ASUS Eee Pad Slider arriving at month's end, starting at $475 (video)

It's been more than eight months since the ASUS Eee Pad Slider was born at CES and since then, we've seen listings online and heard endless promises that it's coming "soon." Today, though, at a media event here in New York City, we managed a prolonged hands-on with the thing -- along with assurance that it'll hit the US before month's end. According to an ASUS rep, it'll ship with Android 3.2 and start at $475 for the 16GB model (roughly as leaked) with the beefier 32GB number fetching an extra hundred bucks. That means we'll be putting it through its paces soon enough, but in the meantime, head past the break for some early impressions.

The Slider weighs 2.2 pounds and measures half an inch thick, which is pretty darn compact when you remember this is a slate with a full keyboard attached. We're told it'll only be available in that brown-and-white combo you see in the photos, which is just fine by us -- in person, it has an elegant, but not-too-industrial look, and though it's made of plastic, its non-reflecting surfaces lend it some gravitas. (That metal piece on the back, however, is a hopeless fingerprint magnet.)

To expose the keyboard, you'll have to learn to lift the display, instead of pushing it back toward the hinge. Likewise, flattening it into slate mode involves pushing the display forward, not down. That sliding mechanism has a bouncy, spring-loaded feel, which initially inspires confidence in the build quality -- until, perhaps, you realize it's accompanied by a loud, metallic noise. Some might like the aural feedback, though we might have preferred something a bit quieter.

You'll notice that the keyboard on this thing is understandably smaller than the one you'll find on the Eee Pad Transformer. We say "understandably" because half the potential key space is eaten up by that namesake sliding mechanism. Given that, it's a comfortable 'board -- at least for short bursts of typing. Although ASUS clearly had to cut some corners here, the backspace key remains amply sized. We did find, however, that as we were typing, our thumbs often missed the narrow space key, landing instead on the table on which we placed the tablet.

If you recall, the tablet has a 10-inch (1280 x 800) IPS display, which, as you'd expect, translates to strong viewing angles from the sides. Software-wise, there isn't much to write home about -- this is stock Android 3.2, and with the exception of pre-loaded wallpaper, the company hasn't mucked with Honeycomb. Interestingly, that wallpaper -- an animated wall of water -- actually doubles as a battery life indicator, with the water level rising as the battery rating does. A subtle, why-didn't-we-think-of-that-touch, we have to say.

So, folks, that's about all we could glean after spending just a few minutes with the Slider. As per usual, we'll reserve judgment until we can get a review unit in and spend more than ten minutes with it, but until then have a gander at our gallery of hands-on shots.