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Ever since Windows 8 pushed hard to be a good tablet operating system, the humble laptop has really evolved over the last few years. A new kind of notebook — the beloved 2-in-1 — even combines the features of both laptops and tablets, but can it really give you the best of both worlds?

We know that a Windows 8 tablet cannot fully replace a PC Why A Windows 8 Tablet Cannot Completely Replace A PC Why A Windows 8 Tablet Cannot Completely Replace A PC A Windows 8 tablet can theoretically replace your beefy desktop computer, cut your electricity bill, and let you work from anywhere; except that it can't. Hear the pros and cons from someone who tried it. Read More , so a tablet-cum-laptop is a better solution. But it’s still difficult to figure out which 2-in-1 you should buy because the answer isn’t simple. The hardware differs wildly, and different form factors make it a subjective decision.

Basically, what’s right for your friend might not be right for you. Knowing a few things can help you make the best purchase for your needs, so here’s what you need to pay attention to.

Two Types of 2-in-1 Laptops

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Broadly speaking, 2-in-1 laptops can be categorized into two types: hybrids and convertibles. These aren’t actually the category names used across the industry, but I’m borrowing these terms from CNET since they make it easier to explain the two concepts.

Hybrids: A hybrid is a laptop where the screen can be completely detached from the keyboard base and serve as a standalone touchscreen tablet. The base is a proper keyboard, complete with USB ports and its own battery source.

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Convertibles: A convertible is a laptop where the screen can be flipped back or swiveled to be used as a tablet. The screen and the keyboard never detach, but it’s a touchscreen so you can use it like you would a tablet.

The Pros and Cons of Hybrids

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Pro: Better Battery Life — Generally, both the tablet base and the docked keyboard have a built-in battery. What this means is that you get two batteries, thus lengthening the overall battery life of the combined device. As a rule of thumb, you’ll get better battery life on hybrids than convertibles in the same price range.

Plus, several of these hybrids support Android phone-like microUSB cables, which is super convenient while we wait for USB Type C What Is USB Type-C? What Is USB Type-C? Ah, the USB plug. It is as ubiquitous now as it is notorious for never being able to be plugged in right the first time. Read More to become the standard.

Pro: A Proper Tablet — The tablet functions as a proper tablet regardless of whether you want to use the keyboard or not. We’ve seen that Windows 10 is pretty good on a tablet How Well Does Windows 10 Work on a Tiny Tablet? How Well Does Windows 10 Work on a Tiny Tablet? Windows 10 is taking the devices of disgruntled Windows 8 and curious Windows 7 users by storm. The PC experience is great, but how does it perform on small screens? Matthew tested Windows 10 on... Read More , so if you’re on a work trip, you can save yourself the trouble of carrying an iPad along with your laptop.

Pro: Value for Money — Buying a full-fledged Windows laptop and a full-fledged Android tablet or iPad would set you back several hundred dollars more than these hybrids. So if you’re trying to be as economical as possible, you’ll save some big bucks going with a hybrid.

Latitude 13 7000 Series 2 in 1 Notebook

Cons: Underpowered — Hybrids are powered by the mobile-friendly Intel Atom series or the Intel Core M processor Intel Core M: What's so Great About the Processor? Intel Core M: What's so Great About the Processor? The Intel Core M is the most hyped processor in years, and with good reason: it's at the heart of a new revolution in laptops. Read More since they have to be light and battery-efficient without heating up. These processors are good for basic tasks (e.g. browsing the Internet, working on Office) but not for heavy-duty tasks (e.g. major multi-tasking, image editing, gaming).

Cons: Jack of All Trades — Being a tablet and a laptop usually results in these hybrids being the proverbial jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. The big sell here is the convenience of a full-fledged desktop operating system running on a single device that serves as both laptop and tablet depending on your needs, but it will never be a fantastic tablet experience nor a fantastic laptop experience.

Cons: Lack of Tablet Apps — The proper tablet experience of Windows 10 fails on one front: apps. Compared to Android or iOS, Windows lacks several major apps and games. You can still use it well for reading, watching movies, or browsing, but you might feel left out when all your friends have an app on Android or iPad that you can’t get.

The Pros and Cons of Convertibles

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Pro: Great Laptop Hardware — Unlike hybrids, convertibles can follow the standard laptop ideals of stuffing good hardware in the keyboard base. So in terms of actual performance, you get Intel’s powerful laptop processors Decoding Intel's Laptop Processor List [Technology Explained] Decoding Intel's Laptop Processor List [Technology Explained] The modern computer processor has always been a complex piece of technology, and that shows no signs of changing. Such complexity brings a challenge to companies such as Intel. Making great products is one thing,... Read More instead of low-powered mobile-friendly processors.

Pro: Great Build Quality — Convertibles can still be thin and elegant, since the screen doesn’t need to pack any hardware. In fact, you will find many convertibles that follow the aesthetics of an ultrabook What Is An Ultrabook & Can It Succeed? [Technology Explained] What Is An Ultrabook & Can It Succeed? [Technology Explained] Remember when the word laptop described virtually every mobile computer on the market? The choices were certainly easier back then (because there was simply less choice available), but today there’s a far wider variety including... Read More , even boasting of full aluminum bodies.

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Cons: Heavy As Tablets — A convertible is cumbersome to use as a tablet. While it offers that functionality, you won’t find yourself relying on it often. Convertibles are far too heavy and bulky to compete with the convenience of a proper tablet.

What Should You Buy?

Like I said at the beginning, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation here. You should buy based on your personal requirements.

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Hybrids are great for travelling executives or those looking to get both a tablet and a Windows laptop on a budget. The use-case scenario you are looking at is 60% laptop, 40% tablet.

Hybrids worth considering: Dell Latitude 13 7000, Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, Asus Transformer T100

Dell Latitude 13 7000 7350 Ultrabook/Tablet - 13.3" - In-plane Switching (IPS) Technology - Wireless LAN - Intel Core M 462-9518 Dell Latitude 13 7000 7350 Ultrabook/Tablet - 13.3" - In-plane Switching (IPS) Technology - Wireless LAN - Intel Core M 462-9518 Screen Size:13.3" Buy Now At Amazon $729.99 ASUS Transformer Book Chi T300CHI-DSM2T-CA Touchscreen Laptop/Tablet (12.5-inch WQHD, Core M-5Y10, 8GB LPDDR3, 128GB SSD, Windows 8.1, Dark Blue) ASUS Transformer Book Chi T300CHI-DSM2T-CA Touchscreen Laptop/Tablet (12.5-inch WQHD, Core M-5Y10, 8GB LPDDR3, 128GB SSD, Windows 8.1, Dark Blue) Intel® CoreTM M 5Y10 Processor Buy Now At Amazon ASUS T100 2 in 1 10.1 Inch Laptop (Intel Atom, 2 GB, 64GB SSD, Gray) ASUS T100 2 in 1 10.1 Inch Laptop (Intel Atom, 2 GB, 64GB SSD, Gray) Intel Bay Trail-T Z3735F 1.33GHz (Turbo up to 1.83GHz) Buy Now At Amazon $299.99

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Convertibles are great for professionals who need more horsepower to get work done on laptops, but want the convenience of a tablet once in a while. The split would be about 85% laptop, 15% tablet.

Popular examples of convertibles: Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro (read our review of the earlier Lenovo Ideapad Yoga Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Ultrabook Review & Giveaway Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Ultrabook Review & Giveaway The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is a laptop/tablet hybrid with a flexible screen which can be rotated 360 degrees, turning this seemingly regular-looking Ultrabook into a tablet. Don’t be confused by its appearance, though, this 13.3-inch... Read More ), Acer Aspire R13, Asus Flip

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 80HE000LUS 13.3-Inch 8GB Soldered Convertible Ultrabook Tablet Touchscreen, Intel HD 5300 Graphics, Windows 8.1 Professional, Light Silver Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 80HE000LUS 13.3-Inch 8GB Soldered Convertible Ultrabook Tablet Touchscreen, Intel HD 5300 Graphics, Windows 8.1 Professional, Light Silver Intel Core M 5Y70 Broadwell Processor (2.60 GHz Turbo, 1.10GHz Base 1600MHz 4MB) Buy Now At Amazon $999.99 Acer Aspire R 13 R7-371T-57SN 13.3-Inch Full HD Convertible 2 in 1 Touchscreen Laptop Acer Aspire R 13 R7-371T-57SN 13.3-Inch Full HD Convertible 2 in 1 Touchscreen Laptop Intel Core i5-4210U 1.7 GHz (3 MB Cache) Buy Now At Amazon Asus 13.3 Inch Flip Convertible 2 in 1 Laptop with HD Touchscreen Display, Core i3-4030U Processor,6GB DDR3,500GB HDD,Windows 8(Certified Refurbished) Asus 13.3 Inch Flip Convertible 2 in 1 Laptop with HD Touchscreen Display, Core i3-4030U Processor,6GB DDR3,500GB HDD,Windows 8(Certified Refurbished) This Certified Refurbished product is manufacturer refurbished, shows limited or no wear, and includes all original accessories plus a 90-day warranty. Buy Now At Amazon

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There are also what CNET calls “Hybrid Lites” like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 The Laptop And Tablet Killer: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Announced The Laptop And Tablet Killer: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Announced Available for pre-order on May 21 and hitting store shelves on June 20 is Microsoft's brand new Surface Pro 3. The device features a 12-inch 2160x1440 display, significantly larger than the previous Surface Pro 2's. Read More , which is basically a tablet with a soft keyboard. It’s not a proper hybrid laptop though, since the keyboard dock doesn’t have its own battery or extra connectivity ports, and it’s not stable enough to prop up the device to be used on your lap safely.

Yup, can’t call it a laptop then, right?

Beyond Windows…

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Since you don’t have to worry about Windows Pro and Windows RT What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] With the Surface tablet announcement a few weeks ago and the final release of Windows 8 looming ever closer, some people are understandably going to be confused about the various versions available. I'm here to... Read More anymore, Windows is obviously the big drawing point of these 2-in-1 devices. But hybrids and convertibles aren’t limited to Windows alone.

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, for instance, is a hybrid that runs Android. Check out our review of it ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T Review and Giveaway ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T Review and Giveaway The $450 ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700T) is a high-powered, lightweight tablet with a detachable keyboard you'll actually enjoy typing on. Not everyone thinks the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity is the best tablet on the... Read More to see if it’s good for you — a pretty solid choice if you mainly want an Android tablet which you can use as a laptop Can You Use a Tablet as a Laptop? The Essential Apps and Gear Can You Use a Tablet as a Laptop? The Essential Apps and Gear Want to use your Android tablet as a laptop replacement? Here is your comprehensive guide to the necessary hardware and software. Read More . In such cases of an Android-based hybrid, the use-case ratio would be 70% tablet, 30% laptop.

Asus TF700T-B1-GR-50G Transformer Pad Infinity Tf700t-b1-gr 32gb 10.1 Tablet [gray] Asus TF700T-B1-GR-50G Transformer Pad Infinity Tf700t-b1-gr 32gb 10.1 Tablet [gray] ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T Transform to FHD. Infinite entertainment awaits Buy Now At Amazon $299.99

Similarly, on the convertible front, there is the Asus Chromebook Flip (check our review of this one ASUS Chromebook Flip Review and Giveaway ASUS Chromebook Flip Review and Giveaway Are you ready for a Chromebook with a touchscreen that also flips around to become a tablet? The ASUS Chromebook Flip brings the convenience and portability of a tablet with the keyboard of a laptop. Read More , too) which is a pretty capable computer. There’s a compelling case to switch to Chromebook and never look back Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) I've adopted, studied every Windows OS, adapted, and eventually learned to love each of them for different reasons. Are you curious to know why as of today, I'm a Chromebook guy? Read More , especially when you consider that it can now run Android apps.

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And of course, you can consider “hybrid lites” here too, like the iPad Pro (which isn’t just a bigger iPad Why The iPad Pro Isn't Just A Bigger iPad Why The iPad Pro Isn't Just A Bigger iPad If you think the new iPad Pro is "just a bigger iPad", you're wrong. It's a new way of iPad-ing. Read More ) and the newly announced Google Pixel C.

2-in-1 vs. Dedicated: Have Your Say

Given a choice, what would you buy: a 2-in-1 Windows device or a dedicated laptop and a dedicated tablet? With Android tablet prices dropping, getting a proper Windows laptop and an Android tablet sounds like a tempting option, don’t you think?

  1. Kelsey Tidwell
    October 10, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    This is timely because I've recently moved my digital notetaking over to OneNote. The handwriting features are awesome on my phone, so I'm interested in a flip around touchscreen convertible.

    I don't particularly like the idea of a downward-facing keyboard (jammed and/or pulled off keys, anyone?), so I'm leaning toward something like the Acer R13. I wish I could find a configurator somewhere that would let me search for only that format. There are so many nearly great choices out there.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Yeah, sorting 2-in-1s by form factor is really, really hard. None of the online retailers seem to be putting much effort into it either. Disappointing.

  2. Nicky K.D Chaleunphone
    October 9, 2015 at 12:56 am

    2-in-1 laptops are fast becoming popular and they may become the next tablet

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      I mean, they already are a tablet, right? It's "Tablet+" in a way

      • Nicky K.D Chaleunphone
        October 27, 2015 at 3:56 pm

        It is and that's why you have Microsoft Surface Tablets who are fast becoming the standards for 2 in 1's

  3. Jon Glass
    October 8, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    You forgot the Jide Remix tablet or the iCube i7 Remix tablet. And now I think of it, I think iCube also makes some Windows hybrids.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 12, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Oh I didn't forget, I just ran out of words :D I haven't used the Jide Remix myself yet, have you? Quite intrigued by it.

      • Jon Glass
        October 12, 2015 at 3:09 pm

        oops. No, I haven't. But like you, I'm intriqued by it. :-)

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