Asus Transformer TF103C review: Transformer Pad TF103 is an affordable tablet hybrid with a basic build

The Transformer Pad packs more preloaded exclusively Asus functions with WebStorage and PartyLink. WebStorage, Asus' cloud storage service, offers two years of free cloud storage, and PartyLink allows you to share photos with other Asus devices. The Snapchat-esque function works swiftly, but it's confusing to use; I found other methods of transfer to be easier.

The Transformer Pad also stuffs in a few other free perks, including music downloads from eMusic, magazines courtesy of Zinio, and 500GB of free cloud storage for two years via Asus' WebStorage service.

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The keyboard can feel cramped, especially for those with large hands. Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware

The Asus Transformer Pad TF103 houses a 1.86 GHz quad-core Intel Atom Bay Trail processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot, which accepts cards of capacities up to 64GB.

Performance

The Asus Transformer Pad TF103 garnered great gaming benchmarks, however, I wouldn't call it a gamer's tablet; its real-life performance reflects its status as a capable tablet-hybrid hindered by an outdated design. Large games, and their subsequent levels, take some time to load, but they run smooth once launched. Unfortunately, the gaming experience is hampered by the chunky design of the TF103.

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The screen's resolution is average, but still sharp enough for HD video watching. Josh Miller/CNET

Whether playing a movement intensive activity or a simple mobile game, the heavy weight of the slate takes its toll on your hands and wrists after a while. Though its internals are suited for gaming to go, its design lends itself to keyboard-centered activities, not handheld ones.

Large apps loaded a little quicker than large games, but they also ran smoothly once up and running. Performance slows down if downloading big files or many files at once, as well as if many RAM-hogging apps are open in the background, but this is a typical problem for most tablets.

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The improved hinge is foolproof. Josh Miller/CNET

For typing on the go and sending the document to yourself later for further editing on a computer, the Transformer Pad TF103 does just fine. I found the touchpad response to frequently lag and the default settings caused me to frustratingly and unintentionally return to the previous screen. There are a few customization options to change this, but nothing as robust as a laptop's touchpad. I personally preferred using the touchscreen to navigate instead.

The 1,280x800-pixel resolution display on the 10.1-inch screen is far from the pixel-packing competition at the top of the tablet charts. HD movies still look good though, and its range of color is decent for a borderline budget buy. There is no ambient light sensor, so you have to manually adjust the brightness settings when switching environments.

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Floats like a laptop, stings like a slate. Josh Miller/CNET

The 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera and a rear 5-megapixel camera both produce underwhelming photos. Pictures primarily look washed-out and fuzzy, despite the robust native camera app. The rear camera offers manual focus, but the focus isn't very sharp. The front-facing camera works fine for video conferencing, but don't expect flattering selfies -- unless you're using the beautification mode, of course.

As a stand alone tablet, the TF103 averaged 8 hours of battery life in our official CNET Labs battery test. Check out the rest of the results here.

Conclusion

To be sure, the TF103 has its performance and design downsides, but when manufacturers make sacrifices for the sake of meeting a budget price, those two features are usually the first out the window. As a standalone tablet, this Transformer Pad is mediocrely specced with an outdated aesthetic.

However, students and writers who need a cheap portable device to take their word processing on-the-go should put the TF103 on their short-list. It packs all the abilities of Android, with Asus' useful Zen interface, and a keyboard dock in a compact package.

Considering affordable tablet hybrids aren't in abundance, the Transformer Pad TF103 fills the void cheap netbooks have left. You can forgive its faults thanks to its competitive price, but if you need a portable keyboard toting device with more horsepower, they're available too, just not in the $300 price range. If your needs can be met with a simple keyboard and basic functionality, the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 is a solid bargain buy.

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