With Windows 8, a new class or portable laptops was reborn: convertibles, also known these days as convertible ultrabooks or ultrabook hybrids, or in other words, sleek portable laptops with a touchscreen, that can be used either as a regular notebook, as a tablet or something in between.
These kind of devices come in many shapes right now, from the classic ultrabooks with a rotating screen, just like on the Tablet PCs we’ve seen in the last years, to ultrabooks with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet or devices that can be flipped over and transformed in either a laptop, or a slate.
These are just some of the available designs, but most of them have a few things in common: they are sleek, they are fast and they come with a touchscreen. And run Windows 8, of course.
Anyway, in this post I’m going to go through the available convertible ultrabooks and tell you a couple of things about the ones that I find best buys right now. If you’re after other types of ultrabooks with touchscreens though, stay tuned, we’ll talk about those in our following posts. And in the meantime, you might also want to check out my detailed article on the best ultrabooks of the moment.
This is Lenovo’s top-of-the-line ultrabook right know and builds on the previous Yoga. 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, as the Yoga’s screen flips around the hinge and onto to the back, to 360 degrees, and that allows us to use the device as a laptop, as a stand or as a tablet. The Yoga 2 Pro is still quite hefty for a tablet, and in this case you do have to get used to having the keyboard exposed, on the back.
If you can live with the form factor and the rather short battery life (about 5 hours on average use), the Yoga 2 Pro can prove to be a great machine. It’s fairly cheap for a Haswell convertible, starting at around $1000 (and can be found actually cheaper online), and for $1400 you can get yourself a powerful configuration, with an i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. But it lacks a digitizer, if that’s something you’re interested in. And here’s where the ThinkPad Yoga comes in play.
Lenovo put their versatile Yoga form factor or a ThinkPad, and the result is this durable and sober ThinkPad Yoga, with that same convertible screen we’ve seen on the Yoga 2 Pro, but a few extra features.
For starters, there’s a 12.5 inch FHD low-glare screen on this unit, with a digitizer. A Pen is included as well and you can easily tuck it away in its dedicated place when not using it. Besides these, you do get more ports with the ThinkPad Yoga and cellular connectivity, both much needed in business environments. Last but not least, the ThinkPad Yoga is more durable, stronger than the other Yogas, as it’s meant to live its life in a much more brutal environment, where it will be shoved and hassled around each day.
Of course, all these do make the Thinkpad Yoga bulkier and heavier than the other Yogas, 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.
All these will set you back $1299, for the base version, with an Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD, while adding extra options can quickly push this one over 2G. You might find the ThinkPad Yoga slightly discounted online, but don’t get your hopes too high.
Bottom line, the ThinkPad Yoga is not cheap, but is the only convertible available these days ready for business. In other words, this isn’t the first choice for everyone, but if you need what it has to offers and you’re OK with the extra bulk, the ThinkPad Yoga won’t disappoint.
Sony launched a brand new series of convertibles for the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, called the Sony Vaio Flip line or the Vaio Fit Multi-Flip. There 3 different members in this family, a 13 incher, a 14 incher and a 15 inch ultrabook. All pack Haswell hardware and touchscreens which flips around a hinge in it middle in order to offer a laptop, a tablet and a presentation mode for these devices, as you’ll see from the videos below. All integrate a digitizer within the display as well, and can be used with Sony’s provided pens.
The 13 incher, the Vaio Fit 13A Flip PC, weighs 2.9 pounds , is thin and sleek and starts at $1100, but that’s for an Intel Core i3 version. The i5 version with 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD goes for $100, but all models should be available slightly cheaper online.
The 14 incher is even cheaper, as it starts at only $749, while the 15 incher packs a few extra features, like a higher resolution 2880 x 1620 px display and dedicated Nvidia GT 735M graphics, while it weighs around 5 pounds. But those will be found on to top versions of the Vaio Fit 15 Flip PC, the base versions are much closer to the 14 inch model 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, these Flip Vaios are surely interesting devices. They are sleek, powerful, offer a convertible touchscreen with an embedded digitizer and aren’t as expensive as you might expect. But they are not without flaws though, like some very noisy fans, sharp edges and balance problems, especially on the 13 inch model. If you’re willing to live with those though, the Flips could be what you’re looking for.
The Duo 13 is perhaps the best convertible of the moment. It’s 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 user on a single charge. This Vaio bundles a touchscreen of course, with a Full HD IPS panel and a digitizer, so you can use it alongside the included pen for taking notes, writing, drawing and so on.
Anyway, you’ll find out a lot more about the Sony Vaio Duo 13 from my thorough review posted a while ago here on the site.
If you’re convinced that this is a good device and you’re fine with the slider form factor and its shortcomings (can’t adjust the screen’s viewing angle), you should know that the Duo 13 starts at $1399, which is pricey, but on par with most other Haswell machines right now. And on top of that, several webstores offer it discounted these days, as you’ll find out from here.
The Duo 11 is an older model, launched in 2012, with an 11.6 inch screen, Ivy Bridge hardware and mostly all of the features of the Duo 13. You can read more about it here, and you can find it compared to the Duo 13 here, as this is still something you could consider if you’re on a tighter budget.
The Transformer Books are some fully backed 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.
The Transformer Book TX300 is the only member of this family available right now, and you can find all about it in my thorough review over here.
However, Asus announced that a few more Transformer Books will hit the stores later this year, all with Intel Haswell hardware. There’s the Transformer Book T300, a more affordable version of the TX300 mentioned above, and the more interesting Transformer Book Trio, that promises to run Windows and Android. There’s not much we know about these for the time being, but what we do is gathered in this article, so have a look.
There’s also a newer and 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 the latest generation 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 6 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.
Available in two versions, with an 11.6 or and 13.3 inch screen, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is basically a laptop whose screen can flip over when you want to use the device as a tablet. However, the screen flips over the bottom of the laptop, and it does not rotate 180 degrees like on the classic tablet PCs we’ve seen in the past.
This makes the Yoga unique, but it also leaves the keyboard and trackpad exposed when using the device in tablet mode, at least that’s how I felt when using it. So while the design and build quality are great, I’m not completely confident in the form factor.
The YOGA is available in two versions. The 13.3 inch YOGA is indeed and Ultrabook, built on an Intel Core platform, with SSD storage, up to 8 GB of RAM and Windows 8. It also has an IPS panel with HD+ 1600 x 900 px resolution, weighs about 3.4 pounds and it’s going to be a beast, although the battery life isn’t that great on this one.
The Yoga 13 starts at $899 on Lenovo’s website. However, you will find it discounted in some of the online stores listed in this other post.
The 11.6 inch version, called the Yoga 11S, is built on lower power Intel Y series platform, packs an HD touchscreen and runs Windows 8 as well. In other words, the 11S is more compact, lighter (weighs 3.1 pounds) and not as powerful as the Yoga 13, but at the same time is cheaper, starting at $699 on Lenovo’s website. So if you really want a small convertible and don’t expect to ask much from it, the IdeaPad Yoga 11S can be a decent option.
Unlike the other devices on top, the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist takes the classic tablet PC design and just puts it into a slimmer and lighter device, so it will fit the ultrabook requirements.
Thus, the ThinkPad Twist is an ultrabook convertible, with a screen that rotates 180 degrees around its vertical axis. In other words, the Twist has a hinge in the middle, holding the screen together, and one-hinge designs can be a bit fragile and wobbly unless you’ll be very careful when rotating that display. Still, I own such a computer and it’s still working fine even today, years after I bought it.
The twist comes with a 12.5 inch HD screen and packs powerful hardware, plus SSD storage and all the other goodies. Unlike the devices above though, it can last more than 5 hours on a charge and packs a full-set of ports, including Ethernet, which are going to prove crucial in business environments.
The ThinkPad Twist a bit bulkier and heavier than its competitors, at 3.5 pounds, but it’s still highly portable. On top of that, it’s one of the most affordable devices in this class, as it starts at $750 (but you can find it for less on some webstores). Of course, the top configs are significantly pricier, as you can see on Lenovo’s website.
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.
I can’t say that’s a better way to do it, but I can say that this solution is more robust and should be more reliable on the long term, as the screen no longer has a single hinge, but two.
However, the XPS 12 is more expensive than the ThinkPad Twist, starting at $1100. It does share the same hardware platform with the Twist above (although there are also some Intel Haswell versions of the XPS 12) and the same Windows 8 OS, but is better built and better looking as well, plus packs a Full HD IPS panel, as opposed the the lower resolution screen on the Lenovo. The collection of ports is not however as good and neither is the battery life.
On a first look, the Asus Taichi looks like an ultrabook with a glass lid cover. When turning it on though… you’ll see that the Taichi is an odd beast: it bundles two screens, one on each side of the lid. The one on the outside of the lid-cover is in fact a touchscreen, while the one inside is a standard matte display.
So you can use this device as a regular laptop if you want to, or close the lid and get yourself a large Windows tablet. Or just use the two screens and the same time, independently or together, if you want to.
This makes the Taichi a remarkable device. But with two IPS Full HD screens, fast Intel Ivy Bridge hardware, up to 256 GB SSD storage space and more, it’s no wonder the Taichi starts at around $1100 right now, although some versions are quite a lot cheaper online. And that’s for the 11.6 inch version.
A 13 inch version of the Taichi is also available on some markets, larger and heavier (3.3 pounds, as opposed to the 2.8 pounds of the Taichi 21), but with an improved selection of ports and, more importantly, a larger battery, which leads to some decent autonomy (around 5 hours of everyday use, while the Taichi 21 only lasts for about 3 and a half on a charge).
The Samsung ATIV Q is mostly made from magnesium, is incredibly thin (14 mm) and weighs 2.85 pounds and that’s quite impressive for a 13 inch hybrid.
Like the Sony Vaio Duo 13 above, this one is a slider, so the screen slides up in order to reveal a full-sized keyboard.
Also like the Vaio, the ATIV packs a touchscreen on its front face, but it’s an incredibly sharp 3200 x 1800 px panel, with a digitizer and S-Pen support. Besides that, the ATIV Q can run Windows or Android 4.2, but Android is running as a pop-up app withing Windows 8. The entire thing is motorized by an Intel Haswell hardware platform and according to Samsung, the Q will run for up to 9 hours on a charge.
Anyway, I’ll save my final judgement for a future review, once the Samsung ATIV Q will hit the stores. For the time being and based on what we know so far though, I must admit, I’m impressed. But the price will have something to say here as well and I’m pretty sure the Q is going to be very, very pricey.
Anyway, stay tuned, I’ll update this section once the Samsung ATIV Q becomes available in stores, somewhere in the next moths.
The Helix is Lenovo’s interpretation of the same concept displayed by the Transformer Book TX300: an independent Windows 8 tablet running on Intel hardware, plus a multifunctional docking unit.
Unlike the Asus above, the ThinkPad went for a more restrained design, a given for their ThinkPad lines. On top of that, the Helix integrates cellular connectivity and a screen with a digitizer and a pen, 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 it’s not without flaws unfortunately, as it tends to run hot and noisy, and on top of that, the entire docking unit is large and awkwardly designed. Hopefully all these will be addressed in a future Haswell update, as the Helix has the potential to be an awesome business hybrid.
Put together a beautiful case carefully machined from aluminum and fiber carbon with an 11.6 inch 2560 x 1440 px resolution touchscreen that flips 360 degrees around its hinge and an Intel Haswell hardware platform and you’ll get the Dell XPS 11.
In other words, this is Dell’s response to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga I mentioned above, but a more powerful and better polished response.
It’s not going to be available in stores till Q4 2013, so there are still plenty of unknown aspects about this laptop, like the battery life or the price, but stay close, I will update this post once we do know more about what looks like one of the most interesting convertibles ever announced.
Other hybrids you might be interested in:
And these are right now the best convertible ultrabooks you can find in stores. More are going to become available in the next months, so stay tuned, I’m constantly updating this post.
Now, if you’d ask me which of the above devices I would pick right now, it would probably be the any of the new Yogas, based on your needs and requirements, the Vaio Duo 13 or the ThinkPad Twist. The first three are all-around the best polished convertibles of the moment, while the other is a cheap and durable ThinkPad, with a nice keyboard. But I’m pretty sure we’ll see some other interesting hybrids in the future, so stay tuned.
Anyway, that’s about it for this post, but look for the updates as I’ve said. And in the meantime, let me know what do you guys think about these convertible ultra-portables and ask your questions below, if any.