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What is a 2 in 1 laptop? Pros, cons, and recommendations
Are you looking for your next laptop? Chances are you’ve already made up your mind on which operating system you want to use. If not, we have a comprehensive guide on picking between Chrome OS, Windows, or MacOS. Now it’s time to choose the form factor. You could go for a traditional laptop, or you could get a convertible laptop. What is a 2 in 1 laptop? Let’s go over the specifics together.
A 2 in 1 laptop is a portable computer that can take on multiple form factors. As such, it can double as a traditional clamshell laptop and other types of devices, such as a tablet.
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What is a 2 in 1 laptop?
As mentioned in the quick answer, a 2 in 1 laptop can be used as a clamshell-style laptop, as well as at least one other form of computing device. Usually, the secondary mode would be similar to a tablet. But there are also in-between modes, such as tent mode or stand mode. Lenovo is known for being among the first to introduce this concept, and you can see the company showcasing the multiple modes in the image below.
This image represents the different types of modes. From left to right, these would be tablet, tent, clamshell, and stand mode.
Of course, that’s only showing you what a convertible laptop can provide. There are also detachable laptops. These make it possible to remove the screen from the keyboard or lower dock, essentially turning the device into an actual tablet.
The most popular 2 in 1 detachable tablets are likely the Microsoft Surface Pro devices. These offer a slim and portable design like mobile tablets, but come with a full Windows OS installed, and a keyboard folio can be attached to the bottom. Of course, there are plenty of other options. We’ll talk about them later in this guide.
What are the benefits of buying a 2 in 1 laptop?
The world of tech is a bit tricky. It seems you always have to give something up to get any type of benefit. Let’s talk about the pros of 2 in 1 laptops first.
- Versatility: The whole purpose of a convertible laptop is to be able to use your laptop in multiple configurations. You can use it as a traditional laptop, or enjoy a more mobile experience in tablet mode and use it to draw. Similarly, tent and stand mode make it possible to more easily enjoy movies, use touch controls, and more. Convertible laptops can literally bend to your needs.
- More input methods: Because of their multiple form factors, convertible laptops are naturally more likely to support different input methods. Most come with a touchscreen, a physical keyboard, and a trackpad. Additionally, it’s common to see stylus support, and they can often include the digital pen.
- 2 in 1 tablets are much more portable: If you opt for a detachable tablet, these devices can often be much thinner and lighter. Additionally, many have very light keyboards, which attach magnetically, and add little to no extra bulk to the overall package. These Windows tablets can be a much better option if you want a more mobile experience out of your computer.
- They usually have a better battery life: Even if they are more portable and tend to have smaller batteries, 2 in 1 laptops have a more mobile focus. They tend to use components that are better optimized to manage energy. Manufacturers focus more on battery life because they know users probably want to use them in tablet mode or take them around, more so than traditional laptops. In regular laptops, battery life can be more of an afterthought.
What are the disadvantages of a 2 in 1 laptop?
Of course, a 2 in 1 laptop will have its downsides. Let’s go over some of the main ones.
- They usually have smaller screens: If you’re a fan of larger screens, you might prefer a traditional laptop instead. 2 in 1 laptops are meant to be more portable. Hence, manufacturers traditionally lean more toward the smaller side.
- Specs can often be less powerful: Again, because of the focus on mobility, 2 in 1 laptops can have more mobile-focused specs. This can make some options less powerful. This is especially the case with detachable tablets, which need to be separated from the keyboard and can fit much less within the screen section of the device.
- They are more likely to overheat: Convertible laptops have less space to work with, especially the detachable ones. This can mean it’s more likely to have overheating issues, and the odds of having thermal problems are more likely as devices get thinner and smaller. More modern components handle heat better, though. And convertibles can have very good ventilation systems. This is becoming less of a problem as the 2 in 1 laptop tech improves.
- You will likely have fewer ports: Again, we are working with less space when it comes to 2 in 1 laptops. There are less chances of finding laptops with more ports if you go for a convertible, as opposed to a traditional laptop. The chances decrease if you opt for a detachable Windows tablet, too. These often only have USB-C, in which case you will need a dongle to expand your port selection.
- Convertible laptops tend to cost more: Of course, there are affordable 2 in 1 laptops, but dollar per dollar, you will usually get better specs and quality from a standard clamshell laptop. This makes sense; convertible and detachable laptops require more engineering, as they have more complex designs. A traditional laptop will often have more room to work with, too. This makes them easier to build and allows for space to include more advanced components and better cooling.
Should you get a 2 in 1 laptop?
Whether you get a convertible laptop depends on your preferences and needs. Despite the multiple downsides, having the ability to use a computer in various ways is invaluable. This can be a great asset for people who like drawing, designing, or editing content. It’s also great to prop the screen up to watch videos, or carry it around in tablet mode to work on the go.
All that said, not everyone needs these added features. You may already have an iPad or Android tablet that can take care of these specialized tasks perfectly. If you skip on 2 in 1 laptops, you can likely save money, or opt for something much better while paying a similar price.
The best 2 in 1 laptops
If you’ve made up your mind and want to get yourself a 2 in 1 laptop, there is a sea of options to choose from. We know this can be stressful, so we’ve compiled a list of our favorite 2 in 1 laptops.
- The best Windows convertible: Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360 – $1699.99 at Samsung
- The best Chromebook convertible: Acer Chromebook Spin 714 – $799 at Amazon
- The best Windows tablet: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 – $830 at Amazon
- The best Chromebook tablet: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook – $480 at Amazon
- The best gaming Windows tablet: ASUS ROG Flow Z13 – $1399 at Amazon
- The best gaming Chromebook convertible: ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip – $769 at Amazon
- The best budget Windows 2 in 1 tablet: Microsoft Surface Go 3 – $649 at Amazon
2 in 1 laptops and tablets are usually more expensive than their traditional counterparts. They don’t have to be pricey, though. There are plenty of affordable convertible and detachable computers available in the market. You can find some of them in our list of the best budget laptops.
Apple has yet to release any 2 in 1 MacBooks. You will have to go with other platforms if you want a convertible or detachable computer.
Almost all 2 in 1 laptops have touchscreens. There are some exceptions, but they are very few. It’s always good to check the spec sheet, just in case.
Of course! 2 in 1 laptops can be used for gaming, given they have the necessary operating system and performance to run the game. If you want to play high-quality PC games, you may need to get a very powerful convertible or tablet, preferably one made for gaming. If you’re running Chrome OS, you can either run the games in the cloud, using a service like GeForce Now. Or you can opt for a more powerful Chromebook, such as a gaming Chromebook like the ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip.
You can definitely download apps on a 2 in 1 laptop. The question is whether you can download the apps you want. If you’re using a Windows device, you can download Windows apps. Those with a Chromebook convertible will have to settle with Android apps, or web apps.
2 in 1 laptops can be good for all types of users, especially students. For example, using them in tablet mode can be better for taking notes. Especially if you can use it with a stylus. Then you can use the clamshell form factor when you want to type. And tent/stand mode can be great for gaming or watching videos when it’s time to relax. Additionally, a 2 in 1 laptop’s portable nature can be great for taking the device around.