Best 2 in 1 laptops: Work hard, play hard with these versatile picks

Having trouble deciding between a laptop and a tablet? With these genius hybrid devices, you don’t have to choose. Here’s how to shop for the best 2 in 1 laptops.

Buying a new laptop or tablet can be a stressful undertaking. With so many brands and models to choose from, how do you pick the one that best meets your needs? Dear indecisive shoppers: You’re in luck. If you are in the market for both a new laptop and a new tablet, the best 2-in-1 laptops will give you both in a single device.

Think of all the benefits you’ll reap with a 2-in-1 that functions as both a laptop and a tablet. All it takes is a snap or a rotation for it to go from one to the other. When you travel, you’ll only have to make luggage space for one device instead of two, and the best 2-in-1 laptops are also super-portable when you’re just running around town. If you’re heading out to do errands and want to take your work with you, just disconnect the tablet from the keyboard or flip the device and go.

With the best 2-in-1 laptops, you won’t have to worry about saving files to two different devices, and you only need one outlet and plug to charge both. Using them can also be a family affair. Adults get to do their work during the day and read in bed at night on the same PC, and the touch screens make them kid-friendly. The little ones will also love the tablet component. The whole family can stay busy—and happy.

Things to consider when shopping for the best 2-in-1 laptops

Of course, decisions must still be made when searching for the best 2-in-1 laptop. First, do you want a detachable or convertible device? Next, how do you want the touch screen to work? If you’ll be using it as a tablet outdoors or while multitasking, this will become an especially crucial detail. Should you go with a Google Chromebook or a Windows device? The operating system will have a huge effect on the apps you’re able to use. Another question: How long does it take to boot up and complete tasks? Finally, how good is the sound and screen resolution? The gamers and movie buffs in your household will definitely want to know.

Should you go detachable or convertible?

The best 2-in-1 laptops come in two different forms: detachable and convertible. The former allows the screen to be completely detached from the keyboard for use as a tablet. That solves any bulk issues with one snap. Extra portability is obviously the biggest benefit of a detachable 2-in-1, and it gives you a lighter, more traditional tablet experience. Apple disciples, take note: The brand has not yet entered the 2-in-1 market, but to get the 2-in-1 laptop experience with Apple, you can pair an iPad Pro with a smart keypad.

With convertible 2-in-1 laptops, the screen swivels or folds in different directions and at different angles while remaining attached to the keyboard. You can use it in regular laptop form or manipulate it into an upside-down V shape or bend the keypad back and face down for watching movies. If you want to read in bed or use it while in transit, you can bend it flat so that it functions as a tablet. The main drawback here is that if you can’t detach the keyboard, it will be bulkier than the average tablet.

In the end, the choice between detachable and convertible will come down to personal taste. Convertibles are best if you will be using the device primarily as a laptop, as they tend to be sturdier and have superior keyboards. If you’re frequently on the run and want to avoid bulk, a detachable 2-in-1 will probably be more suited to your lifestyle needs.

Best convertible 2-in-1 laptop: HP Envy X360

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This 15-inch 2-in-1 laptop is widely considered to be the best one HP has to offer. Amazon

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With its perfect 1080p high definition, expanded memory and storage, backlit keyboard, and powerhouse 3-cell Lithium-ion battery (10.5 hours of life), HP’s crowning achievement in 2-in-1 laptops offers a lot more than its relatively bargain-level price tag might suggest. Its convertible design allows it to switch from regular laptop to tent and tablet modes.

What about all your apps?

If you have favorite Android or iOS apps, not all of them might be available in a 2-in-1 that’s supported by Windows. Meanwhile, a Google Chromebook supported by Chrome OS will let you access all the Android apps in the Google Play Store. Still, remember, certain apps that were designed primarily for use with laptops might not work as well in tablet mode.

There are, thankfully, ways around the app and OS limitations. If you are part of the Windows Insider program, you can now run Android mobile apps on both your Windows 10 laptop and supported Samsung devices. You simply pin your favorite Android apps to the taskbar or the start menu of your laptop using the Your Phone app. Once accessible, you can use the apps without installing them on your laptop, even when they aren’t open on your phone. For now, this only works if you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, and it must be connected to the same WiFi network as your phone.

The main takeaway here is this: If you are very particular about your apps and how they work, the supporting operating system should be a major consideration. Even if you get the best 2-in-1 laptop that money can buy, you might want to hang on to your smartphone and keep it close… just in case.

Best 2-in-1 laptop for using Android apps: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

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Like the iPad Pro, it’s a tablet that can also deliver the 2-in-1 laptop experience. Amazon

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If you’re a big fan of Android apps, meet your match. With this 2-in-1, you’ll have access to all the apps you need without having to do any fancy finagling. Although it’s built mainly for use as a tablet, this model can easily expand into a laptop by attaching it to a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7+ keyboard, which is sold separately.

How does the touch screen work?

Most of us are accustomed to mouse-operated laptops, but touch screens have their place, particularly with tablets. Although they’re fairly straightforward, there are several variables to keep in mind when evaluating a touch screen. If you’re outside in cold weather, will it respond to your fingers while you’re wearing gloves? Also, moist fingers won’t activate some screens, which might be frustrating if you’re in a wet situation and can’t immediately dry them.

Certain laptop activities require a mouse, but with Windows and Google both supporting touch screens, they’re not just for tablets anymore. A responsive touch screen is an especially important 2-in-1 laptop feature if young children will be using it since their fingers tend to be stickier than most. Smudges left by their fingerprints may not be your only touch screen issue. Some apps, like File Explorer, were designed with a keyboard and mouse in mind, so they might not be as user-friendly when you access them in tablet mode.

If you go for a brand that allows you to use a stylus to input information, you’ll want to be sure it has palm-rejection technology. With that feature, the 2-in-1 will respond only to the stylus and not another part of your hand that’s touching the screen.

Best touch screen on a 2-in-1 laptop: Dell New XPS 13

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This attractive model mixes elegance and durability with high performance. Amazon

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It may not be cheap, but this Dell 2-in-1 comes loaded with features, including a sleek aluminum design that’s six percent thinner than the market average, a 2.25mm HD webcam, Dolby Vision, a damage-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 6 screen and an Eyesafe display that reduces harmful blue-light emissions. Just touch the power button and let it work its 2-in-1 magic.

How important is speed to you?

When it comes to complicated tasks that require a graphics card, like video editing and gaming, a traditional laptop will probably get the job done most efficiently. If you’re a casual user and speed is key, you’ll get more mileage — and cover it a lot more quickly — with the best 2-in-1 laptop than you would with just a tablet. They do, after all, feature full PC operating systems and faster processors.

Speed does tend to vary among 2-in-1 laptops, so to be sure you get the fastest bang for your bucks, make a checklist: Does it take forever to turn on and off? How easy is it to open programs and apps? Can you do what you need to do efficiently without wasting time watching a spinning wheel?

One thing that will affect the speed in a major way is the memory (RAM) and storage capacity of your 2-in-1. Since computers tend to slow down as they begin to run out of memory and space, you should get one that can hold as much memory and storage as possible. Light casual users who won’t be storing their entire life on a computer can probably get by with 4GB of RAM and 250GB of storage, but to stay on the safe — and fast — side, you should go as high with both as your finances will take you.

Best 2-in-1 laptop for speed: Lenovo Chromebook C330

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It’s a super-compact 2-in-1 with a screen/tablet section that’s not much larger than an iPad. Amazon

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Lenovo laptops boot up quickly, and you won’t have to wait more than a few seconds to get this one started. Its 10-point touch screen further ensures easy maneuverability. Although the RAM and storage meet only the minimum requirements for high efficiency, its compact price and size make it a top 2-in-1 pick.

Looks (and sound) matter

What good is a 2-in-1 if it delivers crappy sound and screen resolution? You should approach buying yours the same way you might approach buying a new television or speaker. The sound should be clear and crisp without requiring further amplification. Even the best 2-in-1 laptops won’t give you audio that’s as hifi as that of a Bose subwoofer, but if you are going to be watching a lot of movies and videos online or playing music on iTunes or Spotify, you shouldn’t have to strain to hear what’s going on.

Keep this in mind when assessing sound: The fans that keep the best 2-in-1 laptops from overheating might interfere with the audio, so to offset any potential effect, at least 8GB or RAM/memory is recommended. High-quality multimedia demands that your device processes data at high speeds, so more firepower means better audio while listening to music or watching movies.

Alas, nothing you screen on even the best 2-in-1 laptops will give you movie cinema or even 50-inch TV gorgeousness, but high definition maximizes viewing pleasure. The HD gold standard is 1920X1080, or 1080p, which is the most popular resolution for gamers. Some brands pack on features that allow users to more closely approximate the cinematic experience, but if you’re in the HD range, you’re already on your way.

Best 2-in-1 laptop for quality sound and screen: Acer Chromebook Spin 311

Great For The Whole Family

It comes loaded with Google benefits, including an extra 100GB of Google Drive storage space. Amazon

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Chromebooks give you access to more than two million Android apps available on Google Play, and this one’s IPS technology and antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass 6 touch screen deliver maximum clarity and detail. It offers limited space compared to other models, but there’s a microSD slot for extra storage, should you need it.

How much do you have to spend on a 2-in-1 laptop?

You won’t bring home a new 2-in-1 laptop without making a small dent in your bank account, but you also don’t have to cross into the realm of four-digit price tags.

Best budget 2-in-1 laptop: RCA Galileo

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No frills, but easy on the wallet. Amazon

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This one has fairly basic functionality with 1GB RAM, 32GB storage but you can’t go wrong with the bargain-basement price.

Best 2-in-1 laptop brands to know

The world is full of manufacturers that make the best 2-in-1 laptops, which means you’ll have a lot of options. The downside: You’ll have a lot of options, so how do you settle on just one? Since Apple is out of the running—unless you consider the iPad Pro + keyboard to be a 2-in-1, even though Apple doesn’t—making a choice might be slightly easier, but there’s still a lot to narrow down.

HP

Whenever experts compile lists of the best 2-in-1 laptops, Hewlett-Packard consistently comes out on top or in the vicinity of it. Their laptops are beautifully designed, and they use prismatic batteries, which have a lifespan of three to four years, making HPs more convenient for heavy users than other brands.

Dell

This is one of the most popular computer brands, and they’re known for being perfectly compatible with the Windows 10 operating system. Dell receives near-unanimously high marks for its efficient customer service, excellent warranties and the ease and speed with which faulty products are replaced. Although Dell’s headquarters are in Texas, 95 percent of its laptops are manufactured in China and Malaysia.

Lenovo

The 36-year-old Chinese brand offers some of the best 2-in-1 laptops at highly competitive prices. If extra portability is particularly important to you, Lenovo excels at miniature laptops that can tackle an assortment of big tasks. They may not always match the audio and screen resolution of their top-tier counterparts, but an entry-level price tag that is just under $200 gives Lenovo one of the best value-for-money rankings in the field.

A final word on the best 2-in-1 laptops

The best 2-in-1 laptops will do more for you than travel well. It’s great to have both your laptop and tablet in one place, but it’s even better if you don’t have to give up any of the benefits of having two separate devices. A number of brands are making 2-in-1 laptops with superior audio and visuals, and since Chromebooks run on the Google operating system instead of Windows 10, if you go with a Samsung Galaxy Chromebook or any other Chromebook model, you’ll be able to access your favorite Google Play Store apps with minimal hassle. All the music you want to listen to, the movies you want to watch and the games you want to play are just a tap of a touch screen away.