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Have you noticed that more and more laptops are shipping with touchscreen displays? Big-name manufacturers like Lenovo, HP, Acer, and Asus have all released their own touch-friendly devices. Some of these are what’s known as a “two-in-one laptop”.

These can be used as a normal laptop. But they also have a hinge which allows the user to stow the keyboard and trackpad behind the display, in order to turn it into a tablet computer. Really though, the term “two-in-one” is a bit of a misnomer, as there’s an entire range of modes between “laptop” and “tablet” they can take.

If you fold the keyboard back, but leave the display upright at a 45 degree angle, you’ve got display mode. There’s also tent mode, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Last November, I bought one (an Acer Aspire R14), and I immediately fell in love with it, and how it works. Read on, and I’ll tell you why, and the five reasons your next laptop should be a 2-in-1 laptop.

1. Windows Finally Gets Touch

For a really long time, Microsoft struggled with making the leap to touch. You can hardly blame them. For thirty-years, their bread and butter has been traditional laptops and desktops, controlled by keyboards and mice.

Admittedly, they had a number of forays into releasing touch-oriented products. There was even a version of Windows XP, which was designed to be used on tablet computers, long before the iPad popularized the concept.

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Certainly they tried. In the mobile sphere they launched Windows Phone, which has spent the past five years in a state of terminal decline, perennially doomed to third-best status. Similarly, Windows 8 (and 8.1) tried to inject a bit of touch-friendliness to the desktop, but it didn’t quite gel with consumers, and it failed to hinder the unstoppable march of Android and iOS.

But Windows 10 is different. They’ve finally figured out how to reconcile their touchscreen aspirations with their keyboard-and-mouse heritage, and it works really well.

Last year, I wrote an article about how well Windows 10 performs on small tablet computers 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 , such as the HP Stream 7. The points I made there are just as valid when scaled up to a 13″ screen, and beyond.

Microsoft has seemingly cracked the nuanced and tricky art of building virtual keyboards that delight, and are easy to use. The default one that ships is well spaced out, with the essential “special keys” within easy reach.

VirtualKeyboard

Gestures, which were the bane of Windows 8.1, are finally transformed into something obvious and natural, and help the user to navigate between applications and settings. There’s now a touch-mode for Microsoft Office 2016 13+ Reasons You Should Upgrade to Microsoft Office 2016 13+ Reasons You Should Upgrade to Microsoft Office 2016 Microsoft Office 2016 is here and it's time for you to make a decision. The productivity question is -- should you upgrade? We give you the new features and the fresher reasons to help you... Read More , and even Edge feels particularly touch-friendly.

No matter whether you prefer to use your laptop as a tablet, or not, Windows 10 will surpass your expectations, and then some.

2. It’ll Probably Cost You Less Than You Think

Historically-speaking, touch-screen Windows machines have been on the pricier side of things. If you wanted to throw away your mouse and keyboard, you’d have to pay a premium for the privilege. Does this still ring true in 2016?

Well, not really. Last year I flew to the United States to visit my fiancee in New Jersey. Coming from the UK, where consumer electronics are expensive (not even considering our 20% sales tax), I decided to use the opportunity to get myself a new computer at Best Buy.

I got an Acer Aspire R14 for about $700. It came with a capacious solid-state drive, eight gigabytes of RAM, a Skylake CPU, and was, of course, a two-in-one machine. All things considered, it was a pretty good value middle-of-the-road machine.

Laptop

I took it home, and fired it up.

Two days later, me and my fiancee returned to Best Buy. This time to get her own two-in-one laptop. We settled on a Lenovo Flex, which set us back $200, plus New Jersey’s 7% sales tax. That’s less than a third of what my mid-end laptop cost.

Lenovo Flex 3-1130 2 in 1 Touch-Screen Laptop 11.6" (Intel Celeron N3050 1.6GHz, 4GB Memory, 500GB Hard Drive, Black) Lenovo Flex 3-1130 2 in 1 Touch-Screen Laptop 11.6" (Intel Celeron N3050 1.6GHz, 4GB Memory, 500GB Hard Drive, Black) 11.6" 10-point multitouch screen, up to 8 Hours' Battery Life on a Single Charge. Buy Now At Amazon $281.49

By no means was it a powerhouse. It had a wheezy Intel Celeron CPU, two gigabytes of RAM, and a paltry 32GB eMMC SSD. But it was more than enough machine for basic web browsing and office productivity tasks.

It just goes to show that no matter your budget, you should be able to find yourself a two-in-one laptop.

3. It’s Awesome for Netflix

There’s nothing better than curling up in bed and binge watching Orange Is The New Black 13 New Netflix Originals You'll Be Watching in 2016 13 New Netflix Originals You'll Be Watching in 2016 Netflix has released a lot of original content -- including House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Narcos, and Master of None -- but 2016 is slated to be Netflix's most exciting year yet. Read More  or Parks and Recreation. Seriously. It’s my idea of heaven. If you, like me, watch all your movies and TV through your laptop, you probably know how inconvenient it is to watch them in bed.

Typing on a keyboard is awkward when you’re in the fetal position, or lying prostrate. It’s all too easy to roll over and accidentally turn off your film, as your body mashes an indeterminate number of keys.

Two-in-one laptops are different.

Fold the keyboard partway backwards, and you’re in display mode. Not only will the screen be physically closer to you, but there’s no chance you’ll hit any keys.

DisplayMode

Put it in tent mode, and you’ve got something that’ll sit nicely on a bedside table, and offer the similar viewing angles you’d get with a television.

TentMode

4. Tablet Mode Equals Browsing Happiness

My Acer Aspire R14 can fold up into a gargantuan (even Dom Joly-esque), fourteen-inch tablet computer. That sounds utterly impractical, but it isn’t. It’s actually really awesome.

One of my favorite uses of Tablet Mode is as a browsing machine. With the keyboard folded back, and with the machine held in a portrait orientation (most two-in-one laptops include a gyroscope and accelerometer), you have this wonderful newspaper-like experience.

Add in Microsoft’s new Edge browser 10 Reasons You Should Be Using Microsoft Edge Now 10 Reasons You Should Be Using Microsoft Edge Now Microsoft Edge marks a complete break from the Internet Explorer brand name, killing off a 20-year-old family tree in the process. Here's why you should be using it. Read More , and it gets even better. With its gigantic navigation buttons, and intuitive navigation, it feels utterly perfect for touch environments. Plus, if you want to annotate the stuff you’re reading, you can do so with your finger or a stylus.

Then there’s Edge’s Reading Mode. Press a button, and it’ll transform the page you’re reading into a sleek, ad-lite experience, where you can truly focus on the text.

ReadingMode

And that says nothing about the increasing viability of Windows as a tablet operating system. Modern UI Unity vs. Modern UI: Should You Choose Ubuntu Or Windows 8? Unity vs. Modern UI: Should You Choose Ubuntu Or Windows 8? For a good amount of people, the choice between Windows 8 and Ubuntu can primarily come down to the user experience, which is largely attributed to the desktop environment. Read More (formerly Metro) bridges the gap between keyboard and touch, and there are an increasing amount of video games that can be used exclusively in a tablet context. These range from casual games, like Candy Crush Saga and Halo: Spartan Assault, to big-budget blockbuster titles like Civilization: Beyond Earth.

5. It’s Ergonomically Awesome

If you, like me, spend a lot of time traveling in coach class, you probably know how hellish it can be to use a laptop in those tiny seats. There’s literally no way to a laptop without your elbows digging into the ribs of the two people sat next to you. It sucks.

But with a two-in-one laptop, you’ve got a bit of flexibility. You can change its orientation to go with the environment you’re in, which is handy when you’re in a confined space.

Will You Get One?

So, will this be enough to tempt you to get one? Or are you a touchscreen-sceptic? Whatever your thoughts, I want to hear about them in the comments below. Over to you.

Image Credits:Woman hand by Artem Furman via Shutterstock

  1. Zodwraith
    July 21, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    My flex 3 i7 with discreet GeForce GPU shows up today. I have tablets ranging from 3 7"s to a few 10s, kids love them, laptops from budget AMD machines to the 9lb qosmio gaming monstrosity I usually take out of town with me, then my 50" 4K SLI gaming behemoth desktop.

    Problem is when I take the qosmio out of town and you have down time you're not always gaming so it's too hot, heavy, and loud to fall asleep to Netflix. If I take a 10" tablet I'm struggling to keep it propped up on a pillow and the screen is a little too small for really watching a lot of content, especially if I want to prop it on a nightstand.

    Enter the Flex 3. Enough GPU for moderate gaming, less than half the weight, but still 15.6" screen, plus far more stable to prop up in display or tent mode so it doesn't tumble over if I hop off the bed. It's that "in between" size that will cover me best.

  2. Rann Xeroxx
    February 11, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    As a configuration manager I have access to a great many PCs. I just borrowed one of our Surface 4 PCs for a holiday trip to have something light to travel with and I found myself using touch almost exclusively, even when I was keyboarding in (mostly forums like these and FB).

    My daily driver is my Dell XPS 18" all-in-one hybrid. This is an odd PC for sure (why I like it so much) and I take it out of its cradle and go to meetings at work, i flip it around and extend the tabs and set it at a 35 degree angle. This, I use the virtual keyboard, touch, and an app called TouchMousePointer (look it up, they just released it in the Microsoft Store as "Tablet Pro".

    My company also has a pre-release of the Surface Hub and when doing a WiFi cast with "Touch Back" you can control your PC via the large touch screen on the Hub. This really highlights the direction that Microsoft is going with Windows 10 with the "Windows everywhere" approach.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 29, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      Interesting! How did you find the Surface 4? I've been eyeing them for a while.

  3. Eddie G.
    February 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I've tried the Windows tablet/laptop 2-in-1's, and although they have superb fel to them, and their resolutions are awesome, and although they are lighter that air and have all kinds of awesome features crammed in there.....it still feels "not-quite-right". I mean yes it does everything it purports to do, but for me, it just seems there's something "off" about it. Like...."Even-Though-He's-A-Harmless-Old-Man-Living-Across-The-Street-But-His-Hands-Are-Always-Dirty-And-Is-That-Blood-On-His-Fishermans-Boots?" kind of off! I guess everyone has their preferences, and for me I'll just stick to what I'm comfortable with. This isn't it.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 29, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      Haha. Fair enough. Thanks for your comment Eddie.

  4. hunchan
    February 7, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    I got a Asus 2 in 1 with a 1440p display about a year ago, and while I was dazzled by the versatility of the machine, after a year I concluded that 2 in 1s suck (for me). Here are the reasons:

    1. The Windows 10 UI is still clumsy in tablet mode
    2. The 13" display is cumbersome as a handheld video viewer.
    3. The 13" display is too small to get real work done in laptop mode.
    4. When attached to an external display the screen orientation often inverts (possibly a Windows 10 driver issue)
    5. Poor travel on keyboard due to desire for slim sexy form factor.
    6. Keyboard is Bluetooth so there is no way to select OS via keyboard when dual-booting.

    The solution: I went back to a standard 15.6" laptop and a standard 7" tablet. And I couldn't be more satisfied!

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 29, 2016 at 9:29 pm

      Interesting perspective. Thanks Hunchan!

  5. Read and Share
    February 5, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    I have a Lenovo Yoga Pro 3. I use it in laptop mode 99% of the time. I love the touch screen as it essentially frees me from both mouse and touch pad.

    For reading in bed, etc. -- I go for my Nexus 7.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 6, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      Fabulous!

  6. Bernie
    February 5, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Got a Lenovo. I love it.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 6, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      Nice! What Lenovo? Presumably the Yoga?

  7. Nicky K.D Chaleunphone
    February 5, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I have an ASUS 2 in 1 and it's great

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 5, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Glad you like it!

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