Bright screen; Long battery life; Surprisingly loud speakers
Cramped keyboard; Sluggish performance
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is a lightweight 2-in-1 with a bright screen and long battery life, but its cramped keyboard makes it tough to use.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive secondary computer, a 10-inch 2-in-1 can be a highly portable and affordable option. At just $399, the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA serves as both a tablet and a miniature Windows 10 laptop with a detachable keyboard. A viable alternative to Microsoft’s discontinued Surface 3, the Transformer Mini has a bright screen and all-day battery life. However, its Intel Atom Cherry Trail CPU isn’t great for multitasking, and its keyboard feels cramped. But for simple web browsing and media viewing, this long-lasting device will suffice.
This pint-size 2-in-1 boasts a fairly simple design. The gray, magnesium back features Asus’ logo and a pull-out, adjustable kickstand similar to the one on the Microsoft Surface (though it’s nowhere near as smooth to adjust). The front of the tablet consists of a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 screen surrounded by a thick, black bezel.
The biggest difference between the Transformer and its competitors is that Asus put a circular fingerprint reader (it resembles Apple’s Touch ID on the iPhone or iPad) on the back. It’s a nice feature in an inconvenient location. I found myself feeling around the back of the screen every single time I tried to log in.
The magnetic keyboard attaches to the bottom of the tablet. Ours came in a boring gray color, but Asus makes it in amber (orange), mint green and the curiously named “icicle gold.”
The whole package is lightweight and portable, at just 10.2 x 6.7 x 0.5 inches and 1.76 pounds with the keyboard. (It weighs 1.2 pounds without the keyboard.) In comparison, the Lenovo Ideapad Miix 310 is a similar size, at 9.7 x 6.8 x 0.7 inches, but much heavier, at 2.4 pounds. The Acer Aspire Switch 10 E is slightly bigger, at 10.3 x 7 x 0.4 inches, and at 2.8 pounds, weighs a lot more.
The Transformer keeps in line with other 10.1-inch 2-in-1s by offering a limited selection of ports. On its left side, you’ll find a headphone jack, a USB 3.0 port, micro HDMI output and a micro-USB port. On top is a lone slot for a microSD card. This is the same selection offered by the Switch 10 E, but the Miix offers two full-size USB 2.0 ports instead of a single USB 3.0 port.
If you like your displays bright, the Transformer is for you. Its 10.1-inch, 1200 x 800 touch screen is more luminous than its competitors’. I watched the movie trailer for Assassin’s Creed and could make out plenty of detail in close-ups of actor Michael Fassbender’s face, though action scenes were slightly blurry.
The screen covers 92.8 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is more vivid than the Miix (84 percent) and the Switch (70 percent) but still falls short of the ultraportable average (96 percent).
Those colors aren’t that precise, though. The Transformer’s display has a high (i.e., worse) Delta-E color accuracy score of 4.2 (0 is best), meaning it’s far less exact than the average (2.1), Miix (0.8) and Switch 10 E (0.4).
The Transformer measured 372 nits of brightness in our lab tests, outshining the category average of 305 nits, as well as the Switch and the Miix, at 263 nits and 255 nits, respectively.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Stylus
The keyboard and touchpad feel so damn awkward that I couldn’t imagine getting serious work done on this machine. The island-style keyboard has tiny, cramped keys that made me trip over my own fingers. The keys’ comfortable 2 millimeters of travel and 59 grams of required force didn’t make up for the caps’ tiny size.
I typed at 83 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test with a whopping 24 percent error rate; I average 107 wpm and a 2 percent error rate.
The touchpad isn’t much better. In my testing, the tiny 3.4 x 1.7-inch surface felt too tight, and the cursor was intermittently jumpy.
Asus includes its stylus, the Asus Pen, with the Transformer Mini. The aluminum stylus is about the same size as a regular pen, though a bit heavier. It has two buttons: one for an eraser, and one to serve as a right click, though I wish they were customizable. Asus claims the AAAA battery included in the stylus will provide up to 10 months of battery life, after which you’ll need to replace it. The stylus offers 1,024 points of pressure sensitivity, and I was able to adjust the thickness of lines on the fly in Sketchpad with Windows Ink, but strangely, Fresh Paint didn’t recognize the changes in pressure at all.
Considering the Transformer’s small size, I was surprised at just how loud its speakers were. I blasted “96,000” off the “In the Heights” cast soundtrack and filled a medium-size conference room with jubilant sound. The vocals were loud and clear, as were the guitar and horns, but the bass and percussion were a bit muted.I found that by switching to Movie mode in the ICEpower AudioWizard, I got a slightly better mix of sound, with better percussion, and would suggest using it over the default Music mode. To get a hint of bass, I had to switch to Gaming mode, but that distorted some of the other instruments.
The two speakers are on the left and right sides of the tablet. As soon as I detached it from the keyboard, my hands muffled the sound completely. To listen to music while using the Transformer as a tablet, you have no choice but to hold it in portrait mode.
With its 1.44-GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8350 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of flash storage, the Transformer is slow and clunky, making it best suited for unitaskers. When I browsed the web with Chrome, the computer slowed to a crawl with just three tabs open, one of which was streaming a 1080p sketch from Saturday Night Live.
The Transformer notched a score of 2,411 on the Geekbench 3 overall performance test, falling far short of the ultraportable category average of 5,580. The Miix (with the same CPU as the Transformer) earned a slightly higher score of 2,445, while the Switch (Atom Z3735) reached just 2,123.
It took Asus’ 2-in-1 3 minutes and 18 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed media files, which translates to a transfer rate of 25.7 megabytes per second. The Miix hit 36.7 MBps, and the Switch reached 41.7 MBps.
On our OpenOffice Spreadsheet macro, the Transformer paired 20,000 names and numbers in 17 minutes and 32 seconds. The Miix (16:55) was faster, while the Switch (25:49) fell behind, but they all fared far worse than the category average (6:37).
If you had any dreams of gaming on the Transformer, put them to bed. It achieved a score of 16,176 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. The category average is a superior 51,975, and while the Miix (17,451) was slightly better than the Transformer, the Switch (8,557) fell flat.
Whether you’re using it at your desk or on the go, the Transformer lasts long enough to go all day without a charge. It lasted 12 hours and 8 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which browses the web continuously over Wi-Fi. It surpassed the ultraportable average (8:10) and the Switch (8:28) but fell just short of the Miix (12:24).
The Transformer’s webcam is absolutely miserable. The 720p webcam takes dark photos that mess up colors horribly. In a selfie I snapped with the camera, my skin appeared yellow, as if I had jaundice, and my red sweater looked brown and lifeless. The whole photo was far darker than the room I took it in. It was hard to see details such as the stripes on my sweater and the screen on the TV behind me.
Whether you’re holding it in your hands or using it on your lap, you can trust that the Transformer won’t get too hot. The tablet portion reached 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which is below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
The Transformer doesn’t come with all that much software preinstalled. The 2-in-1’s 10.1-inch display is small enough to qualify for a free copy of Microsoft’s Office Mobile, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. There’s a copy of Drawboard PDF to mark up files with the stylus, but otherwise, it’s just standard Windows bloatware, including Netflix, Candy Crush Soda Saga and Pandora.
Asus sells the Transformer with a one-year warranty. See how the company did on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands rankings.
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is worth considering for its long battery life and relatively bright and colorful display, and we’re glad that Asus includes a pen. However, the keyboard is cramped and poorly laid out, and there’s just not enough performance here to make this someone’s primary PC.
You’re better off going for Lenovo’s Ideapad Miix 310. For $100 less, you get the same processor, better performance and slightly longer battery life, though that keyboard stinks, too. (a common characteristic of detachables this size).
The Miix doesn’t include a stylus, though. So if you think you’ll be using Windows Ink, the Transformer is the better option.