The Asus Transformer Mini is a compact 2-in-1 Windows 10 laptop that comes with a bundled keyboard and pressure-sensitive stylus. It’s a cut-down version of the company’s fantastic Transformer 3 Pro, and an ultraportable rival to the ageing Microsoft Surface 3, but the price initially looks high at £600. Is it worth it?
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Asus Transformer Mini review: Build quality and design
At first glance, the answer to that question could well be yes. The Transformer Mini is a compact, rather handsome device. It measures 259 x 170 x 14mm and weighs a mere 790g including the keyboard, so it’s the perfect carry-around machine.
Available in Quartz Gray, Amber, Mint Green and Icicle Gold, it also looks good and comes with a keyboard cover included. The keyboard is finished in a soft fabric material on the underside, providing a decent grip when the keyboard is closed and means it doesn’t slide around when you’re working on the device on a desk.
Surprisingly for such a petite tablet, the Transformer Mini has plenty of ports scattered around its edges. You’ll find micro-USB (for charging the device), mini-HDMI, USB 3.0 ports, a microSD slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack – all of which provide the necessary connections for everyday use.
The inclusion of a volume rocker on the right-hand side and on/off power button at the top complete the device’s buttons, while around the back the rather awkwardly placed circular fingerprint sensor allows you to log in with a dab of a digit – a useful feature, as you can quickly unlock the device. At the front, you have a 2-megapixel camera, which can be put to use for video calls, although low-light performance results in grainy images with high levels of image noise.
The Transformer Mini’s kickstand isn’t the most convincing of designs, either. I’d liked to have seen rubber edges around the kickstand to prevent it from sliding around on a desk, and the build quality leaves something to be desired. Its thin aluminium construction and small hinges make me question its durability when used on a daily basis. Nevertheless, I didn’t have any major problems when using it.
And, as is typical for Surface-style devices, there’s also a stylus included. This stylus has a brushed silver aluminium design and two buttons, one used as an eraser/undo and the other as a right click button. It’s pressure sensitive to 1,024 levels (10-300g pen tip force) and is powered by a single AAAA battery, which Asus says lasts ten months. The pen works well and offers a good alternative over the regular touchscreen or trackpad.
Asus Transformer Mini review: Keyboard and trackpad
The key selling point of the Transformer Mini, however, is the included keyboard and trackpad. Connecting the detachable keyboard and trackpad to the main body is easy. Through the magnetic strip found at the bottom of the tablet, the connection is solid, strong and stays put nicely.
There’s a fold along the top that allows you to either lay the keyboard flat, or tilt it up at a slight angle, but as with the kickstand, I wasn’t too impressed with its general build quality. It’s all made from plastic and flexes a lot when you type. I found the layout awkward for touch-typing and, due to its plastic build, the keys felt loose. In comparison to the Surface 3, which has the same layout and keyboard size, I felt the Transformer Mini’s keyboard lacked finesse.
Below the keyboard is a small touchpad, which is positioned immediately below the spacebar, meaning it isn’t centred and sits slightly to the left. The trackpad doesn’t have a dedicated left and right-click buttons, but can be clicked on either side to replicate these two inputs.
Unfortunately, it’s very frustrating to use. I’m a two-handed touchpad person, and often found the cursor flying across the screen when dragging with my right index finger and clicking with my left. The reason is that, as I click in a different part of the touchpad, it sometimes interprets this as a mouse movement first, and the cursor skips place as a result. This makes text selection extremely tricky.
I am pleased to see the keyboard is included in the price, which isn’t always a given with this type of device, but I’m a lot less keen on its performance. I’ve tested better keyboards and trackpads on sub-£150 2-in-1 devices and would expect much more from the Transformer Mini.
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