The ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is the latest in ultra compact Windows tablets from ASUS.
Sporting a 10.1" display, a soft cover with built-in keyboard, and a stylus to round out the tablet experience, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA calls itself "The Fun PC!"
ASUS Canada was kind enough to lend me a review unit, allowing me to kick the tires on this little guy, and really put it through its paces.
Hardware & Software
The ASUS Tranformer Mini T102HA review unit I received had the following specs:
- 10.1” (16:10) LED backlit HD (1280x800) 60Hz Glare Touchscreen with 60% NTSC
- Intel Cherry Trail Quad-Core Z8350/BGA
- 4GB DDR3 memory
- 128GB eMMC storage
Listed at $549 CAD on Amazon.ca, my first thought was: dang, that's one cheap tablet and laptop, given that it runs Windows 10 and includes a stylus and keyboard, and has decent hardware specs.
In addition: it's a very, very small device. Given that it has a 10.1" display, it definitely looks and feels smaller than my old 9.7" iPad 2. However, don't let its diminutive size fool you: it's on the heavier and denser side, weighing in at 1.74kg, and even heavier with its keyboard/cover combo attached. Given the weight for its size, it feels great in one hand, but it feels heavier than other small tablets that I am used to.
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA has a built in kickstand for propping it up at an angle for easier viewing.
I found the hinges for the kickstand to be very sturdy, and built well, but I felt uneasy with any weight placed on top while extended beyond a 90 degree angle. In fact, you can get it to about ~150 degrees, but it just felt like I was going to break it with my palm resting on top. However, that may just be my own personal paranoia.
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA has several ports, most of which are grouped together in one corner of the device: a 3.5mm combo audio jack, a USB 3.0 port, a micro-USB port, and a micro-HDMI port. You'll also find a fingerprint scanner on the back of the T102HA, and a micro-SD slot on one of the length-wise edges.
Software-wise, you're looking at similar capabilities as a regular Windows 10 laptop, so I won't spend too much time here. I did find that it was a tad sluggish on anything more than basic computer usage, but being able to switch between laptop and tablet mode (relatively) seamlessly can be a great boon.
I did run the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA through a battery of benchmark tests for performance reasons, but again, anything more than basic computer usage would push it to its limits, and these sorts of tests could not show us anything we didn't already know. I do go over performance in the later section of the review.
Overall, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA feels solidly built, and they seem to have packed in quite a bit into its tiny frame. For its price, the hardware inside will provide decent performance, especially for casual or basic usage.
Usability & Usefulness
With its decent hardware specs and small form factor, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA seems like it would be great for anyone who values lower prices and mobility, and doesn't need it for much more than editing documents, or surfing the web, or streaming videos.
However, while its small size was great for working on the go, it did present a few problems.
Its small keyboard was not great for typing. I had originally started writing this review on the T102HA, but because of how small and cramped its keyboard was, I opted to go back to my regular keyboard rather than wasting time deleting typos and missing keys.
It's understandable, given just how small the device is, that the keyboard and cover would need to be as small. However, that does mean that if I were to actually work on the go, I would probably need to bring an external keyboard and mouse. Speaking of mouse, the trackpad on the cover works for the most part, finding that it did miss taps or clicks here and there, but I wasn't sure whether or not the T102HA's sluggishness was the actual culprit.
The stylus was also barely used, which may be because I don't take notes by hand very often, nor am I an artist. However, its responsiveness for drawing was on the slower side, so it may have missed a few strokes while I was rushing to write something out during a test. In addition, there didn't seem to be any differentiation for different weights applied while writing or drawing, meaning stroke size would always be consistent.
The display is one typically found on many recent 10" tablets, with its 1280x800 resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio, but it is a solid choice. Its contrast and colour accuracy were very good, though its colour gamut is lacking for anything more than basic work. While potentially more of a Windows 10 issue, the display had a propensity to get stuck in an incorrect orientation, and I would spend a minute or two rotating the device over and over again to get the correct orientation.
Problems aside, my favourite thing about the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is the battery. The product is very heavy for a reason: its packing a 30 Wh (watt hour) polymer battery. ASUS claims, on the specs page of the T102HA, that it will provide about 11 hours of movie playback.
In my tests, I was averaging around 9.5 hours of casual web surfing, with "Battery Saver" mode on and about ~30% display brightness. Streaming video from Netflix gave me about ~6 hours on average, and streaming via Steam In-Home Streaming gave me around ~6 hours as well, and both represent the lowest battery life I could achieve. The personal high was ~11 hours of casual web surfing, with brightness at 10%.
This level of battery life on a device allows for mobility for an entire day. Moving from place to place, meeting to meeting, class to class, whatever the scenario, and not having to think or worry about the battery life is an underrated feature.
The battery on the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is excellent.
Stepping into actual usage of the Transformer Mini, I did find that it performed exceptionally well for basic computer usage. Basic computer activities like surfing the web, checking your email, reading or writing documents are all great on the T102HA.
The smaller screen screen can be an issue for any sufficiently large spreadsheet, but anything with heavy computational requirements (like spreadsheets) may be too much for the Transformer Mini. Memory issues are present as well, where 4GB of RAM may not be enough for more than the most casual of activities.
One hitch with any data-intensive activities, like streaming videos, is that despite having a 802.11ac capable wireless network on-board, I couldn't get much faster than a 433Mbps connection with my router. For reference, my MacBook Pro and Mac Mini can both connect to my router at 1300Mbps. At home, where I was testing the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA, I have a 100/10 connection, which both MacBook Pro and Mac Mini can either fully utilize or blow past, yet the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA was struggling to get above 10Mbps download and 2Mbps upload.
To summarize: the strength of the wifi connection is an issue, and more so if you're ever more than 10-15 feet away from the router. It can negatively affect data-intensive activities like streaming videos.
As a gamer, I definitely enjoy having machines that are capable of playing games, but since my main working ecosystem utilizes macOS, I'm all too familiar with my hardware being willing but not capable of actually playing games. As a result, I rely on Steam In-Home Streaming to play my favourite games on my Windows 10 gaming rig at home, but while using my MacBook Pro.
So you can imagine my delight when I opened Steam on the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA and clicked "Play" on one of my favourite games at the moment: Overwatch.
Definitely some lag here and there (not surprising given the wireless connectivity issues mentioned earlier), but a mostly smooth experience streaming a game. This is fantastic because, as a gamer, having a gaming rig means that I have this giant and powerful machine, but it definitely does not allow for mobility. Having two different machines - one meant for work and one meant for play, means that you may find yourself constantly switching monitors and external peripherals. However, with Steam In-Home Streaming, you can effectively utilize just a single machine, while still having the separation of work and play.
Actual gaming on the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA seems to be a non-starter, but if you saw my post on the ASUS Holiday Preview, you'll have seen one of my favourites: the ASUS ROG XG Station 2. ASUS created the "student's dream setup", where a Transformer 3 Pro was connected to the XG Station 2, which is an external PCI-e enclosure, and the Transformer 3 Pro was running a graphically demanding game without any issues.
While the specs of the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA may not hold a candle to what's inside the Transformer 3 Pro, I would love to see what would be possible if it had an ASUS ROG XG Station 2 connected, with a high end graphics card inside.
Overall, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA has a good level of usefulness. There are some quirks, due to its size, that detract from productivity, but again, for its price, is a solid machine when it comes to mobility and capability.
Who Is This For?
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is small and portable, it performs well for most basic computer activities, and its battery life is exceptional. Especially for $549 CAD. There are cheaper 10" tablets on the market, that also include keyboards, a stylus, and a cover, but very few are from a well known brand, like ASUS.
In my opinion, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is perfect for students, casual or minimal computer users, or those who need to perform light work on the go. The power and productivity are definitely lacking, but will cover most uses for casual usage and communication requirements. Definitely not for anything computationally expensive, either processor or graphics-wise.
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is a decent machine. For a 2-in-1 laptop and tablet combo, it delivers a good deal of performance and functionality. Its compact size makes it great for being able to work anywhere, and its long lasting battery life provide it the ability to work without worry.
However, its compact size also presents usability and productivity-affecting issues, especially when it comes to using the included keyboard/cover combo. In addition, you won't be able to use it for anything more demanding than casual web surfing, document creation and editing, and streaming your favourite videos; which may sometimes be difficult with its weaker wireless connectivity.
Overall, I think the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is a good device. It's cheap enough, it's versatile, it's got a great screen and battery, and it will work great for daily usage in many people's lives.
Item: ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA
Price: $549 CAD
Rating: 3 out of 5.
NOTE: This review was made possible with a loaner, review unit, from ASUS. All opinions are my own, and I appreciate the opportunity.