Tablets are versatile and can be used in the pursuit of productive tasks, but they definitely need the benefit of a good keyboard occasionally. The hybrid form brings the best of both worlds to the tablet owner, the ability to use the tablet as designed with the option of plugging in a keyboard for text entry. The split personality of Windows 8 has several companies planning to bring hybrids to market.
What sets the hybrid apart from the convertible notebook of old is the ability to detach the tablet (screen) from the keyboard (laptop). This allows for a normal tablet user experience without the weight/bulk of the keyboard as is the case with convertible notebooks that swivel the screen down to hide the keyboard.
The Asus Transformer started the recent hybrid trend on the Android platform with its innovative laptop dock that transforms the iPad-like tablet into a full laptop. It adds a full keyboard, trackpad, and second battery that provides up to 20 hours away from a power outlet.
Microsoft is poised to release Windows 8 in just a few weeks. The ground-breaking next version of Windows is designed to handle both tablets and laptops equally well. The company shocked everyone with the announcement of its own hardware line, the Surface tablets. What sets the Surface apart from other tablets is the innovative keyboard case that turns the tablet into a laptop.
The Surface is a hybrid intended to allow users to gain the full benefit of Windows 8, a touch tablet to take advantage of the new Windows 8 apps and a laptop to run legacy Windows apps that need a mouse and keyboard. Microsoft set the bar for the hybrid, and other companies are lining up their own models for later this year.
HP is showing off the Envy x2 (see image top of article), a 11.6-inch Windows 8 tablet that will ship with a laptop dock. The x2 in the dock looks like a laptop in every way while the tablet is a thin slate with a Clover Trail processor. The whole kit weighs approximately 3 pounds, with the tablet alone about 1.5 pounds. HP plans to have the x2 available in time for the holidays at a price to be announced later.
Dell is touting the XPS 10, a 10-inch tablet with laptop dock. It is more portable than the larger HP, and Dell is not yet sharing the detailed hardware specifications. It should be available later this year at an undisclosed price. (See the XPS 12 at the link above, an unusual convertible with a rotating screen).
Lenovo has been active in the Android tablet space and continues that with the upcoming IdeaTab S2110. The 10.1-inch Android tablet will combine an IPS display with optional keyboard dock reminiscent of the Transformer model to make for a hybrid with a mobile OS. The S2110 with a keyboard dock will set you back $499.
Asus will be selling a Windows 8 line of hybrids similar to the Android Transformer line. The Vivo Tab will come in both an 11.6-inch and 10.1-inch models and feature the keyboard dock that has been perfected with the Transformer. Pricing is not known at this time.
These are no doubt just the first of the rush of hybrids coming to market. The dual nature of Windows 8 lends itself to the hybrid device, capitalizing on both touch operation and keyboard/mouse input.