Astro Slide


Astro Slide Featured image

The Astro Slide is the very definition of a niche device, providing a uniquely accomplished full qwerty typing experience that you simply won’t find elsewhere. It’s lacking in almost every other way, however, and it isn’t as cheap as its components suggest, so only those who genuinely want that ‘pocket laptop’ experience need apply.

Pros

  • Unique Qwerty typing
  • Wireless charging
  • Two USB-C ports
Cons

  • Very big and heavy
  • Screen very unbalanced
  • Performance poor for the price
Availability

  • UKRRP: £729
Key Features
  • It’s differentA unique experience from a modern phone thanks to the keyboard
  • StorageDecent amounts of internal storage
  • Physical keyboardQWERTY Keyboard slides out from under the phone

Introduction

It might sound like a water park attraction, but the Astro Slide is actually a crowd-funded smartphone from Planet Computers, with much of the team behind the beloved Psion series working on its quirky PDA form factor.

For those unfamiliar with the wild pre-smartphone days, the key feature here is a full mechanical keyboard stashed behind a full-sized display. Crank that screen up and into position, and you effectively have a teeny tiny Android-powered laptop.

It’s something a lot of people used to pine for in the early smartphone days, and which a dedicated minority continue to desire – hence the Astro Slide’s crowdfunding success. 

So does this jumble of old and new features cohere into a complete and satisfying device? Is it worth the £729 asking price? And who’s actually going to want to own such a phone? Let’s take a closer look.

Design and screen

  • Thick and heavy body
  • Somewhat creaky slider mechanism
  • Unbalanced 60Hz AMOLED display

However you want to describe the look and feel of the Astro Slide, it ain’t subtle, and it sure as heck isn’t pretty. Even taking into account the phone’s unique slide-out keyboard, it’s a seriously chunky beast.

At 172.4 x 76.5 x 18.7mm when in its closed position, it dwarfs even the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 in every direction. It’s way heavier, too, at 325g.

I’d go so far as to say that the Astro Slide’s size and weight makes it impractical to use as your primary everyday smartphone. Popping it into my shorts pocket while I did a few chores around the house, I was constantly aware of this huge weight at my side, and feared for the long term integrity of said pouch.

The Astro Slide solded to the size of a normal phoneImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The Astro Slide looks as clunky as it feels. Its boxy plastic body, grooved rear cover, and retro camera module make it look like some kind of long lost prototype ‘compact’ film camera from the ‘80s.

The front of the phone looks a little more modern, but only so far as an early to mid-2010s Android phone. The phone’s full-sized AMOLED display is flanked by truly huge top and bottom bezels and exaggerated rounded corners.

We haven’t even discussed the main design talking point yet. The phone’s slide-out keyboard mechanism feels perilously janky and awkward right along its journey from beneath the display, with twin runners betraying oodles of flex and creak.

It’s all in service of the phone’s final and true form, however. Once that keyboard is locked into place, with the display resetting against the far edge and protruding at an obtuse angle, it suddenly all makes sense. At this point the reason for the weightier bottom half and those clumsy rubber feet come into focus, as you can now lay the phone on a flat surface and type with confidence.

This isn’t a full-sized qwerty keyboard, obviously, but it is a qwerty keyboard nonetheless. There’s a complete row of number keys along the top, an escape key in the top left, and a space bar on the bottom.

One of the Astro Slide's USB-C PortsImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)

These are proper mechanical keys too, with a degree of travel that will be familiar to anyone who’s used a classic keyboard from before the MacBook chiclet era. They work reasonably well, with a satisfyingly springy thunk to every key press. With that said, you’ll need to press every key properly, as I found the odd missed keypress when attempting to type quickly.

If you’ve never fully adapted to digital keyboards, or you wish to compose long-form emails or notes as quickly and efficiently as possible, it presents a compellingly complete option. There’s simply nothing else out there right now that offers this kind of a ‘proper’ typing experience in anything approaching a smartphone form factor.

My model came with the Japanese kana keyboard printed out on the keys, but you can specify plenty of alternatives and can switch to 24 different layouts through the UI. This did provide issues for me when attempting to sort out my @s and ?s, however, which never quite seemed to correspond with what was indicated on the keys.

Away from the keyboard, Planet Computers has included two USB-C ports with the Astro Slide. This frees you up to charge from either side, and also enables you to hook up a peripheral whilst charging. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack and stereo speakers, though the latter aren’t of great quality.

Nor, for that matter, is the Astro Slide’s 6.39-inch display. It’s plenty sharp enough at 2340 x 1080 (FHD+), and it’s an AMOLED panel rather than an LCD. But it’s the sort of AMOLED panel that reminds me of the early days of the technology, when Samsung used to crank the colours up to a crazy level of saturation.

Reds and oranges are ridiculously punchy here, and there’s no way to tune or adjust this colour profile in the Settings menu either. That’s become a fundamental feature of even most affordable AMOLED phones, and its absence here is badly missed.

You’ll also have to make do with a mere 60Hz refresh rate, which isn’t what we’re accustomed to seeing in an Android phone selling for more than £700.

The unfolded back of the astro slideImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)Camera

  • 48MP main camera
  • 13MP selfie camera
  • General image quality falls below best mid-range phones

The Astro Slide’s camera system is brutally straightforward. There’s a single 48MP sensor on the rear, and a 13MP selfie camera on the front. Neither is good.

Several times when I took consecutive shots of the same thing, one would be hideously overexposed, while the other (invariably the second one) would be more balanced. This applied to both cameras.

Detail is fine on the main 48MP sensor, but you’ll need to manually select HDR mode. There’s no form of intelligent automation here. You might not want to toggle it on, however, as when I did all of my shots took on a weirdly grainy appearance, as if I was taking the shot through a finely textured window.

Close up photo of Kirby taken on the Astro SlideImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Night shots are rather grainy and murky, but not the worst I’ve encountered. It’s still the kind of result you’d expect to find in a cheaper phone rather than a £729 phone, however. 

Selfie shots, meanwhile, are badly lacking in both detail and dynamic range, whether applying HDR or not. 

Nightime Shot taken on the Astro SlideImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Really, it’s best to view the Astro Slide’s camera offering as you would a tablet’s. Be glad that it’s there for emergency documentation, QR code scanning, and social media posts, but don’t rely on it for capturing any moments you actually want to retain for posterity.

Any decent mid-range phone, such as the OnePlus Nord 2T or the Google Pixel 6a, will run rings around it on the photographic front. But again, if you’re coming here for the camera, you’re rather missing the point.

Selfie taken on the Astro-SlideImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)Go to Source