How to Buy a 2-in-1 Laptop Hybrid

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There are plenty of reasons to scoop up a 2-in-1 hybrid, starting with the fact that you’ll have one device that can double as a laptop and tablet. When you need to get work done, you can use a keyboard and touchpad and run desktop programs. And when you want to kick back and play games, check Facebook and enjoy other touch-based apps, you can go into slate mode. But how do you decide which hybrid is right for you? Use these five essential buying tips, and you’re guaranteed to double your computing pleasure. 

1. Choose Your Size

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Some 2-in-1 hybrids are tablets first and notebooks second, while other models are designed primarily as laptops. It usually comes down to screen size — the smaller the display, the more portable and nimble the device. A 10-inch 2-in-1, such as the ASUS Transformer Book T100, is a good bet for tablet-first usage, while a 13-inch or larger device works better for more productivity-minded users. With a 15-inch 2-in-1, such as the Acer Aspire R7, consider the tablet mode more of a bonus.

MORE: Top 8 Windows Tablet-Laptop Hybrids

2. Detachable, Slider or Flexible Design?

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One of the best parts about buying a 2-in-1 Ultrabook is that it’s not one size fits all. There are different models that offer benefits to different types of shoppers. A detachable design is a good choice for those who want the option of leaving the keyboard behind. The tablet portion typically attaches to a base that houses the keys and in many cases a secondary battery. The Surface 2 is one of the more popular detachable hybrids, though its keyboard costs extra.

Other 2-in-1s let you flip the display around the keyboard, making it easy to convert from laptop to tablet mode. Or you could position the device in presentation mode, great for watching movies or giving presentations. Great examples include the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and Dell XPS 12

Hybrids with a slider design can be even easier to transform from tablet to laptop mode, and they’re often thinner than more-traditional convertibles. The Sony Duo 13 is a prime example. However, these types of designs often sacrifice key travel and touchpad real estate.

MORE: Most Anticipated Laptops and Hybrids of 2014

3. Get the Right Processor and Specs

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Most 2-in-1 Ultrabook hybrids feature Intel’s speedy fourth-generation processor. A Core i3 CPU offers good performance for everyday tasks, but a Core i5 chip will provide a better balance of speed and battery life.

Look for at least 4GB of RAM (6GB is better) in addition to a 128GB solid state drive (SSD). This drive allows your 2-in-1 to resume from sleep almost instantly. Those looking to save money should opt for a 2-in-1 with a hybrid drive, which combines a standard hard drive (typically 500GB) with a certain amount of flash cache. Avoid hybrids that don’t have at least a small amount of flash, as this will diminish responsiveness.

If you are willing to sacrifice some power and screen size for affordability, consider a 2-in-1 powered by an Intel Atom processor. Just make sure that it’s the latest Bay Trail chip, which offers better performance than the older Clover Trail CPU.

4. Don’t Skimp on Screen Resolution

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The most affordable 2-in-1 hybrids have 1366 x 768-pixel displays, but we prefer sharper 1600 x 900 or full HD (1920 x 1080-pixel) screens. With these panels, you’ll enjoy better image quality and the ability to snap up to three open windows side by side for some serious multitasking.

Some models offer even higher, quad HD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels), such as the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2, which delivers even more detail for applications like photo editing. Icons on the desktop may be difficult to target at a resolution this high, so we recommend pairing a quad HD panel with a larger display size.

MORE: Apple MacBook Air (11-inch) vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 2: Face-Off

5. What’s Your Budget?

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A 2-in-1 Ultrabook can cost anywhere from $599 to $1,399. It’s up to you to decide on the right mix of features for you budget. For example, a cheaper 2-in-1 may have an older, third-generation Core processor and a lower-resolution, 1366 x 768-pixel screen. Stepping up to a fourth-gen Core CPU (which will deliver longer battery life and better graphics) and a full HD display will cost you $1,000 or more. 

Shoppers looking for an affordable tablet-first, notebook-second device should consider a 2-in-1 powered by Intel’s Bay Trail processor. Some of these devices start as low as $349. Just keep in mind that you’ll be using a smaller screen and keyboard, and that you won’t get as much multitasking or graphics power.

AUTHOR BIO
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptopmag.com, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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