Back in the fall of 2007, ASUS decided there was room in people’s lives for a highly portable, secondary computer that could handle basic tasks — surfing the web, checking email, listening to music, and playing games. That was the $399 Linux-based Eee PC — arguably the first netbook — and it became quite a hit. You know the rest of the story: it wasn’t long before other consumer electronics companies, with the help of Intel and Microsoft, started to join in and small laptops invaded the market. The tale hasn’t exactly ended, but it’s certainty hit a low point — almost four years later, netbooks have lost a sizable chunk of market share to a new sort of device aiming to fill their original purpose. Indeed, the tablet has arrived.

My apologies for the short netbook history lesson, but it’s ASUS’ past that makes its entry into the tablet market such an interesting one. The Taiwanese company’s Eee Pad Transformer TF101 is part tablet and part netbook. For $399, you get a Tegra 2-powered Honeycomb slate with a 10.1-inch IPS display. Shell out an extra $150 and you get a keyboard dock with an integrated battery, which transforms the tablet into your typical clamshell laptop. It looks and sounds like an absolutely killer package, and it’s one that certainty stands out from the cookie-cutter Honeycomb tablets out there. But there are a few major questions: do a keyboard and touchpad add any real value to an Android slate? Is the $399 tablet a decent piece of hardware? And has ASUS finally, after so many failed attempts at creating netvertibles, been able to create a device that works as both a tablet and a netbook? Answers await in my full review!