Monday, September 15, 2014

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review
Ratings in depth

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Asus Transformer Pad TF103 review

Asus' previous Transformer Pads have already established the concept – a good quality tablet that washes its own face, combined with an optional keyboard docking station that ups the price and desirability.

At £199 (US$279, about AU$353) for the tablet alone or £239 (US$299, AU$429) for the tablet-and-dock combination (reviewed here), the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 is now competing with the budget-to-mid-price tablets such as the Nexus 7, rather than the more expensive tablet-plus-keyboards like the Lenovo ThinkPad 10.

That's something of a departure from the days when Transformer Pads were Asus' high-end tablets.

A quick delve into the spec sheet, however, makes it clear that this isn't a collection of entry level innards accidentally bumped into a bigger league by the inclusion of a keyboard.

Remove the docking station and you still have a tablet with competitive points on its spec.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C
The Transformer Pad is now competing with mid-price tablets

From the box it has Android KitKat 4.4.2, although I swiftly ran all the updates in a successful effort to fix a minor annoyance in which the browser seemed unable to distinguish between online text-entry boxes and its own address bar.

The 10.1-inch IPS screen remains clearly visible from extreme angles, and the 1280 x 800 resolution, 16GB internal storage (expandable via MicroSD) and 1.86GHz Intel Atom processor are all reasonably competitive for a tablet in this price range.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C
The 1280 x 800 screen is wrapped in a durable package

Better still, all the hardware is wrapped up in an attractive and durable package. The keyboard dock just about pulls off the faux brushed metal effect, while the white bezel and casing of the tablet give the TF103 a look that's sharper and more expensive than it actually is.

The buttons are tightly fitted and won't wobble, and the casing is flex free, meaning that the entire tablet feels reassuringly solid and lasting.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C
This isn't the slimmest, lightest tablet around

At 1.1kg (2.4lb) the TF103 is a bit heftier than even its cheapest rivals such as the Tesco Hudl, but it's a far cry from arm straining.

I used the TF103 with the Kindle app as an e-reader and got no arm ache, even after prolonged spells. Nonetheless, you can't pretend this is a svelte little number as it's almost as thick as a first generation iPad.

The Asus TF103 charges quickly and starts up swiftly. The keyboard contains useful shortcut buttons that allow the whole thing to function as part tablet, part netbook, mixing touch controls, keyboard shortcuts and trackpad controls according to task and whim.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C
The keyboard adds versatility to the standard tablet experience

It's a particularly nice way of using a tablet and adds an extra layer of versatility. This is, for me, one of the Transformer Pad's strongest selling points.

Although some apps won't recognise changes in screen orientation when the keyboard is docked, which can be mildly disconcerting.