2-in-1 laptop buying guide
2-in-1 laptops combine the usability of laptop with the portability of a tablet to give you a lightweight device that's great for both work and play on the go.
Whether you're looking for a convertible or detachable laptop, our guide will help you to find the best 2-in-1 for you.
Which kind of 2-in-1 laptop do you need?
The best way to decide which 2-in-1 laptop is ideal for you is to decide whether you're a low, medium, or high demand user.
2-in-1s vary in price from around £149 to over £1000. 2-in-1s, because of their compact design, tend to be better at tasks that are less demanding. High demands tasks are usually better for a full-size laptop, unless you are able to afford a premium price 2-in-1 device.
Low demand – Word processing, Excel, web browsing, social media, watching videos online.
Medium demand – Low-res video editing, basic design, basic gaming, complex spreadsheets, music recording.
High demand – HD video editing, animation, professional design, advanced gaming.
If you want to learn more about full-size laptops, visit our laptop buying guide.
Detachable or convertible 2-in-1 laptop?
There are two types of 2-in-1 laptop tablet hybrids available:
Detachable 2-in-1s use a keyboard that can be removed from the screen with a simple click. The screen can then be used separately as a tablet. This is the more portable of the two, but using the keyboard for long periods is less comfortable.
A Convertible 2-in-1 uses a hinge that allows the keyboard to be folded all the way back behind the screen, so you can use it as a tablet. This is slightly less portable, but is more comfortable for typing.
2 in 1 laptop sizes
2-in-1 devices come in a variety of sizes but most fit into these two categories:
10 – 11 inches
Low to medium demand
Most 2-in-1 designs are this size as it offers the best portability, although the smaller design provides less room for powerful components.
12 – 13 inches
Medium to high demand
The larger size allows for more processing power and provides a more typical laptop-like user experience, but will of course be heavier to carry.
Weighing up the specs
To help you navigate your way through the specs, we've used our low/medium/high demand groupings to help you decide what to look for in each of the essential spec categories.
Your computer's brain. The processor's performance is measured in gigahertz (GHz). Having a more powerful brain allows you to do more complex stuff faster.
There are many processors available. The most common are:
Intel Pentium Intel Celeron Intel Atom AMD E
Intel Core i3 and i5 Intel Core m3 and m5 AMD A4 through to A8
Intel Core i7 Intel m7 AMD A10
The benefit of a faster processor
If you have a good processor, there's less risk of you facing frustrating performance issues.
You might spend a lot of you time doing low demand tasks, but if you needed to do something more demanding, like designing a flyer or editing video, your 2-in-1 could slow down.
If your computer has more than one brain, you can do more tasks all at the same time. Cores allow you to multi-task, without any one task slowing the others down.
The benefit of more cores
If you had a quad core and were listening to Spotify, checking emails, and updating spreadsheets, each of those tasks would have its own resource to draw on. If you had just two cores however, one of these tasks could slow the others down.
Storage room for all your files. Memory is measured in gigabytes (GB), with a terabyte consisting of 1000 gigabytes.
Computers mostly use a hard drive to contain the memory, which is made with moving parts. You can now get solid state drives, which don't use moving parts. These are quieter, quicker and more efficient, but hold less memory.
The benefits of more memory
2-in-1s may compromise on memory capacity to reduce their size and weight. Fortunately, extra memory is easy to add by using a USB hard drive, SD card (if your device has a slot) or online cloud services.
Word documents, spreadsheets, etc. don't need lots of memory. It's when you store video, design and music files that you may find yourself needing more storage space.
A solid state drive can make a big difference because of the speed. You can load files a lot quicker, which is a big plus if you're a gamer and hate load times.
RAM is a different type of memory, which is also measured in gigabytes. This is your short-term memory, the room your computer needs to work on whatever jobs it is doing at any given time. If your computer doesn't have enough working space, it will start to slow down.
The benefit of more RAM
Extra RAM allows you to work on more complicated tasks without any reduction in performance. As with processing power, it might not be needed all the time, but when a more complicated task does come along, you could be faced with limitations if you don't have much RAM.
A graphics card processes and creates the images that appear on your screen. Computing devices either come with a shared card (low demand) or a separate dedicated graphics card (medium – high demand).
A shared card uses your computer's RAM to create images – it shares the rest of your computer's resources. A separate dedicated card has its own resources, and should create images faster without causing any other tasks to slow down.
There's are many different cards available, but AMD and nVidea are the most popular brands:
- For AMD, 260 and upward will provide great visuals.
- For nVidea, aim for a 960 card or above for gaming, but a 750 card will work for design/video.
The benefit of a good graphics card
A good graphics card makes images refresh faster and more smoothly. If you want to work with images, design or video, or are a gamer, a separate card is absolutely essential.
Typically you have to spend more to get a 2-in-1 hybrid laptop with really good battery life. Some low cost models may last long on a single charge, but that's a reflection of their reduced processing power – they simply require less energy to work.
Remember that battery life is an estimate and that high demand tasks will drain power faster than low demand tasks.
Other things to consider
Cellular or Wi-Fi only?
2-in-1 laptops have built-in Wi-Fi, but only some have cellular connectivity, which allows you to use mobile internet, like your smart phone. If it's not cellular, you'll need to purchase a dongle along with a data plan from a phone provider.
This is essential to avoid damaging your device and for carrying other essentials like your charger.
Ports & sockets
A 2-in-1 laptop may have very few USB and other ports you might need for connecting it to other devices. Check which ports are available on your device to see whether you have the ones you will need, or whether separate adaptors will be required.
SD card and SD slot
SD cards are a simple way to add more memory. A small card can be placed inside an SD slot to access any files it contains. It makes it very easy to transfer files, as many devices have an SD slot. A few 2-in-1s may not have a slot, however, so check if you need an adaptor.
Delivery & payment
If you've settled on which type of 2-in-1 hybrid laptop to buy, then you're ready to shop. Still not quite sure? Our Customer Services team will be happy to give you more information and advice. Alternatively, why not visit out desktop PC, all-in-one PC, laptop, or tablet buying guides.
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