Microsoft's Windows 8 didn't just shake up the company's entire software empire, but the mobile computing industry to boot. Given the dualistic nature of the new Windows, laptop and tablet makers responded in kind with devices commonly known as 2-in-1 laptops, or hybrid laptops.
These are devices that are able to serve as both a laptop and a tablet, either in a detachable design that sees the touchscreen doubling as a tablet, or a convertible approach in which the notebook's hinge rotates 360 degrees for a similar effect. In the past, neither have been all that successful in providing both experiences in equal measure, but that's slowly changing.
Considering their similarity to Ultrabooks in terms of build quality, thinness and lightness, 2-in-1 laptops are generally priced in the same range: between $899 (about £525, AU$958)and $2,000 (around £1,169, AU$2,131). These are sleek, powerful devices that look good and serve multiple use cases to varying degrees of success. With that, here are the best 2-in-1 laptops that we've reviewed thus far.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
This is not only Microsoft's most striking and versatile device to date, but the most convincing poster child for the hybrid category yet. And this ringing endorsement comes from a long-time skeptic of such devices.
That said, the Surface Pro 3 (starting at $799, £639, AU$979) is hamstrung by flaws that cannot be ignored. Namely, the battery life might be in line with most Ultrabooks, but isn't close to what Apple's leading laptop and top tablet. And the Type Cover billed as an accessory doesn't help Microsoft's cause – it's quite pricey to boot.
At any rate, this version of the tablet comes in cheaper than the most affordable iPad Air and 13-inch MacBook Air combined, even with the Type Cover, and that's the point. On paper, this slate is more powerful than either Apple device, not to mention most other comparably priced laptops and tablets. The Surface Pro 3 might not be perfect, but it's far and wide the brightest shining example of a potential tablet takeover.
- Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro
With the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (starting at $1,099, £999, AU$1,599), we can now confirm that 3,200 x 1,800 pixels is delicious indeed. On top of the winning Yoga form factor, we loved the solid performance, backlit keyboard, and the snappy SSD, creating mobile device-like response times.
However, in our experience, a Haswell-based ultrabook this thin should run twice as long as the Yoga 2 Pro does on a full charge; we got about five hours in our testing. Even with cloud services like Google Drive, a 128GB SSD is hard to recommend for even your grandparents.
Drawbacks considered, the Yoga 2 Pro is a winner of a laptop, pure and simple. At the $1,000 price point, you could put the Yoga 2 Pro in just about anyone's hands and make them quite pleased.
- Read our Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro review
Asus Transformer Book TX300
The Asus Transformer Book TX300 (starting at $1,499, about £878, AU$1,649) is encased in brushed aluminium, giving it a quality sleek finish, enabling it to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the MacBook Air in the looks department.
However, it has a hidden trick up its sleeve. The screen unclips from the keyboard base to turn this 13-inch laptop into a 13-inch tablet, for playing games, surfing the web or watching movies.
Along with 4GB of RAM, the chip inside is an Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7 3517U 3rd Generation model. The 4th Generation, nicknamed Clover Trail, which came out in early 2013, boasts better speeds and dramatically improved battery life.
- Read our Asus Transformer Book TX300 review
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S
The 11.6-inch Lenovo Yoga 11S (starting at around $799, £599, AU$1,299) laptop is a flexible machine that can fold over from a typical laptop stance to a stand position, to a position with the keyboard behind the screen, ready for delivering presentations.
It comes with HDMI, SD card and USB ports, and boasts a surprisingly impressive Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage. The screen is sharp and bright, though not full HD, and works well with Windows 8. It's also nicely light and small for portability. You can easily use the Yoga 11S as you would any other laptop, replete with a full QWERTY keyboard.
- Read our Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S review
Sony Vaio Duo 13
From the slim line and attractive design to the top-notch components included, the Sony Vaio Duo 13 (starting at $2,999, £1,352, AU$1,899) looks every inch the expensive product. We also really liked the improvements to the sliding design, which makes it much easier to open and close.
While the sliding design has improved, it still feels a tiny bit delicate around the hinges, which isn't great for such an expensive product. Having the hard drive filled with bloatware is also an avoidable annoyance.
Regardless, the Vaio Duo 13 is one of the best laptop-tablet hybrids we've seen yet. Just be prepared to pay the big bucks for that experience.
- Read our Sony Vaio Duo 13 review