Asus Transformer Mini T102HA full review
Asus often caters for people who want a £1000 laptop but have nowhere near that budget. The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is a low-cost take on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Keep up with the Surface Pro 5 launch event live.
It’s a laptop with a detachable keyboard, its own kickstand and a stylus. From another perspective, it’s just another Asus hybrid, but one with a Surface-flavour twist. Asus has been making convertible laptops longer than just about anyone else, after all. There’s just one glaring issue to worry about: performance. While you won’t find any super-powered competitors at the price, an Intel Atom CPU makes Windows 10 feel quite slow.
See also: Best budget laptops
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Price
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA costs £349. That includes the keyboard base and the stylus. And a one-year warranty.
Compare that to the Surface Pro 4 and the huge difference in cost is obvious. The entry-level model is £749, and the keyboard costs an additional £109, for a total of around £860.
These two hybrids are only comparable in a loose sense, though, as the Surface is much more powerful and significantly larger. However, it’s clear that undercutting Microsoft dramatically is part of the Transformer Mini T102HA mission statement.
There’s also a version of the Transformer Mini T102HA with a 128GB SSD, but as that currently costs £590 it represents a poor-value upgrade.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Design
Considering the low price, Asus has done a great job of holding onto a few hints of higher-end design. The back of the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is aluminium rather than plastic, for example, and like the Surface there’s a smooth-folding kickstand on the back.
This is the main thing that separates the Transformer Mini T102HA from older Transformer-series devices, most of which use a keyboard base into which the screen slots.
Here, the keyboard is more like a thick, rigid folio cover. It locks onto the display using magnets, and a further set of magnets lets the board sit at a slight angle for more comfortable typing.
The keyboard part is fibreglass rather than aluminium, likely necessary to keep the weight down, but the back of it is a neat synthetic felt. This doesn’t look like a £700 hybrid, but it doesn’t seem embarrassingly cheap either. The kickstand isn’t as smooth as that of the Surface, for example, but it is easily strong enough to hold the screen at almost any angle. It swivels to approx 170 degrees: highly flexible.
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is also reasonably light, 795g with keyboard, and very portable. A 10.1-inch screen means it’s smaller than the 12-inch MacBook even though it doesn’t have ‘expensive’ features like a screen with almost no surround.
There are a few different pros and cons to a Surface-style hybrid like this. Unlike a 360-degree hinge hybrid, the screen comes off to function as a proper tablet, and the kickstand means you can lean the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA back almost flat and it won’t topple over.
Negatives include that the kickstand feels awkward when rested on your knees and that you end up with a keyboard that feels like part of a case. More on that shortly.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Connectivity
First, let’s take a look at the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA’s connections. Asus has taken a surprisingly old-school approach, with no USB-C port. This mimics the Surface Pro 4, but we hope this isn’t Asus’s reasoning for the omission as it’s short-sighted.
Almost all mobile devices apart from very cheap models are likely to feature USB-C in 2017, so sticking with microUSB for charging will make the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA date more quickly.
Aside from this, the connections are smart, though. You get a full-size USB 3.0, making adding a mouse a cinch, and there are also micro HDMI and microSD ports. It’s enough to make the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA seem like a mini PC rather than the kind of ultraportable not really designed to interface with peripherals.
There’s also a fingerprint scanner on the back, used as part of Windows Hello to let you login to Windows 10 without typing a password or code. It gives the Transformer Mini T102HA another gadget to show off, but like Windows Hello in general it doesn’t end up saving you much time unless you have a longer password.
The pad is much pickier about your finger positioning than a phone or Android/iOS tablet scanner. It tends to take us two attempts rather than one to get the Transformer Mini T102HA to unlock.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Keyboard and trackpad
At this point, there’s a lot of competition if you’re out for a slim work machine too, the best alternatives being the many solid Chromebooks. One practical issue of the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is that its keyboard is cut down in size.
It’s around 90 per cent of full size, but until you get used to the new dimensions it will feel odd, a little cramped. This is one of the issues common among 10-inch hybrids. There just isn’t room for a full-size keyboard.
There is still a lot to like about the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA’s keyboard, though. The fibreglass base is more rigid than the keyboard surrounds of some traditional laptops and 1.5mm key travel provides a feel closer to that of a normal keyboard than most tablet add-ons.
The key action is basic, less refined and clean than a truly good laptop keyboard. And there’s no backlight, but we don’t expect one at this price anyway.
Similarly, the trackpad is a basic rectangle of plastic rather than the textured glass high-end laptops use, but has a nice firm click and while small doesn’t seem undersized relative to the keyboard.
We have, however, found other issues with the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA pad. It has a tendency to be far too sensitive to the presence of a second finger, often making the cursor suddenly fly across the screen when you click the button, as if you’d also just made a grand swipe across the pad.
This has been the most annoying part of the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA. We managed to improve it by fiddling with the Windows mouse driver settings (by stopping light taps on the pad from being registered as ‘clicks’), but it seems unlikely many buyers will know about this. Or at least feel they should have to take such measures. It’s a classic trackpad driver niggle.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Screen
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA also has a ‘classic’ budget hybrid touchscreen display. Unlike new higher-end models, there’s a lot of blank space between the screen and the edge of the device, and resolution is low at 1280 x 800 pixels.
Even at normal viewing distance, you can see pixellation in Windows 10’s small fonts. Buy the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA expecting the display quality of a £350 tablet and you’ll be disappointed.
However, in other respects it’s perfectly solid. The screen doesn’t appear recessed, colours are fairly good for a budget machine and brightness is fantastic. At 410cd/m, it’s brighter than a lot of £1000-plus laptops.
This is good news if you want to use the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA outside, as the glossy top layer does cause reflections.
Looking a bit deeper into colour performance, it hits 72.6 per cent of the sRGB colour standard. That’s not going to give you super-saturated colour, but is typical of a decent-quality budget IPS LCD screen. In person the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA also only seems slightly undersaturated, the deepest reds and blues showing up that this is a fairly humble panel.
Contrast also helps keep the screen look lively rather than muted. An excellent 907:1 contrast ratio means blacks appear truly black until you really ramp up the screen brightness, and even then they appear slightly grey, which is perhaps better than them turning blueish. This may not be a screen to show off to iPad Air-owning friends, but in practical terms it has the basics nailed.
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA’s stylus is nifty too. It’s a battery-powered metal pen, using a AAA battery you can replace by unscrewing the cap. It can slot into a loop on the keyboard base.
It’s much more advanced than a basic stylus you might buy for your tablet, with 1,024 pressure sensitivity levels and two buttons that act like L/R mouse buttons. You’ll see the cursor on-screen when it’s within an inch of the display too.
If you want a hybrid that’ll also work as a digital sketchbook, this is one of the best low-cost options. However, don’t expect iPad Pro-like results.
Dragging the stylus across the screen doesn’t feel entirely smooth because the nib is basic hard plastic and there is some delay/lag to input, a reminder you’re using a stylus rather than a real pen. However, remember that an iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil alone costs almost a third the price of the whole Asus Transformer Mini T102HA package. Let’s keep our expectations realistic.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Performance
The main area where you need to keep the low price in mind, though, is performance. This is not a fast laptop, and like most Intel Atom-powered Windows 10 devices, you do feel slow-down more obviously than in a good cheap Android phone or tablet.
Having used these sorts of devices for years, what continues to annoy us is keyboard input lag. Type something into the Windows search bar or the Internet Explorer address bar and you may have to wait a second as the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA catches-up mid-type. Web pages will load more slowly than you may be used to and applications take that bit longer to run.
However, the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA still works perfectly well as a light use machine. We could happily use this as laptop for typing up articles and checking emails. For editing the photos we use for our articles? That’s probably a step too far. This also limits the usefulness of the stylus a little if, for example, you want to start creating your own digital art. Add a dozen layers to a complex image and apply some filters and you’ll find the limits of the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA pretty quick.
That’s because it has an Intel Atom x5-8230 CPU rather than a “premium” Intel Core m or Core i-series one. These are fairly slow, basic processors, clearly shown in the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA’s benchmark results.
It scores just 2300 points in Geekbench 4 (2330 in Geekbench 3) and 1218 in PC Mark 8 Home. That’s just half, or less, of what an Intel Core-series laptop would achieve.
There’s also storage to consider. The standard Asus Transformer Mini T102HA only has 64GB solid state storage, leaving you with around 30GB to actually use. This is slow storage too, not a real SSD drive. Read speeds are 7200rpm hard drive-like at 144MB/s, but write speeds are very poor at 64MB/s, likely to become a bottleneck.
Storage capacity may not be a major issue if you only want the Transformer for basic tasks, but it’ll quickly get sucked-up if you start installing a lot of data-hungry apps or games. We couldn’t actually perform all our usual games tests as the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA doesn’t have enough room for 2013’s Thief, for example.
It would be unplayable anyway, as trying the less demanding Alien: Isolation demonstrates. It runs at 8fps at 720p with all the visual effects turned down, and 6fps when using the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA’s native resolution with effects reinstated. Only very old games will run comfortably on this machine.
Thanks to the low-end components, the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA doesn’t need fans, though, making it silent 24/7.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Battery Life
Stamina also benefits from CPU style. This is the grade of processor you might see in a phone or tablet (which is what the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is from one perspective), and it lets the battery last for just under 13.5 hours when playing back a 720p video on loop. That’s even longer than Asus’s own claim of 11 hours.
We’d rather have a laptop that lasts eight hours and doesn’t lag with basic tasks, but it’s still remarkable.
The bad side of the battery is charge speed. You’ll need to plan when to recharge the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA as the microUSB charger takes a few hours. The cable is also disappointingly short, making it tricky to charge while using unless you get an extension cable. It’s a tablet-style charge cable when this is begging for a more laptop-like one.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA review: Sound Quality
The Transformer Mini T102HA’s speakers are also tablet-like, with two drivers in the screen part, sitting on the left and right edges.
They’re fairly good for and affordable hybrid too: loud and not too thin-sounding. A standard 3.5mm jack lets you plug-in headphones or speakers very easily too.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA: Specs
- 10.1in (1280 x 800) 149dpi IPS LCD glossy touchscreen
- Windows 10 Home 64-bit
- 1.44 GHz, up to 1.92 GHz Boost Intel Atom x5-Z8350 , four cores four threads
- Intel HD 400
- 4GB SDRAM
- 64GB solid state drive
- 802.11b/g/n/ac 1x1
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 1 USB 3.0 port
- 1 Micro USB
- 1 micro HDMI
- micro SD card slot
- quad speakers
- 2MP webcam
- Digital array mic
- 3.5mm headset jack
- UK tiled keyboard
- 30 Wh lithium-ion battery non-removable
- 259 x 170 x 8.2 mm (without keyboard)
- 259 x 170 x 13.9 mm (with keyboard)
- 0.79kg (with keyboard)
- 0.535kg (without keyboard)
- 1 year return to base warranty