Hybrid, slider, convertible: A tablet terminology guide

Summary:The multi-faceted focus of Windows 8 is already resulting in a variety of form factors getting ready for market. In an effort to make sense of these devices, this terminology guide should help.

Microsoft told us that Windows 8 was built to handle desktops, notebooks, tablets, and all sorts of devices. We're already seeing OEMs unveil notebooks, tablets, hybrids, sliders, and other types of PCs for Windows 8. This is resulting in confusion in online discussions about them.

You've no doubt seen the terms convertible, hybrid, slider, and tablet and are wondering what they mean. Here's a simple way to tell the different forms apart.

Notebooks/ laptops: No confusion here, these are the clamshell computers we've come to know and love. It doesn't matter if they are thin, thick, big, or small, if it has a keyboard and a clamshell lid that opens it's a notebook or laptop.

ThinkPad laptop (600x450)
ThinkPad X1 Carbon notebook/ laptop

Ultrabook: This is strictly a marketing term coined by Intel to indicate a laptop that is thin and light. It is the Windows equivalent of the MacBook Air. All Ultrabooks are notebooks/ laptops, but only very thin and light notebooks are Ultrabooks.

Ultrabook (600x450)
IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook

Tablet: These are the new iPad-like slates that most OEMs will be making for Windows 8. They will either run Windows 8 or Windows RT. Real tablets are displays only, if they have a keyboard physically attached (not a cover) they become one of the other terms.

Samsung_ATIV-460
Samsung Ativ tablet

Convertible notebook: These are regular laptops with a screen that swivels around to turn the display into a tablet. It achieves this by rotating the screen around and slipping it over the keyboard which is hidden in tablet mode.

Lenovo Yoga
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga convertible notebook

Slider: These are a form of convertible notebook that has the display slide toward the user to form a tablet. The display covers (hides) the keyboard for use as a tablet. Note that while sliders are convertible notebooks by definition not all convertible notebooks are sliders, thus the separate designation.

Toshiba Satellite U925t
Toshiba U925t Slider

Hybrid: These are two seperate devices, a tablet (screen) and a keyboard (dock) that can be used together like a laptop. The Surface tablets are hybrids due to the keyboard covers. Other hybrids have been shown where the tablet snaps onto a keyboard dock to form a single laptop device. This is similar to the Transformer from Asus, an Android tablet and laptop dock.

CNET Dell XPS 10 hybrid
Dell XPS 10 hybrid

Topics: Tablets, Laptops, Windows

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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