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Asus Transformer Pad TF103C: This hybrid is better for fun than work

Michelle Mastin | Aug. 4, 2014
I enjoyed the Windows-based Transformer Book T100 I tested a few months ago, so I was excited to see how its Android-powered sibling would stack up. The engineers at Asus engineers have now proven themselves to be pros at designing 2-in-1 tablet/laptop hybrids running in both Windows and Android flavors. But the names they've chosen for these two devices are telling: The Windows device conjures the image of a notebook, while the Android device evokes the iPad.

The keyboard dock is comfortable to type on, with keys that are as well-spaced as they can be for a 10-inch device. I found the trackpad surprisingly useful with Android. As touch-centric as that OS might be, it's sometimes easier to move your finger to the keyboard deck than to reach across the keyboard to stroke the touchscreen. Function keys are more specific to the OS and are moderately useful as such.

The Intel Atom processor gives the TF103C an advantage over other Android tablets that we've tested recently, beating both the Lenovo Yoga 10 and Dell Venue 8 in our benchmark tests. The Asus's 6-hour and 58-minute run time is on the short side for Android tablets, and it's far short of the 11 hours the Windows-based Transformer Book T100 delivered.

Android as a productivity OS

This is where things with the TF103C started to break down for me. Despite having an iPad, an Android tablet, an Android phone, one or another Linux device, and several MacBooks in my past, I'm pretty entrenched in the Windows world when it comes to getting stuff done. I have several programs I use that are still either Windows-only, or they've only just recently been ported to Android.

For example, I do most of my writing in Microsoft's OneNote note-taking software. Using the OneNote Android app was not a smooth experience. Clicking and dragging on text does not highlight it. I had to reach up and hold my finger on the screen, then push the cursor around to highlight text. I tried to switch over to Evernote, which works much better on the TF103C, but not with my workflow. If you're an Evernote user, you'll be quite happy working in the Android app on the Transformer, especially with the solid keyboard.

The Chrome web browser is pre-installed, but I found that many of the sites I frequent either rendered much more slowly, or defaulted to the mobile versions. You can use bookmarks to make sure the right versions load, but the slow loading will be more problematic. Feedly has a wonderful mobile app that's great for reading news on my phone, but I found it too awkward when scaled up to tablet size. I had to reach up and touch the screen to scroll versus using the keyboard shortcuts I'm used to in the browser.

I had to abandon some other Android apps that I love to use on my phone, because they just don't play nicely with tablet-sized devices. I found myself just giving up on the keyboard for browsing and navigating certain apps, choosing instead to pick up the tablet and just use it on the couch rather than pretend I had a laptop.

 

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