Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Can the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 replace your laptop and tablet?

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Very cheap

  • +

    Impressive screen

  • +

    Decent docking mechanism

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Feels very cheap

  • -

    Awful keyboard

  • -

    Terrible cameras

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A laptop and a tablet for just £239? Is it too good to be true? Find out in our Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Laptop-tablet hybrids might be ten a penny nowadays, but Asus started the whole trend back in 2011 with the original Asus Eee Pad Transformer. We've had plenty of look-alikes since then, including the Asus Transformer Book Trio, Acer Aspire Switch 10, and Lenovo Yoga 2 11.

At just £239, the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 is one of the cheapest around, undercutting even the Acer Aspire Switch 10. But is it a bargain, or best left alone?

Asus Transformer Pad TF103: Size and build

You can tell this is a budget model the minute you pick it up – it feels plasticky, though not flimsy. In fact, it's the opposite of flimsy: the hidden hinge design is actually quite stiff. Combined with the heavy tablet, it makes it a bit of an effort to open one-handed.

The tablet clips into the keyboard dock – unlike the Acer Aspire Switch 10, which uses magnets – so you have to press a button to release it. But it's simple to dock and take out.

The device is a little on the chunky side, measuring up at 257.4x178.4x9.9mm (19.8mm fat when docked). That's 1mm thicker than the Acer Aspire Switch 10, and more than 2mm than the iPad Air.

It comes in black or white, and tips the scale at 545.2g for the tablet only, and 1.085kg with the keyboard dock. As a standalone tablet, that's lighter than the Nexus 10.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103: Features

Unlike some hybrid devices, the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 has both front- and rear-facing cameras, for snapping photos and making video calls. Android 4.4.2 KitKat comes as standard, but that's your only choice of operating system, unlike the Asus Transformer Book Trio which runs Windows 8 too.

The Asus Transformer Pad TF103 comes with a MicroSD (SDHC/SDXC), which supports up to 64GB of additional storage.

It's powered by a 64-bit Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core processor.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103: Screen

The 10.1-inch screen has a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, which gives it a pixel per inch count of 149ppi. That's nowhere near the 264ppi of the iPad Air, and is lower than the 155ppi of the Acer Aspire Switch 10. But it's not the worst we've seen. It's a little higher than the 135ppi of the Lenovo Yoga 2 11.

For this price, the screen is quite impressive. Text is sharp, though colours do appear a little pale and lacking in punch. Thanks to its IPS (in-plane switching), it has great viewing angles, too.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103: Performance

So far, so not bad. But when it comes to day to day use, things start to fall down.

The keyboard is a little cramped, so it's easy to make mistakes. The on-screen one is even worse: the keys are wide, but not tall enough, which means you'll mis-hit a fair few times. It makes typing a simple web address a frustrating experience.

Using Android is confusing on a laptop, as you lose some functionality. You can't scroll down web pages using the keyboard's arrow keys, for example, though you can by stroking two fingers on the trackpad.

Despite the relatively low-powered processor, we didn't have any issues running HD video or games during our test. Asphalt 8: Airborne ran smooth as butter, as did vids from the likes of Vimeo and YouTube. It's unlikely to be able to handle more processor-intensive games in the future, but it's fine for everyday fodder.

It whips through menus quick as you like, and the speakers aren't bad either: loud enough for solo viewing, but they're not going to blow the roof off your next house party.

Predictably, the cameras are pretty poor. Photos from the 2-megapixel rear jobby are grainy and lacking in detail. The front-facer is only 0.3-megapixels, so video calls look more like footage from a security camera.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103: Battery

Asus says the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 will last for nine hours playing movies at 720p, with Wi-Fi on and brightness at 100nits. We put it through some pretty extensive video streaming, and got closer to eight hours of real use without tweaking any of the settings.

So it should last you a working day. Just easy on the cat videos.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103: Verdict

The Asus Transformer Pad TF103 does the basics well enough, but there are much better hybrids around. It's fair for the price, but we demand more from our gadgets.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 release date: Out now

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 price: £239 (£199 for tablet only)