Hybrid, slider, convertible: A tablet terminology guide

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.

TOPICS: Tablets, Laptops, Windows

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 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

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  • Interesting...

    A few things I'd like to point out;

    1) The X1 Carbon is actually classified as an Ultrabook, and fits perfectly with your definition as such. You should have used a more traditional (read as larger) notebook for this example.

    2) As for the terms "Notebook" and "Laptop", the former is the new name, and the latter is the old name retired for lega reasons. You see, "Laptop" seems to imply you put it on your lap... which will burn you if you run a hot notebook (say, gaming on it in the lounge). So, unless companies want to be sued, they no longer use the term "Laptop". Just saying that you'll probably only ever hear of "Notebook" from now on.

    3) Another thing people throw into the mix is "Desktop Replacement", which is stil a notebook, but usually one with higher disk drive capacity, dedicated graphics, and large screens. Examples are the Asus G73/N61, etc. It's becoming less common, but is still a term being thrown around and probably should have been mentioned. I consider the MacBook Pro 17" one of these too.

    4) Of course, you also have te terms "Netbook" and/or "Mini Notebook". Put simply, a "Netbook" is a very small and very low-power notebook with a screen under 10" in size, and usually an older Atom CPU (read as slow), and with no more than 2GB of RAM (part of the specification). A "Mini Notebook" is the bigger "Netbook" that may use an Atom or Celeron CPU (or AMD equivalent), but are usually still smal devices with a focus on battery life and size.

    4) With regards to the term "tablet", I don't agree with your definition. A long time ago (2002), the term "tablet" was used to describe a keyboard-less device that used a stylus for input. When the "Convertibles" appeared - Notebooks with rotating screens to form tablets - they too were referred to as "Tablets"... mostly because they used stylus input as well. My point is that people whom have used and supported these devices actually refer to the touch-input "Tablets" as "Slates" instead and reserve "Tablet" to the standard name for a convertible notebook. The iPad is NOT a tablet... it's a slate. Semantics, I know, but it's just how it is here.

    5) I guess I feel the need to lump "All in One" devices here too. Sure, they fit the "Desktop" description more than a "Notebook", purely because they run a separate keyboard, mouse, and have a large screen. That being said, they are essentially still "Notebook" computers bolted to the back of a large desktop LCD panel. The Toshiba DX1210, HP 9100 and even the iMac fit this description. It's important to include because some companies are building (or planning to build) huge 20"+ "Hybrids" with both qualify as the "Slate" and a "Desktop"... but probably fit more into the "All-in-One" name. Importantly, not all AIOs are touch-enabled i.e. HP Envy.
    • Sorry, but....wrong

      Notebook = Laptop
      Notebook, term used by OEMs to avoid litigation.
      Laptop, term used by everyone else.

      At my work we don't call them notebooks. When I worked at Dell, the work laptop was forbidden, but it has been too long in the public arena for that to change there.

      Tablet was also used by some people to refer to convertibles, but since convertibles never really caught on, and the public at large uses tablet to refer to the iPad, I have to disagree again.

      The market, that is the users, define a tablet as a computing device without a keyboard. On a few forums I have been on, slate and tablet were defined differently to allow a more understandable conversation, but that limited audience, like the limited audience here on ZDNet does not provide definitions to the public.

      Tablet = iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc.

      Netbooks are dead, leave them out of the discussion. Mini-Notebooks are Laptops.

      No, All-in-Ones are not Notebooks, even though they share much of their hardware. The difference between Notebook and Desktop is....portability. If you cannot close it, pick it up and carry it into the next room, then it is not a Laptop. Also, the all in ones that I have seen lack a battery, which is required to enter the Laptop category.
      • Sorry, but....wrong

        Get a life !!!!
  • Hybrids?

    I believe the generic definition of hybrid, is something that incorporates the elements of 2 or more things. Therefore, I'd call any PC with both laptop and tablet features, a hybrid. This would mean that convertibles, sliders, tablets wth dockable keyboards, etc., are all hybrids. Straight tablets and laptops are not hybrids, but I believe even laptops with touchscreens, and large touch screen all-in-ones, could be considered hybrids. Of course in light of no formal definition, definitions of hybrid computers can all be subject to debate.
    P. Douglas
    • Hybrids?

      Technically, you're right. However, precise wording often gives way to conventional usage; often against what may seem common sense. James' article does reflect the common usage as it's evolved over the last decade.
  • Laptop vs. Ultrabook vs. Tablet vs. Netbook vs. Slate‏

    I want to try and de-mystify the confusion the media has given to consumers. Here's what I think of the portable device categories.

    Laptop -- biggest form factor portable device. Robust in power. Screen, keyboard fixed. No touch.
    Ultrabook -- Just like a laptop, but sacrifices power for smaller form factors, size, and weight. Meant to be more portable but powerful enough. No touch.
    Tablet PC -- Replaces the Ultrabook. Super touch-friendly. Mainly driven by touch. However, nowadays comes with keyboard and mouse too in some form.
    Netbook -- Extinct; Meant to be an even more portable version of the ultrabook; very low-cost; and significantly less powerful. Mainly for consumption. No touch.
    Slate -- Meant mainly for consumption purposes only. The iPad falls into this category. Doesn't really boast use of physical keyboards. Very low productivity.

    I think one of the main points where people get confused is between the Ultrabook, Tablet, and Slate. In my mind, the Tablet has replaced the ultrabook and netbook with high-end and low-end tablets respectively. Slate's are still in the market for devices like iPads, Nooks, and Kindles. And Laptops will still be around at least for a while for people who want super-duper high-end but portable devices.
  • cooler Name for the slider...

    Put the name "slider" and tabllet together: SLABLET.
    Sorry, I'll be quiet now.

    T.G. Lewis