Which Hybrid Laptop Tablet is Best?

Category: Laptops , Mobile

The computing industry has finally figured out what Windows 8.1 is good for: selling hybrid laptop-tablet machines. Win 8’s touchscreen interface was made for tablets, not traditional clamshell laptops. Yet Win 8’s strongest market is business, where a keyboard is essential. So manufacturers have settled on a hybrid form factor that just might work. Here are five examples of this breed:

It's a Tablet, It's a Laptop, It's Both!

Industry analysts say that tablet sales are slowing. Maybe that's because lots of people are realizing that they're great for checking Facebook in the coffee shop, but it's harder to get real work done. On the other hand, laptops can be power hungry, and heavier to tote around. That's why many mobile users are opting for hybrids, which have the ability to be a tablet or a laptop.

Will these versatile hybrid laptops (sometimes called convertible laptops or 2-in-1 PCs) "transform your mobile lifestyle" as one vendor hopes? Let's take a look at five of them, and you can decide if this type of mobile computer is right for you.

The ASUS Transformer Book T100 plugs into a keyboard dock, changing from a 1.2 pound tablet into a laptop whose battery will last up to 12.5 hours thanks to Intel’s new Bay Trail processor. The rather dinky 10.1 inch screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, but a wide viewing angle and bright, crisp display make it suitable for viewing movies or word processing. It comes with 2GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD drive, USB 3.0 ports, Windows 8.1, and Office Home and Student 2013 suites. All that for just $349 MSRP!
Hybrid / Convertible Laptops

If you're looking for more power and a bigger screen, see the ASUS T300 line which offers Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs, up to 8GB RAM, and up to 256 GB SSD drives.

The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 (updated 2014) has a rotating hinge that allows multiple modes: tablet, laptop, tent, and stand. (“Stand” mode places the keyboard under the display, making the hybrid easier to use in cramped quarters like airline seats.) With a base price of $399 it’s certainly affordable. Its 11.6 inch screen is adequate, as are the 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB hard drive of the Intel N-series CPU machine. At 3.1 pounds this machine is on the heavy side for hybrids, but not by much. Battery life is middle-of-the-road, at about 6 hours.

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 is thinner and lighter than the Dell Inspiron, and it has the solid build quality of Lenovo ThinkPads. Starting at $499, the Yoga 2 11 features the extremely flexible, bendable hinge of the Yoga series, enabling the same four modes as the Inspiron 11 3000 model. The 11.6 inch, 1366x768 display plays 1080p HD video nicely, although reviewers note that the Intel Celeron processor makes computing a bit sluggish. At least you can't lose the keyboard. Lenovo advertises battery life of up to 9 hours. NPD Group says the Yoga 2 line is "America's best selling convertible 2-in-1 PC."

HP offers the Pavilion x360, starting at $399. It, too, sports a 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display to be used in laptop, tablet, tent and stand modes. Its Beats Audio sound system is the most robust of those mentioned here. It comes in black and “speckled cherry red.” At just a hair over 3 lbs. it’s not hard to carry around, but don’t carry it too far from a wall outlet; most testers report that battery life is less robust than competing models. (Disclaimer: This review was sponsored by the number 3, and the word "robust".)

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is pretty awesome, if you can spare $799 to start. That's for the 64GB / Intel i3 model that does not include a keyboard! Its 12 inch screen with 2160 x 1440 pixels provides uncompromising quality. The magnesium-alloy chassis is solid, and the optional keyboard ($129) doubles as a tablet cover, clinging to the chassis with magnets. The Surface Pro weighs only 1.76 pounds without its cover, or 2.4 pounds with it. I think the Surface Pro 3 is the best hybrid design, but with a base model price tag approaching $1000, it's also the most expensive by far. (The high-end 512GB / Intel i7 model is just over $2000.) At least you get a free 1-year subscription to the New York Times Crossword app.

It looks like Windows 8 is here to stay, and hybrid laptop-tablet devices are probably the form factor best suited for this operating system. I also expect that prices will come down, now that the platform is stabilizing and standardizing. Have you tried a hybrid laptop or 2-in-1 PC?

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Which Hybrid Laptop Tablet is Best?"

Posted by:

08 Sep 2014

I have the ASUS Transformer Book T100 and it's excellent for carrying around and doing simple things with, I bought it almost exclusively for writing. The added bonus of having a battery in the keyboard as well as the tablet itself so doubling you up to 12 hours or so was the deciding factor for me, as I can take it out on the longest days away from a power socket and not have to worry about it.

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
08 Sep 2014

Hi, Bob,

I think I usually get--and always enjoy--your funny and sometimes obscure humor. But this one has me stumped: "Disclaimer: This review was sponsored by the number 3, and the word 'robust'."

Call me dum, but I don't follow.


Posted by:

ART Frailey
09 Sep 2014

I'm not to sure about this. When someone says the starting price is $XX.XX, I know right away just what is coming. All those programs you have to add, some costing the price of the machine, makes for an expensive item at whatever price you pay. Then some of the programs fail compatibility, and what do you do? Go back to the good old lap-tops and I-pads.
Also, it is much like the 2 year truck I bought the other day. It actually burns the new lower cost E-85 fuel, but you end up with only about 80% of the millage you get with regular. Sometimes I wish I had my old truck back. It out performed the newer one and got better MPGs. I see this as what keeps happening with the new computer performance as well.
Yea, I'll keep my old laptop for awhile with windows 7.

Posted by:

Granville Alley
09 Sep 2014

To suggest that Windows 8 or even 8.1 is "here to stay" is not very accurate at best and seriously misleading at worst. With MS rushing to release "Threshold" or Windows 9 out of cycle due to the horrendous uptake of Windows 8 (Slower adoption even than the generally recognized disaster that was Windows Vista) no one can seasonably suggest that Windows 8 is "here to stay" except in the most ephemeral way.

And with the principle feature of Windows 9 from all commentary including that from the developers themselves being a return to the desktop meme and an abandonment of the ill thought and badly designed Metro or whatever you want to call the Windows 8 ugly/bad user interface even MS itself has given up on forcing this kludge down users throats. To suggest otherwise is simply not accurate.

I generally admire your commentary which is why I read it regularly but to suggest that Windows 8's likely longevity is a reason to consider 2 in 1 PC's is just plain inaccurate. There may be other reasons for some users to like the 2 in 1 design but OS longevity is definitely not one of them.

Posted by:

Ellie H
09 Sep 2014

I bought a Clamcase for my iPad, and the only thing missing is the touchpad. I have to touch the screen. I take it instead of my laptop on vacation.

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