Asus' previous Transformer Pads have already established the concept – a good quality tablet that washes its own face, combined with an optional keyboard docking station that ups the price and desirability.
At £199 (US$279, about AU$353) for the tablet alone or £239 (US$299, AU$429) for the tablet-and-dock combination (reviewed here), the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 is now competing with the budget-to-mid-price tablets such as the Nexus 7, rather than the more expensive tablet-plus-keyboards like the Lenovo ThinkPad 10.
That's something of a departure from the days when Transformer Pads were Asus' high-end tablets.
A quick delve into the spec sheet, however, makes it clear that this isn't a collection of entry level innards accidentally bumped into a bigger league by the inclusion of a keyboard.
Remove the docking station and you still have a tablet with competitive points on its spec.
From the box it has Android KitKat 4.4.2, although I swiftly ran all the updates in a successful effort to fix a minor annoyance in which the browser seemed unable to distinguish between online text-entry boxes and its own address bar.
The 10.1-inch IPS screen remains clearly visible from extreme angles, and the 1280 x 800 resolution, 16GB internal storage (expandable via MicroSD) and 1.86GHz Intel Atom processor are all reasonably competitive for a tablet in this price range.
Better still, all the hardware is wrapped up in an attractive and durable package. The keyboard dock just about pulls off the faux brushed metal effect, while the white bezel and casing of the tablet give the TF103 a look that's sharper and more expensive than it actually is.
The buttons are tightly fitted and won't wobble, and the casing is flex free, meaning that the entire tablet feels reassuringly solid and lasting.
At 1.1kg (2.4lb) the TF103 is a bit heftier than even its cheapest rivals such as the Tesco Hudl, but it's a far cry from arm straining.
I used the TF103 with the Kindle app as an e-reader and got no arm ache, even after prolonged spells. Nonetheless, you can't pretend this is a svelte little number as it's almost as thick as a first generation iPad.
The Asus TF103 charges quickly and starts up swiftly. The keyboard contains useful shortcut buttons that allow the whole thing to function as part tablet, part netbook, mixing touch controls, keyboard shortcuts and trackpad controls according to task and whim.
It's a particularly nice way of using a tablet and adds an extra layer of versatility. This is, for me, one of the Transformer Pad's strongest selling points.
Although some apps won't recognise changes in screen orientation when the keyboard is docked, which can be mildly disconcerting.
Key features and performance
Naturally, the keyboard is the Asus Transformer Pad TF103's most visible selling point, the addition that seems to blur the lines between tablet and netbook. In fact, it goes a step beyond that.
The keyboard is spacious with plenty of travel on the chiclet style keys, which makes proper typing a possibility, something many netbooks appear to promise but fail to deliver.
The TF103 is primarily a tablet, and the familiarity and functionality of Android 4.4 is at the fore. From the simple, sharp fonts and icons to the smooth movement from page to page and subtle highlighting of icons that make Android a slick and intuitive user experience.
The TF103's touchscreen complements this experience, responding easily to swipes, taps and pinches and never leaving you dabbing repetitively at an icon.
It's precise as well, with the onscreen keyboard and games benefiting from the panel's responsiveness and accuracy.
The Asus Transformer Pad TF103 performs well both outdoors and in. Although not primarily intended as a tablet app, I used Strava as a way of testing the TF103's GPS and was pleased with the results.
It took just a few seconds to identify its location, and then kept an unfailing track of the TF103's movements. The screen itself can be slightly reflective in bright light, but never disappears into the murk even when placed in direct sunlight.
Streaming movies over Netflix was another area in which the TF103 impressed, playing smoothly, with sharp pictures and bright, vivid colours.
The lack of a full 1080p screen is a shame, but the 1280 x 800 panel does a perfectly good job. While it will never be as sharp as a FullHD screen, it's bright and clear enough to enjoy streamed movies on.
Unexpectedly, the rear facing speakers overcame their positioning to produce lively sound with sharp, clearly defined tones. Playback of downloaded movies from Google's Play Store was equally easy and impressive.
On Geekbench 3 the Transformer Pad 103 scored 661 for single-core and 2038 for multi-core, some way off the models in the pricier section of the market that Transformer Pads used to reside in, but in use I saw little discernible shortfall.
The TF103 does have Android's slightly annoying habit of seeming to forget what it's doing mid-task, something reasonably common across Android phones and tablets.
Pages loading in a browser or files downloading from an email, or even from the Play store itself, will occasionally pause in mid-flow, refusing to make any progress until you restart the process.
The sensitivity of the screen, so useful in some circumstances, can occasionally provide the odd slip up, as it's extremely easy to switch between browser tabs by mistake.
Battery life, essentials and camera
90 minutes of looped video at full brightness took the battery from 100% down to 72%, while casual everyday use with a few browser tabs, email and social media apps and YouTube videos whittle it down further still.
It's not quite a charge-a-day product, but I wouldn't rely on it for long spells away from a power socket either. This is definitely a tablet for the home and the odd day trip.
The pre-loaded selection of apps takes up a little over 4GB of the supplied storage and will be familiar to anyone who has used Android before.
Asus has added a few apps of its own, and slightly tweaked the pull down status menu. But as the tweaks function essentially the same as Android originals, and the apps tend to be the sort of thing that are superseded by our own purchases, it's unlikely that anyone would notice.
All the fundamentals are already installed and arranged over a couple of tucked away app screens, ready for you to drag them to the front page, along with the profusion of widgets that seem meaningless at first but soon come to take over most Android devices.
With front and rear cameras at 0.3MP and 2MP basic video and photography tasks are covered, but that's about it. Video tops out at 720p and stills are passable rather than outstanding.
On a positive note, the colourcast induced by artificial lighting isn't particularly pronounced here, but in general, the images produced by the onboard cameras aren't particularly sharp either in natural or artificial light.
The Asus Transformer Pad TF103 moves away from the old premium market these products used to focus on, but with a wealth of affordable, and high powered, Android slates now available it has some serious competition.
It's like Asus is trying to cling on to the now defunct Netbook sector with its Transformer Pad series, and I think demand for devices like the TF103 has all but disappeared. This makes it a bit of a hard sell.
The physicality and build quality of the Asus Transformer Pad TF103 feels far less plasticky and flimsy than you'd expect of an inexpensive product, especially one that comes in two halves.
As a tablet it's a perfectly good device for browsing, reading, playing basic games and watching movies.
Spend a little extra on the keyboard dock, however, and you'll get an excellent add-on that gives you a great deal of extra versatility that's well worth the money.
The occasional twitches, glitches and slowdowns that afflict browsing with the TF103 are a disappointment, as is the merely passable camera performance.
The battery life isn't a deal breaker, but I did find myself keeping a nervous eye on the indicator, something I rarely do with other devices.
Although it's far from a powerhouse, I was extremely pleased with the TF103. Its failings are minor, while its best points are striking: a big, bright screen, decent sound and the versatility offered by the removable keyboard, all for a very reasonable price.
That said, unless you're desperate to get a keyboard with your tablet, there are better keyboard-less offerings on the market.