Convertibles, or 2-in-1 laptops as we could also call them, are not a new breed of portable computers. In fact, Tablet PCs have been used in business environments since the 1990′s. But they’ve become a lot more popular in the last years and a lot more affordable as well.
Intel definitely had a word to say in this, as they’ve pushed the hybrid ultrabook concept strongly and as a result, we now have at least 15 good convertibles to choose from. We’ll talk about them in this post.
Before we do that though, let’s see what you should expect from a 2-in-1 ultrabooks. Well, these are mostly sleek and portable laptops capable of offering good-everyday performance and long battery life. On top of those, they come with some sort of flippable or detachable touchscreen, which allows us to use the devices as regular clam-shell notebooks, but also as tablets and several modes in between. And that makes them versatile and adaptable to all sorts of use situations.
These kind of 2-in-1 machines come in many shapes right now, with a variety of different features and price tags. We’ll split the post in two main sections, premium 2-in-1 laptops and affordable hybrids, and I’ll tell you a few words about each units positive and negative aspects. Thus, by the end of the article, you should be able to pick one of these computers for yourself, the one that best fits your needs and budget. Or at least you’ll know that there’s no convertible laptop that can meet your expectations right now.
Premium 2-in-1 ultrabooks and convertibles
If you want the best such devices available in stores right now, you’ll find them in here. But be aware that they don’t come cheap.
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro – my detailed review
This is Lenovo’s top-of-the-line convertible ultrabook these days and builds on the previous Yoga series. It has lost weight, is has been slightly polished and has got a few noticeable upgrades, including several Intel Haswell configurations and a sharp 3200 x 1800 px IPS touchscreen.
The form factor was kept mostly unchanged though from the original Yogas, as screen folds around the hinge and onto to the back, to 360 degrees, and that leads to several use modes: Laptop, Stand, Desk and Tablet.
Now, the Yoga 2 Pro is still quite hefty for a tablet, tipping the scales at roughly 3 lbs, and the form factor does leave the keyboard exposed on the back in slate mode, but even so, the tablet experience is pretty good with this one. The laptop experience is even better, as the Yoga 2 Pro comes with a decent keyboard and trackpad, plus a fair selection of ports for a convertible, although other devices do offer more options here.
The Yoga’s only major inconvenience is the rather short battery life though, of about 5 hours of daily use on a charge, but if you can live with that, there’s a fair chance you’ll get along fine with this computer. Especially since you’re getting a lot for what you’re going to pay for it. The cheapest configurations start at around $900 these days, and for roughly $1100 you can get yourself a Core i5-4200U processor with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD, which should be more than enough for everyday activities. ( Follow this link for up-to-date offers and potential discounts and this link for my in-depth review of this laptop).
It’s also worth noting that the Yoga 2 Pro lacks a digitizer and proper pen support, and here’s where the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga comes in play.
Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga – my review
Lenovo put their versatile Yoga form factor on a ThinkPad, and the result is this durable and sober ThinkPad Yoga, with a few extra features over the other Lenovo Yogas, but a few drawbacks as well.
For starters, there’s a 12.5 inch FHD low-glare screen on this unit, with a digitizer. A Pen is included (with most versions, with some you’ll have to buy it separately) and you can easily tuck it away in its dedicated slot inside the laptop when not using it. Besides these, you do get more ports with the ThinkPad Yoga, an improved keyboard and a few business environment features. The keys are actually mechanically locked when having this laptop in tablet mode, so they are not as exposed as on the other Yogas. Last but not least, the ThinkPad Yoga is rigid and stronger, as it’s meant to live its life in a much more brutal environment, where it will be shoved and hassled around each day.
All these do make the ThinkPad Yoga somewhat bulky and heavy for a 12.5 incher, but if you need what it has to offer, you’ll be just fine with its 3.5 pounds 0.8 of an inch thick body. On top of that, the battery life on the TY is just average, around 6 hours, which might not be enough to get your through a whole day’s work on a charge.
The ThinkPad Yoga starts at under $1000 these days, for the base version, with an Intel Core i3 Haswell processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD, and adding extra options can quickly push this one closer to 1.5G. There’s a fair chance you’ll find it slightly discounted online though, but don’t get your hopes too high.
Bottom line, the ThinkPad Yoga is not cheap, but is one of the few convertibles available these days ready for business. In other words, this might not be the first choice for everyone, but if you need what it has to offer and you’re OK with the extra bulk, the ThinkPad Yoga won’t disappoint. More details are available in my detailed review, so have a look.
Dell XPS 12
The Dell XPS 12 is another 12.5 inch device with a swivable screen, but in this case, the display rotates inside its outer-frame, as you can see in the pictures below. I can’t say that’s necessarily a better way to do it, but I can say that this solution is fairly robust and hopefully will prove itself reliable on the long term.
Unlike the ThinkPad Yoga, the XPS 12 is more of a consumer oriented device. It lacks a digitizer and proper pen support, although you can still use capacitive styluses with it. It’s also more compact and lighter, tipping the scale at 3.35 lbs, despite the fact that it bundles a 55WH battery that allows it to go for 7-8 hours of use on a charge. If you add the good keyboard, powerful hardware, the high-quality display and the accurate trackpad to the mix, the XPS 12 really sounds like a potential winner.
It’s not all roses with this laptop though, as it tends to get a bit too warm in everyday use and does lack a SD-card reader. But those are probably not enough to steer you away from the XPS 12 if you like all its other aspects.
The price however might. The base version of the Dell XPS 12 retails for around $1200, with a Core i5-4200U processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. Higher end configurations have a list price of around $1500, but you can find actually find these greatly discounted online, for as low as $1050 these days. Keep in mind that we are talking about the Haswell iterations of the Dell XPS 12 here. Older IvyBridge configs are also available and those sell for a lot less (around $800), but run even hotter than the 2014 model, lack even more ports and don’t last as long on a charge.
Surface Pro 3
The Surface Pro 3 in an impressive Haswell powered laptop, thin, light and packed with tons of features. But Microsoft claims this can easily replace a laptop for your everyday activities, that’s why we’ve included it in here.
The thing is, if you want a fast and stylish Windows 8.1 slate, there’s hardly a better option than this one. The Surface Pro has a few distinct particularities, like the 3:2 aspect ratio High-res screen, the very quiet cooling system (because, as any other Core equipped device, the Surface Pro 3 is fan cooled) and an a matching Keyboard Folio that you can attach to the slate for the actual “notebook” mode. The Surface Pro 3 is a lot sleeker than the previous generation Surfaces and has seen a handful of tweaks and fixes, like the redesigned kick-stand that now allows you to adjust the tablet at any given angle, and not just on a few predefined positions.
But even so, while there’s no doubt the Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft’s best computer to date, I don’t think it’s capable of actually replacing a proper ultrabook. It lacks the comfortable clam-shell form factor that makes laptops so easy to use on the lap, it lacks the connectivity and the keyboard/touchpad experience, to name just some of the things that set the Surface Pro 3 apart from an actual ultrabook.
That doesn’t mean that the Surface Pro 3 is not worth buying, it definitely is, although it does not come not cheap. The base configuration, with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage space does start at $799, but higher-tier configurations will quickly ramp up the price. A Core i7/8GB RAM/256 GB SSD combo will set you back around $1500 for instance, and that’s without the Keyboard Folio that costs an extra hundred and so. But I’m confident all the configs will get discounted down the line, so check out this link for offers and potential deals.
Long story short, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to buy a Surface Pro 3, a device that actually blurs the line between a Windows tablet and a highly-portable laptop, but it’s not yet there, it’s not yet ready to replace a laptop for good. Not for me at least.
Asus Transformer Books: TX300, T300, TRIO and the popular T100
The Transformer Books are fully baked Windows 8 tablets that can be used as standalone devices, or connected to some multifunctional docking stations that bundle a keyboard, some ports and in some cases, a few extras, like a different hardware platform of their own, a HDD or an extra battery. In other words, with the Transfoor Books, the hardware is tucked behind the display, and the entire screen ensemble is completely detachable from the lower part of the laptop.
The Transformer Book TX300 is an older Ivy Bridge powered model that I reviewed a while ago. A good convertible, bur rather large and heavy.
The Transformer Book T300 is a plastic-made version of the TX300 mentioned above, with Haswell hardware, which retails for roughly $850 these days ( or even less ). The Transformer Book Trio on the other hand is somewhat more interesting, as a premium looking device that dual-boots Windows and Android, but the experience is not always flawless and the series is available in limited regions around the globe. You can read more about these over here, so have a look.
There’s also a much more affordable Transformer Book, the T100, which sells for $400 or even less, if you can catch some discounts. For that you’re getting a compact 10 inch Tablet with a detachable keyboard-dock, powered by Intel Atom processors, running Windows 8.1 and capable of dealing fine with everyday tasks like browsing, editing documents or watching some movies and running some casual games. You’re also getting a device that can last for 8 hours on a charge. But you’ll need to understand what this one can do and don’t ask too much out of it, otherwise you might find it slow or sluggish. If you do that, the T100 is going to be a great little fellow, considering its price. Follow this link for my detailed review, if the T100 has caught your attention.
Sony Vaio Fit Multi Flip series
There are 3 different members in this family, a 13 incher, a 14 incher and a 15 inch ultrabook. All pack Haswell hardware and touchscreens that flip around a middle placed hinge, in order to offer a laptop, a tablet and a presentation mode for these devices, as you’ll see from the video below. All integrate an N-Trig digitizer and come with matching Sony pens.
The 13 incher, the Vaio Fit 13A Flip PC, weighs 2.9 pounds, is thin and sleek and starts at $1100, for the Intel Core-i5 version with 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD, but all models should be available slightly discounted online.
The 14 incher is even cheaper, as it starts at only $800, while the 15 incher packs a few extra features, like a higher resolution 2880 x 1620 px display and dedicated Nvidia GT 735M graphics. Those are reserved for the versions of the Vaio Fit 15 Flip PC, the base versions are much closer to the 14 and the 13 inch models in terms of specs and start at just under one grand. However, you might find some online discounts on both options if you’ll follow this link.
All in all, the Flip Vaios are fairly interesting devices. They are sleek, powerful, offer a convertible touchscreen with an embedded digitizer and are properly priced. But they are not without flaws though. Among them, the noisy fans, sharp edges, screen balance problems and rather short battery life (especially on the 13 inch model).
Sony Vaio Duo 13 and 11
The Duo 13 is another interesting convertible, a 13 inch slider, that can be used either as a tablet or as a laptop, since a full-size keyboard and a tiny trackpad are revealed when sliding up the screen.
Intel Haswell hardware motorizes the Duo 13 and a large battery ensures up to 10 hours of real-life use on a single charge. The Duo 13 bundles a touchscreen of course, with a Full HD IPS panel and digitizer, so you can use it alongside the included pen for taking notes, writing, drawing and so on. There’s a lot more I could tell you about it, but you’d better check out my thorough review for more details.
The Duo 13 has a list price for $1399 for the base model with the i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD, but you can actually find this a lot cheaper online, for $1100 or so. More beefy configurations are also available so at the end of the day, if you’re alright with the form factor and its shortcomings (can’t adjust the screen’s viewing angle and the palm rest is tiny), the Vaio DUo 13 is a 2-in-1 laptop to consider.
Sony also offers the Vaio Duo 11, an older model, launched in 2012, with an 11.6 inch screen, Ivy Bridge hardware and mostly similar features as the Duo 13. You can read more about it here, and you can find it compared to the Duo 13 in this post.
Affordable hybrids and convertibles
This section is reserved for more friendly-priced devices, that sell for less than $1000 and some of them for even under $500.
The basic 2-in-1 mini-laptops
If you only have $500 or less for a highly-portable machine that can do a fine job both as a tablet and as a laptop, you should definitely look at some of the devices in this section. These are mainly built on Intel low-power hardware platforms, namely latest generation ATOM or Celeron processors, and while they won’t excel in terms of performance or multitasking capabilities, they still pack enough firepower to handle fine the standard everyday activities, like browsing, editing texts, checking out email, listening to music, watching movies and so on. Check out some of these options below:
- Asus Transformer Pad T100 (review) – a 10-inch tablet with a docking unit, the T100 was launched a few months ago and was met with great success. The price of under $400 is to “blame” for that (potential discounts are available here), but that alone would not be enough to attract users. The Transformer Pad T100 is also a fairly-nicely built device capable of delivering a good-everyday experience, hence to the Intel Atom Bay-Trail Z series processors powering it, and a battery life of roughly 8 hours on a single charge.
- Acer Aspire Switch 10 – this is Acer’s iteration of the exact same concept: an Atom Bay-Trail pushed 10 inch tablet with a latch-able docking-unit. Being released several months after the Asus T100, the Switch 10 benefits of a few extras: a metallic case, as opposed to the glossy plastic one on the Asus, a more advanced dock, with multiple user positions, and a brighter screen, which will come in handy if you plan on using it outside or in other bright-light environments. On the other hand, those who bought the Aspire Switch 10 complained about poor battery life (up to 5 hours on a charge) and some design-flaws of the docking unit. Either way, the Acer 2-in-1 is an alternative to Asus’s solution and sells for under $400 as well. See this link for more details and some user reviews.
- Dell Inspiron 11 3000 series - a slightly larger device, with an 11.6 inch screen and a Yoga-like form factor. And also available in a few more hardware options, as it is powered by either a Bay-Trail Celeron N2830 processor or a Haswell Pentium CPU. The latter option should definitely give it a bit more punch when dealing with multiple applications at once. On top of that, the Inspiron 11 does offers a larger and more comfortable keyboard, more ports and a battery that can push it for about 6 hours on a charge, all these inside a 0.8 inch thick, 3 pounds body. Last but not least, Dell went really aggressive with the pricing here, as this series starts just under $400 for the Atom version, while the Pentium configurations will sell for around $450. See this link for up-to-date prices and some user reviews.
- HP Split X2 – a 13 inch Windows 8.1 tablet with a connectable docking station, powered by Intel Core Y Haswell hardware, which, alongside the SSD storage, translates in even faster performance than the Dell Inspiron above. There’s also a matching docking unit, that offers a keyboard, but also potentially an extra battery and storage unit. The HP Split series though only gets a 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen, which is rather mediocre for a tablet these days, but when you’ll look at what you’re getting for the price, you might be able to get past this aspect. The Core i3 / 4GB RAM / 128 GB SSD version of the Split X2 sells these days for about $550 (see this link for details).
- If you do want a similar device with a 1920 x 1080 px IPS screen though, HP also offers the Spectre X2 tablet, but this one starts at $650 for the same specs mentioned above, which is a bit too much for my liking.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 and 13 series
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is a laptop whose screen can flip over t0 360 degrees, transforming it into a tablet, and is in fact the device that actually pioneered this form factor a couple of years ago.
The original Yoga was released in 2013 and Lenovo also worked at a successor, a Haswell equipped version, that hit the stores in 2014. That one is called the IdeaPad Yoga 2 13. It comes with a 13.3 inch FHD IPS screen, a nice keyboard and trackpad, a fair selection of ports and a few different hardware configurations. It’s still rather bulky and heavy for a 2-in-1, tipping the scale at roughly 3.5 lbs, but it does have a good price on its side. The base version, with a Core i5-4200U CPU, 4GB RAM and 500 GB HDD+16GB SSD storage starts at $899, but you can actually find this config, and the others available, slightly discounted online, if you’ll follow this link.
The original IdeaPad Yoga is still a device to consider. Compared to the 2014 version, last year’s model is cheaper, packs more ports and uses somewhat nicer materials for the casing, but only settles for Intel IvyBridge hardware and a 1600 x 900 px TN touchscreen.
There’s also an 11.6 inch version of the Yoga 2, which starts at as little as $600, as you can see on Lenovo’s website. For that you’re getting a 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen as well, an Intel Haswell Y series hardware platform (lower-power hardware than the U series) and a rather small bettery that can last for about 5 hours on a charge, all inside a 3.2 lbs device. Again, not very portable, especially for a 11 incher, but if you like the form factor and don’t have a lot to spend on a compact 2-in-1 laptop, IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 can be a decent option for you.
Asus Transformer Book Flip series – details in here
This is Asus interpretation of the same Yoga form-factor, in a series that spreads from 13 to 15 inchers, with prices starting at around $600. All are built on Intel Haswell hardware, all feature 360 degrees convertible touchscreens and all are available in a bunch of different configurations, with up to 12 GB of RAM, SSD or HDD storage and even dedicated graphics.
I reviewed the 13 inch model, the Asus Transformer Book Flip T300, over here. It’s definitely not a bad device, with a metallic body and a fairly comfortable keyboard, similar to the one we’ve seen on older Asus ultrabooks. It can go for about 6 hours on a charge and starts at roughly $700, but that’s for the Core i3 version with a low-resolution TN panel. If you want the IPS FHD screen and some beefier processors (and you should), you’ll have to pay at least $800, but I’m confident this will get lower in time.
The 15.6 inch Book Flip T500 (reviewed over here) builds on the same recipe as the TP300. You’re getting more ports with this one, a larger keyboard with a Num-Pad area and Nvidia 840M graphics for the high-end models. A decent Core i5 configuration with hybrid storage and 6 GB of RAM will set you back about $800 bucks, which to be frank, is a bit much for a 15 incher, especially since the form-factor is not really a selling point in this size-segment. After all, I doubt you’ll actually want to use a 5 pounds 15 inch slate much.
Asus also has a TP450 unit in this series, with a 14 inch screen, but this one might not be that widely available. However, the TP550 model will, another 15.6 incher which ditches the metallic case for an all-plastic one (weighs about 5.5 pounds), gets a DVD unit by default, Nvidia 820M graphics and only a 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen. So spec wise, the TP550 is not impressive, but it will be cheaper than the other 15 incher in this series, starting at under $600 for the basic configuration.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 2 14 and 15 line
This is Lenovo’s line of 14 and 15.6 inch affordable ultrabooks, starting at around $500 (and going for even less online), with decent specs, plenty of ports and a screen that flips on the back, like on the Yogas but only to about 270 degrees. And that means than unlike the Transformers above, the Flexes cannot be used as tablets, but only in Laptop, Tend and Presentation modes.
The original Flex 15 line was released in 2013 and an update followed in 2014, bringing along Intel Haswell hardware and a few minor design changes. However, the new version also got a smaller 32 Wh battery (48Wh one on the original Flex 15), without actually loosing weight (5.1 lbs) and that translates in about 4-5 hours of everyday use for a mid-level Core i5 configuration. On top of that, you’ll only be getting 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreens with this series, which can’t really stand next to the IPS displays on the Asus line. On the other hand, the Lenovo Flex 2 15 are about $150 to $200 cheaper than a similarly equipped Transformer Book TP500, so when it comes to what you’re getting for the money, this series is tough to beat in the 15 inch segment.
The 14 inch version of the Flex is identical to its larger kin, just slightly more compact (weighs 4.2 pounds) and even more affordable, as the Core i5-4210U CPU/ 4GB RAM / 500 GB HDD configuration sells for under $600 these days.
Long story short, the IdeaPad Flex 2 laptops are short of anything impressive, but if you are after a nicely balanced laptop with fast hardware, a convertible touchscreen and no major drawbacks, you’ll have a hard time finding anything comparable for the money. Oh, and if you’re looking for discounts and potential deals on these units, you might want to check out this link.
Acer Aspire R7
This is perhaps the most bizarre 15.6 inch laptop in this list, for two reasons. Number one, the screen swivels around a very sturdy metallic leg, as you can see in the pictures below, and that allows for a few different use modes: Laptop, Tablet, presentation and the Star-Trek Enterprise mode, with the display actually hovering over the keyboard. Number two, Acer decided the put the trackpad on top of the keyboard, to accommodate this form factor, and that will take a lot of time to get used to.
Other from that, the Aspire R7 is a good looking and sturdy built laptop that packs powerful Haswell hardware, plenty of ports, a large 54 Wh battery and a Full HD IPS screen with stylus support. Be aware that there’s also an older R7 model, with Intel Ivy Bridge hardware and a few other minor differences; you should not look at that one, but at the Aspire R7-572 model described above.
So, long story short, with a price tag of $900 for an Intel Core i5-4200U based configuration or even less these days and no major flaws, as long as you’re OK with the form factor, the Aspire R7 is a 15 inch convertible you should consider.
Other 2-in-1s worth mentioning
This list consists of a few older hybrids that you might still find in stores, but are no longer good enough to make it to the recommended list. However, for the right price and as long as you’re fine with their shortcomings, these are still worth your money.
- Asus Taichi – this is an ODD beast, as it offers two different displays, a touchscreen on the lid-cover, and matte screen on the inside. And that opens doors for a lot of use modes, as you can use the two screens independently, or together, if you want to. The 11.6 inch version of the Taichi is available for about $800 these days, maybe even less online, and it bundles Intel’s IvyBridge platforms. A 13 inch version is also available on some markets, larger and heavier, but also with an improved selection of ports and bigger battery. However, the Taichi line was never upgraded to Haswell hardware and will probably never will.
- Lenovo ThinkPad Twist – another IvyBridge ultra-portable, with a slightly bulkier body and a classic tablet-PC form factor, with the screen swiveling around a center-placed hinge. It packs a 12.5 inch display, a fair series of ports and a tough-built body, like a proper ThinkPad should. That makes it rather heavy, at 3.5 pounds, but some of you might take the extra weight and bulk for a sturdier construction, and a very good price. These days the ThinkPad Twist sells for as low as $500 ( see this link for more details ).
- Lenovo ThinkPad Helix – this is Lenovo’s interpretation of the same concept displayed by the Transformer Book TX300: an independent Windows 8 tablet running on Intel IvyBridge hardware, with a multifunctional docking unit. The Helix is more sober looking than the TX300 and more rigid as well, integrates cellular connectivity and digitizer and pen support, so you can use it for taking notes, sketching, drawing and so on. The Helix is also more compact and lighter than the Transformer Book, sporting an 11.6 inch screen, but it’s fairly pricey, selling for $1400 and up, and not without flaws: runs hot and noisy and the entire docking unit is bulky and awkwardly designed.
- Dell XPS 11 – this is highly portable 11 inch laptop. It weighs 2.5 pounds and is only 0.6 of an inch thick. On top of that, it is more powerful than many other 11 inch 2-in-1s, as it is motorized by an Intel Haswell Core Y hardware platform. And it last for roughly 6 hours on a charge. And it packs a splendid 2560 x 1440 px IPS touchscreen. But why is the XPS 11 higher on the list? Well, for two reasons: it’s very expensive, starting at over $1000 (although you can find it discounted these days, for under $800 in most cases) and packs a crappy keyboard.
These are most of the best convertible ultrabooks you can find in stores right now. More are going to become available in the next months, so stay tuned, I’m constantly updating the list, adding new products as they hit the stores.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in a highly portable laptop, you should also check out my list of the best ultrabooks of the moment, my selection of highly recommended Chromebooks and maybe this other list of more affordable ultrabook alternatives.
Drawing the line on these 2-in-1 laptops, it’s impossible to say which is the best unit in this class, and that’s because there are some many good different models available, with different features and form factors. I personally like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and the Dell XPS 12 more than the others, but for you these could be options only if you’re looking for premium design and performance and you’re ready to pay premium for these.
At the end of the day though, you know exactly what you need from your next computer and how much you’re planing to spend for it, that’s why the decision is all yours. My indications are only meant to help, to shed some light on each unit’s particularities, their strong points and their quirks.
If you need more help deciding though, if you spot any new product that’s not included in here or if you just have something to ask or add to this list, don’t hesitate to use the comments section below, I’m around and I’ll reply as soon as possible. And before you go, keep in mind that such posts take countless hours of work, so if you appreciate the result, make sure to show this link to your friends and stay around for future updates.