three based on Android ‘Honeycomb’ and one based on Windows 7.

As teased in a video last month, the 12.1-inch Asus Eee Slate EP121 is the firm’s entry into Windows 7 tablet arena, sporting a 1280x800 resolution IPS LCD panel, Intel Core i5-470UM CPU and up to 64GB of flash storage.

The EP121 is also armed with a two megapixel forward facing camera, SDHC card reader, USB port, Mini HDMI, Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi. As hinted in the teaser video, the EP121 also bundles a Bluetooth keyboard with the firm targeting users interested in MS Office productivity.

The EP121 also boasts a Wacom pen-based handwriting recognition feature but out of all the tablets launched by the firm at the CES event, the 1.2Kg EP121 is the heaviest and the most expensive costing around $999 to $1099. The EP121 will also appear this month with the Android tablets following from April.

The first of three Android-powered to appear will be the Eee Pad Transformer in April. The 10-inch Android tablet is armed with the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset which is likely to feature heavily in Android Honeycomb-based product launches at CES.

The claim to fame of the Eee Pad Transformer is the optional keyboard docking station which effectively morphs the device into an Android-powered netbook. One interesting feature is that the dock also contains another battery however the device is extra to the $399 Transformer and Asus didn’t mention the price.

Of similar specifications, Asus will follow the Transformer with the Eee Pad Slider in May and priced at $499 to $799. The Slider, as the name suggests, has a built in keyboard through a novel design which sees the keyboard flip out but braced at an angle to provide support so the tablet can be comfortable used on a table.

With the Transformer and the Slider, Asus appears to be hedging their bets on which style of device consumers will be drawn to: Ultra portable keyboard-less tablets with optional add-on docking keyboards or heftier, more expensive ($100 premium over the Transformer) devices with built-in keyboards.

The last of the Eee Pad devices to appear will be the the 7-inch MeMO scheduled to arrive in June. The Eee Pad MeMO is essentially an upscaled smartphone sporting the next generation Qualcomm chipset with dual 1.2GHz Scorpion CPU cores and the new Adreno 220 GPU along with the expected 3G (HSPA+) and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The MeMO is also going for a Galaxy S-like screen resolution with 1024x600 resolution via an IPS LCD screen, a viewing angle-boosting display technology which Asus has adopted with vigour across all of the tablet devices unveiled at CES.

Another Asus tablet theme is the inclusion of a stylus-based handwriting recognition feature although in this case the bundled stylus works with the capacitive touch screen. The MeMO will appear in June, priced between $499 and $699.

With CES expected to become the ‘tablet show’, Asus’ release schedule is telling and suggests that the market can expect the launch of multiple Windows 7 slates this month and have the market to themselves for the first three months of 2011 before the Google’s tablet-friendly Android Honeycomb is released, at which point the Android tablet assault will begin in earnest.

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