Pros and Cons of 2-in-1 Laptop/Tablet Hybrids

Update for January 2018 (Originally published May 2016): Are you thinking of switching from a laptop to a laptop/tablet hybrid in 2018? A hybrid has a touchscreen that either detaches or can be flipped around so that it can also be used as a tablet. This 2-in-1 feature is what makes hybrids more popular than ever with consumers and businesses while tablet growth diminishes. Even enterprises are making the switch now that security has improved.

Here’s a breakdown of the pros, cons, security features and why Apple doesn’t make one.

The PROs

  • It can be cheaper than buying two devices
  • Detached tablets run full Office apps
  • Some new models have Trusted Platform Modules, or TPMs, which are built-in chips for security
  • Most have bigger screens than a traditional tablet
  • Kickstand designs let you set the screen angle however you like it, just as you do with a traditional laptop
  • Flip-screen design lets you fold the screen back 360 degrees to use it as a tablet without detaching the keyboard
  • Some are super fast, with Intel Core i7 processors and processing speeds up to 2.8 GHz
  • Some are super thin
  • Some have 4K (or close to 4K) screens
  • Some have a pressure-sensitive stylus that clips to the device
  • Creative types can draw on the same device they use to take notes

The CONs

  • Some are thicker and heavier than a traditional laptop
  • Some are expensive — top-end models can cost $2,000
  • Inexpensive models don’t have a lot of processing power or battery life or both
  • Even expensive models can be less powerful and/or have a shorter battery life than traditional laptops because there’s less room for fans to cool powerful processors, or there are fans but they use up a lot of power
  • Some can have much smaller hard drives — 256GB is considered big for a 2-in-1 and a few models offer 1TB
  • ome have cramped keyboards or smaller-than-usual space bars and trackpads
  • Some have ergonomics issues that make them less comfortable to use than traditional laptops and tablets (try it out first, if possible)
  • Some can’t adjust the screen angle to more than a couple of different positions unless you have a kickstand model
  • Some models don’t include a cover for the detached keyboard so you have to buy it separately
  • If the mechanism that attaches and detaches the screen is mechanical instead of magnetic and it breaks, your device is broken

Many models to choose from

There are dozens of Windows 10 models to choose from — every major Windows laptop manufacturer offers one, including Microsoft (Surface models), Dell, Toshiba, HP, Lenovo, Asus and the rest. Chromebook also has convertible models if you only need to access the internet. Google is increasing its focus on touch support to make Chromebooks a more attractive alternative.

Some of the more noticeable differences between models have to do with where the processor is located — in the keyboard section or in the screen section. The ones that have the processor in the screen are more like tablets with detachable keyboards. Most models are getting good reviews but a few — not so much. See recent reviews and comparisons at Laptop (part of Tom’s Guide), PC Mag, CNET, Tech Advisor, and Lifewire.

Security features

The main drawback of hybrids in business environments had been the lack of security features. Earlier models didn’t include fingerprint scanners, multifactor authentication features, locking slots or TPMs. TPMs are the hardware-based security chips that work in conjunction with software to generate codes that are unique based on the specific device — enterprises require them.

Models that have TPM chips include Lenovo ThinkPad T470 and Lenovo Yoga 510 (which also have fingerprint scanners), Microsoft Surface Pro and Microsoft Surface Book 2 (which include a Windows Hello face authentication camera), and HP EliteBook x360 and HP Envy x360 (which have both IR cameras and fingerprint sensors). Asus also makes hybrids with fingerprint scanners.

Features like these are helping fuel continued hybrid popularity, with hybrid growth coming in somewhere between 21.2% and 48% each year, depending on who you ask.

Why Apple doesn’t make one

If you’re looking for an Apple 2-in-1, settle in for a wait. Apple’s Tim Cook has been resolute about why he thinks the iPad Pro with a keyboard makes a hybrid irrelevant, even though there’s no trackpad and you need to buy a separate keyboard. The Operating System (OS) issue plays a big role, too. Apple has a separate OS for mobile (iOS) and computers (OSX) while Microsoft laptops and tablets have all been running on the same Microsoft OS starting with Windows 8.

Is the hybrid approach right for you or your company?

While you might need to give up something with a hybrid — chances are neither the laptop nor the tablet will quite compare to their non-hybrid counterparts — there are plenty of good hybrid options to choose from in price points ranging from $500 to $2,000. However, when it comes to recommending or procuring devices for our clients, Leapfrog always looks for the right balance between productivity and security. For business use, we recommend our clients look at models that have both a TPM and multifactor identification features — and our Help Desk is available to clients to troubleshoot issues on any laptop models, hybrid or not. Please contact Leapfrog if you’re interested in learning more about how we work with clients to manage their IT equipment.

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