- Compact, lightweight design
- Good screen for the money
- Great battery life
- Terrible trackpad
- 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800, IPS, touchscreen
- Windows 10
- 64GB eMMC storage
- 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x micro-USB, 1 x micro-HDMI, mic/earphone, 2MP front camera, fingerprint sensor
- Intel Cherry Trail-T Atom X5-Z8350 CPU
- 4GB DDR3 RAM
- Manufacturer: Asus
- Review Price: £499.00
WHAT IS THE ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA?
When it was first released, the Microsoft Surface 3 was one of the best budget convertibles on the market. It offered a compact satchel friendly design and was an ideal companion for any avid doodler, student or tablet buyer. However, it’s beginning to show its age and has some pretty underpowered hardware.
Which is why the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA looks like a pretty appealing device. The tiny convertible offers similar portability, but comes with newer components that generally match, if not beat the Surface 3’s.
The T102HA delivers on its promise and is a great convertible for buyers on a budget, but issues with its middling Intel Atom CPU and touchpad make it a poor choice as a proper laptop replacement.
ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA – DESIGN
From a design perspective, the Transformer Mini ticks all the right boxes. The main tablet section feels well built, despite being a little on the chunky side at 6.9mm thick, and comes with a kickstand on its rear that makes it easy to set up in a variety of different angles.
The fingerprint reader on its back is an added bonus that makes it quick and easy to unlock. Personally, I’d have preferred for it to be placed on the tablet’s side or front, but that’s a small quibble for what is otherwise a useful addition.
The tablet section of the device is also fairly well connected in terms of ports. Along its sides sit a full-sized USB 3.0, micro-USB (used for charging), micro-HDMI and 3.5mm headphone jack. Considering the tablet’s small dimensions, connectivity options are fairly impressive and match – if not beat – many larger convertibles such as the Huawei Matebook and Samsung Galaxy TabPro S. It matches the Surface 3 in this regard.
The 64GB eMMC storage is typical for a low-end tablet, but means you won’t be able to store much media on the tablet. But the fact that you can upgrade it via the microSD card slot partially makes up for this.
My only concern is the build quality of the build. In general, the kickstand’s hinge is fine, but on the silver-finish model I tested, it was a scratch magnet – as it was on the Asus Transformer 3 Pro.
Even while traveling with it in padded satchel it somehow managed to pick up marks. Being fair, though, the metal used is otherwise fairly robust. The tablet survived an accidental encounter with my kitchen floor, crack- and dent-free.
ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA – KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD
I’ve never been a fan of Type Cover-style keyboards. Every one I’ve tested has, at best, offered a usable typing experience. Keys universally display poor travel and don’t feel responsive enough – especially on shallow boards such as the one seen on the Huawei MateBook.
To add insult to injury, many companies also charge extra for such attachable keyboards – including Microsoft.
Asus has addressed the second issue by including the keyboard with the tablet. My initial concern about usability remains, though.
The keyboard isn’t anywhere near as nice to type on as that of a proper laptop, but it’s pretty good by convertible standards. The keys are fairly squashed due to the 10.1-inch form factor, but they offer better travel than I expected and are more tactile.
The magnet used to raise the keyboard off the floor is a little weak. On multiple occasions, the keyboard would detach itself from the screen so that it was lying completely flat on my desk, creating a less comfortable typing experience. This might be an intentional addition to allow for extra typing options, but it’s too easy to do when it’s in the elevated position.
The trackpad has few redeeming features. It’s far too small to be comfortable and is absolutely terrible at understanding multi-touch commands. Even basic tasks, such as scrolling up and down, proved too be a challenge for it.
The lack of separate left and right keys is also an annoyance. The touchpad regularly reads an attempt to click one of the keys as a movement, causing the cursor to fly across the screen.
ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA – DISPLAY
On paper, the Transformer Mini’s 10.1-inch IPS touchscreen isn’t anything to shout about. The 1,280 x 800 resolution is very low for a 2016 device, despite coming with an active stylus, the size means it isn’t ideal for anything but basic notation in OneNote.
The quality of the display is actually pretty great, if you ignore the pitiful resolution.
The 0.48 black level is pretty impressive by IPS display standards and ensures blacks, while not the inkiest, are more than deep enough for Netflix binging and general web browsing.
The 543 lumens white level translates to a wonderfully bright screen with a contrast ratio 1,112:1 – which is excellent for a sub-£500 convertible. The 6,894K colour temperature is a little above the 6,500K ideal – but again, this is far from terrible and ensures that colours look neither too cool or overcooked.
Creatives will scoff at the screen’s 75% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut and 58% coverage of the DCI-P3 spectrum, but to be honest, I can’t see any serious artist or photographer wanting to work on a device this small anyway.
In plain English, then: if you just want a small laptop replacement for basic word processing, web browsing and video streaming, then the screen on the Transformer Mini is more than up to the job.
ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA – PERFORMANCE
The Transformer Mini is powered by a quad-core, 1.44-1.92GHz Intel ‘Cherry Trail-T’ Atom X5-Z8350 CPU, Intel HD Graphics 400 and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. It’s a big upgrade over the Surface 3, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.
The laptop worked well enough for very basic tasks, such as single-tab web browsing and video streaming, but it struggled with even moderately demanding processes.
Multiple-layer digital painting becomes chuggy fairly quickly and the device began to stall when running Chrome with more than three or four tabs open at once. The super low-end HD Graphics 400 mean that even basic gaming, such as playing Minecraft, is beyond the Transformer Mini.
The Transformer Mini’s synthetic benchmark scores mirrored my real-world experience. The 781 single-core and 1,952 multi-core Geekbench 3 scores are poor, even by affordable device standards. By comparison, the £600 Intel i3-powered Acer Switch Alpha 12 convertible ran in with 2,662 single- and 5,449 multi-core scores in the same test.
The 1,169 PCMark 8 Home score is also sub-par, making the Transformer Mini one of the lowest performing Windows convertibles I’ve tested this year. The Acer Switch Alpha 12 scored 2,369 in the same test.
The scores are a little disappointing, since Asus has done everything it can to get the most out of the Atom and has installed next to no bloatware onto the device.
Part of the blame should be laid at the door of Windows 10, which can be fairly greedy with system resources.
ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA – BATTERY
The one saving grace for the Atom is its low power consumption. The CPU is super-efficient, and this means that the Transformer Mini’s 11-hour quoted battery life is actually a little pessimistic.
Running TrustedReviews’ standard battery test, which synthetically loops 10 minutes of web browsing and 5 minutes of video playback with the screen brightness set to 150 nits in Powermark, the device lasted 11hrs 36mins.
The Transformer Mini’s real-world stamina was equally impressive. Watching Netflix with the screen on the same 150 nits, the Mini consumed between 6-9% of its charge per hour – which, again, is excellent by convertible standards. Using the Mini as my main work laptop, the device easily breezed through a day in the office with juice to spare.
ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA – AUDIO AND CAMERAS
The Transformer Mini is surprisingly loud for such a small device. I wouldn’t want to use the speakers to listen to music, but they’re more than good enough for watching speech-heavy videos.
The 2-megapixel front camera is a less impressive. Video-call quality is good enough in regular lighting, but move into bright or even moderately dim conditions and things quickly deteriorate. You’d also be wise to avoid using it for selfies; the results won’t be flattering.
SHOULD I BUY THE ASUS TRANSFORMER MINI T102HA?
If you’re in the market for a secondary, small-form-factor netbook replacement for work or study, there’s plenty to like about the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA.
The device has a portable design and at £449 it’s good value, especially when you consider that the pen and keyboard cover are part of the package. The 11-plus hour battery life also makes it one of the longest-lasting devices around, and means it will easily survive a long-haul flight or school day.
However, its use of an Atom processor diminishes its overall appeal. The CPU isn’t up to scratch for anything but very basic tasks, such as word processing and light web browsing. As a result, it’s a poor choice as a primary laptop of tablet for anyone but the most lightweight of users.
A tempting small-form-factor convertible that’s let down by an underpowered CPU.