Two assumptions you should have when shopping for a Ferrari: One) It will go very fast, and Two) It will get poor gas mileage.
Recently we drove a "Ferrari" in the world of Windows Slates and those two assumptions proved just as true for tablets as they are for Testarossas. The tablet-Ferrari we tried was the Asus EP121. It's beautiful and it screams down the information superhighway, but all that flash comes at the cost of battery life. You'll be hard pressed to get 4 hours of active computing on one battery charge no matter how you adjust your settings. But then again, it's hard to carp about short battery life when you've having such a good time during those 4 hours!
The EP121 can be had for about $1200-$1500, which either makes it the least expensive of the "old school" Windows slates or the most expensive of the newer Ipad-inspired slates. We chose to look it at as the top of the crop inthe latest generation of "inexpensive" slates, a category in which we place the Motion CL900, the Fujitsu q550, and the HP Slate 500. The EP121 is a hundred dollars or so more expensive that the Motion CL900 and perhaps $400 more than the HP.
We think the expense is well justified because the Asus is the only device in its category to sport the superior Wacom digitizing stylus (instead of the inferior N-trig stylus) and it also comes with an Intel Core i5 processor (instead of a weaker Atom variant). It also has a big bright 12.1 inch display,and it ships from the factory with a leather folio case & an easy-to-use Microsoft bluetooth keyboard. All these welcome goodies would be extra purchases with any other device.
When surfing the web, streaming video, or acting as a real computer running Office and other memory-hogging programs, the Asus runs laps around its Atom powered competition. It does everything much faster and it flaunts everything it does on a bigger, brighter display. When serving as a platform for Active Ink's e-forms, some of the Asus's extra horsepower is unnecessary because AI doesn't hog memory. The slower Atom processors will keep well when filling out our e-forms, so the argument can be made that for Active Ink's purposes why "drive" a Enzo when an Elantra will do just fine. But a bigger display always means more usable work area, which in turn means less scrolling when filling out forms and faster times-to-completion. Those are always blessings.
You would think that with a markedly bigger screen and a faster processor, the Asus would be much heavier and run hotter than its competition. Not so. It weighs just 2 lbs 9 oz in its skivvies, compared to the CL900's 2 lbs 2 oz. And it ran cool and quiet in all our tests. So what are the EP121's defects? It must have some, right? Other than the short-battery life, we were hard pressed to find them, but we came up with the following:
- It has no docking station or docking port (but bear in mind that its rivals' docks aren't very good),
- it has no swappable battery (neither does the Motion or the HP),
- it is not ruggedized like the Motion or the Fujitsu. You drop it, it'll break. (However, both of those other machines need a bump case or a folio case to be truly useful anyway and Asus gives you a nice one free.)
Bottom line: In spite of its lack of ruggedness and short battery life, we can't think of another device we'd rather slip into a briefcase and fill out Active Ink forms with than the Asus EP121.