Picking the Right 2-in-1 Laptop
This growing market offers innovative features for users – learn how to choose the right one.
- June 19, 2018
According to IDC, 2017 was a dreary year for personal computing device shipments, which saw a 2.7 percent decline from the previous year. The one ray of sunshine on the horizon is the detachable tablet segment. Also referred to as 2-in-1 laptops or convertible notebooks, the category as a whole is poised for an 11.6 percent growth in global shipments through 2021, the only device category looking quite so optimistic.
Part of this growth may be tied to timing — a fresh user experience available at the start of enterprise refresh cycles. “We’ve seen convertible tablets increasing their share of the notebook market over the last few years,” explains Kelly Etter, Intel Brand Manager at CDW. “For companies that have not upgraded their devices in the last 4 or 5 years, this is a new and attractive option. It’s a much different device experience and performance than a standard desktop or laptop.”
Why is this form factor seeing growth now? “Convenience is a big reason this form factor is taking off,” says Justin Kring, HP Sr. Brand Manager at CDW. “You can have a full desktop experience, you can travel with them. If you want the touchscreen and presentation option, you’ve got a full-function tablet at your fingertips.”
With today’s mobile workforce, often hopping from a desk to a meeting room, from a shared work space to a couch at home, ease of transport is key. “When I travel with a laptop, and backup battery, and mouse and other peripherals, it’s a pain,” says Damien D’Amore, a Dell CSG Solution Specialist at CDW. “Two-in-1s make it easier for the business traveler. C-level folks want to travel lighter. Two-in-1s improve the whole commute experience. Going through TSA becomes easier without all those extras you need with a typical laptop and tablet and its peripherals.”
It’s not just individual users that are drawn to these convertible notebooks. Organizations are seeing savings when moving their workers to these devices. “Two-in-1s provide savings in many ways. Companies don’t need to buy 2 devices, a notebook and a tablet, for their users. That’s a savings right there,” explains Andre Sinclair, partner specialist at CDW. “And then there’s the software license savings. Rather than needing a separate license per user for both a tablet and notebook, organizations only need to purchase one license — for the 2-in-1.”
2 Designs, 1 Great User Experience
Any good tech trend goes by many names before consumers and OEMs finally lock on a name (cloud computing was once referred to as distributed computing), and 2 -in-1 laptops are no different. Part of the difficulty in settling on a proper name for this device category is that manufacturers have developed two different designs for it: the convertible-hybrid laptop (clamshell) and the detachable-hybrid tablet (detachable slate).
Convertible-hybrid laptop: This is a folding or clamshell design that involves swiveling the keyboard out of the way to use the device in tablet mode. It is a better option if you are planning to use the keyboard a lot. Downside is it can be a little bulkier than a detachable-hybrid tablet because of the hinge mechanisms and the battery in the keyboard base.
Detachable-hybrid tablet: This is a slate tablet that you can connect to a keyboard dock. When attached to the dock, it is indistinguishable from the convertible-hybrid laptop. Some detachable docks include extra battery cells or USB ports. The downside is that detachable-hybrid tablets tend to be top heavy, with all the system’s components and batteries residing in the tablet portion of the setup. This is a good device in a presentation scenario where you are controlling a slide deck through the tablet.
Which design is right for you? There are a few factors to consider. The first is the work being done on it. The detachable tablet design has some specific use cases. “I see it being used by delivery drivers, by healthcare workers, and in police vehicles,” says Kring. “In retail and small business, it’s being used as a POS device. Contractors doing work on a job site or in a house can also make use of the presentation and POS use options.”
The clamshell design is more versatile as a go-to tool for mobile professionals, workers needing the typical workstation set up. The keyboard experience is more stable and familiar, and you have docking capabilities not available with the detachable tablet design.
Given the similarities in user experience, it may come down to simply what users are more comfortable working on. “When comparing clamshell versus 360 hinge designs, it comes down to user preference,” says Sinclair. “Does the user want to have a tablet in hand to share, or set up in tent mode? How close to the tablet experience do you want to go? That’s a determinant in which design to go with.”
5 Feature Considerations
Beyond the overall design of the 2-in-1 laptop, there are several features users should scrutinize when determining the best fit.
Operating System: The choice of operating systems is a big consideration. “If all your apps are in the cloud, why do you need anything else beyond Chrome? But it can only do so much,” says Kring. “If you need to run Office or some high-end, memory-intensive software, you need something else.”
Weight: Weight is another important consideration — especially for the business traveler. Detachables allow you to ditch some of the weight, which is valuable in certain situations,” explains D’Amore. “But with the clamshell, you’re stuck at 2 or 3 pounds for the device. They’re a little bit heavier. And screen size is still an important factor — again, touching on the question of weight.”
Battery life: This is high on the list of features important to users. Improvements to Intel’s Core i-series CPUs along with industry-wide improvements to power and heat management design on devices have extended the battery life of 2-in-1 notebooks ever further. Top devices are now averaging 9 to 13 hours of battery life. Once viewed as a hinderance to wider adoption of 2-in-1’s, these devices are now very competitive with standard laptops when it comes to batter life.
Touchscreen: This capability is growing in importance as a standout feature on these devices. If there is one feature that sets the 2-in-1 notebook apart from other devices, the ability to shift between manual keyboard and mouse interaction and touchscreen is it. As consumers have grown more comfortable with touchscreen, manufacturers have been working to design it into more and more devices, especially Microsoft. “Touchscreen is a big consideration, especially with Windows 10,” says Etter. “And several of the Chromebooks are utilizing touch as well.”
“Everything is going touchscreen,” agrees Sinclair. “This feature is very popular and is now the norm in this space. Some of this popularity is tied to the release of Windows 10. Touch works very well with this OS, especially when compared to the Windows 8 experience, which was not as good.”
Security: This is another big consideration with 2-in-1s. There are many security features being implemented by different manufacturers that focus on securing access to the device: biometrics, smartcard readers, fingerprint scanners. Others are baking in security at the firmware and hardware level, securing the BIOS from tampering. Security features are often tiered by manufacturers, including more add-ons the higher up the product line you go.
A Good Time to Buy
With 2-in-1 notebooks being the target area for growth among laptop devices in the coming years, you can expect manufacturers to be focusing their development efforts in this market. And with refresh cycles coming around shortly, this is a market primed for innovation — and good deals for consumers. Knowing a little bit about how to assess these devices, you can now find the right fit for you.