Asus Transformer Pad TF103C review
A top-notch hybrid, blending laptop and Android tablet at an amazing price
Asus has been producing its Transformer Android hybrids for years, but the TF103C breaks new ground for the company. Where previous efforts have been pitched at the premium end of the tablet market, to compete with Apple's iPad and models such as the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet, this latest effort is firmly targeted at the lower end of the scale, where products like the Nexus 7 hold sway. Read on for our in-depth Asus Transformer Pad TF103C review
The Transformer Pad is no 7in titch, however. It's a full-sized 10.1in slate that turns into a compact laptop with the addition of a keyboard dock. And it costs a mere £199, with the dock adding £40. That makes it a bit of a bargain.
Asus Transformer Pad TF103C review: design
Despite the low price, the TF103C doesn't feel cheaply made. The tablet is solid, with a rubbery plastic coating on the rear giving it a grippy feel under the finger, and firm power and volume buttons on the top and left edges lending it a sense of dependability.
The keyboard dock – an essential purchase we think – is endowed with similar qualities. It's made from tough plastics, and both the keyboard and touchpad work without fuss. The keyboard in particular is a triumph, with a sensible layout and keys that have plenty of travel and give positive feedback.
What you're not getting here is the lightest or slimmest tablet around – the tablet weighs 556g and measures 10mm thick, and the dock takes that up to 1.1kg and 23mm – but it's hardly going to kill you to carry it around in a bag. There are benefits to lugging the keyboard around, too, since it adds a full-size USB socket to the tablet's microSDXC slot. Unlike the firm's other Transformer Pad devices, however, there's no second battery built into the base.
Asus Transformer Pad TF103C review: display and specifications
You knew it was coming: to keep such a tight lid on the price there have to be compromises, and the screen is the first victim here. The TF103C comes not with a 1080p screen, but a 1,280 x 800 one, a resolution we thought we'd waved goodbye to on all but the cheapest tablets. Images inevitably have a more pixelated look to them than, say, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet, and text doesn't have that print-on-paper sharpness we've come to expect from the best tablets.
On the flip-side, that pixelated image looks bright and bold. The display reaches a maximum brightness of 407cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1,018:1, both of which are excellent figures, and to add to its achievements the glass also has a fingerprint-resistant coating. We found it still picked up the odd greasy dab, but the coating makes it easy to clean with a soft cloth or a quick wipe of a shirt tail.
It's tougher to overlook the poor cameras. Both the rear 2-megapixel camera and the front-facing 1.2-megapixel webcam are dreadful in every sense of the word. Photographs lack detail; videos are captured at 720p, but are horribly noisy even in brightest of light.
Asus Transformer Pad TF103C review: performance
Its results in Geekbench 3 are equally impresive, with scores of 757 and 2,334 in the single- and multi-core tests and a frame rate of 28fps in the demanding GFXBench T-Rex HD gaming test. It's as quick as any tablet we've tested.
Asus Transformer Pad TF103C review: software and battery life
We had absolutely no complaints about performance in general use, either: the TF103C coped with everything from web browsing, through word processing to gaming and barely broke sweat. It runs Android 4.4, so you have the latest software to play with, too.
Inevitably, Asus has tinkered with the UI, but it isn't too intrusive. The main thing you'll notice is a rejigging of the pull-down notifications menu, which looks a lot like that found on the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone – complete with pale green pastel colours and circular shortcut buttons. Otherwise, the tweaks are confined to a selection of preloaded Asus apps.
Battery life is this tablet's one weakness. In our looping video battery test it lasted 8hrs 21mins, which is below average for this class of tablet. It should get you through over a day of use, though.
Asus Transformer Pad TF103C review: verdict
Until now, if we had been asked to recommend a budget tablet, we'd have plumped for the Nexus 7 straight away, but the Asus Transformer Pad TF103C has given us another option. For fans of large-screened tablets who might want to do a touch of work on the move, its performance, display quality and usable keyboard make it a worthy alternative.
|Price ex VAT||£166|
|Price inc VAT||£199|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||5|
|Dimensions||256 x 182 x 23mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,280|
|Resolution screen vertical||800|
|Display type||Multitouch, capacitive|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1MHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||2.0mp|
|Upstream USB ports||1 (on keyboard base)|
|Mobile operating system||Android 4.4|