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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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, 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.
And that says nothing about the increasing viability of Windows as a tablet operating system. Modern UI (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