- Tablet vs Laptop – Which Is Best For You?
- Short Answer
- Battery Life
- Operating Systems and Software
- Conclusion – Which Should You Choose?
- So which should I buy?
- Reasons You Need to Buy a Tablet
- Reasons You Need to Buy a Laptop
- People Who Could Buy Either a Laptop or a Tablet
- Bottom Line
- Laptop Guide
- The best 2-in-1 laptops
- 1. HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019)
- 2. Lenovo Yoga C940
- 3. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)
- 4. Microsoft Surface Go
- 5. Asus Chromebook Flip C434
- 6. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
- 7. HP Spectre x360 15
- 8. HP Spectre Folio
- 9. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen, 2019)
- 10. HP ZBook Studio x360 G5
- 11. Microsoft Surface Book 2
- 12. HP Elite Dragonfly
- How to Choose the Right Laptop
- Two for the Price of One: PC Convertibles
- So, What Is a 2-in-1?
- Convertible Laptops
- Detachable Tablets
- Tech Specs: What to Look for in a 2-in-1
- Ready for Our Recommendations?
Tablet vs Laptop – Which Is Best For You?
Tablets are more portable and better for casual activities such as browsing the web, watching videos, or playing mobile games. Laptops are better when it comes to productivity due to the more powerful hardware and more feature-rich software that is not available on tablets. Furthermore, laptops can be great substitutes for desktops when it comes to PC gaming, although a desktop will always present better value when performance and cost-effectiveness are concerned.
If you are in need of a portable computer, then you are probably aware that both laptops and tablets are a sensible choice, although one inevitably fits certain purposes better than the other. In this article, we will compare the capabilities of laptops and the capabilities of tablets in order to help you decide which type of device is better suited for your needs.
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First and foremost, there’s the question of portability. And in the majority of cases, tablets win hands down.
Size-wise, tablets generally range from 7 to 13 inches, not counting some larger tablet devices geared towards professional users. For the most part, 8-inch and 10-inch screens are the most popular in tablets because they manage to strike the perfect balance between screen size and ergonomics.
When it comes to weight, they tend to weigh anywhere from around 300 grams (about 10 oz) in the cases of the smallest and lightest devices, all the way up to around 700 grams (about 1.5 lb) in the cases of larger devices such as the 13-inch iPad Pro.
Laptop screens, on the other hand, cover a wider range. They can start as low as 12 inches and go as high as 21 inches. The majority of mainstream laptops stay in the 15 to 17-inch range, though.
In terms of weight, the average 15-inch laptop weighs about 2kg (around 5 lb). Obviously, this is quite a bit heavier than a tablet, but just like screen size, laptop weight varies more than tablet weight. Some notebooks and can easily weigh under 1kg, all the while some gaming laptops can go over 4kg and even over 8kg in some extreme cases.
In any case, tablets are definitely smaller and lighter than even the most compact laptops that are currently out there, so they win in the portability department.
While on the topic of size, we should mention the display, and there are two key factors to consider here: size and resolution.
In terms of sheer size, laptops will, naturally, always have the upper hand as their larger frames allow for larger screens. However, when the resolution is taken into consideration, the smaller tablet display would offer higher pixel density, meaning that the displayed image would be sharper and that individual pixels would not be as visible.
As with everything else, the quality of the display will depend on the price – a 1080p display in a $150 tablet is unlikely to be as good as a 1080p display in a $1000 laptop. In any case, what should be kept in mind is that tablets do actually tend to offer better visuals in the lower price ranges than similarly-priced laptops, mainly due to the aforementioned higher pixel density.
Storage is another highly important factor to consider, and here, laptops almost always have the lead. The cheapest laptops usually come with either a 500 GB HDD or a 128 GB SSD, both of which outclass the tablets which come with 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, or 512 GB of internal storage, although most of them stay in the 32-256 GB range.
However, the default storage capacity is not everything – we should also consider expandable storage. The storage capacity of many tablets (excluding Apple’s iPads) can be expanded easily with the help of relatively cheap microSD memory cards. The maximum supported memory card capacity tends to be 256 GB when it comes to the newer tablet models.
In the case of laptops, there are even more options. Many laptops have memory card readers, but memory cards are far from the most popular type of external storage for laptops. Rather, external hard drives are often used in tandem with internal SSDs, as they can offer a great deal of storage at a very low price per gigabyte. On top of that, it is quite easy to replace the internal storage drive on most mainstream laptops.
All in all, we’d definitely give the storage capacity to the laptop since the capacity and speed of an SSD can easily match the memory performance of a tablet, not to mention that there are cheap external storage solutions out there, as well as the option of upgrading the laptop’s internal storage in the future.
On the other hand, you should also keep in mind that you might not need much internal storage to begin with. Mobile operating systems and apps don’t take up much space, so unless you plan on filling up a tablet with multimedia files, 32-64 GB of internal storage combined with cloud storage might serve your needs just fine.
Both tablets and laptops are equipped with built-in cameras, although tablets generally tend to have the upper hand in this regard.
Namely, not only do tablets come with both a front and a rear camera, but the cameras themselves are often of a higher quality than those found in similarly-priced laptops. This only makes sense considering that they are the more portable of the two devices that borrows many features from smartphones.
In the case of laptops, rear cameras are a very rare sight. Indeed, while there are some laptop models that do include a rear camera, most laptops only have one: a front camera intended for video calls. As mentioned above, the quality of these cameras is not stellar in cheaper laptops.
In any case, tablets are definitely more versatile in this regard and offer better cameras at lower prices, although it should be kept in mind that only the more expensive tablets actually have cameras as good as those found in most mid-range and flagship phones.
What is a portable computer of any kind without a good battery? Now, we’ll take a look at the battery performance of tablets and laptops.
Tablets can generally endure roughly 8 to 12 hours of active use, while laptops tend to be more power hungry, usually lasting anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, based on what the laptop is being used for. Some notebooks, ultrabooks, and other high-end laptops, however, can often go toe-to-toe with tablets in this regard, as their batteries can last well over 12 hours in some cases.
Now, why do tablet batteries last longer?
Well, there are several reasons. First, there’s the fact that they use ARM CPUs that are simpler and less power-hungry than even the mobile versions of desktop CPUs found in laptops. These CPUs generate less heat, too, making them ideal for devices like phones and tablets which have no active cooling. On top of that, mobile operating systems tend to be fairly well optimized, especially iOS.
Laptops, while their hardware is generally more power-hungry and the operating systems are not as well optimized, have an extra trick of their own that can positively impact battery life – power-saving features that can be enabled at the user’s convenience, reducing the power drain at the cost of performance. This way, laptops can last much longer when they’re being used for non-intensive tasks.
In any case, we are inclined to give this one to the tablets, as they can last longer on average with no additional throttling involved. Of course, there are some things that tablets cannot do that laptops can, but more on that below.
The matter of performance depends largely on the price point and what the device is being used for. In the lower price ranges, tablets do tend to be roughly on par with similarly-priced laptops when it comes to performance, but the gap widens as the prices increase.
So, if we’re talking a device that would be used primarily for web surfing, multimedia, and casual gaming, a tablet would probably outperform a low-end laptop. However, due to the fact that laptops offer better performance than most tablets in the mid-range and up, the win in this category would have to go to them, and that’s not even accounting for the operating system constraints.
Operating Systems and Software
While laptops and tablets are very different devices in hardware terms alone, there’s also the software to consider.
Today, most tablets use either iOS or Android, although Amazon’s Android-based Fire OS is quite popular in their low-end Fire tablets. Laptops use the same operating systems as desktop computers do: Windows, macOS, and Linux, with Windows being very popular among hybrid devices as well.
Without going too deep into the differences between individual operating systems, we’ll focus on the key differences between mobile and desktop operating systems instead. If we had to put it in one sentence: mobile operating systems are streamlined and easy to use but desktop operating systems have more features and access to a wider array of software.
Indeed, a major reason why many people find tablets to be poor substitutes for laptops or desktops is just how limiting mobile operating systems can be. If there is a mobile app version of a desktop program available, that app is bound to be missing some features that are available in the desktop version. As such, the win in this regard would have to go to the vastly more powerful desktop operating systems.
Next up, there’s the way that you interact with the device i.e. the interface, and this is a very simple matter.
Laptops rely mainly on an integrated physical keyboard and a touchpad for input, although they also support all the peripherals that desktops do, meaning that you are free to use external keyboards and mice with a laptop as long as it has the necessary connectors. It goes without saying that wireless keyboards and mice are supported, too, if the laptop supports whatever type of wireless technology is being used by said peripherals.
Tablets, on the other hand, rely entirely on their touchscreen for input and utilize a virtual keyboard. Fortunately for those who have trouble typing on virtual keyboards, most (if not all) tablets support Bluetooth keyboards, although mouse support can be a bit trickier.
In any case, when it comes to productivity, the mouse and keyboard controls are definitely unmatched, but there can be no winner in this category since both KB&M controls and touchscreen controls have their merits and flaws based on what the device is used for. We’ll just say that the former is more precise but the latter is more intuitive.
Now, we’ll take a look at tablet and laptop connectivity options, both when it comes to physical ports and to wireless connectivity.
All modern laptops are equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities, while there are relatively few that also support cellular connectivity. In regard to ports, the situation varies greatly. Bulkier laptops generally include all ports that you’d usually find in a modern desktop motherboard: USB 3.0, Ethernet, analog audio connectors, HDMI, etc. The more compact laptops tend to scrap the larger ports in favor of smaller USB-C ports.
Tablets, too, are all equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, although manufacturers often offer models with cellular connectivity as well, something that is much rarer among laptops. As for wired connections, they use either Micro USB or USB-C connectors, all the while Apple uses the same Lightning connector for both iPhones and iPads.
Once again, there is no definite winner, as the need for a variety of different ports or cellular connectivity largely depends on the user.
And finally, when it comes to the pricing, tablets tend to start at much lower prices than laptops do, going for as little as $50, while the cheapest laptops start at about $150.
As for the other end of the price spectrum, tablets tend to go as high as $800, excluding certain high-end tablet and hybrid devices geared towards professionals.
When it comes to laptops, mainstream ones also go up to about $800, but high-end laptops, notebooks, and gaming laptops can go for anywhere from $1000 to $5000, even reaching ludicrous five-digit price tags on rare occasions.
In any case, not only are tablets cheaper in general, but a cheap tablet usually works better than a cheap laptop.
Conclusion – Which Should You Choose?
As you can see, tablets and laptops are very different devices, which is no wonder considering that they were designed for very different things. After all, as Steve Jobs said when he introduced the original iPad, tablets are intended to fill the space between smartphones and laptops and they are supposed to do certain things better than either of the two.
So, what are those things that tablets do better than laptops and which type of device is ultimately the better choice for you?
If you only need a device for browsing the web, watching videos, listening to music, and playing casual games, then a tablet would probably be the best match for your needs – compact, light, portable, boasting excellent battery life, and probably a better display than what you’d get with a laptop in the lower price ranges. If this is the case, check out our selection of the best tablets available right now.
If you also plan on using the device for work or just generally need to do a lot of typing, we’d suggest a laptop instead. Sure, if you pair a tablet up with a Bluetooth keyboard, typing gets much easier, but having a larger device with a larger screen would definitely help with overall productivity and multitasking.
Now, if you’re really into gaming and want a device that can serve as your main gaming computer, then a proper gaming laptop would be in order. If this is the case, be sure to check out our selection of the best gaming laptops currently available.
And finally, if you’re a professional who is in need of a proper workstation, then a laptop would be your best choice again. As mentioned before, professional software such as Adobe Photoshop is quite limited on mobile devices, so a high-end laptop such as a MacBook or a Surface Book should be your first choice, if desktop workstations are out of the question.
That would be it for this article. Hopefully, it helped you decide which type of device is the right choice for your needs, and if you feel that we’ve skipped any important points or made any errors, feel free to let us know in the comments!
Laptop vs tablet: Which is right for you? We guide you through the various benefits and drawbacks of both laptops and tablets to help you make an informed decision on your next device.
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When it comes to buying a new portable computer, these days you’re no longer limited to the laptop option. Tablets are a viable alternative for many people looking to get things done on the go.
Now that companies such as Apple with its iPad Pro, or Google with its Pixel C, have started to make high-end, powerful tablet/laptop hybrids, the options available have become even more overwhelming.
How best to navigate under such tyranny of choice? Well, step one is to read this helpful guide we’ve put together.
It’s worth bearing in mind that there is no better option, but there is a best option for you. Essentially, this is going to come down to what you want to do with your new purchase. If you’re unsure of which device is going to support your multitasking needs, or whether you should shell out for a laptop if you just want to watch Netflix on the go, we’ve got you covered.
So check out our guide to choosing between laptop or tablet, and go forth as an informed consumer into yonder bloated market.
When it comes to portability, there’s no question that tablets offer the best option. In general, tablets are 7-11 inches, while laptops are 12-16 inches, which immediately means that the former are going to be easier to carry around.
But if you’re going for one of the larger tablets or a hybrid such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, you might want to consider whether getting a small laptop is going to work out better for you. It will likely weigh slightly more but in terms of size, the larger tablets and smaller laptops are very similar.
Related: Best tablets
The Asus ZenBook UX305CA weighs just 1.2kg for example, while Microsoft’s 12-inch tablet hybrid, the Surface Pro 4, weighs 766 to 786 grams depending on which processor you opt for. Elsewhere, Apple’s 11-inch Macbook Air weighs 1.08kg, while the 12-inch iPad Pro tablet comes in at 713 grams.
Basically, the weight difference isn’t going to be too noticeable between larger tablets and smaller laptops. With that in mind, you may want to consider whether it’s worth the slight weight increase to get the enhanced computing power that comes with a laptop.
This is fairly simple. Laptops are going to provide advanced performance in comparison to tablets, simply due to the fact that their larger cases can pack in more hardware.
Related: Best laptops
Multitasking, for instance, is easier on a laptop than it is on a tablet, although tablets are increasingly offering better multitasking solutions. iOS 9, for instance, features multitasking in the form of split view and picture-in-picture, and many other manufacturers, such as Acer, load their tablets with a proprietary feature that allows you to open multiple windows on one screen.
Still, if you’re going to be doing in-depth research or a similarly intensive task that requires multiple apps, you can’t beat the desktop approach offered by laptops.
In terms of hardware, again, most laptops will have better specifications than tablets. Even the top-specced iPad Pro has 4GB of RAM and storage options starting at 32GB, while Google’s new flagship Pixel C tablet has 3GB RAM, with internal storage starting at 32GB.
Whereas you’ll pay at least £679 for the iPad Pro, you can get a Lenovo Yoga 500 convertible laptop with 4GB RAM with the option to increase that to 8GB, and 1TB of internal storage for £399. Thinking of buying a Surface Pro 4 tablet? Before you spend £749 for the 4GB RAM, 128GB storage, Intel Core M3 option, check out the stellar Dell XPS 12 convertible ultrabook which comes with the same RAM and storage specs and an Intel Core i5 processor for around £600.
Related: iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4
In terms of performance then, laptops will always have better specs than tablets. That doesn’t mean tablets will run slowly or won’t offer a smooth user experience, it simply means that laptops are equipped for more intense tasks.
If you enjoy playing the odd game of Candy Crush, casually browsing the internet, and streaming a film on Netflix every now and then, a tablet may be for you. If you’re looking for something that’s going to allow you to carry out more in-depth tasks requiring multiple programmes, then a laptop is probably the way to go, although some of the higher end tablets including the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4, will offer better performance than simpler tablets such as the Amazon Fire HD 8 or iPad Air range.
Due to their smaller size, tablets will always have a better battery life than laptops. It’s simply a matter of not having to power as much hardware, or as big a screen, which allows the smaller devices to maintain more charge than a laptop.
Related: Pixel C vs iPad Pro
Still, more expensive laptops can last longer, but again, you’ll have to pay more to get a laptop that can hold its charge almost as well as a tablet. The Dell XPS 13 lasted around 11 hours on our 40% screen brightness test while both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro will give you around 10 hours of life with regular use.
Overall though, tablets offer vastly better battery life than laptops, so if you’re looking for something that doesn’t need to carry out demanding tasks, then a tablet is your best choice.
As mentioned previously, generally speaking tablets are 7-11 inches, while laptops are 12-16 inches. There are, of course, exceptions, but if you take these as a rough indication then you’ll get the point that mainly laptops are going to offer a bigger picture.
Related: Macbook (2015) vs Macbook Air (2015)
But that, of course, doesn’t mean you’re going to get a better picture. With smaller screens, tablets often feature better pixel-per-inch (PPI) density, meaning the individual pixels are packed closer together, resulting in a sharper, more cohesive image. Taking seven tablets from our list of best tablets, the average PPI works out at 262, whereas doing the same with our best laptops, the average is a PPI of 176.
Precision is also something to keep in mind. Laptops still can’t be beaten when it comes to control, whether that involves web browsing or word processing. Of course, there’s always the option of using a detachable keyboard with some tablets, but you won’t be able to beat the feel of a full-sized keyboard and although some tablets are capable of supporting mice, laptops lend themselves to such a setup much more easily.
In other words, touch screens are great, but when it comes to precision, laptops will serve you better. On top of that, many modern laptops feature touchscreen technology anyway.
With all this is mind, you should, again, think about what you will be using your device for. If you’re going to be watching a lot of video on the go, a tablet may well be your best option as it offers better pixel density on average and great portability. If you’re looking for better precision than a touch screen can offer, a laptop is the way to go.
When it comes to software, tablets are centered around apps while laptops offer a more versatile desktop experience. If you want to use in-depth programmes such as Photoshop or Logic or anything that demands more than tapping a screen can accommodate, then a laptop is your best bet.
Related: What’s new in iOS 9.3?
It’s a similar story for web browsing. If you’ve ever tried to surf the web using a mobile browser you’ll know it can often be a frustrating experience. Apps make it easier to use websites and online services by optimising the interface for a touch screen, meaning If you prefer having dedicated programmes for each service you use, then a tablet is the best way to go.
With a laptop, you’ll still be able to use certain apps, but using a web browser will provide a much more accessible experience than doing the same on a tablet. It also means you don’t have to clutter up your hard drive and desktop with small programmes that only allow access to one online service. Therefore, if you like to keep things simple and have one programme to access all your online content, a laptop is the best option.
Certain tablets, such as the Surface Pro 4, use Windows 10 which, although it’s essentially a desktop operating system, combines the tablet and desktop experience. You can download apps and access your desktop with Windows 10, providing a hybrid experience unlike the Android or iOS experience. If you’re looking for a mix of apps and the desktop, you might consider looking into the Surface series of hybrid devices.
Related: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
In terms of gaming, if you’re looking for something capable of running somewhat demanding games, a laptop is the only choice. Although tablets offer gaming capabilities, they will not come near the processing power that laptops can offer. Depending on the types of games you play then, you will be able to get your gaming fix with either device. When it comes to anything more demanding than Asphalt 8 racing however, a laptop is the only option.
On the whole, you’ll get much more storage with a laptop. Taking three of the top tablets available now, the iPad Pro, Google Pixel C, and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 all start at 32GB internal storage. For laptops, 32GB is a miniscule offering and most models will come with at least 128GB, although smaller laptops, such as the HP Stream 11, come with a 32GB hard drive, while others, such as the Toshiba Chromebook 2 include just 16GB of storage.
Related: Best Android tablet
There are also tablets which offer more than the average internal storage, such as the Surface Pro 4 which starts with a 128GB hard drive.
On the whole however, you’re going to get more internal memory with a laptop, so if you’re going to be working with multiple files that you need to keep on your machine, laptops offer the best solution.
This is fairly simple. Top-end tablets will range from £600 to £800 while top-end laptops range from £900 to £1,500. You can pick up high end slates such as a Surface Pro 4 tablet for £749 or iPad Pro for £679, while a Google Pixel C, which offers what might be the best Android experience available, will cost you £399. iOS users looking for something cheaper than the iPad Pro have the option of picking up the stellar iPad Air 2 for £399. As tablets go, these are the best options available now in terms of hardware and functionality.
In comparison, the best laptops will generally cost you more. Macbooks start at £1,049, while one of Lenovo’s top offerings, the ThinkPad P70 starts at £1,699.99, and Microsoft’s new Surface Book starts at £1,299.
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That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot to get a great device. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 is a great Android tablet that starts at £349, you can get an iPad Mini 4 for £319. And if you’re looking for something even cheaper, the Amazon Fire HD 6 tablet will only cost you £79.
Similarly, when it comes to laptops, the Dell XPS 13 offers a premium experience for £799, while the 11-inch Macbook Air starts at £749.
Overall, you’ll generally pay more for a decent laptop than a decent tablet, but there are certainly deals to be had.
Related: How to switch from iPhone to Android
So which should I buy?
It seems obvious but this all comes down to what you want to use it for. It also depends on which tablet you’re thinking about buying. The Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro are both designed as laptop replacements, with Apple going so far as to say that their high-end slate will replace your desktop computer.
However, then the question becomes, if a tablet is trying to be a laptop, why not just buy a laptop? You’ll get better multitasking and performance and it’ll be easier to use for things like word processing.
Still, tablets are perfect for light use on the go, so if you’re not worried about extra processing power or having to perform multiple tasks at once, you can pick up some great tablets at an affordable price.
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As 2-in-1s — which can convert from clamshell to tablet mode — have become more common, stand-alone slates have become less popular. However, many shoppers still wonder whether they need a tablet, a laptop or one of each.
Forum user jchristempleton asks whether tablets will soon become obsolete, writing, “When do we get to the point where there is no point in buying a tablet because laptops have the power and programs to beat the consideration of a tablet?”
Jchristempleton’s question is focused a bit on the future, but the answer is the same now as it will be for as long as we can foresee. There will always be a need for stand-alone tablets for media consumption, but the line between productivity slates like the iPad Pro and laptops is quickly disappearing.
Here’s some advice for today’s shoppers who are trying to decide between a laptop and a tablet.
Reasons You Need to Buy a Tablet
- Child’s first device: Tablets are the gadget of choice for younger children, because they are easy-to-use, have the best kid-friendly software and don’t require you to read. Amazon’s Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 for kids are particularly great first devices because they come with a ton of age-appropriate content, fantastic parental controls and two years of accidental-damage protection.
- Reading / video watching: If you want to curl up on the couch with a favorite movie or book, a tablet makes a lot of sense, particularly one that’s 8 inches or smaller. Yes, you can watch a movie on a 2-in-1 laptop, but even on a detachable, the device is much bulkier than a simple slate.
Of course, you could consume media on a large-screen phone as easily as you would on a tablet. But tablets are much larger, and most people wouldn’t give a smart phone to a young child.
Reasons You Need to Buy a Laptop
- Productivity: If you’re doing any kind of work, whether it’s planning a bake sale or number crunching in Microsoft Office, having a laptop with a keyboard, ports and a full computer operating system is important. I have a friend who does all his productivity work on an iPad with a keyboard, but that’s not the most comfortable scenario for most people.
- Education: There’s a reason why most schools give their students Chromebooks instead of tablets. To do research and create content such as term papers, kids need a real keyboard and full desktop software.
- Shopping / transactions: Yes, you can visit websites and make online purchases from a tablet or phone, but when you’re buying many items or making a major purchase, you benefit from being able to view the full desktop versions of websites on a large display.
People Who Could Buy Either a Laptop or a Tablet
- Artists: If you like to draw, you can do that on either a large-screen tablet such as an iPad Pro or on a 2-in-1 like the Surface Pro. However, if you’re going for a drawing laptop, a detachable is a much better idea than a convertible with a bend-back lid. You want to be able to hold the slate in your hand, without the added bulk of the keyboard and touchpad on the back.
Every household should have at least one laptop, so if this is going to be your main or only computing device, a laptop is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a child’s first gadget or a media-consumption system, a tablet still makes sense.
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For Business Use
Different business users have different needs:
In the office
Along with the benefits of a full keyboard, the faster processors in most laptops make them better for typical office work (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.). Still, a tablet can be a useful auxiliary device for some users.
On the road
For salespeople and other road warriors, a tablet is much easier to travel with (no backpack needed!). A tablet also may be less obtrusive at meetings, and easier to manage for presenting quick product demos. However, an ultralight laptop with a quiet keyboard and specs designed for this application is not much different, at the end of the day.
Industrial and Field Use
More and more industrial uses for tablets, including so-called “ruggedized” models, seem to emerge every day. Whether they’re in the hands of a waiter at a restaurant, a service technician making house calls, or a quality inspector on a factory floor. Laptops are larger and more challenging to work with in these industry settings.
Compared to a laptop, a tablet’s superior all-around portability, long battery life, and capacity for entertainment (i.e. surfing the web, streaming movies, playing games) make it an ideal choice for the casual user.
All-purpose or Family Use
For families that need one device that does it all, a laptop for home use is the likely choice, thanks to its wider range of uses. Particularly, typing-oriented business programs that may prove difficult on a tablet touch screen.
Given high school and college students’ comfort with technology, students heading back to school might use a tablet almost as productively as a laptop. For all-around educational use, such as taking notes, working on coursework requiring specific programs, and lightweight options for carrying to and from class, a laptop for students may be the better choice, as it’s more powerful and keyboard-equipped.
For creating and viewing media like pictures and video, a tablet’s hand-held nature and smartphone-like camera options make it superior. For advanced photo editing or video production, the greater processing power of something like a Lenovo Flex multimedia laptop is required.
If for you, “convenience” means easy carrying, fast boot-ups, and smartphone-like camera features, then a tablet likely meets your needs. If having multiple USB or HDMI ports, a full keyboard, and using complex apps is your definition of “convenience,” then you’ll want a laptop.
What will you use it for?
Before price, size, or virtually any other factor, there’s one overriding question when deciding on a tablet: What do you intend to do with it? That’s an important consideration with many tech purchases, but it’s absolutely essential with tablets. Spend too little and you may get a device that can’t run a must-have app; spend too much and you may see little gain, or maybe even introduce some unnecessary headaches.
The decision is easiest if you sit at one of the extremes of computer use — that is, if you’re either very demanding of your devices or very gentle. If you’re looking for a tablet that can serve as a mobile media-editing rig (such as on a movie set), or your workflow demands that you juggle several apps at once, go with a high-end Windows tablet like Microsoft’s Surface Pro or Samsung’s Galaxy Book. You’ll be frustrated with anything less than a desktop operating system and as much processing power as you can get. If you’re only browsing the web, checking Facebook or writing the occasional email, just about any mobile tablet will fit the bill, so long as it meets your other criteria.
It’s trickier when your demands fall somewhere in between. As a rule of thumb, expect to buy a higher-end tablet (typically $500 or higher without a keyboard) if you intend to regularly create anything audiovisual, even if it’s just to indulge in a hobby. You’ll want to spend a similar amount if you often run two or more apps at the same time. Tablets in the $500-plus category often have the additional memory, storage and computing hardware to smoothly handle intensive tasks.
At the same time, be careful not to overestimate the amount of power you need. There are many tasks where just about any reasonably powerful device will do — a current-generation Android tablet or iPad in the $300–$500 range is more than capable of running productivity apps like Google Docs or Microsoft Word while you catch up on Netflix. It might even be adequate for frequent side-by-side multitasking if the most demanding apps you’ll run are web browsers and chat clients. Just don’t go significantly lower than $300. As of this writing, most entry-level mobile tablets still tend to fall short on the performance, memory and storage you need for demanding tasks.
And yes, even the software could be overkill. While desktop operating systems are more powerful when it comes to multitasking and file management, they also tend to come with non-touch-interface elements, device driver headaches and other hassles that are par for the course with PCs. If you don’t have a particular need for desktop-level features or are buying a tablet precisely to avoid PC woes, it may be best to stick with Android tablets or iPads.
Keyboard support is crucial
A tablet isn’t really a laptop replacement unless you have a keyboard to go with it, and that makes keyboard support a vital part of your purchasing decision. You ideally want a tablet-and-keyboard combination that’s painless to attach, unintrusive when it’s not needed and, of course, a joy to type on.
The best tablets in this category usually have a keyboard-friendly connector on one side, such as the iPad Pro and Surface Pro. Your keyboard will be ready the moment it’s connected, won’t require charging and (usually) stays firmly attached without requiring a bulky case. You do tend to be shoehorned into buying proprietary keyboards as a result, but they’re often good keyboards. The Surface Pro’s optional Type Cover keyboard is considered the gold standard, with its large, comfortable keys, a reliable trackpad and a detachable design that doubles as a screen cover. The iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard isn’t on the same level (the fabric-like key covers can be off-putting, and there’s no trackpad), but it’s still comfy for extended typing sessions. Also important: There are alternative keyboards like Logitech’s Slim Combo ($130 for the 10.5-inch iPad).
But what if you don’t want to be limited by a connector and don’t mind having to recharge your keyboard? Your options for tablets broaden considerably after that, but it’s still a good idea to pick carefully — look at the keyboard ecosystem for a given tablet before you jump in. Ideally, you’ll find a variety of keyboards designed with your tablet in mind. Generic keyboard add-ons rarely fit well, and many of them are really desktop keyboards that just happen to pair with your tablet. You probably won’t enjoy carrying two distinct devices in your bag every time you want to get some writing done.
Apple tends to dominate in this regard: Even the regular iPad has plenty of keyboard cases, often from big-name accessory makers like Logitech. However, that’s not to say there aren’t options elsewhere. The Surface Pro has choices like Brydge’s $150 Bluetooth keyboard, while Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 has a few basic keyboard cases available (like Pasonomi’s $30 leather folio) as well. If you only see generic keyboards for a particular tablet, though, you may want to pass on that device — the typing experience is just that important.
Choose your display size carefully
It’s tempting to go with the largest display you can get, since tablet screen sizes usually end where laptop sizes begin. The reality is more complicated. You’re typically buying a tablet for the flexibility and mobility it offers over a laptop, and that doesn’t always mean going big.
If your priority is choosing something more portable than a typical laptop, you’ll usually want to consider a tablet screen between 9 and 11 inches. They’re compact enough at that size to easily slip into a bag, and light enough that you won’t mind using them handheld. At the same time, they’re usually large enough that you won’t have to squint at the screen or cramp your fingers on a tiny keyboard.
You’ll mainly want to consider a 12-inch tablet or larger if you’re looking for a professional workhorse. Media-editing suites and other intensive apps often take advantage of every extra inch of visual real estate you can offer. And many of these tablets are simply too ungainly by themselves to be handheld for very long. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro in particular feels like you’re holding a dinner tray, while the slightly smaller Surface Pro isn’t far behind. Think of them more as laptops that happen to be useful as tablets in a pinch.
And in case it wasn’t already clear, you’ll want to avoid using any tablets smaller than 9 inches as laptop replacements. The dimensions are just too limiting for laptop-like apps, especially those that demand a keyboard. Moreover, finding a genuinely powerful tablet in this size is difficult to find. The iPad mini 4 is aging and clearly on its way out, while a tablet like the Galaxy Tab A is just not going to have the computing power to take over from a laptop.
Consider the little things: pens and expansion
While the keyboard is undoubtedly the most important add-on here, there are other accessories that you’ll want to consider. Pen input is definitely worth investigating. After all, tablets are typically much easier to hold than laptops when you’re drawing or taking notes. If you think you’ll want to put pen to screen at any point, it’s worth investing in a tablet with stylus support built in. How much you’ll need to pay will depend on just what you expect to do, though. If you intend to use it only for the occasional sketch, a basic device like the standard iPad will do the trick.
Just be prepared to pay a premium if a pen will be a regular part of your workflow. The iPad Pro’s gapless display and high refresh rate give it an edge in digital art (where you want a close connection between the pen and what happens onscreen), while the Surface Pro’s tight OneNote integration could be vital if you’re drawing diagrams for business meetings or class notes.
You’ll also want to take a close look at expansion, both in terms of available ports and the adapters you can buy. As a rule of thumb, Windows-based tablets tend to reign supreme in this space. They often have the ports and peripheral compatibility that you’d expect from a conventional computer, and that means features that would be unthinkable on mobile OS–based slates. Take the Surface Pro as an example: Its Mini DisplayPort lets you hook up external monitors, and the USB port should work with virtually any Windows-ready peripheral under the sun (including docking stations for more peripherals). If you can’t imagine parting with a second display, a mouse, wired networking or other creature comforts of PC life, Android tablets and iPads shouldn’t even be on your radar.
This isn’t to say that you’re out of luck for peripherals with mobile tablets, but you’ll likely have to budget for dongles if you buy one. Be sure to check a tablet’s support for those adapters. While you can generally assume Apple will offer Lightning-based dongles for features like card readers and video mirroring, you’ll want to double-check that your Android tablet of choice will support the adapters you want. Samsung’s Android-based devices don’t always support MHL video output, for instance, so you’d have to rely on wireless video sharing.
Think about your storage options, too. If you think your storage needs might grow, or you want to easily swap out your files, look for a tablet with a microSD card slot. Some Android and Windows tablets have these, but it’s not a given. You’re out of luck for simple removable storage if you’re buying an iPad, so you may want to buy the most storage you can afford.
And whichever tablet you choose, consider the availability of other accessories in the same way you might shop for other mobile devices. How many cases are available? Are there specialized creative add-ons like Microsoft’s Surface Dial? You’ll usually have plenty of choices if you stick to large brands like Apple or Samsung, but you’ll want to pay close attention if you either have particular demands or pick a less common brand. A tablet at this level is frequently a Swiss Army Knife — you want it to handle as many tasks as possible.
If you want to use a stylus for hand-written notes or drawings, then your best bet is to buy a 2-in-1 laptop with a touch screen. We’ve listed the best 2-in-1s below, including bendback laptops that flip back 360 degrees and detachables, or tablets that attach to a keyboard accessory.
We’ve included only the cream of the crop on this list, but upcoming devices threaten to dethrone today’s best laptops. We saw a bunch of incoming laptops at CES 2020, including the new HP Spectre x360 15 and the Galaxy Book Flex α.
For the best balance between portability and usability, consider a 2-in-1 laptop featured on our best 13-inch laptops page. Smaller laptops and those under $500 are great for kids and college students while these best 15-inch laptops and best 17-inch models provide lots of real estate for drawing or media viewing.
The best 2-in-1 laptops
1. HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019)
2. Lenovo Yoga C940
3. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)
4. Microsoft Surface Go
5. Asus Chromebook Flip C434
6. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
7. HP Spectre x360 15
8. HP Spectre Folio
9. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen, 2019)
10. HP ZBook Studio x360 G5
11. Microsoft Surface Book 2
12. HP Elite Dragonfly
HP’s Spectre x360 13 is the best 2-in-1 laptop for its sleek design, fast performance and beautiful displays. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)
1. HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019)
The best 2-in-1 laptop
Stunning, ultraportable design Epic battery life Bright, vivid display with thinner bezels Fast overall performance Lots of bloatware Shrill speakers at max volume Runs a bit warm
The Spectre x360 13 is the best 2-in-1 laptop ever. Updated with a 10th Gen CPU and a more modern design, the Spectre x360 13 is improved in almost every way over its excellent predecessor. Highlights of this laptop include a stunning design, a bright 1080p display, epic 13+ hour battery life and fast overall performance.
See our HP Spectre x360 13 (Late 2019) review
Lenovo’s Yoga C940 (14-inch) refines a proven formula, making it one of the best 2-in-1 laptops around. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)
2. Lenovo Yoga C940
The best 14-inch laptop
Slim, premium design Beautiful 4K display Fast performance Crisp, dynamic speakers Below-average battery life (on 4K model) Stylus is difficult to remove No SD card
With the Yoga C940, Lenovo took a proven formula and refined it. Subtle design improvements, longer battery life (up to 11:46) and refreshed 10th Gen Intel processors make the Yoga C940 a worthy successor to last year’s excellent Yoga C930.
As you’d expect from a Yoga-series laptop, the C940 has a premium, ultra-portable chassis and a unique hinge that doubles as a soundbar speaker. As a 2-in-1, that hinge can rotate 360-degrees to convert the Yoga C940 into a proper tablet. When it comes to viewing content, the Yoga C940’s 1080p and 4K displays are crisp, vibrant and bright — just beware, the UHD display drains the battery.
For all the basics it gets right, my favorite things about the Yoga C940 are its extra features. Those include a webcam cover (no more need to buy tape), a slot for the included stylus and a fingerprint sensor.
See our Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch) review.
Another excellent option is the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019), a convertible laptop that goes toe-to-toe with the Spectre x360.
3. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)
Another fantastic alternative
Slim, ultraportable design Strong performance Bright 13.4-inch display Long battery life Few ports Shallow keyboard
The new XPS 13 2-in-1 is the best 2-in-1 laptop around right now. It’s ridiculously sleek, it boasts strong performance, thanks to its 10th Gen Intel Core processor, and it has a gorgeous 16:10 display, emitting over 500 nits of brightness.
On top of having a sequential hinge, it also features a variable torque that allows the lid to be lifted open without the machine wobbling or moving. Combine that with its 0.3~0.5-inch thin chassis, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is one of the best 2-in-1 laptops. Read our face-offs to see how it compares to the Spectre x360 13 and Yoga C940.
See our full Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review.
With the Microsoft Surface Go, you get a beautiful display and a premium chassis for $400, making this the best 2-in-1 laptop on a budget.
4. Microsoft Surface Go
The best value
Colorful and bright display Lightweight design Comfortable keyboard with touchpad Windows Hello login Below-average battery life Chunky bezels Keyboard and pen not included
The Microsoft Surface Go has a fantastic 1800 x 1200 display that punches above its $400 price. It’s not only the pixel count that has us impressed, the Surface Go’s display also has outstanding qualities. It can reproduce 129.2 percent of the sRGB color gamut and its maximum display brightness tops out at 415 nits, well above the 245 nit average for a budget laptop.
The display is our favorite part of the Surface Go, but it’s not the only thing this detachable 2-in-1 has going for it. At a lightweight 1.1 pounds, the Surface Go is easy to carry around your house or take on a trip. It also has a comfortable optional keyboard with a touchpad, and its Windows Hello support makes logging in a breeze. While we wished it lasted longer on a charge, the Surface Go is an enticing 2-in-1 with a top-notch display.
See our full Microsoft Surface Go review.
Asus’ Chromebook Flip C434 is the best 2-in-1 Chromebook thanks to its sleek design and quick performance.
5. Asus Chromebook Flip C434
The best 2-in-1 Chromebook
CPU: Intel Core m3 | GPU: Intel HD 615 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.6 x 8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds
Sleek aluminum chassis Thin display bezels Vivid 14-inch touch screen Long battery life A tad pricey Finicky touchpad
Asus regained its throne atop our Best Chromebook rankings with the new Chromebook Flip C434. New to this year’s model is a larger 14-inch display, slimmer display bezels and improved performance thanks to a Core m3-8100Y CPU. This convertible doesn’t just impress on paper, either. The 1080p display is plenty vivid and we got more than a day of battery life during our real-world testing. Sure, the $569 Flip C434 is a bit pricey for a Chromebook, but there is currently no better option on the market.
See our full Asus Chromebook Flip C434 review.
If you prefer a tablet over a clamshell, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is the best 2-in-1 detachable. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)
6. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
The best detachable 2-in-1 laptop
Premium metal chassis Fast overall performance Bright, vivid display Comfortable keyboard Keyboard and stylus sold separately Slow, expensive SSD Worse battery life than last year’s model
The Surface Pro 7 takes an excellent laptop in last year’s Surface Pro 6 and gives it a power boost. While battery life takes a hit, the new 10th Gen CPUs provide outstanding performance.
The design hasn’t changed at all, but the Surface Pro 7 now has a USB-C port for charging and connecting peripherals. Microsoft still sells the comfortable Alcantara-clad Type Cover and the super-responsive Surface Pen, which makes it easy to draw or take notes on this tablet’s vivid and bright 12.3-inch display.
See our full Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review.
With everything the 13-inch model offers plus faster performance, the Spectre x360 15 is the best 15-inch 2-in-1 laptop.
7. HP Spectre x360 15
The best 15-inch laptop
Gorgeous design Vivid panel Comfortable keyboard Strong performance Long battery life Display could be brighter Muddy speakers
Our favorite 15-inch 2-in-1 of 2019 (so far), HP’s Spectre x360 offers a powerful Core i7-8565U CPU and GeForce GTX 1050Ti graphics in a slim and sexy aluminum chassis. With gem-cut edges and chamfered corners, there is no mistaking the Spectre x360 for anything but a premium machine. But there’s a lot more to the Spectre x360 than its looks, including an extremely comfortable keyboard, long battery life (more than 8 hours) and a vivid 4K panel.
See our full HP Spectre x360 (15-inch) review.
Clad in premium leather, HP’s Spectre Folio is the 2-in-1 laptop with the best design.
8. HP Spectre Folio
The best design
Luxurious leather chassis Versatile 2-in-1 design Good keyboard Long battery life Weak audio Average performance
The HP Spectre Folio distracts from its middling performance with a stunning genuine leather chassis and innovative mechanism for transforming from a laptop into a tablet. Despite its small size, the Folio has a comfortable keyboard, and its Y-series CPU ensures a long battery life at more than 10 hours.
See our full HP Spectre Folio review.
Business users should buy the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen), the best 2-in-1 business laptop. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)
9. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen, 2019)
The best business 2-in-1 laptop
Bright, vivid 1080p display Slim, durable aluminum chassis Best-in-class keyboard Long battery life Stylus slot and webcam cover Not available in carbon fiber No SD card reader Last-gen CPU
Lenovo took a chance with the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, the first metal ThinkPad, and it paid off. While we still love the signature matte-black carbon-fiber found on most ThinkPads, the aluminum and magnesium ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a gorgeous change of pace. Not only does it have a slim design, but this convertible 2-in-1 flaunts a bright display and offers a best-in-class keyboard and long battery life. You also get loads of extra goodies, like a built-in stylus slot and webcam cover.
See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen, 2019) review.
Power users should buy the HP ZBook Studio x360 G5, the best 2-in-1 workstation.
10. HP ZBook Studio x360 G5
The best performing laptop
Premium design Gorgeous 4K display Military grade durability Great keyboard and stylus Excellent performance and graphics Long battery life Lid flexes Lackluster webcam Expensive
The ZBook Studio x360 G5 armed with a powerful Intel Xeon processor and a Quadro P1000 GPU all packed into a slim 0.8-inch thick frame that can perform all the 360 degree flips. It has a gorgeous aluminum hood, a vivid 4K display, and 9-hour battery life. It also comes with an optional ZBook Pen, which features 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity as well as tilt controls and three customizable buttons.
See our full ZBook Studio x360 G5 review.
Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 has been around for a while but it is still one of the best 2-in-1 laptops.
11. Microsoft Surface Book 2
The one to splurge on
Vivid display Best 2-in-1 graphics performance Versatile detachable design Long battery life Expensive No Thunderbolt 3
The 15-inch version of Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 is a stunning technical achievement that packs a powerful, Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU into the base of a detachable 2-in-1. With that kind of graphics might, you can edit 4K videos or create professional 3D animations while you are connected to the keyboard and then pop the screen off for some drawing or note-taking. The Surface Book 2 also features a brilliant PixelSense display, a powerful Intel 8th-Gen Core i7 CPU and over 12 hours of battery life.
See our full Microsoft Surface Book 2 review.
HP’s Elite Dragonfly is new 2-in-1 business laptop with a gorgeous chassis and long battery life. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)
12. HP Elite Dragonfly
Business features in a breathtaking chassis
Gorgeous, lightweight design Extremely long battery life Comfortable keyboard Solid performance Bright, vivid display Audio needs some tuning
HP’s Elite Dragonfly redefined what it means to be a business laptop. This stunning laptop has a breathtakingly gorgeous chassis that flaunts a unique dark-blue finish.
The design is as practical as it is attractive; The Elite Dragonfly has flexible hinges that convert the laptop into a tablet, and at 2.2 pounds, it’s one of the most portable 13-inch laptops around.
You’ll somehow need to take your eyes off the Elite Dragonfly’s aluminum body to appreciate its bright and vivid 13.3-inch display. But the Elite Dragonfly’s greatness doesn’t stop there. The laptop also has a surprisingly comfortable keyboard, fast performance and a host of security features, including an IR camera, a fingerprint sensor and MIL-SPEC-810 rated durability.
See our full HP Elite Dragonfly review
How to Choose the Right Laptop
Two for the Price of One: PC Convertibles
For years, when you needed a real portable computer, the only way to get it was to turn to a laptop. Then, as mobile processors became more powerful and operating systems more flexible, you had a choice: You could either stay with the traditional clamshell design or go with a tablet, which offered you less functionality and power but greater convenience by subtracting the keyboard from the equation altogether. So it was just a matter of time until enterprising manufacturers realized that adding or removing the keyboard was all that was needed to turn one into another. Now, the resulting product, a 2-in-1, isn’t just its own product category—it’s one of the fastest growing in the PC industry.
So, What Is a 2-in-1?
Simply put, a 2-in-1 is a touch-optimized convertible laptop or detachable tablet with a both a touch screen and a physical keyboard of some type. When you need full-stroke keys and a touchpad, you can use the 2-in-1 just the way you would a regular laptop. But if you need or want full access to just the screen for an extended period of time, that’s an option as well. And you can flip back and forth between the modes whenever you wish, usually expending just a second’s effort.
That said, you’re still buying a PC with a full operating system, whether that’s Chrome OS or Windows 10. In the future, macOS could be a player, but thus far Apple has pointed folks who need a touch screen and tablet/laptop convertibility toward its iOS-equipped iPad and iPad Pro lines, paired with an optional keyboard. A 2-in-1 running macOS just isn’t on the Apple menu yet.
For our purposes, we break down 2-in-1 devices into two kinds: the convertible laptop (a one-piece machine) and the detachable tablet (which splits in two).
The convertible laptop can transform from laptop to tablet and back again, with most systems featuring a hinge design that allows for rotating the keyboard portion through 360 degrees, out of the way back behind the screen. This type of 2-in-1 is the best choice if you’re planning on using the keyboard a lot, as you’re guaranteed to always have it with you. (Typing the Great American Novel or even an ordinary business report on the hard, flat surface of a virtual onscreen keyboard is an experience you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.)
Because of the motion that a convertible laptop’s hinge enables, you are often able to use these systems in a variety of modes. If you want to be able to share the display with everyone in a meeting, you can place the keyboard portion face down on the desk (called Stand or Display mode) and have the screen showing up front, kiosk-style. Or, you can prop it up on its leading edges (in so-called Tent or A-Frame mode), which takes up less space than the other modes. For flexibility, it’s difficult to beat this kind of 2-in-1.
In a convertible machine, the battery and motherboard are usually located in the base (as in a traditional laptop), so it’s balanced for use on a lap or a tabletop. The stable bottom lid of the clamshell is also a better typing platform than the sometimes-flimsy panel of a detachable keyboard case. There’s also more room for batteries in a laptop form factor (the bottom half never goes away), which results in improved battery life.
Downsides to this style of machine include a little extra weight from those batteries, as well as some extra thickness, as the hinge mechanisms are a little more complex than a laptop’s. Also, because the lower half is permanently attached, a convertible means that you’re always carrying the extra weight and bulk of the keyboard wherever you go.
A detachable-tablet 2-in-1 is essentially a slate with a keyboard case or a keyboard dock. The dock option is a bit more stable than the keyboard case, but the general idea is the same: You can remove the keyboard portion of the tablet and leave it behind when you desire maximum portability. Microsoft’s various Surface detachables (the Surface Book, Pro, and Go families) are the vanguard models of this kind.
Windows 10 slate tablets (and their detachable counterparts) tend to weigh less than 2 pounds on their own, and adding the keyboard case or dock can double the system’s total weight. A tablet with a well-designed keyboard dock attached is functionally indistinguishable from a clamshell laptop, and some detachable docks contain extra battery cells that can greatly extend the amount of time you’re able to work off-plug. Simpler keyboard cases usually lack niceties such as extra battery cells or USB ports, and most will be noticeably physically flexible. But if a keyboard is just an occasional need for you, chances are you won’t mind that much.
The benefit of the keyboard case is that it is thinner and lighter overall than the usual lower half of a laptop or convertible. Detachable-hybrid tablets, however, tend to be top-heavy, because all of the system’s components and batteries, and hence their weight, are necessarily localized in the screen. You’ll want to examine your usage patterns to determine whether holding the PC in your hands and interacting with the touch screen is really right for you. Detaching the tablet and leaving the heft of the keyboard behind is optimal when, say, you’re actively presenting a slideshow on a big screen and using the tablet to draw notes on the slides in real time. Reattaching the keyboard takes mere seconds, so you will be able to easily (and comfortably) change the slideshow’s content during your lunch hour if you need to change your talk’s focus for your afternoon session.
Tech Specs: What to Look for in a 2-in-1
The rest of the specs (screen size, storage space, the processor used, and so on) for convertibles and detachable hybrids generally follow the same lines as more standard laptops and Windows 10 tablets, which means you’ll have to pay more if you want additional speed, fancier features, or a thinner, flashier design.
For example, a system with a fanless Y-series Core i5 or Core i7 processor is likely to have excellent battery life and a very thin body. These chips are generally what you will find in detachables. That said, in general, you should expect that these systems will be somewhat less powerful than comparably sized laptops or convertible 2-in-1s, as these low-power mobile processors are designed for cool, quiet operation (which you’ll want for a system you’re using on your lap or holding in your hand) more so than for blazing speed.
In contrast, a non-detachable 2-in-1 system is more likely to use a processor like a U-series Intel Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7. It will likely be a thicker device, but you’ll have more power to do more-demanding media-creation work or heavy multitasking in the field. As with anything else when computer shopping, it’s all a game of trade-offs and compromises, and we’re here to help you decide which one is for you.
Ready for Our Recommendations?
Below are the top 10 convertibles and detachable hybrids we’ve tested. We refresh the list often to include the newest products, so check back frequently. Don’t need the unique transformational capabilities you get from a 2-in-1? Check out our reviews of the best overall laptops, the top business notebooks, and our favorite ultraportables.