Convertibles, or 2-in-1 laptops as they are also called, are not necessarily a new breed of portable computers. Tablet PCs have been used in business environments since the 1990’s, but they’ve become a lot more popular among regular users in the last years, as their price has gone down and more form-factors were introduced to the market.
Intel definitely had a word to say in this, as they’ve pushed the hybrid ultrabook concept strongly and as a result, most of the recently released ultrabooks are in fact 2-in-1s.
We’re going to talk about the best ones in this post. Before we do that though, let’s see what these 2-in-1 ultrabooks actually are. First of all, they are slim and light laptops capable of solid-everyday performance and long battery life, and second, they include some sort of convertible or detachable touchscreen. This allows for several use modes, from a regular clamshell notebook to a tablet, and a couple in between and is the feature that makes 2-in-1s versatile and adaptable to all sorts of situations.
These notebooks come in many shapes and form factors right now, with a variety of different features and price tags. We’ll split the post in two main sections, premium 2-in-1 ultrabooks and affordable hybrids, and I’ll tell you a few words about several recommended device in each half. By the end of it, you should be able to pick among these computers 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 hybrid notebooks available in stores right now, you’ll find them in this section. But be aware that they don’t come cheap.
HP Spectre x360
If you have North of $1000 to spend for a 2-in-1 these days, you’ll have very few reasons to look at anything other than the HP Spectre x360.
Long story short though, HP did an amazing job with this machine. Its ourter-case is made from metal and built like a tank, the interior houses a great backlit keyboard and a over-sized and accurate trackpad. And since this is a convertible, the screen is hold in place by a pair of sturdy hinges which allow you to use the device as a regular laptop, as a tablet, as a stand or a tent.
HP made no compromise when it came to the display either. There are a couple of options available, and even the base model, with a 1920 x 1080 px resolution and an IPS panel, is breathtaking. It does offer a digitizer and active-pen support, BTW. Pairing the display with fast Broadwell hardware, up to 8 GB of RAM and M.2 SSD storage, the Spectre simply flies in everyday use and offers 7-10 hours of battery life on a single charge. That’s something most other 2-in-1s cannot match.
On the other hand, the sturdy aluminum build does take its toll on the laptop’s overall weight of over 3 lbs, while some of the other modern 2-in-1s are significantly lighter. And since we’re mentioning the shortcomings, HP could have done a better job with the oleophobic glass on top of the screen and with the WiFi, which occasionally fails to connect to certain networks after the computer resumes from sleep.
At the end of the day though, all the minor inconveniences and pale when compared to the package’s value. The price could however steer you towards something else, as the most affordable options start at $899 and a decent configuration with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage goes for over $1000. If the budget allows though, the HP Spectre x360 is worth more than a look.
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and Yoga 3 Pro
These are some of Lenovo’s top convertible ultraportables these days, but while the name suggest they are similar, they are actually two different types of computers.
The Yoga 2 Pro is an older device, powered by a Haswell U hardware platform, while the Yoga 3 Pro is built on the newer, yet not as powerful, Core M hardware.
I’ve tested both models here on the site and you can read all about them in the detailed reviews of the Yoga 2 Pro and the Yoga 3 Pro. If you’re not sure which one to pick though, here’s what you need to know about the two, in a few words.
The Yoga 3 Pro is a very thin computer with an aluminum shell and only weighs 2.6 lbs. It’s a 2-in-1 convertible, just like all the other Lenovo Yogas, and its main design attraction is the unique watchband hinge. These aside, the Yoga 3 Pro is actually a large device, as you can see from the hinges around its 13.3 inch display and packs a shallow keyboard, which was expected on a device as thin as this one.
Hardware wise, the Yoga 3 Pro is powered by an Intel Core-M 5Y70 processor with up to 8 GB of RAM and up to 512 GB SSDs and there’s enough room inside for a 44 Wh battery. The Core M processor is however only good enough for casual everyday activities and it’s not very efficient either. On top of these, the Yoga 3 Pro is not fanless, unlike many other Core M powered machines. If you’re interested in a list of fanless ultraportables, this article will definitely help.
The Yoga 2 Pro is only marginally thicker (by about 0.2 of an inch) and heavier (by about 0.5 lbs) and offers a similar form factor and a similar 13.3 inch display. It’s also significantly faster, especially if you opt for the Core i7 processors, while it doesn’t fall short in terms of battery life.
Last but not least there’s the matter of pricing. The Yoga 3 Pro starts at $1199, but you can actually find it cheaper online. That kind of money will get you the Core M-5Y70 / 8 GB of RAM / 256 GB SSD configuration.
The Yoga 2 Pro on the other hand starts at as low as $900 for a Core i5 / 8 GB of RAM /256 GB SSD configuration and Core i7 models go for just under $1000. Follow this link for up to date prices and potential discounts.
Long story short, the Yoga 2 Pro is, at least in my opinion, a better buy than the Yoga 3 Pro model right now. The newer version looks somewhat better and is lighter, but the loss in performance and usability (fewer ports, shallower keyboard) are hard to justify by those, especially when you have to pay premium to get them.
It’s also worth noting that the Yoga 2/3 Pro lines lack a digitizer and proper pen support, and here’s where the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga series come in play. And if you want a Yoga like computer and don’t want to spend close to 1G for it, Lenovo has the more affordable Yoga 2 and 3 series in stores as well, which we’ll also address down below in this post.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga line
Lenovo merged the Yoga form 2-in-1 factor with the high standards of their business ThinkPad lines, and the fruit of this merger are the ThinkPad Yogas.
There are three different models at the time of this update, a 12.5-inch ultra-portable, a 14-inch option and a newer 15.6-inch version.
I’ve reviewed the 12.5 inch version a while ago here on the site and it’s a fairly good device. The latest generation is built on Intel Broadwell U hardware and keeps most of its predecessor’s other features. That includes, among others, the 12.5 inch FHD low-glare screen, with digitizer support. 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.
Besides these, you do get a proper selection of ports, an ergonomic keyboard and a few business-features when compared to the Yoga 2/3 Pro line. The keys are actually mechanically locked when having the laptop in tablet mode, so they are not as exposed as on the other Yogas, and last but not least, the ThinkPad Yoga is overall a stronger built machine, meant to survive the hassle of corporate environments.
All these do make the ThinkPad Yoga 12 somewhat bulky and heavy for a 12.5 incher, but if you do need what it has to offer, you’ll be just fine with its 3.5 pounds and 0.75-inch body.
On top of that, the battery life on the TY is just average, around 5-6 hours, which might not be enough to get your through a whole day’s work on a charge.
The ThinkPad Yoga starts at around $900 these days, for the base versions with Intel Core i5 Broadwell processors, 4 GB of RAM and SSD storage. There’s a fair chance you’ll find those slightly discounted online, while previous gen models with Haswell hardware should be even cheaper, if you can still find them in stock.
The ThinkPad Yoga 14 is a slightly different beast. It’s built on the same convertible form-factor, but lacks a pen or digitizer support, which are instead replaced by dedicated graphics. The TPY14 comes with a 14 inch IPS touchscreen, Haswell (on the 1st gen) or Broadwell (on the 2nd gen launched in 2015) hardware, up to 8 GB of RAM, various types of storage and Nvidia 840M graphics, all tucked inside a sturdy 4.2 lbs body.
That makes the ThinkPad Yoga a solid all-rounder that can cope with multimedia content and games. It’s not as portable as the Zenbook UX303LN, but it’s convertible, just as fast and somewhat cheaper, as the base version starts at around $1000 and you should find it discounted online.
The ThinkPad Yoga 15 is a full-size computer with a 15.6 inch display and it’s actually one of the very few convertibles in this size-range. It’s built on Broadwell hardware only and weighs close to 5.1 lbs, but also offers up to 16 GB of RAM, a NumPad keyboard and several different storage options, on top of the dedicated graphics. This model has an MSRP of $1199.
Surface Pro 3
The Surface Pro 3 in an impressive Haswell powered device, thin, light and packed with tons of features. It’s mostly a stand-alone Windows tablet, but many of its buyers swear it can replace a laptop for everyday activities, that’s why we’ve included it in here.
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 with unlimited adjustment angles. On top of these, the 3rd gen Surface Pro offers a digitizer and pen support (although there’s only an N-Trig digitizer on this model, while previous ones relied on a Wacom).
But even so, while there’s no doubt the Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft’s best computer to date, it might not be capable of actually replacing a proper ultrabook for most users. It lacks the comfortable clam-shell form factor that makes laptops so easy to use on the lap, it lacks the IO 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 cannot be the right pick for you, especially if you plan to use it as a tablet most of the time, and not primarily as a notebook. It does not come cheap though. The base configuration, with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage space starts at $799, and 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 change. Most configs will get discounted down the line though, so check out this link for offers and potential deals.
Acer Aspire R13
You should have this convertible on your short list. It offers a 13.3 inch touchscreen that swivels inside its bezel, somewhat close to the design Dell popularized with the XPS 12 a few years ago and a design that does not expose the keyboard in tablet mode, but also leads to a larger footprint than with most other computers with a similarly sized display.
The approach is a bit awkward though, as the plastic frame does not extend all across the screen, but only around its lower side, and on top of that the Aspire R13 doesn’t feel that well built, since the entire case is made of plastic.
Once you get past the aesthetics, the R13 proves to be a worthy convertible. It weighs 3.3 pounds, it packs a good quality high-resolution display with pen support (works with Acer’s optional Active Pen that sells for $50 and is not included in the pack) and bundles either Haswell or Broadwell U hardware, with up to 8 GB of RAM and various amounts of SSD storage. The keyboard is borrowed from the Aspire S7 model, which means it lacks the row of Function keys on top, and there’s a large 61 Wh battery inside.
Last but definitely not least, one of this laptop’s strong-points is the pricing, as the base model MSRPs for $999 and includes a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD, while other configurations sell for a few hundred dollars more. Broadwell versions are available as well (f0r instance, the i5-5500U model with a 512 GB SSD sells for $1300). I expect the prices to drop in the following months, which should make the Aspire R13 an even more interesting option. Follow this link for more details and up-to-date prices at the time you’re reading this post.
And check-out my Aspire R13 detailed review for the in-depth impressions on this machine.
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 should 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 $1100, 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 $900 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.
Dell Inspiron 13 7000 and Latitude 13 7000
The Inspiron 13 7000 is one of the best affordable 13 inch 2-in-as out there, as you can see from my detailed review posted here on the site.
It offers a 13.3 inch IPS convertible touchscreen, a nice backlit keyboard, plenty of ports and a nicely built plastic case, with a silver rubbery finishing. Dell equips this model with either Haswell or Broadwell Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, up to 8 GB of RAM and various types of storage, and both the memory and the storage are user upgradeable. There’s only a 43 Wh battery inside though, while most similar devices offer a larger one, and as a result the Inspiron 13 7000 falls a bit short in terms of battery life.
Still, this machine is a solid deal for the money. The base models start at a little under $600 and most configurations are available discounted online. Follow this link for more details.
The Latitude 13 7000 is a completely different beast: a 13 inch detachable built on a fanless Core M platform.
The stand-alone slate weighs only 1.9 lbs and includes a 13.3 inch FHD IPS touchscreen that supports Wacom pens, although a pen is not included in the pack. A keyboard dock is though, and when latched together the two parts make up for 3.7 lbs mini laptop. Part of the weight is due to the extra battery inside the dock, on top of the 30 Wh one tucked inside the tablet itself.
The Latitude 13 7000 is motorized by either Core M 5Y10 or 5Y71 processors with up to 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB SSDs and these should make it good enough for most everyday activities, especially when paired with the beefier hardware. Dell markets the device primarily for corporate users though and in order to support that it offers vPro enabled configurations and a large suite of compatible accessories.
All these don’t come cheap and neither does the tablet, as the base version has an MSRP of $1199, which makes it pricier than most other devices in this list, including the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro or the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. That’s why the Latitude 7000 might not appeal to everyone, but is nonetheless a 2-in-1 worth at least a look.
HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G3
This is the Broadwell update of the EliteBook Revolve series 810, a tabletPC with powerful hardware and plenty of features.
The Revolve is a rather compact device, with an 11.6 inch IPS display (unfortunately only a 1366 x 768 px panel is available and there are not high resolution options) that integrates a digitizer, thus pen support. It works with HP’s Executive Tablet Pen, an optional accessory not included in most bundles.
Despite being small, HP put Broadwell Core i3 to i7 processors inside, up to 12 GB of RAM and up to 512 GB SSDs, thus this little fellow is a beast when it comes to performance. There’s also a 44 Wh battery tucked inside, so endurance is not going to be a problem either. All these features are gathered inside a magnesium chassis designed to pass WQHD IGZOMIL-STD 810G test, thus the Revolve si also one of the sturdiest and most reliable devices out there, making it suitable for corporate wear.
In fact, the only important aspect that could steer you away is the price, as the EliteBook Revolve 810 G3 MSRPs at $1299 and up. I haven’t yet reviewed this model, so I can’t say much about any of its hidden features, but if you’re after a compact, powerful, strongly built and long lasting machine, it should be on your list, if the budget allow it.
Fujitsu Lifebook T935 and Stylistic Q775
These are Fujitsu’s updated 13 inch lines of Broadwell powered ultraportables. The Lifebook T935 is a tablet PC with a swivable display, while the Stylistic Q775 is a detachable, or a stand-alone tablet with a matching keyboard dock.
Both are powered by Broadwell U processors and both offer 13.3 inch displays with pen and digitizer support. The Lifebook gets a WQHD IGZO panel, features like an integrated fingerprint-reader or 4G modem and a 17 mm aluminum and magnesium body that weighs 3.25 lbs. The Stylistic settles for only a FHD IPS panel, a more limited IO and a smaller battery, but still gets the optional 4G/LTE module in a 2.2 lbs body (that’s for the slate alone, without the dock).
As expected neither of these laptops are going to be affordable and since they are mostly targeted towards enterprise users, regular consumers might actually struggle to find them in stores. But if you do need all those business features, you should at least have these on your short-list.
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. Its retail price of under $350 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 thanks to the Intel Atom Bay-Trail Z series processors powering it, and a battery life of roughly 8 hours on a single charge,
- Asus Transformer Pad T200 – this is a slightly larger and more powerful device, but still a detachable. It sells for between $350 and $500 based on configuration and offers an 11.6 inch IPS display, a larger trackpad and keyboard, more ports and the ability to put a HDD inside the dock in order to increase storage space. It’s available with up to 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, unlike the T100 which only gets 2 GB of RAM. Check out my detailed review for extra info or follow this link for a list of up-to-date configurations and potential discounts.
- 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. It’s available in a few more hardware options, as it is powered by either a Bay-Trail Celeron processor, a Haswell Pentium CPU or a Core i3. 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 $350 for the Atom version, while the Pentium configurations will sell for around $400. Follow 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 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. HP have a few different other affordable 2-in-1 models actually, with prices ranging from $299 to $799 and you can check them all out on their website.
Lenovo Yoga 2 and 3 series
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is a laptop whose screen flips over t0 360 degrees and is in fact the device that actually pioneered this nowadays popular form factor a couple of years ago.
The original Yoga was released in 2013 and Lenovo worked on two successor series since then, the Yoga 2, a Haswell equipped version, that hit the stores in 2014, and the Yoga 3, a Broadwell powered line that was launched in early 2015.
The Yoga 2 13, the most popular of the Haswell models, 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.
There’s also an 11.6 inch version of the Yoga 2, which starts at as little as $500 and which I’ve reviewed here on the site. For that you’re getting a 1366 x 768 px IPS touchscreen, an Intel Haswell Y series (lower-power hardware than the U series) or an Intel Pentium BayTrail-M hardware and a rather small battery that can last for about 5 hours on a charge, all inside a 3.2 lbs device. Again, not very light, 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, the IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 can be a decent option for you.
The 2015 iteration offers a Yoga 2 11 model, with a FHD 11.6 inch display, a much lighter body than before (2.4 lbs) and Core M hardware. That makes it fanless, much like the BayTrail-M versions of the Yoga 2 11, but at the same time the newer model should be somewhat faster and should last a bit longer on a charge. It will also run hotter and sell for more, with a MSRP of $799 at launch, that should get more affordable as time goes by.
The 13 inch model was replaced by the Yoga 3 14, now with a 14 inch FHD IPS display. Lenovo claim they’ve put a 14 inch screen inside a 13 inch body, but in reality the new model has gained a few mms here and there, as well as a few ounces. The other big changes are on the inside, as the Yoga 3 14 is powered by Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processors and now gets a faster AC wireless module. Not much has changed otherwise, except for the more generous IO, since there’s now more room for ports on the edges.
On the other hand the Yoga 3 14 is rather expensive, with the base versions scheduled to sell for $900, which makes it far less competitively priced than the Broadwell powered Dell Inspiron 13 7000 or Acer Transformer Book Flip TP300, which the Yoga 2 13 managed to tackle closely in the past. I’m not going to draw any conclusions till I actually get to test this new Yoga, but for now it doesn’t seem as good of a deal as the previous model was, especially since the gap between Broadwell and Haswell U hardware is small.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 and TP500
As most other Asus Transformer Books, these Flips are a great deal for the money you’ll be paying for them.
There are several models included in this series and the 13 inch and the 15 inch versions are the one that should catch your attention.
I’ve reviewed the Transformer Book Flip TP300 here on the site and you should check out the article for my detailed impressions. It’s also known as the Q302 in the US and bundles Haswell or Broadwell hardware, up to 8 GB of RAM, HDD or SSD storage, a 13.3 inch FHD IPS convertible touchscreen and a 50 Wh battery. On top of these, you can get some models with Nvidia dedicated graphics (the TP300LDs) or some without (the TP300LAs). And yes, the names are highly confusing, that’s just something Asus are “good” at.
Just like the other affordable 13 inchers in this list, the TP300 is fairly bulky and heavy (3.85 bls), but that’s mostly because of its Macbook-like metallic case, while devices like the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 or the Lenovo Yoga 2 13 and 3 14 rely on plastic shells, and the aluminum covered body will probably make a difference for at least some of you.
The price will as well, as the Asus Transformer Book Flip is usually $50 to $100 cheaper than a similarly configured Dell, HP or Lenovo unit, although that might vary from region to region. Follow this link for more details and up to date prices.
I’ve also reviewed the larger member of the Flip family, the TP500, and you can read all about it from this post.
It’s overall not as impressive as the TP300, but it’s cheaper, with some configurations starting at around $500. It keeps the touchscreen, the form-factor and the metallic body and adds a NumPad keyboard, more ports and options for Nvidia 840M graphics, but also only bundles a 48 Wh battery, so it won’t last as long as the 13 inch model on a charge.
Still, if you want a 15.6 inch convertible with an attractive price, the Tp500 should definitely be on your list, next to devices like the Lenovo Flex 15. Follow this link for more details and up-to-date prices.
Asus Transformer Books: T300, TRIO the popular T100/T200 and the T300FA and T300 Chi
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 Transformer 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 T300LA is an affordable 13.3 inch device built on Haswell U hardware, which retails for roughly $900 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.
The Transformer Book T300FA and the T300 Chi are more recent entries, built on Intel’s Core M hardware. They provide a completely fanless experience, enough power for a casual everyday activities and 6-8 hours of battery life, as well as room for a HDD in the included docking stations. Both come with 12.5 inch IPS displays and the T300 Chi is the skinnier, lighter and more premium built version of the two. They are not yet available in stores at the time of this update, but I did review the T300FA model a while ago and you can read more about the Chi in this post.
There are also the more affordable Transformer Book T100 and T200 to mention here, that sell for between $300 to $500. You can read about them in this post and we’ll also mention in the following chapter of this particular article.
Lenovo Flex 2 and 3 lines
These are Lenovo’s lines of affordable ultrabooks.
The Flex 2 series is avialable in a 14 and a 15.6 inch variant, 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 Flex 2 15 gets a 32 Wh battery, weighs 5.1 lbs (which translates in about 4-5 hours of everyday use for a mid-level Core i5 configuration) and a 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen, which can’t really stand next to the IPS displays on the Asus line. On the other hand, the Lenovo Flex 2 15s are about $150 to $200 cheaper than a similarly equipped Transformer Book TP500.
The 14 inch version of the Flex 2 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 $500 these days.
The Flex 3 series actually improves most of the areas where its predecessors felt short. First, they are powered by Intel Broadwell hardware. Second, they now get optional FHD IPS panels that can actually convert all the way to 360 degrees, just like on the Yogas, although the base versions are still offered with TN HD screens. Third, they are a bit more compact and lighter than before and they can get optional Nvidia dedicated graphics.
Despite all these things, the Flex 3 laptops are still very affordable, with the 14 inch model starting at $549 and the 15.6 inch version at $579.
Lenovo also introduced a smaller Flex 3 11 convertible that sells for $399 an up and is still a fully convertible device, but only settles for Celeron hardware and an 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 px display. Even so, it should be a decent competitor for the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 and the HP Pavilion 11 X360.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 Acer Aspire R13 more than the others, but 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 want from your next computer and how much you’re planing to spend on it, that’s why the decision is all yours. My indications are only meant 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.