Verdict: Have you ever wanted to touch Windows XP? No? There’s a pretty good reason for that—it’s a really crummy touch experience, even with slightly larger-than-usual buttons. It’s kind of like trying to poke poke poke around Windows Mobile 5 with a stylus. (This is at least partly because the T91 is running standard Windows XP Home, not Windows XP Tablet edition.) The “touch optimised” Internet Explorer is a joke. That’s okay, Asus knows all of this too, so they’ve included their own custom interface that sits on top of XP called Touch Gate.
The UI is glossy and glowy and widgety—lighting effects, reflections and giant buttons abound. It can be impressively smooth in action, given how dinky the T91’s guts are (1.33GHz Atom Z520). It has its own apps inside, like a flashy photo program, notepad for scribbling, and internet radio. There’s widget desktop inside as well. You can move between the TouchGate homescreen, widgets desktop and Windows XP by flicking left or right. It’s confusing and annoying though—why can you only have five programs on the Touch Gate homescreen? To get to other apps, you have to move a slider sitting below to “unlock” the rest of the apps, which pop up in a semi-circle. From there, you can launch one, or trade out the apps that appear on your homescreen.
But let’s just cut to it: I’m just not sure why anyone would want this, barring other third party apps you’d install that would unleash the potential of the tablet. (Which is perfectly adequate from a hardware standpoint—the touchscreen is pretty accurate with the stylus after calibration.) With the exception of being able to literally scribble notes and some whizbang photo flick gestures, there’s nothing you can accomplish with Asus’s custom widget OS overlay you couldn’t do on a regular netbook with a regular Windows XP build. And a glorified app launcher for a handful of custom apps + a widget desktop that essentially exist just to lie on top of Windows XP to make touch actually usable aren’t exactly compelling reasons to spring for a tablet, especially when more often than not, the experience simply frustrates because the software seems to misinterpret what you intended a tap to mean.
If there’s a specific reason you want a Windows XP tablet with a crampy screen that doubles as decent last-gen netbook with a crampy screen, then for $US500, the T91 might be your ticket. But if you’re just aching for a cheap touchscreen tablet to dick around on the internet, you’d be better off waiting for the $US300 CrunchPad. The T91 was much better as the glimmer of hope in our eye at CES.