Why Your Next Laptop Should Be a 2-in-1

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According to data from The Wall Street Journal, crossovers and SUVs are the only car segments with strong growth year over year. The reason? More and more, consumers are choosing versatile, multi-function vehicles to make their lives easier and more comfortable. So why shouldn't people do the same thing with laptops? 

The best-selling systems on the market are traditional laptops, which have a screen on top, keyboard on bottom and not a lot of flexibility in between. But it doesn't have to be this way. 2-in-1s aren't new tech anymore. With four generations of Microsoft Surfaces and over a dozen Yogas from Lenovo, consumers today no longer have to cut their teeth on the bleeding edge to get a taste of transformational hybrid computing. So here are some important reasons why your next laptop should be a 2-in-1. 

MORE: Laptop Mag's Top 2-in-1s


The obvious adaptability of 2-in-1s can't be emphasized enough. Whether it's flipping around into presentation mode to turn a quick discussion into an impromptu showcase or going from laptop to tablet mode for quick movie screening, 2-in-1s are at their best in situations that you didn't foresee. 

hp spectre 360 lead
It's true that 2-in-1s are rarely as light as dedicated tablets (although systems like the Lenovo Yoga Book come pretty close). But try to remember the last time you held a tablet suspended in the air for any length of time, or, if you're like a majority of iPad users, the last time your tablet actually ventured outside your house. If weight is a real concern, you can still choose from a growing number of devices in which the keyboard can be removed completely to provide a true tablet experience, such as with the Surface Pro 4 and Lenovo Miix 510.

lol venn 2 in 1s

When compared to traditional laptops, a detachable keyboard or 360-degree hinge makes everything better. There's nothing a traditional laptop can do that a similarly priced 2-in-1 can't do. I've even created a helpful Venn diagram to illustrate my point. Some particularly well-crafted hybrids, such as the 13.3-inch Lenovo Yoga 910, even weigh less than their clamshell-only counterparts, including the MacBook Air 13, which is often associated with the pinnacle of laptop lightness. The only caveat is that for high-end gamers and graphics pros (video editors, 3D modelers, etc.), 2-in-1s rarely feature the latest and most powerful mobile GPUs. But the needs of those professionals are often so demanding that anything you'd get in a regular laptop wouldn't pass muster either.

Fewer Gadgets to Worry About

One of the biggest benefits of hybrid design (aside from the flexibility, of course) is that a 2-in-1 cuts the number of devices in your life from three to two. Currently, a lot of people have a smartphone for when they're out and about, a tablet for relaxing on the couch, and a laptop for when they need to get some real work done. It's time to cut out the dead weight from that equation, or better yet, avoid buying another gadget you don't need.

A good 2-in-1 can easily perform the latter two tasks, meaning that you have one less system to break, or at the very least, one less device you need to keep charged up. So the next time you are packing for a flight, don't forget your convertible. Not only will it be the perfect tray-table movie-watching device, but also, when the mood strikes, you can go from entertainment to productivity at the drop of a hat. 


There are clear monetary gains to be had from not buying both a laptop and a tablet, particularly as the price of 2-in-1s has fallen. Early hybrids were priced to reflect the pioneering attitudes companies had to adopt while figuring out how to combine a laptop and a tablet, and early adopters were the ones paying the price. Now, there are 2-in-1s available starting as low as $200 all the way to $3,000, with options for discrete GPUs and your choice of a 360-degree bend-back hinge or detachable tablet body.


But then, you might ask how much a 2-in-1 costs compared to a regular laptop. As it turns out, not that much more, with price differences often less than $50. Take, for example, the HP Spectre x360, which is one the 2-in-1s on the market right now, and its nonconvertible sibling the HP Spectre. For $1,199, the Spectre x360 features an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Meanwhile, the cheapest Spectre notebook comes out to $1,169, and has a less powerful Core i5 CPU.

Yes, the standard Spectre is a good deal thinner and lighter, but it sacrifices a lot of battery life for that sleekness, something you don't need to do with the x360. And with the x360's significantly more flexible design, it's a no-brainer to toss in an extra Jackson or two to get a Mount Rushmore-sized bucket of adaptability. 


For better or worse, it's a touch-screen world now. The device that people are most comfortable using today is often a phone, which is equipped with a touch screen. Using a nontouch computer is like going backward in time, especially now that lot of things can be done more easily by putting your fingers on the screen, such as swiping right to open the Action Center.

Try to capture the feeling the next time you instinctively reach out to touch a laptop screen on a system without a touch-enabled display. That's what stagnation feels like.

Then you might consider purchasing a regular laptop that has a touch screen, but that would be almost as bad. It's like putting a spoiler on a Lincoln Town Car. You can do it, but it's not worth the trouble.

Windows 10

Although one could argue that the iPad Pro is a 2-in-1, it's not really one at all. Because it lacks a touchpad and is powered by iOS 10, the largest iPad ever is still just a really big tablet. On the other hand, Microsoft specifically designed Windows 10 with hybrids in mind. I'm sorry for those who got bitten by a bad experience using Windows 8 or 8.1, but those were some of the growing pains necessary to get the touch-friendly interface that's available now.

Windows 10 makes transforming your 2-in-1 super simple, with automatic switching from laptop to tablet mode. Then there are the Universal Apps, which work like a dream in either mode. It's true they are in short supply now, but with big companies such as Netflix, Twitter and Dropbox already having update their apps for the UAP experience, things are getting better every day.

On Android and iOS, you'll run into difficulty with things like multitasking, interfaces and file systems that might work on a smartphone but feel woefully inadequate for anything more than switching between a Web page and a game of Plants vs. Zombies.

So unless you're a graphic pro or hardcore gamer, the next time you're looking to upgrade your digital arsenal, do yourself a favor and check out some 2-in-1s.

Photo credit: Samuel C. Rutherford/Laptop Mag 


Author Bio
Sam Rutherford
Sam Rutherford,
Sam is a former penguin trainer and archery instructor who dabbles in esports and has lived on three different continents. If you have some comments on new tech or the best noodle spots in NYC, drop a line @SamRutherford.
Sam Rutherford, on
Add a comment
  • Chris Kennedy Says:

    Sam, this article is a great help to thousands like me, an architect whose friends are mostly Apple-attuned.... if they get to read it. Based on your apparently rational review, I have decided to buy the latest Lenovo Guru with these specs,BUT I then read Robert Jasiek's complaints below. Can you advise on battery life, and if cooling fans are sufficient to prolong unit's life, AND answer Infinit's question below?
    Thanks for your fabulous article and help, Chris(Aus)

  • Infti Says:

    Do these things have a stylus and writing capability?

    If not, I don't see the point.

  • Robert Jasiek Says:

    For me, matte is essential for productive outdoor use (or use with a mirrored window in the background). The currently best glare displays (only) of iPads with 1.5 to 2% reflection would not be good enough, even if on Windows devices (detachables included, of course).

    Surfaces have awful / expensive warranties and astronomic repair prices even for battery replacements. Surface Pro 4 (or Surface 3) have a too short battery life, and outdoor use at maximum brightness would mean ca. 50% ~ 55% of that, that is, we come to ca. 4h whilst I would want up to ca. 15h per day. I do occasionally work all day! Many devices (other than non-productive ones, such as Samsung Galaxy Tab A) claim but do not offer whole day battery life. The Surface Book might have an ok battery life with one recharge during lunch, if it fit my specifications portrait position, the whole battery life for the tablet part and matte display. The Surface Book can be a good choice for those actually needing a notebook first of all and not fearing a Monday battery or expensive repairs.

    I am waiting, e.g., for a Toshiba Portege detachable (they have matte displays and good, even replaceable battery) with ca. 4:3 ratio. Unfortunately, the current 16:9 displays have no use for me. A Surface Pro 5 with a variant having a matte display and silent CPU cooling would also be an option to be considered, provided there would be a reasonable offer for a warranty extension. A Toshiba Dynapad successor with matte display would also be ok, although not fast enough for replacing my PC completely - but I fear that this product line is a victim of the Toshiba restructuring. We cannot hope for Wacom because they go to the other direction of larger, heavier tablets. We might hope for manufacturers of ruggedised tablets to offer light ones for handholding - but somehow they never seem to be able to quit their own shadow and always do nothing but heavy, ruggedised decives. E.g., Panasonic could offer matte tablets but produces ruggedised only. Same for cheap China manufacturers: they are becoming better and better (and also have 4:3 Windows tablets) but neglect matte displays, too, and battery life of such tablets is still a bad joke: up to ca. 6h for low brightness.

  • Diego Says:

    @Robert Jasiek,

    The entired Surface Line (the current iterations) consist of devices with a 3:2 aspect ratio....

    For obvious reasons you will not have a Matte display but my Surface Book has such a bright display and so good contrast ratio, that lights in the background are rarely an issue for me...

    If you go for the Surface Pro line, the keyboard is a separate purchase, so you can use any "desktop" keyboard via bluetooth or with a USB connection....

    You can easily build or buy a stand to support your Surface in either landscape or portrait position.

    Battery life of the Surface Book line is top notch.

    The battery lifetime is indeed something to consider, but given that I can simply swap (unofficially) the keyboard of my Surface Book with another one, it means that I can replace 2/3 of its entire battery.

    I think you are seeing this whole subject, entirely from the convertible point of view... and you are leaving out the detachable 2-in-1.

  • Robert Jasiek Says:

    There are cases when replacing a notebook by a 2-in-1 / convertible is not reasonably possible yet. One such example is a matte display with 3:2, 4:3 or 5:4 ratio. Suitable 2-in-1s do not exist yet.

    For the related consideration of replacing a PC by a 2-in-1, this might also apply, especially if the desktop monitor is used in portrait position and a keyboard of a 2-in-1 would be superfluous. The alternative consideration is a tablet or 2-in-1 with discarded keyboard to be replaced by a desktop keyboard. The keyboard would not become redundant but the PC - if only 2-in-1s with suitable displays did exist at all. I have been waiting for such for several years now.

    The closest we come are tablets with matte 4:3 display and outdated, ca. 10 years old hardware. Such hardware does not make sense any more, regardless of how good the display was (although with a modest XGA resolution).

    In some cases, touch still means short or mediocre battery life. An argument against your reasoning.

    The worst, however, is the often terribly short support period and (possibly non-existing) period of availability of battery replacement service. Warranties tend to be very short. PCs and often notebooks have the great advantage of longevity. Contrarily, by far most 2-in-1s and convertibles are designed as throw-away products to be (so the manufacturers' secret wish) replaced every 2 years. Without care, the endconsumers pay (much) more on average.

  • Lenny Says:

    Hi Sam, Now this story why your next laptop should be a 2-in-1 is the best explained piece of information I have read for some time, its logical and makes total sense.
    I am a retired IT Professional and have 4 i7 Desktops at home, they are huge devices with water cooled CPU's, 32 GB ram and 8TB storage on each used for everyday work and video editing. Also have 2 laptops, now looking into replacing the Laptops with Lenova 710 2-in-1's as you are correct it is just the right thing for general and mobile use.
    For a Penguin trainer and archery instructor you make an exceptional IT writer. Well Done, keep it up.

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