Asus Transformer Pad (TF103C) review

Asus' most refined Transformer yet comes with a friendlier $429 price

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ASUS Transformer Pad (TF103C)
  • ASUS Transformer Pad (TF103C)
  • ASUS Transformer Pad (TF103C)
  • ASUS Transformer Pad (TF103C)
  • Expert Rating

    3.00 / 5

Pros

  • Keyboard
  • Software

Cons

  • Not enough RAM
  • Price

Bottom Line

Only the keyboard makes the Transformer Pad worth buying. Without it the tablet proves mundane and a second choice to those on offer from Lenovo, Asus and Xiaomi. The customer interested in a taste of both worlds, notebook and tablet, will be satisfied by the Transformer Pad. Otherwise ditch the hybrid form for a standalone Chromebook or a tablet instead.

Would you buy this?

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Asus has just released an introductory version of its Transformer hybrid, the Transformer Pad (TF103C). The Intel powered Android tablet comes with a functional keyboard, but is it worth buying a hybrid when you can get the real deal?

Tab + keyboard combo

Little charm oozes from the Transformer Pad when its used alone as a tablet. The tab component is a chunky 1cm thick and let down by a low resolution screen framed by thick bezels.

The market around the $400 mark is brimming with more competitive alternatives

A matte white rear redeems some charm for the Transformer Pad. Ditching a gloss finish makes the tablet less tacky and more refined. Perforated grilles add a sense of craftsmanship, as does the slight recess to the rear camera.

There's nothing wrong with the tablet's design — it's quite endearing frankly — but the market around the $400 mark is brimming with more competitive alternatives, such as Lenovo's S6000 or the smaller Nexus 7 tablet from Asus.

Consider the Transformer Pad comes bundled with a keyboard dock and it begins to make much more sense. Asus has been swimming against the current by designing tablets with complementary docks for years now, but with each rendition the company's persistence has paid off. The chiclet keyboard bundled with the Asus Transformer Pad makes it the ideal netbook replacement. For some, it may even negate the need for a notebook or PC altogether.

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The keyboard naturally extends the Transformer Pad's design language with its white-on-grey colour scheme. The 550g dock hosts a single USB port and a trackpad, deviating from traditional Transformers by not coming equipped with a secondary battery.

Typing on the keyboard feels familiar — we're using it to type up this review — but not all of the shortcut combos used on a Windows PC fluently translate to the Transformer Pad.

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10.1in display, Intel brains

Bundling a keyboard with the Transformer Pad has meant Asus has had to shave dollars by equipping the Pad with a lesser quality screen. The 10.1in form factor is big considering the $429 price, but the 1280x800 resolution results in a 149 pixel-per-inch density, and that does little for the multimedia experience.

Switching to and from applications will strain the limited 1GB of RAM

Multimedia does take a back seat to productivity with the Transformer Pad. The stereo speakers, albeit clear, lack in volume and necessitate the need for headphones for any media with dialogue.

Working behind the scenes is a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU from Intel, 1GB of RAM and up to 16GB of internal storage. An exposed microSD slot can take up to 64GB of expandable storage, while it is powered by a 5060 milliamp-hour battery.

On occasion the Intel CPU can be turbo boosted to 1.8GHz in short bursts. Most tasks are executed swiftly, but switching to and from applications will strain the limited 1GB of RAM and undermine the entire experience. Sacrificing a secondary speaker or a rear camera would've been wiser if it meant the Transformer Pad could've been packed with the RAM it deserves.

The major connectivity bases have been covered with single-band Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and support for Miracast. Unfortunately the Transformer Pad isn't equipped with NFC, but by no means is the omission a deal breaker.

The Transformer Pad has two cameras: a 2MP rear camera and a front facing VGA camera.
The Transformer Pad has two cameras: a 2MP rear camera and a front facing VGA camera.

Android KitKat less the fat

Asus ships the Transformer Pad with Android KitKat 4.4 dressed in the company's ZenUI interface. Asus' interface has matured for the better: redundant applications have been ditched, a focus has been placed on the inadequacies of Android and the presentation is consistent through-and-through.

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Two Asus-made applications praised initially in our review of the MeMO Pad 7 warrant a mention, 'what's next' and 'do it later'. The following excerpts have been lifted from the MeMO Pad 7 review.

The applications developed by Asus are another story.

‘What’s next’ and ‘Do it later’ make up for some of the little shortcomings in Android. What’s next pulls the events scattered across days in your calendar and places them in one clean interface chronologically. Several applications on Google’s Play store do just this, but none of them do so quite as well.

Do it later ties together all of the things destined for procrastination into one interface. Ubiquity is what makes Do it later valuable to Android users; the application logs YouTube videos, webpages, memos and basically any application with the stock ‘share’ icon. These tasks are then displayed all in one place and can be churned through with ease.

Functional widgets and savvy multimedia applications round out the Transformer Pad's stellar software experience.

What's next, the calendar and do it later
What's next, the calendar and do it later

Final thought

Only the keyboard makes the Transformer Pad worth buying. Without it the tablet proves mundane and a second choice to those on offer from Lenovo, Asus and Xiaomi.

That's not the end of the Transformer Pad's woes: it has to compete against a range of Google Chromebooks from Acer, Samsung and HP — all of which cost less. The customer interested in a taste of both worlds, notebook and tablet, will be satisfied by the Transformer Pad. Otherwise ditch the hybrid form for a standalone Chromebook or a tablet instead.

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Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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