Your buying guide to the best 2 in 1 laptops
If you don’t want to carry around both a laptop and a tablet then a convertible 2-in-1 device might be the answer. Usually there are some compromises and very few devices offer the best of both worlds. The Surface Book arguably has the fewest compromises, but it’s also massively expensive: you could buy a laptop and tablet separately and still have change left over compared to buying a Surface Book. If nothing here takes your fancy, then do check out our guides to the Best Laptops and Best Tablets.
Although many run Windows 10, which makes sense, there are a few in this chart which come with an alternative operating system including Android so there’s lots of choice. Plus, there are two iPad Pro models which will be a legitimate option for some.
What is a 2-in-1 laptop tablet?
Although they’ve been around for a while, these devices vary quite a lot and are called different things such as convertibles, hybrids and 2-in-1s. They all mean the same thing in essence – a device which is trying to be both a laptop and a tablet.
As we’ll explain, there are essentially two different types here and we’re going to round up the best of them all in one place.
Tablet or laptop first?
As we said, there is inevitably some compromise with these devices. Typically they will be better at being a laptop or a tablet but some do manage to sit somewhere in the middle.
Some are even designed first and foremost as a laptop, while others are first a tablet, a laptop second. So it depends on your priority as to which type will suit you best.
Which one is right for you depends hugely on what you want to do with it. Do you mainly want a laptop on which to do regular work but can also shapeshift into a tablet for the odd task? Or do you want a tablet which you can also do a bit of typing on when the need arises?
A convertible laptop will usually have a non-removable screen which flips almost 360 degrees in order to change it into a tablet. This style (shown below) also means you can use it in other ‘modes’ such as tent or display.
Lenovo’s Yoga range is possibly the best known convertible laptop and has been the inspiration for many rivals. Microsoft Surface Book is also laptop first, but still has a removable screen.
Meanwhile, a convertible tablet (below) is more like a regular tablet but either has a keyboard which attaches magnetically or a fancy case which creates a laptop-like experience. The keyboard may connect over Bluetooth in some cases.
What specs should I look for?
Much of what you need to look for in a convertible laptop / tablet is the same as for a regular laptop and tablet.
You’ll want to get the best specifications for your money including the processor, amount of memory and storage plus a good-quality screen. Make sure you read our reviews to find out more, including benchmark results.
The design, though, is going to be a big part of your buying decision and you need to choose a device which fits your needs best. A laptop-first design is likely to be bigger and heavier but is likely to offer longer battery life (there’s more space for a bigger battery).
This type should also provide a better typing experience and there’s normally more physical ports, including USBs and video outputs.
Although a convertible tablet might not have many physical ports (some still have full-size USB though), they are smaller and lighter than a hybrid laptop making them great for travelling. The tradeoff is that using it as a laptop is often fiddly and awkward. Look for one with a clever design and proper keys. A trackpad is also a boon, despite touchscreens, but not all feature one.
Best 2 in 1 laptops for 2017 – Convertible and hybrid reviews
The new Surface Pro is a superb 2-in-1. It’s beautifully built and performs well. The screen is excellent and even the speakers sound good.
However, it’s very expensive, especially when you add the cost of the Type Cover and – if you need one – the Surface Pen. Few will opt for the base model, and you’ll pay a heck of a lot more for a Core i7.
Ultimately, while a fantastic device, it’s hard to recommend the Surface Pro unless money is no object.
Read our Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review.
There is a great deal to like and rave about the Surface Pro 4. The design is thinner and lighter for starters. The screen is awesome, there’s plenty of power available, the new Surface Pen is better and the Type Cover is a vast improvement on the last one. However, the design is inherently awkward at times, it’s more expensive that a lot of laptops and the Type Cover, which you’ll pretty much need, isn’t included lowering the value.
Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review.
The Lenovo Yoga 900 is a laptop that really asks you to believe in its design style. After all, it doesn’t come cheap and for the price you can get a laptop with much more power if you’re not out for something immensely portable. That’s where this laptop excels: portability. As well as being slim, light and all-round lovely, the smart hinge lets it sit where most other laptops just can’t. The battery should last through a full day’s work as well.
The trackpad can feel fiddly and the display isn’t perfect, but if you’re feeling flush this is one of the top ultraportables around.
Read our Lenovo Yoga 900 review.
Microsoft thinks it has made the ultimate laptop, which is also a tablet. It’s difficult to argue.
There are five models, with the top offering the new £2,649 Surface Book i7. We reviewed the original Intel Core i7 Skylake model with 16GB of RAM and Nvidia GPU, and found excellent performance but have to point out the Core i5 model offers better value.
The Surface Book is very angular, a slightly unusual shape for a laptop with a 3:2 aspect ratio, though we got used to it quickly. The 13.5in PixelSense display is stunning, with a crisp 267ppi density. Colour reproduction, brightness and viewing angles all excel. The Book itself is made from magnesium alloy, lighter and more durable than aluminium.
The Book splits apart into the 724g screen with a 18Wh battery and the 860g keyboard with a 51Wh battery (battery life is fantastic at 16 hours, 25 minutes). The most striking part of its design its the ‘Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge’, which looks cool and improves balance. Meanwhile, an equally cool ‘Muscle Wire Lock’ uses an electrically charged nickel titanium alloy to hold it all together. The Surface Pen attaches magnetically to the side.
You’ll find ports for USB 3.0 (x2), Mini-DisplayPort and an SD Card reader. USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 are missing, but this is still an amazing example of Windows laptop tech.
Read our Microsoft Surface Book review.
Whether the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA is a good buy or not depends entirely on your priorities. If you want to open up loads of browser windows and have plenty of apps open at once, this isn’t for you.
The Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA only really runs well with an app or two running, and no data-intensive background processes going on. In laptop terms it’s a whelp.
However, good stamina, a smart design and good, non-cramped keyboard make it a great low-cost choice if you want something to do some writing/emailing/browsing while you’re away from home.
Objectively, the Surface 3 is the best compromise between a laptop and tablet. It’s a highly portable gadget which can run full Windows programs and it costs less than the Surface Pro 3.
It’s not exactly cheap by the time you’ve added the keyboard and stylus, though. It’s also only good for lightweight duties – it’s less powerful than laptops costing the same – and some people will find the screen is too small for ‘proper’ productivity.
It’s a better work tool than an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard, it has to be said, and if you only need to use office apps and a web browser, it could be exactly what you’re after.
Most people are better off spending more on the Surface Pro 3 or, if you don’t need a touchscreen, a Core M laptop such as the Asus UX305F.
Read our Microsoft Surface 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 December 2015
- RRP: £729 (32GB, WiFi); £819 (128GB, WiFi); £909 (256GB, WiFi); £939 (128GB, cellular), £1029 (256GB, cellular), US$799 (32GB, WiFi); $899 (128GB, WiFi); $999 (256GB, WiFi); $1,029 (128GB, cellular), $1129 (256GB, cellular)
At £679, few people will buy the iPad Pro instead of an iPad Air 2. It has a great screen and plenty of power, but do you really have a need for this hulking tablet? 32GB of storage will prove too limiting for most people, and the 128GB option with the Pencil and/or keyboard is expensive (that’s ignoring the £65 silicone rear cover). If you’re considering the Pro, go to an Apple store and hold one to understand exactly how bulky and hefty the new tablet really is. If you can live with all that the Pro is a great choice – just don’t expect it to replace your laptop.
Read our Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch review.
The TabPro S is undeniably a beautiful and capable piece of hardware and it can be a joy to use. The problem is, it’s not a joy to use all the time. The 2-in-1 form factor can work, and we still think that the Surface Pro 4 is the best example of this, thanks to its build quality and integrated kickstand. The TabPro S is an excellent computer, but it remains frustrating that it doesn’t always excel in being one. Hopefully Samsung will consider improving simple things like the stand on the inevitable sequel if it is to continue to charge this much money for it.
Read our Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review.
There’s no doubt that the iPad Pro 9.7 is the best tablet Apple has ever made, combining the power of the original into the stunning form factor of the iPad Air 2 (with a camera bump). Apple has also added new features such as upgraded cameras and one of the best displays we’ve seen on a tablet. Whether you should buy one is another question, though, and depends on your perspective (see above). For some, the iPad Pro 9.7 will be the perfect balance between work and play while for others it will simply not be up to the job. What we can say is that it’s certainly not the ‘ultimate PC replacement’ as it’s trying to do too many things at once.
Read our Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch review.
Google Pixel C
As a standalone tablet, the Pixel C is superb. It’s better than the HTC-made Nexus 9 which was great but not exceptional. Which the ‘C’ most certainly is. Storage is a bit limited, but if you can live with 32GB it’s good value at £399.
Paying an extra £119 for the keyboard is something we can’t see many buyers doing. If typing is a priority, you’d be better off spending your £518 on a decent ultraportable laptop as Android Marshmallow – good as it is – isn’t nearly as versatile as Windows. And while the keyboard is well designed, you’ll still prefer a full-size laptop keyboard. If you need to run Windows apps, the consider the Surface 3 which is slightly cheaper – even with the optional keyboard – but remember that there are even cheaper options such as the Asus Transformer T100HA.
Read our Google Pixel C review.