If you’re after versatility and value for money, the Transformer Mini T102HA is a solid choice. Our full review of Asus’ latest Transformer tablet takes a close look at the specs, performance, battery life and nifty keyboard cover, which turns this Windows device into a mini laptop.
These days it seems like pretty much every tablet needs to convert into a mini laptop, to provide true flexibility for on-the-go business users. Microsoft’s Surface Pro series is one of the more famous of course, alongside Apple’s iPad Pro tablets and Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S3.
However, Asus has been doing this conversion shindiggery for years now, with its Transformer range. The latest entry is the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA, a 10.1-inch Windows 10 tablet with a nifty keyboard case in case you need to tap out a shopping list or an essay.
Starting at £349 at Currys at the time of writing, the T102HA is a more affordable way of enjoying the best of both worlds compared with Microsoft and Apple’s efforts. But is Asus’ Transformer Mini actually worth that asking price? Here’s our in-depth review.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Design and ports
The Transformer Mini T102HA immediately reminded us of Microsoft’s Surface tablets, thanks to its nifty rear-mounted kickstand. Pull this out and you can prop up the device at pretty much any angle on a flat surface, thanks to the reassuringly stiff hinge.
That metal alloy surfacing is reasonably rugged, although our review model did pick up some small scratches and scuffs from being carried around for three weeks. Nothing severe, but it did ruin the general aesthetics.
While the Transformer Mini doesn’t look particularly sexy on its own, you can pick it up with colourful keyboard cases to add a splash of vibrancy.
On the back of the Mini you’ll find a fingerprint sensor, for securely unlocking your device while skipping the password entry. However, while the iPad Pro’s sensor is easy to use because it’s staring you in the face, this scanner often needs to be tracked down with a bit of awkward fumbling.
Regular use will help of course, as muscle memory directs your tip to the sweet spot. But it’s still a flawed feature as you have to tap the separate power button before scanning your finger, which wastes time – especially as it’s not the swiftest of sensors.
Asus has however included a generous selection of ports on the Transformer Mini T102HA’s edges. As well as the standard microUSB charger port, you get a full-sized USB which can be used to attach peripherals or external storage. That’s pretty rare for a tablet these days. We’re also pleased to see a micro HDMI port, for attaching the T102HA to a monitor, TV or projector. Again, quite the rarity.
Lastly you also have a microSD memory card slot, to expand the 64GB built-in storage.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Media and features
That 10.1-inch 1280×800 LED display is geared towards office use and everyday tasks. Get in close and images are pixelated, but you can still happily enjoy YouTube videos and a bit of light Netflix in your down time. Visuals are reasonably attractive, with solid contrast levels as well as wide viewing angles and a powerful top brightness. Colour reproduction is a little muted, but fine for office use.
A pair of stereo speakers are located either side of the screen in landscape mode. They can pump out some impressively loud audio on top volume. Don’t expect crystal clarity or deep bass, but they’re absolutely fine for enjoying video without plugging in earphones. Not to mention powerful enough to drown out any background clamour. Of course, they can’t match the quad-speaker setup of the iPad Pro for volume or quality.
Windows 10 comes pre-installed and offers a full desktop experience when combined with the keyboard cover. You can also swap to Tablet Mode at any time, which transforms the interface to a more poke-and-swipe-friendly effort. As well as downloading apps from Microsoft’s online store, you can install any Windows software found on the internet, so you should never be without the necessary tools.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Performance and battery life
The Intel Atom x5-Z8350 quad-core processor is backed by 4GB of RAM, giving basic everyday performance. You can happily browse the internet, get stuck into office applications and the rest, but don’t expect to do much more beyond that.
Gaming for instance is a bust, unless you want to play simple casual titles – hidden object games and the rest. Anything more demanding is a struggle for the simple integrated graphics.
Battery life is thankfully a very different story. The Transformer Mini T102HA easily lasts over ten hours on battery power alone, meaning you’ll make it through a full working day and commutes to boot. That isn’t just with a spot of word processing, either. You can be streaming media and indulging in plenty of web use and the battery won’t drain any faster.
The Transformer Mini holds charge really well, too. Turn it off for a week and come back to it and you’ll find the battery is just as full.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Keyboard cover and stylus
Asus has bundled a nifty keyboard cover with the Transformer Mini T102HA, which protects the screen when not in use. Open it up and the cover has a series of physical keys hidden away, which can be used in place of an on-screen touch keyboard. It’s a setup we’ve seen on a few other tablets, such as the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface, and it works quite well here too.
To keep a slim design, a lot of keyboard covers don’t feature keys that can be physically pushed in. There’s no travel, so you feel like you’re tapping against a soft surface. That can make touch typing quite tricky and feel rather strange when you’re getting accustomed to the board.
However, Asus’ T102HA keyboard has ‘proper’ keys which are pushed down when hit. So despite that compact, narrow design, typing at speed is quite a comfortable experience and not too far off a proper laptop. For a bundled extra, we’re definitely impressed. We’re less enthusiastic about the dinky touchpad, but why even bother with it when you can simply tap and swipe the screen.
A well-designed stylus also comes bundled, offering more precise control when needed. Just swipe and prod as usual to navigate around Windows, while a long press is the equivalent of a right click. We found the pen more than adequate for getting arty or messing around with documents.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Verdict
The Transformer Mini T102HA is another fine convertible tablet, offering solid value for money. More demanding users might be disappointed by the low screen resolution and the basic performance, but the strong versatility is enticing.
As a tablet, the T102HA offers a smooth way to browse the web and get stuck into apps – and you can get a bit more creative too, with the bundled stylus. As a laptop, Asus’ device also succeeds thanks to the surprisingly strong keyboard cover and generous ports.