While tablet PC technology has been around for some time, only recently have a variety of appealing options been available to consumers at reasonable prices. Of course, with so many different options flooding the market, wading through all those choices can be a bit confusing. Two of the newer models that have recently been getting a lot of buzz are the new Motorola Xoom and the ASUS EEE Slate EP121. Each of these newcomers has a lot to offer the typical user, but choosing the right one for your needs can turn a good purchase into a great one.
At First Glance: While both the Xoom and EEE Slate qualify as tablets, it’s important to note that they are two completely different versions of the concept. The Xoom functions much more like an large, high-powered smartphone, with an app-based system and the potential for 3G connectivity via a mobile phone company. The EEE, on the other hand, is much more like a traditional PC, running on a Windows 7 operating system and designed to do what a desktop or laptop does in a more portable, touch-screen format. This major difference affects both the overall design of the products all the way down to the little details.
Price: The first place this difference shows up is the price. A Wi-Fi only model of the Xoom costs about $600, which is downright cheap compared to the EEE, which is hard to find for less than $1200. Since the EEE Slate is not sold in connection with a wireless phone company, you can sometimes find good deals on it at electronics stores, but if you want full-function tablet like this, you’re going to have to spend some serious money.
Processor/Operating System: Then again, that extra money you put down for the EEE Slate means you get a much more powerful machine. It has a more powerful processor (1.33 GHz with a Turbo Boost up to 1.86 GHz) compared to the Xoom (1 GHz), and while the Xoom runs the Android Honeycomb 3.0 app-based operating system, the EEE Slate comes fully loaded with Windows 7 Premium. While Windows 7 wasn’t designed specifically for touch-screen computers, and sometimes feels a bit more awkward than the Xoom, there’s no comparison in functionality. You can do basically everything your PC desktop can do on the EEE Slate, but in a more portable format. It feels much more like a machine you do work on, while the Xoom feels more natural for web-surfing and game-playing. Also, I can’t say enough about the handwriting recognition with the included stylus for the EEE Slate—it’s incredible. Even if you have messy handwriting, the recognition software picks it up and converts it to text. It makes the EEE Slate ideal for business meetings where you don’t want to lug around a bulky clamshell laptop.
Screen: This isn’t to say you can’t watch some stunning HD movies on your EEE Slate as well. It has a whopping 12.1” Capacative LED Touchscreen with resolution up to 1280×800. It has a durable gorilla glass covering, but is still responsive both to fingerprints and the included stylus, which works quite well for writing and drawing on the Slate. The Xoom also supports HD resolution with integrated NVIDI graphics up to 1280×800, but isn’t quite as large, at only 10.1 inches. It is only designed for use with fingers, and does not come with stylus like the Slate.
Size and Weight: Of course, the large screen and powerful computing features on the EEE Slate come at a price. It’s quite large and incredibly heavy for a tablet, measuring 12.3 x 8.2 x 0.7 inches, and weighing 2.6 pounds. The Xoom is much lighter, sleeker, and more portable, with dimensions of 9.8 x 6.6 x 0.5 inches, and weighing only 1.6 pounds. The EEE Slate is certainly more portable than a typical clam-shell laptop, but it doesn’t really compare to the Xoom in terms of overall portability and size.
Battery Life: That becomes especially true when you compare battery life. The Xoom is at the forefront of battery technology, with a 24 W-h battery that can hold up for 8-9 hours of heavy use, enough for lots of web surfing, HD movie watching, and music listening, and Motorola claims it can last up to 14 days on standby before a single recharge. The battery life of the EEE Slate, on the other hand, is much less impressive. This makes sense, given the size of the tablet, how nice and bright the screen is, and how fast the processor runs, but it can only last about 4-5 hours on a single charge. With this in mind, the Xoom becomes a better choice for those long trips or flights, when you’ve got lots of time to kill.
Camera/Video: Here again, the different philosophies behind these two devices becomes more clear. The EEE Slate, with a single, 2 MP camera, has enough to take care of most photo needs, but is not designed for heavy video-taking. The Xoom, on the other hand, has a 5 MP HD Video camera on the back in addition to a 2 MP camera on the front of the device for Skype or other video chatting and uploading. Both of these cameras are of higher quality than the one on the EEE Slate, which really is designed more for heavier work-loads and portable business work.
Connectivity: Both Xoom and the EEE Slate come ready to connect via Wi-Fi with a high-speed 802.11 (b/g/n) card, and both tablets also boast Bluetooth, the Xoom running on a Bluetooth 2.1 protocol, and the EEE Slate running on the newer, more powerful Bluetooth 3.0. For those willing to pay a bit extra, a more expensive Xoom with 3G (and rumors of 4G soon to come) capability can be purchased with a data plan from Verizon that allows it to get high-speed internet access anywhere you can get internet on your cell phone.
While all the above features are important when choosing a tablet, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference when shelling out for a tablet. When comparing the EEE Slate to the Xoom, I can’t say one of these tablets is definitively better than the other—with these two, it depends on what you’re using it for. If you’re looking for something lightweight and easy-to-use for casual use and entertainment media, occasionally working on business documents, the Xoom will likely fulfill all your needs. If you want a high-powered machine for your office or business, the EEE Slate, with it’s full-powered Windows 7 system, offers incredible performance in a relatively compact package, and can still hold its own in watching HD movies and web-surfing. Either one of these tablets is sure to wow, but overall, the Slate is a much more serious work machine with the features and price-tag to match.
By Ned Schaumberg