Asus Transformer Pad TF103C Review: In Depth

We review the Asus Transformer Pad TF103C, a nifty Android tablet that converts into an impressively affordable laptop…

If you’re an indecisive bugger who can’t choose between a tablet and a laptop, why not have both? The Asus Transformer Pad TF103C looks like your standard 10-inch Android tablet, but it clips onto a handy bundled keyboard with no bother at all, forming a fully-fledged laptop. And at just £240 for both tablet and dock, it’s a very affordable little device.

But is it actually any good for staying productive or entertained on the go?

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C design: Dock it

Let’s start with the tablet bit.

The Transformer Pad looks like any other bog-standard 10-inch Android tablet on its own, with glossy black bezels and a rubbery rear that’s also black (or white, if you opt for that model instead). Fair enough, it’s about as exciting as Phil Neville’s football commentary, but it’s solidly built and easy to grip. At 550g it’s not exactly light, and the likes of the iPad Air and seven-inchers like the Nexus 7 are more comfortable to handle. However, our puny boy-biceps weren’t too achey after a prolonged session.

There’s only 8GB or 16GB of storage built in, but you thankfully have a microSD memory card slot to expand to something more useful.

Things get interesting with that keyboard dock, which the tablet slots into with relatively little effort. When the two are paired they lock together solidly, and no amount of fury-shaking will separate them. You’ll need to push the plasticky button at the top of the keyboard to detach the tablet again.

Is the keyboard any good for typing out reams of text? Well, we wrote this review on that board, and for a dinky device it’s decent; certainly preferable to a virtual on-screen effort. The keys are well spaced out, so we rarely made typos when touch-typing, and you get the full complement of Android shortcuts too – home, back, search etc. Combined with the touchscreen, which is still handy for shifting the cursor around and tapping options, we found we could quickly smash out a lengthy email or doc.

Hell, even the tiny touchpad isn’t bad. There’s support for multi-touch, if you want to scroll through docs with two fingers, and you can lightly tap the surface to mimic a left-click.

Our only complaint is that things get rather busy around the right edge of the keyboard. The arrow keys are crushed up and difficult to find without glancing over, and they awkwardly push the Shift key across to the left. Still, this is a common problem that also blights rival machines such as the Acer Switch 10, so we can’t really blame the Transformer Pad.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C screen: He’s a little bit dim

If you’re hoping to enjoy HD movies in their full, resplendent glory, the Transformer Pad isn’t the machine for you. The 1280 x 800 resolution may be far off Full HD, given 150 pixels-per-inch (ppi), but this screen is still sharp enough for enjoying video, playing games and fiddling around on spreadsheets. And given that cheapy price tag, we wouldn’t expect much more.

Our main complaint is the screen’s lack of brightness, even when maxed out. Whenever we watched movies, we found ourselves regularly adjusting our view to counter irritating glare from overhead lights. Thankfully the viewing angles are strong, so tilting the screen until you lose the glare is always an option, and we didn’t have much trouble with visibility when working on documents, thanks to the plain white background.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C performance and battery life: Longer lasting pleasure

The Transformer Pad packs in a quad-core Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM, and we found performance to be slick and smooth. You can run the latest Android games no problem, and the tablet shouldn’t shown signs of ageing any time soon.

Battery life is a huge consideration if you’re hoping to keep productive on the go, and we were really happy with the use we got from the Transformer Pad. For over six hours we streamed video over Wi-Fi, before the tablet finally kicked the bucket. That’s over an hour more than many rivals, such as Acer’s Switch 10 – although the iPad Mini with Retina display is still one of the all-time champions, boasting eight full hours of streaming per charge.

However, we also found that the Transformer Pad took ages to charge up again after the battery discharged. We plugged the tablet into the mains after completely draining it, and even a few hours later it was still powering up.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C cameras: Simple snappers

The Asus Transformer Pad also packs in dual cameras: a front-facing 0.3-megapixel effort, and a rear 2-megapixel snapper. Although Asus’ camera app crams in a surprising number of features, plus tools such as blur reduction and burst mode, you won’t want to use either camera to shoot treasured memories. The front-facer is fine for a grainy online video chat, but the low-res photos you get from both lenses aren’t too attractive.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C verdict

There are better Android tablets out there than the Asus Transformer Pad, with sharper, brighter screens and more exciting designs. But if you’re after an Android machine to stay productive on the go, the Transformer Pad is a highly affordable option and well worth a look.

Of course, there are alternative tablets out there that also come with keyboard docks, such as the Acer Switch 10, which we reviewed just last month. And the Switch 10 offers something incredibly enticing to mobile workers – full Windows 8, which allows you to download a huge range of productivity software…

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C vs Acer Switch 10: which should I buy?

The Acer Switch 10 rocks a similar design to the Asus Transformer Pad – it’s a 10-inch tablet that slots into a keyboard dock, to transform into a mini laptop – but there are two key differences.

First, the Switch 10 is a full-on Windows 8 tablet, whereas the Transformer is Android – so you’re stuck using apps with Asus’ tablet, while the Switch 10 can download and run any Windows software you like. Plus Microsoft’s excellent Office suite comes bundled.

But secondly, the Transformer Pad is a hundred quid cheaper than the Switch 10, at just £240 for tablet and dock.

We personally lean towards the Acer Switch 10, as we use loads of Windows software in our everyday lives. The flexibility is great, even if we prefer Android’s interface over Windows 8.

That said, if you can get by with Android apps, the Transformer Pad beats the Switch 10 for cost and battery life. The expandable storage is also a great bonus.

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