2-in-1 Computer Hybrids Are Better than One


Why do I like 2-in-1 computers? As a consumer of tech gadgets, I am rarely satisfied. When something is made small, thanks to advances in engineering and technology, I want it smaller. Forget the fact that most mobile smartphones are now incredibly powerful multi-core computing wonders―I want them smaller, I want them to perform faster, and I want them powerful enough to do everything. When they started marketing portable audio devices, I started out with the oversized, cushioned earphones connected to the sofa-sized boombox, and carried around a zippered case with cassettes that contained my own mixes. And now I own an Apple iPod Shuffle, with thousands of songs available in a pocket-sized form factor.

Most people have been following that same smaller, lighter, faster trend with laptops as well. When laptops were introduced, 10-pound behemoths were considered lightweight and compact. But as more and more people get their news, information, and entertainment from their cell phones, laptops have been playing catch-up, coming up with super-slim Ultrabooks™―lightweight and fully functional computers that could easily fit in a backpack or carrying case. No more shoulder-straining bricks―the smaller, lighter, and faster mantra is being chanted in the halls of every laptop manufacturer out there.

"2-in-1 hybrids are a tablet when you want it and a notebook when you need it."

When tablets emerged into the crowded laptop market, a whole subset of the industry clamored for smaller, faster, and more powerful once again. Tech-savvy consumers wanted the tablet experience that Apple promised with the iPad in 2010: great screen resolution without the encumbrance of a keyboard, packed with other bells and whistles. Many have tried to emulate Apple’s iPad, many more have failed, and the tablet wars still rage today. But, as is the case with almost any bright, shiny new technology, companies quickly approached the bar that Apple set with the multi-generational iPad, and some are now set to surpass it.

Now it’s not uncommon to see manufacturers like ASUS, Dell, and even Amazon put their competitive entries into the tablet arena. And while some “experts” consider tablets just gadget-like toys that will never replace powerful laptops, you can’t discount the many consumers who have spent a sizable amount of money in this market. An oft-repeated prediction is that tablet sales will overcome laptop sales by 2015. While definitely on pace to match the laptop market, overcoming it will be a tough sell, although some  manufacturers are coming very close to the ideal―a tablet that works as well as a powerful Windows laptop, or in industry speak, a 2-in-1.

A 2-in-1 offers a no-compromise solution in either form: tablet or notebook. If, for instance, a convertible doesn’t fold completely flat, it compromises the tablet-usage aspect, so it wouldn’t be considered a 2-in-1. And although a 2-in-1 offers the function of a laptop in the form of a tablet, some definitely hit the mark better than others. 2-in-1s come in three types: Ultrabook™ 2-in-1s, Detachable 2-in-1s, and Convertible 2-in-1s. True 2-in-1s straddle the fence between tablet and laptop seamlessly, but the best ones should at least include an Intel® processor, a small Flash drive for storage, and superior battery life. The introduction of the 4th-generation Intel chips also helps here. Processors deliver much longer battery run times than their predecessor because of their low voltage use.

Ultrabook 2-in-1 Computers

Ultrabook 2-in-1 models are premium in their own right—the Ultrabook portion of the hybrid usually contains a stronger processor, more powerful features (like higher RAM load-outs and SSDs) and an experience weighted more toward laptop usage than tablet usage. Ultrabook 2-in-1 computers include models like the Dell XPS 12 XPSU12-8000CRBFB 12.5" Multi-Touch Ultrabook Computer, an Ultrabook hybrid that allows it to convert effortlessly into tablet mode. It has a powerful Intel Core™ i7 4th-generation processor, so it can deliver power and performance. This computer also has a Full HD 1920 x 1080 12.5" touchscreen monitor, but its unique hinge design sets it apart. You can flip the touchscreen inside the outer bezel of the screen so that the back of the screen rests against the keyboard, turning it into a tablet with the power of an Ultrabook.  


Detachable 2-in-1 Computers

What else makes a 2-in-1 so appealing? The ability to justify your purchase by making your hybrid more productive is probably one of the biggest drivers. If you use your mobile device just to stay entertained, whether listening to music, watching movies or playing games, then you should stick to a tablet-only device. But if you need to get some work done, then the ability to attach a keyboard and roll your sleeves up while you pound out a novel, work on a spreadsheet, or edit photographs makes the 2-in-1 a true hybrid workhorse.

The ASUS 64GB T100TA-C1-GR Transformer Book is one such model. It includes a detachable keyboard with a solid battery so that you can get a full day’s work in on one charge. The T100TA-C1-GR uses an Intel Baytrail quad-core processor and runs Windows 8.1, and includes 2GB of RAM along with a 64GB hard drive (a microSD card slot provides additional storage options). Because it uses a 4th-generation Intel processor, you can get almost 11 hours of productivity from the battery. But most appealing is the inclusion of a full version of Microsoft Office, so there are no excuses for not getting work done.

Detachable-keyboard 2-in-1 computers are extremely popular because they allow you to use the tablet separately, or exclude it entirely, depending on your personal preferences. That’s why some keyboards are optional purchases, as is the case with the Dell Venue 11 Pro computers. They come in a varietyof models, some of which use an Intel Atom quad-core processor, and others that use a more powerful Intel Core i5 processor. Both models feature a 1920 x 1080 Full HD touchscreen for a full Windows 8.1 experience, and come with a 64–128GB flash drive. The keyboard, which is sold separately, also houses its own battery for extended battery performance. Even more productive is the Dell Venue 11 Pro’s removable battery. The Dell Venue 11 Pro is one of the few 2-in-1s that has a user-serviceable battery, so you can carry a spare on long business trips.

The Lenovo Miix 2 falls somewhere between a convertible and detachable 2-in-1. It includes a keyboard that is not attached, but easily and snugly “grabs” the keyboard when closed, like a traditional laptop. When opened, you use the keyboard as a traditional keyboard dock (the tablet fits into the slot at the back of the keyboard), or you can turn the tablet around 180 degrees, and use the keyboard as a stand to watch movies or impress clients with a presentation. Nothing physically attaches the keyboard to the tablet, which comes in a variety of processors and configurations, from Intel Atom up to Intel Core i5 processors, all configured with Windows 8.1.

Convertible 2-in-1 Computers

Convertible 2-in-1 computers lean more toward a tablet’s aesthetics than a traditional laptop’s keyboard/screen combination. Lenovo makes the leap with its Yoga tablet line. The Yoga Thinkpad line is a high-end professional tablet hybrid with Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors, Full HD 1920 x 1080 touchscreens, and 4–8GB RAM load-outs. All the Yoga Thinkpads convert four ways―tablet, tent, stand, and traditional laptop modes―so your display options can fit whatever you need to do with your device. Presentations, entertainment, productivity can all be achieved through the tablets’ multi-display modes. For a more casual tablet, Lenovo also offers the Lenovo 16GB Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ 10.1" Wi-Fi Tablet, which features a 10.1" IPS screen, Snapdragon quad-core processor, and 16GB of onboard storage (with a microSDHC card slot for up to 128B of additional storage).

What Do You Need?

The only way to determine if a 2-in-1 is something you need is to determine what you need it for. As I’ve always said, once you know what you want to do, then you can decide what you want to do it with. The great thing about 2-in-1 hybrids is that they can fit almost any need. If you want serious productivity and are prone to losing things, you want an Ultrabook 2-in-1 that features processing power and great performance―and a non-detachable keyboard. If you want something to stash in the bag and watch movies on the long train commute home, you’ll appreciate the flexibility of a detachable 2-in-1. You can always attach the keyboard while you’re at work and pretend you’ve purchased a laptop. At the very least, the option to be productive is always present. If you want that cool iPad experience but hate touch-typing on a virtual onscreen keyboard, you’ll want to look into a convertible 2-in-1. It looks like a tablet when you want a tablet, but flip it back into laptop mode, and you can flood the social sites with updates and posts and tweets without numbing your thumbs. 2-in-1 hybrids fill a nice gap in mobile computing; they can be fun when they want to be fun and useful when they want to be useful. You can’t say that about a lot of other tech gadgets these days.