The Surface 3 is already over two years old and so far there are no signs pointing at a successor of the 10.6″ sibling of the Pro 3. Luckily though, OEMs such as Asus are stepping in with their 2-in-1 offerings in the 10″ range to fill the ever-growing gap of Windows 10 devices in the sub 12″ category. One of those devices is the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA which not only has a kickstand but also comes equipped with a Type Cover-like keyboard and a Pen – both of which are (depending on the country you buy the device from) included in the box. We’ve been able to spend some quality time with the device and are excited to share our experience with you in this Mini-Review.
About this review:
We’ve been testing the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA for the last couple of weeks for an in-depth review over at our partner blog 2in1school.ch. The review published here on thewinduck.com is a translated and abbreviated version. Please head over to 2in1School for the full written review (German).
Thanks to Asus Switzerland for providing us with the review unit.
Unboxing and First Impressions
If you haven’t already watched it, make sure to check out our unboxing and first impressions video embedded below:
Design and Build Quality
The Transformer Mini distinctively looks like a Surface-type device: Not only does it feature a kickstand which can be positioned steplessly up to an angle of 170°, but it also comes with a keyboard which resembles – at least in terms of design – the Type Cover. But there are also some notable differences: Instead of a magnetic pen holder, Asus still bets on the notorious pen loop (which one you prefer is up to you). Additionally, button positioning differs from Microsoft’s Surface line-up of devices and the left and right bezel around the screen are noticeably thicker.
In terms of build quality, the metal device does delight indeed. Although the kickstand could be a bit smoother when changing its position and the buttons feel slightly spongy when pressed, there really isn’t that much I could critize. In fact, for its price (about $300 for the 64 GB version) I think the T102HA actually is ‘over-premium’.
Unlike Microsoft’s Surface devices, the T102HA’s display doesn’t come with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Instead Asus opted for 10.1″ LED backlit screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels (16:10) resulting in a pixel density of about 149 ppi. While the screen’s resolution is sufficient, the display definitely could take a higher resolution (1080p preferably) as text does look noticeably pixelated which could prove to be annoying if you plan to mainly use the device for writing e-mails and editing Word documents. For the consumption of videos for instance, the resolution isn’t that much of a problem. In terms of colors, the display is quite satisfying altough whites appear slightly to yellowish for my liking. The maximum brightness is ok for indoor usage, though you might run into some problems when using the device in direct sunlight. Sadly, auto-brightness isn’t supported.
As is pretty much typical for Asus, the keyboard is included in the box. While the plastic keys feel cheep, the typing experience is actually quite good and you’ll get used to it fairly quickly. The full 2600+ words review over at 2in1school.ch proves that you can indeed write longer texts on the keyboard as well. Sadly, the keyboard isn’t backlit.
The Touchpad is suprisingly good: Asus even went for a “Precision Touchpad” meaning that all the great Windows 10 touchpad gestures are supported. Given the overall compactness of the T102HA, the touchpad is comfortably well-sized and has a smooth surface.
The Asus Pen too is very similar to the Surface counterpart – not only in terms of design but also in terms of specifications. Just like the “Pro-4-Generation” of the Surface Pen, the Asus Pen does support up to 1024 points of pressure sensitivity and features a clip thanks to which you can store it in the pen loop at the keyboard base. Sadly, writing and annotating doesn’t feel as natural and real as with the Surface Pen. Luckily though, you can actually use the latter in combination with the Transformer Mini (see video embedded below).
Located on both sides of the device, the speakers offer decent quality sound and thanks to their position smartly use your hands as a resonating medium to amplify the sound when holding the tablet in both hands.
The 2 megapixel front-facing camera is good for Skype conferences but nothing more. Asus decided to not include a camera on the back.
With its Intel Atom x5-Z8350 (Cherry Trail Generation) the Transformer Mini definitely isn’t the fastest 2-in-1 device out there but performance is sufficient for daily tasks such as web browsing, writing e-mails, editing word documents and watching YouTube videos. When doing some more intensive tasks such as photo editing you’ll definitely have to be patient. Thanks to the 4 GB of RAM though multitasking isn’t that much of a problem as with older Windows tablets which are quite limited due to their small amount of RAM (1 to 2 GB).
Asus promises up to 11 hours of usage and while you should always keep company battery figures with a grain of salt, the Transformer Mini indeed proves to offer great battery life.
We’ve encountered no problems at all regarding Windows 10 Home (Build 149393.1358) running on the Asus Transformer Mini. Sadly though, Asus once again opted for pre-installing many different bloatware programs – including the notorious McAfee LifeSafe. But with Asus Quick Launch the manufacturer also included a very neat little program which allows you to turn on features such as double-tap-to-wake (a feature which although being part of the Lumia range for quite some time still hasn’t made its way to the Surface line-up of devices) or five-finger-pinch to turn the screen off. Even cooler: You can actually directly open specific programs by drawing an appropriate letter on the screen (which is turned off), e.g. by drawing the letter ‘w’ and then unlocking the device with your fingerprint you’ll get directly to Microsoft Edge. Speaking of which: The Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint scanner works absolutely phenomenally – it’s fast and reliable.
In the absence of a Surface 3 successor, people looking for a Windows 10 2-in-1 in the 10″ range definitely don’t have many devices to choose from – though the Asus Transformer Mini could very well be an option for them. At a reasonable price, buyers get a decent Surface-type device with all the great features such as a kickstand, a keyboard and an active stylus (both of which are included), long battery life and relatively premium look and feel. The only downsides really are the low-res screen, the mediocre performance and the massve amount of bloatware. But at the end of the day, the Asus Transformer Mini undoubtedly is an interesting offer and definitely worth a second look.