2014 Windows 2-in-1 Comparison Guide
Desktop operating systems have traditionally been mouse and keyboard affairs, but since the introduction of Windows 8 we've seen a wealth of convertible, touchscreen-toting laptops and hybrid machines hit the shelves. With different systems taking notably different approaches to the 2-in-1 form-factor, picking a hybrid machine can be one of the toughest decisions in tech. Join Gizmag, as we compare the top Windows hybrids, aka convertibles or 2-in-1s.
Update: This guide is now obsolete. For the latest models you can check out Gizmag's updated 2-in-1 Comparison Guide for 2015.
It would be damn near impossible for us to cover every system out there, but we've picked nine machines that represent a range of form factors, specs and price points:
Since many of the hybrids look similar, we've provided the above table to help you keep track of which system is which, as well as labels above each device throughout the comparison. All devices run Windows 8.1 (no desktop-lacking Windows RT systems here).
The Asus Transformer Book boasts the smallest footprint of the bunch, but it's also the thickest system here when docked with its keyboard. The new Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro takes the crown of thinnest device, winning out against the Surface Pro 3 by just 8 percent.
You'll want to note that, in the case of devices with detachable keyboards, we included the dock/keyboard component in our thickness measurements.
The Surface Pro 3 isn't just the thinnest device on offer, it's also the lightest. Being the biggest system here, the 15-inch HP Envy x2 is also the heaviest, with 127 percent more heft than the Surface.
Once again, all weights include detachable keyboards/docks, where applicable.
Your choice of device is likely to be closely tied to your preference of hybrid type, with most of the 2-in-1s here opting for either a folding or detachable form factor.
The HP Envy systems, Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Asus Transformer Book are all fully functional tablets that clip in to a dock or keyboard of some form. Asus's machine offers the most conventional notebook experience of the four, with the same keyboard and trackpad setup you'd find on a standard laptop.
The Surface Pro 3 and Envy x2 systems offer thin keyboard covers, all of which provide surprisingly comfortable typing solutions. The 15-inch HP machine has the benefit of a larger trackpad, but its placement to the right of the keyboard might not suit everyone's tastes.
If a detachable isn't your cup of tea, then you might get on better with a folding system. All three Lenovo Yoga models and HP's Pavilion x360 opt for this design, where the keyboard rotates 360 degrees to sit on the back of the device. The squarer profile of the Yoga systems also makes them feel a little more natural in tablet mode than the HP Pavilion x360 (though it's worth noting that their screens have the same ratio/shape as the other devices in this bunch).
The biggest downside of the folding form factor is that you have to put up with a keyboard on the rear of the device while in tablet mode. This is where the Dell XPS 12 steps up to the plate, offering a unique "easel" mechanism that flips the display from a central hinge, allowing the keyboard to remain hidden beneath the display.
The systems are split between metal and plastic constructions, with the aluminum and magnesium builds on the Envy x2 hybrids and the Surface Pro 3 feeling the most premium in the hand.
While it isn't built entirely from metal, the Yoga 3 Pro's build echoes its high-end price point. It also has a hinge that Lenovo compares to a watchband, featuring 813 pieces of steel and aluminum.
Most of the 2-in-1s offer some degree of choice when it comes to color.
The percentages above show each device's relative screen area, compared to the largest in the group (the 15.6-inch HP Envy x2).
There's significant variation between the different systems, with the 10.1-inch Asus Transformer Book offering just 42 percent the screen real estate of the largest machine on offer. The display on the Surface Pro 3 features a 3:2 aspect ratio, giving it the same display area as the Dell XPS 12.
Display size isn't the only screen consideration here, as there are also significant differences in pixel density. The Yoga 3 Pro has the highest resolution of any of the systems, and also packs in the most pixels per inch (PPI). The device's 3,200 x 1,800 gives it 104 percent more pixels per inch that the HP Pavilion and 11.6-inch Yoga 2.
If you're looking for a pixel-dense display then the Surface Pro 3 is your next best option, offering just 22 percent fewer pixels than the Yoga 3 Pro.
There's a wide range of CPUs on offer here, and most systems are available with a choice of chip, making a direct comparison difficult.
That said, if you're looking for a machine with some significant horsepower, then the Intel Core i7 versions of the Lenovo Yoga 2, Dell XPS 12 and Surface Pro 3 are your best options. Intel's Core M processors are also good options for hybrids, offering solid performance while keeping running temperatures and power consumption down.
The Intel Atom and Pentium chips found in the Asus Transformer Book and HP Pavilion x360 are the weakest choices here, and are best avoided if your wallet can handle an upgrade to a Core M, i5 or even i3-packing system.
Nearly every system offers a choice of either 4 or 8 GB memory. In the case of the Surface Pro 3, RAM configuration is tied to your choice of storage and/or processor, with the more expansive 8 GB offering only available when you select high-end components elsewhere.
Just as with processors, there's a wide variation of storage sizes on offer, with most systems available in several configurations. The numbers above denote the lowest and highest capacity storage available with each system.
For the lower capacity options, it's worth noting that Windows 8.1 takes up a fair bit of hard drive space, meaning your actual usable space will be lower than that listed. On the 64 GB Surface Pro 3, for example, you'll only start with 37 GB of available space.
While many of the devices here can be configured with fairly spacious hard drives, not all forms of storage are created equal. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are the fastest type of storage here, while hybrid drives (a combination of an SSD and a more conventional spinning hard drive) offer a compelling balance of cost, speed and capacity.
The 512 GB SSDs available in the Yoga 3 Pro and Surface Pro 3 are the best choices when it comes to performance, but they'll also significantly boost the asking price.
Every hybrid here offers at least a single USB port.
Every system in this bunch also offers at least one high-speed USB 3.0 port.
All of the hybrids are fitted with some form of video out port, whether it be HDMI, microHDMI or Mini DisplayPort.
Only the HP Pavilion x360 offers an Ethernet port.
With the exception of the Dell XPS 12 and 13-inch HP Envy x2, every system here is fitted with some form of media card reader. The Asus Transformer Book T100 and Surface Pro 3 offer microSD slots, while the HP Pavilion x360, Envy x2s and Yoga series opt for larger SD card readers.
While battery capacity varies significantly here, the larger numbers don't necessarily translate to better battery life. Factors such as component selection and display resolution have a significant impact on how long a machine will last on a single charge.
Given that most of the machines here offer some degree of component customization, it's difficult to pin down specific battery life stats, despite what manufacturers might say. Manufacturers also tend to have different methods for testing the longevity of their systems, further compounding the issue.
All the systems on offer here run on Windows 8.1. The operating system's dual nature, featuring both desktop and tile-based UI, makes it well suited to the hybrid form factor.
While you can use a standard capacitive (simulating finger touch) stylus with any of these systems, only the Surface Pro 3 supports digitizer-based styluses (there's one included in the box).
Digitizer-based styluses are pressure sensitive, making the experience of using one closer to that of using a real pen or pencil. You'll also see a cursor that moves just by hovering the stylus over the screen – something capacitive styluses can't replicate.
Both the HP Envy x2 systems and the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro have only recently hit shelves.
There's a lot of variety when it comes to cost, with high-end systems like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro coming in more than three times the cost of the cheapest machines on offer. The above numbers are starting prices, meaning that you'll pay more for top-tier components in some of the hybrids. Also note that, in cases where the keyboard cover is sold separately (like the Surface), we're showing the combined price for device and cover.
The Asus Transformer Book is the cheapest device, though its low-end price is echoed by its average specs. The Pavilion x360 is the second cheapest device on offer, but also suffers from some uninspiring internals. The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, Dell XPS 12 and Surface Pro 3 are the most premium systems here, and have price ranges to match.
The Surface Pro 3 and Yoga 3 Pro can be fitted with high-end processors and storage options, and also offer the sharpest displays here. On the spec sheet, and in my opinion, they're the best systems in this list, but they also come at a significant price premium.
While some of the systems are notably more high-end than others, they likely all have an audience, and most are easy to recommend in some respect. We always think it's a good idea to try out a system for yourself before picking it up, and that's even more true with convertibles. The different approaches to the form factor put personal preference front and center.