If you’ve shopped for a computer lately, you’ve seen a growing number of 2-in-1 laptops that either detach from the keyboard or twist around to become a tablet. The number of models available has ballooned in the past two years. A 2-in-1 laptop can be particularly useful for students who want the mobility of a tablet and the power of a laptop, but don't want to pay for two separate devices.
That sounds great, but only if the 2-in-1 laptop performs as well as a conventional laptop—no one wants to buy a product that tries to be a laptop and tablet, but fails at both jobs. However, our testing shows that you don’t have to pay a premium to get a 2-in-1 laptop that’s just as good as an ordinary laptop. In fact, even if you never detach the keyboard or twist into tablet mode, two-in-one devices can make excellent choices.
Here’s a roundup of five 2-in-1 computers that will work for many college students, and lots of other people, too.
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This 2-in-1 laptop topped our Ratings of 11- to 15-inch convertibles. It’s a 13-inch model, with exceptional battery life—16 hours—that was longer than what most other laptops delivered. It folds into four positions: laptop, stand, tent, and tablet. The aluminum chassis helps keep the weight down a bit, but it’s still 3.3 pounds, which is heavy for a tablet. Performance was as good as the best, equally priced 13-inch laptops. Of course it has a touchscreen (which did well in our tests, as did the others in this group), a feature some other laptops in the same price range are lacking.
Another 13-inch convertible, this Acer model also performed well, and was one of the fastest laptops we tested. A unique hinge lets you easily fold this 2-in-1 laptop into a tablet with one hand, and you can use function keys to disable the touchscreen or touchpad. Battery life was 12.5 hours. You can use the USB sleep-and-charge feature to charge devices when the laptop is in sleep mode. This one comes with a 256GB solid-state drive.
For a slightly larger model, consider the Lenovo Yoga 3, a 14-inch convertible that pivots into four positions. It weighs just 3.7 pounds, which is considerably less than many traditional 14-inch models. (But remember, that’s a hefty weight for a tablet.) In terms of performance, it scored nearly as well as the Acer and HP, and better than many 14-inch laptops, and battery life was 13 hours. Like many Lenovo laptops, this 2-in-1 laptop includes facial-recognition and voice-control software.
Another 14-inch convertible from Lenovo, the Flex is Lenovo’s budget counterpart to the Yoga. It’s got a standard hard drive, rather than the speedy 128GB solid-state drive in the Yoga. But that means it’s also got a lot more storage—500GB. As for performance, it also did better than many other 14-inch models we tested. Battery life is shorter, at 8 hours, but that’s still a day’s work. And the Flex’s weight is more in the ballpark of other 14-inch laptops at 4.1 pounds. Like the Yoga, the Flex twists into four positions.
This is a great price for a laptop, and an even better price for a laptop/tablet combo. It’s an 11.6-inch detachable, and while performance wasn’t as speedy as in the other models listed here, it was good enough for typical productivity tasks like word processing, and even photo editing and some gaming. In fact, its performance is as good as or better than some traditional laptops in that price range. It’s the smallest of this group, and weighs 3.2 pounds with the keyboard. But for tablet weight, it gets the advantage, since it’s just 1.7 pounds without the keyboard. Battery life is 11.5 hours.
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