Windows 8 hybrids: How to build the perfect laptop and tablet combo

Summary:The versatility of Windows 8 has led to an amazing assortment of hybrid computers. These laptops that are also tablets best take advantage of Windows 8. The perfect one hasn't been built yet, but here's how to do it.

HP Envy x2
Image credit: James Kendrick/ ZDNet

Microsoft bit off a daunting task when it decided to make Windows 8 work well on both laptops and tablets. It's done a pretty good job, and that's led to a wide variety of hybrid computers to best take advantage of it. Laptop makers have taken different approaches to the hybrid, and no doubt each model appeals to some buyers. My requirements for the perfect hybrid haven't been met yet, but here's how it can be done.

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The hybrid has taken many forms, and while most models are similar in some ways, most fall short for me. Of the two styles that are prevalent, only the hybrids with detachable tablets appeal to me. The laptops with screens that rotate, twist, or spin over the keyboard don't cut the mustard as far as I'm concerned.

These convertible style hybrids will suit some buyers, but they aren't good tablets for me. When I use a tablet in my hands I do not (in fact refuse to) have the bulk and weight of the laptop bits messing with the tablet experience. I must have a tablet that is thin and light as can be.

Microsoft has produced an innovative design with the Surface tablet that is sort of a hybrid. It's a tablet that when used with one of the keyboard covers can be kind of a laptop, so the hybrid term fits. While many Surface owners love their hybrid, I need a full laptop dock as detailed below and not a keyboard cover.

However you feel about it, the iPad is the gold standard for form and weight of a tablet. It is as thin as can be, and only weighs about 1.5 pounds. This is a good standard for tablets, and the one that hybrid makers should emulate.

The tablet is only half the battle for hybrid makers; hybrids must be good laptops, too. It doesn't matter to me if a hybrid has either a good tablet or a laptop. The perfect hybrid in my world must be both a great tablet and laptop to eliminate compromise for the user. That is obviously harder to do than it seems as we haven't seen it done yet.

Getting the tablet right

As previously stated, the tablet portion of the perfect hybrid must be as thin and light as the iPad. This is especially important, and hard to do, as a good hybrid must have at least an 11-inch screen. Any smaller than that and the laptop portion of the hybrid is too small to have a decent keyboard. Smaller tablets also make it harder to fit needed components such as memory card slots for additional storage when the tablet is used alone.

Making the tablet thin complicates things for the hybrid makers as that's where all the PC hardware lives. The tablet must be without compromise on the PC side so everything must be crammed in there. I'm convinced this is the primary reason that most hybrids we see are of the one piece convertible design. That eliminates the need to create a thin screen with a full PC inside. Unfortunately, that doesn't work for me personally. Give me a tablet that meets my standards or don't make it.

As mentioned, be sure and put a microSD slot on the tablet to provide additional storage. Most hybrids have decent storage of 64GB and even 128GB, but it's nice to have an additional 64GB of removable storage on top of that.

The tablet also needs a decent web cam on the front for use as a tablet and especially for use as a laptop. Hybrids with Windows 8 are good for professionals, and a good web cam ensures that Skype is properly supported.

Last but not least, the perfect tablet needs to support pen input, and that means an active digitizer. Using a pen is not important to everyone, but it can be a deal breaker for some. It makes sense to build the capability into the perfect tablet.

Next: Don't shortchange the laptop; PC Hardware Requirements; Putting it all together

Topics: Laptops, Mobility, Tablets, Windows


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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