For the past few months, tablet sales have been declining, according to research firm IDC. However, one tablet category continues growing: tablets that transform into laptops when coupled with a keyboard.
People are warming up to the idea of a tablet that also serves as a proper computer. It’s why the iPad Pro is more than just a bigger iPad; it’s a new way of computing. The advances are more noticeable with Windows, especially since Windows 10 excels as an OS for tablets and desktops.
If you’re in the market for a new tablet, it makes sense to look at these 2-in-1 hybrids, which are different from convertibles. You’ll get a tablet, you’ll also get a laptop, and you might just save a few bucks. So which one should you buy?
One of the reasons Matt recommends buying a 2-in-1 Windows PC is because it’ll probably be cheaper than you think. And he’s right. If you’re on a budget, the Asus Transformer T100 will put a smile on your face. The T100 has been one of the best value-for-money devices I’ve ever used, and the ideal companion for someone who travels a lot for work.
The 10-inch tablet form is just light enough to serve as a tablet for watching movies or playing games. Plus, it charges via microUSB, which is a major bonus since you don’t have to carry a separate laptop cable. The keyboard, although not full-sized, is wide enough to use comfortably. It also has a full-size USB port for your pen drives or other external storage, and it comes with its own battery to double the life.
As for performance, the T100 is good enough to work on Microsoft Office, watch movies, play a few casual games like Angry Birds, and browse the Internet with a bunch of tabs open. But 2GB of RAM and a sluggish Atom processor won’t let you smoothly run Photoshop or games. The T100 won’t satisfy power users.
There’s also a 4GB version of the T100 with a slightly better processor for around $250-275, if you’re willing to spend that little bit extra. Also, Amazon has a efurbished Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (read our Surface Pro 2 review) with a Core i5 processor and 128GB of memory for $334, which is also a good purchase.
It’s tempting to look at Microsoft’s Surface series when you get to the 400-dollar-mark, but yet again, it’s an Asus that makes the better budget device. The Transformer T300 is in its third edition now and packs everything you’d want.
The mobile-friendly Intel Core M processor powers the T300, aided by 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD to keep performance snappy. The aluminum body feels premium in the hand, and the magnetic dock snaps on with a resounding click that promises it’ll stay together and not randomly fall off.
One thing you should note: stick with the Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) version of the T300 and not the Quad High Definition (QHD is 2560×1440 pixels) version. The model with the QHD screen has been known to have a few performance issues and drains the battery quickly. The Full HD model, on the other hand, hits the right balance between performance and longevity.
Again, it charges with microUSB, so that’s good, but it omits the USB port you find on the T100. That’s a big miss, and could be a deal-breaker for some. Of course, you could solve that with a microUSB to USB adapter, but that’s another thing you’ll need to carry around in your case. On top of that, an adapter can cause compatibility issues.
Apart from the T300, the HP Pavilion X2 is known to be a solid performer and has better battery life than the T300.
It will set you back by an additional hundred bucks, but you also get a bigger, high-definition screen, since it has a 3:2 aspect ratio (1920×1280 pixel resolution). Keep in mind that even though the linked photo shows a stylus, it doesn’t ship with one. And, yeah, HP is notorious for bloatware, so you’ll want to refer to our guide on removing Windows 10 bloatware.
Jumping from $399 to $900 seems like a big leap, but the thing is, there aren’t that many 2-in-1s between the two price points that are worth your money (except possibly the $700 Acer Switch Alpha 12). The only other one we’d recommend is the HP Pavilion x2, which we’ve linked above. Save your money and buy the T300 or Pavilion x2, so skip on to the Surface Pro 4—the rest in between are a waste.
The Intel Core M version of the Surface Pro 4, the cheapest model among all, surprised us in our review. Christian thought it was capable enough to replace both your iPad and your laptop to make for an everyday computing device. Sure, gaming is a problem, but that’s not what you’re looking at here anyway.
The Surface Pro 4 comes in other variants. On the highest end, the Surface scales up to a Core i7 processor, 512GB of SSD, and 16GB of RAM. Our recommended cheap model has 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, which is sufficient for most users — heck, it’s what you get on the basic MacBook Air and you’ll find plenty of people happy with that. But feel free to upgrade if you feel the need.
The biggest reason to go for a Surface Pro 4 over others is that it’s Microsoft’s vision of how its hardware and software should work together. You are guaranteed updates that don’t mess anything up, and — for once — you’ll get a pure Windows experience without any bloatware. If you think that doesn’t make a difference, just wait till you run it.
Note that the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover costs an additional $113, which you’ll have to buy separately. The good news is that you can pick up Type Covers for cheap on Craigslist or other places, saving a few bucks.
At this price though, two other contenders make their presence felt: The 12-inchers HP Elite x2and the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2. Both are known for their excellent build quality, robust performance, and top-notch enterprise features for security and data protection.
The ThinkPad Helix 2 edges ahead in the pure hardware war, packing more RAM (8GB, compared to Surface Pro 4 and Elite x2’s 4GB) and more storage space (256GB SSD, compared to 128GB on the other two). You also get a digitizer pen and, of course, the famous ThinkPad keyboard. If I were spending close to a 1,000 bucks, this is what I’d buy.
Microsoft calls it the ultimate laptop. It’s the Windows maker’s vision of what the absolute highest quality 2-in-1 looks like. And boy, it’s a doozy.
Almost every review has praised the device for its beautiful yet robust construction, its powerful performance that doesn’t make it heat up, and its seamless cohesion of hardware and software.
It is also one of the few hybrid PCs to come with a dedicated GPU built in, which means you can actually play PC games and perform powerful image editing on it without it stuttering along.
If price is no barrier, this is the laptop to get. In my opinion, the $1,699 Core i5 version with 128GB memory and the dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics chip is the best option, but feel free to look around and choose what you like best.
Recommend a 2-in-1 or Ask Us!
Hopefully, this guide makes it easy for you to choose which device you should buy. But some of our readers are ahead of the curve and already got themselves one of these!
- If you use a 2-in-1 mini PC tablet yourself, we’d love to hear about your experience, and your recommendation no what to buy.
- If you’re in the market for a 2-in-1 hybrid, tell us your choices and we can discuss which one is the best for you.