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The best 2-in-1 laptops: Top flexible, hybrid, and convertible notebooks

Hybrid laptops/tablets, or 2-in-1s, offer maximum flexibility in a portable computing device. So, what is the best 2-in-1 laptop to buy? Our top pick is the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 for its 4K screen options and support for Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.

Although the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, vaccination and improved treatments are allowing businesses in many parts of the world to resume their normal working practices -- or, most likely, some form of post-pandemic hybrid work arrangement. 

One consequence is that mobile professionals will once again become mobile, travelling to company offices or clients' premises, working on trains or in coffee shops as they go about their business, as well as continuing to toil from home. 

Increased prevalence of remote working during the pandemic drove significant demand for new devices, with analyst firm Gartner reporting a worldwide spend of $787.4 billion in 2021 (13% growth over 2020). This growth is forecast to continue in 2022, albeit at a slower pace ($813.7bn, 3.3%). Many users will be seeking the best laptop or desktop to take advantage of the security and usability features built into Windows 11, which is widely available on new PCs and eligible Windows 10 systems. 

Also: Windows 11: Everything you need to know 
 
Mobile pros requiring maximum flexibility will likely be drawn to 2-in-1 devices that can work as laptops or tablets (although there is usually a premium to pay over a traditional clamshell device). These come in several form factors. 'Laptop first' 2-in-1s look like regular laptops, with 'proper' keyboards, but can either detach the screen section to work as an independent tablet ('detachable') or rotate the screen a full 360 degrees to lie flat, back-to-back, against the keyboard section and work in tablet mode ('convertible'). A new convertible variant slides the screen forward to lie flat over the keyboard. 

'Tablet first' 2-in-1s are, as the name suggests, primarily tablets but can work in laptop mode via an add-on -- often somewhat flimsy -- keyboard, with the tablet propped up by a kickstand. 
 
Windows dominates the PC operating system market thanks to its long-time availability on a wide range of OEM (and more recently, Microsoft) hardware, which has resulted in a huge variety of software written for the platform. Convertible Windows devices have been around for a long time -- ZDNet reviewed the HP Compaq tc4400 running Windows XP Professional Tablet PC Edition back in March 2007, for example. However, it's fair to say that the modern 2-in-1 era began with Microsoft's Surface Pro in 2013, which launched with Windows 8 Pro. The Surface range, initially envisaged as a showcase for new tablet/laptop technologies and form factors to encourage Microsoft's OEM partners, has since grown into a successful business for the company. 

Convertible devices are also available as Chrome OS-based Chromebooks, which offer an affordable and increasingly popular platform for web-based productivity apps and virtual desktops. You might want to use Linux for its free, open-source and increasingly usable nature or because it's less of a target for cybercriminals than Windows (although you may need to tweak your chosen distro to work well with a touch screen). There is no MacOS 2-in-1 yet, but the M1-based iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard is the closest you'll get to a hybrid tablet/laptop in today's Apple ecosystem.

So, given that you're in the market for a 2-in-1 device, which one should you buy? As ever, that depends on what you want to do with it and how much budget is at your disposal.

Here are ZDNet's current picks for a variety of form factors, operating systems, and use cases.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Best 360-degree convertible

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Image: Dell

OS  Windows 11 (Home, Pro), Windows 10 (Home, Pro) | CPU  Intel Core i5-1135G7, Core i7-1165G7 | GPU  Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM  8GB, 16GB | Storage  256GB, 512GB, 1TB | Screen  13.4-inch 16:10 WLED, FHD+ (1920 x 1200) or UHD+ (3840 x 2400) touch screen | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) | Ports & slots  2x Thunderbolt 4 (with Power Delivery) | Camera  HD (720p) with IR | Audio  dual array digital mics, stereo speakers, 3.5mm audio in/out | Battery  51Wh | Dimensions  297mm x 207mm x 14.35mm | Weight  from 1.32kg | Price  from $1,169.99 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, FHD+ touch screen)

Dell's XPS 13 is our current top pick among regular laptops for knowledge workers, and the convertible variant also heads up ZDNet's list of best 2-in-1 devices. Like its stablemate, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 offers a great combination of build quality, features and performance -- with the added benefit of form factor flexibility thanks to its 360-degree rotating screen. 

If you choose the entry-level $1,169.99 configuration, you'll get an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor with integrated Iris Xe Graphics, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 13.4-inch 16:10 touch screen with FHD+ (1920 x 1200) resolution. At the top end of the price scale, $1,469.99 buys you a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage and an FHD+ display. If you want the UHD+ (3840 x 2400) display, you currently have to settle for the $1,669.99 Core i7 configuration with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. 

The addition of 11th-generation Intel processors and Thunderbolt 4 brings the XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 right up to date. However, battery life suffers if you go for a Core i7 processor and the power-hungry 4K+ screen. 

Read review: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 

Pros:

  • Solid build 
  • 4K+ screen option 
  • Thunderbolt 4 support

Cons:

  • Minimal-travel keyboard action
  • Moderate battery life with Core i7/4K+ screen 

Also see:

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Best tablet-first detachable

Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Images: Microsoft

OS  Windows 11 Home (Surface Pro 8), Windows 11 Pro or 10 Pro (Surface Pro 8 for Business| CPU  Intel Core i3-1115G4 (SP 8 for Business), Core i5-1135G7, Core i7-1185G7 | GPU  Intel UHD Graphics (i3), Intel Iris Xe Graphics (i5, i7) | RAM  8GB, 16GB, 32GB (LPDDR4x) | Storage  128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB (removable M.2 SSD) | Screen  13-inch PixelSense, 2800 x 1920 (3:2, 267ppi), 10-point multi-touch, 60Hz or 120H refresh | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), 4G LTE (option, SP 8 for Business) | Ports and slots  2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover port | Cameras  5MP Windows Hello (front), 10MP (rear) | Audio  2 far-field Studio Mics, 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, 3.5mm headphone jack | Battery  51.5Wh | Dimensions  287mm x 208mm x 9.3mm | Weight  891g | Price  Surface Pro 8 from $899.99 (Core i5), $1,399.99 (Core i7); Surface Pro 8 for Business from $1,099.99 (Core i3), $1,199.99 (Core i5), $1,699.99 (Core i7); Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 $279.99 

The Surface Pro is a tablet with an attachable keyboard (not included in the base price) that transforms it into a laptop of sorts. It's not a laptop you can use comfortably -- or at all -- on your lap, thanks to the kickstand that keeps the screen section upright, but it's light and flexible and an excellent choice if you do a lot of touchscreen and stylus-driven tasks -- sketching, handwritten note-taking and annotation, for example -- as well as mainstream knowledge work. Note that, as with the keyboard, the stylus is another extra-cost option. 

There are two variants of the 13-inch Surface Pro 8, both of which run on 11th-generation Core CPUs: the consumer-focused Surface Pro 8, and the business-oriented Surface Pro 8 for Business, which offers LTE mobile broadband. As well as the 13-inch display, upgrades over the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 7/7+ include improved battery life (up to 16h on Wi-Fi, 14h on LTE), the Signature Keyboard with housing for the Slim Pen 2 stylus, and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. The SSD drive on the Surface Pro 8 is removable, so you can upgrade a 128GB or 256GB model by fitting a more capacious M.2 2230 PCIe drive.

Read more: Six reasons I'm replacing my Surface Pro 7 with a Surface Pro 8

The Surface Pro 8 starts at $899.99 for a Wi-Fi-only version with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. A Core i7 configuration with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD will cost you $1,399.99, while the top-end Core i7 model with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD costs $2,399.99.

The Surface Pro 8 for Business starts at $1,099 for a Wi-Fi-only version with a Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. A Core i5 version of this spec will cost you $100 more, while adding LTE connectivity brings the price up to $1,349.99. Core i7 models start at $1,699.99 (16GB RAM, 256GB SSD), rising to a hefty $2,699.99 with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. 

Read more: The best Surface PC: Every Surface device is Windows 11-ready

The original raison d'etre of the Surface brand was for Microsoft to showcase new form factors and technologies that its OEM partners could use as inspiration for their designs. That has certainly worked with the Surface Pro-style 'tablet-first' 2-in-1, and you'll find plenty of variations on the theme from the likes of Lenovo, HP, Dell and others. 

Pros:

  • 13-inch screen with up to 120Hz refresh rate 
  • Signature Keyboard with stylus housing 
  • Two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports 
  • Upgradable SSD 
  • Available in consumer and business versions 

Cons: 

  • Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 are extra-cost options 
  • No MicroSD card slot 
  • Not a 'lappable' device 

Also see:

Microsoft Surface Go 3

Best budget Windows detachable

Microsoft Surface Go 3
Image: Microsoft

OS  Windows 11 Home (in S Mode), Windows 11 Pro or 10 Pro (Surface Go 3 for Business) | CPU  Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y (Surface Go 3), Core i3-10100Y | GPU  Intel UHD Graphics 615 | RAM 4GB, 8GB (LPDDR3) | Storage  64GB (eMMC), 128GB, 256GB (Surface Go 3 for Business with LTE) | Screen  10.5-inch PixelSense, 1920 x 1280 (3:2, 220ppi), 10-point multi-touch | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), optional 4G LTE (Snapdragon X16 LTE) | Ports & slots  USB-C, Surface Connect port, Surface Type Cover port, MicroSDXC card reader, Nano SIM tray | Camera  5MP Windows Hello (front), 8MP (rear) | Audio  dual far-field Studio Mics, 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio, 3.5mm headphone jack | Battery  28Wh (10h; 'up to 10h' with LTE) | Dimensions  245 mm x 175 mm x 8.3 mm | Weight  544g (Wi-Fi), 553g (Wi-Fi + LTE) | Price  from $399.99 (Surface Go 3) or $499.99 (Surface Go 3 for Business); Type Covers from $79.99, Surface Pen $59.99

Microsoft's 10.5-inch Surface Go 3 is a tablet-first device, with keyboard covers and a stylus available as optional extras. It's an attractive and highly portable 2-in-1 (if you buy the Type Cover keyboard) that's well suited for mainstream productivity tasks like web browsing, email and video calls. 
 
The Surface Go 3 is available in two versions: the standard version runs Windows 11 Home in locked-down S Mode, while the slightly more expensive for Business model comes with either Windows 11 Pro or 10 Pro. It has a 10.5-inch FHD+ touch screen (220ppi) and comes with 4GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage in the standard model, while the business model adds a 256GB option. You'll pay $100 extra over the Wi-Fi-only model if you want 4G LTE mobile broadband. 

Read review: Microsoft Surface Go 3

Although entry-level prices for the Surface Go 3 are attractive, options can edge towards the expensive: a fully-specified 'for Business' system with a Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, 4G LTE, a top-end Type Cover and a Surface Pen comes in at $1,079.97. 

Read more: The best Surface PC: Every Surface device is Windows 11-ready

The Surface Go 3 has decent camera (5MP front, 8MP rear) and audio subsystems, making it a good vehicle for on-the-go video calls. However, connections are limited to one USB-C port, Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect and Type Cover ports, a MicroSD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack. Performance from the Core i3 processor in ZDNet's review unit was acceptable for an affordable 2-in-1, but battery life -- claimed at up to 11 hours -- was slightly disappointing: although we could watch video for the full 11 hours, working with productivity apps brought battery life down to 3 hours 15 minutes. 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Excellent screen
  • High-quality webcam and speakers

Cons:

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Keyboard and stylus are optional

Also see:

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Best laptop-first detachable

Microsoft Surface Book 3
Image: Microsoft

OS  Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro ('for Business' model) | CPU  Intel Core i5-1035G7 (13.5-inch only), Core i7-1065G7 | GPU  Intel Iris Plus Graphics (Core i5, 13.5-inch), 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 (Core i7, 13.5-inch), 6GB Nvidia GeForce 1660 Ti (Core i7, 15-inch), 6GB Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 (Core i7, 15-inch, 'for Business' model) | RAM  8GB (13.5-inch only), 16GB, 32GB | Storage  256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB (15-inch only) | Screen  13.5-inch 3:2 PixelSense (3000 x 2000, 267ppi) touch screen, 15-inch 3:2 PixelSense (3240 x 2160, 260ppi) touch screen | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Xbox Wireless (15-inch only) | Ports & slots  2x USB 3.1, USB-C (with Power Delivery), 2x Surface Connect ports (keyboard base, tablet), SD card reader | Camera  5MP (front, with IR for face authentication), 8MP rear | Audio  dual far-field Studio mics, stereo speakers, 3.5mm audio-out jack | Battery  13.5-inch: 69Wh (Core i5), 75.3Wh (Core i7) / 15-inch: 90Wh / up to 15.5h (13.5-inch) or 17.5h (15-inch) when connected to keyboard base | Dimensions  13-inch: 312mm x 232mm x 13-23 mm (15-23mm for Core i7) / 15-inch: 343mm x 251mm x 15-23mm | Weight  13.5-inch: 1.53kg (Core i5), 1.64kg (Core i7) / 15-inch: 1.9kg (including keyboard) • 13.5-inch: 719g / 15-inch: 817g (tablet only) | Price  13.5-inch: from $1,599.99 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) / 15-inch: from $2,149.99 (Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD)

Microsoft's 2015 13.5-inch Surface Book was the original 'laptop-first' detachable: at first glance, it looked like a regular laptop, but the screen could detach and function independently as a tablet, or be turned around and reattached, offering the 'tent' and 'presentation' modes characteristic of 360-degree rotating convertibles. In 2017 the Surface Book 2 added a 15-inch version, an arrangement that persists with the Surface Book 3, which launched in May 2020.

As with other Surface models, the Surface Book 3 is available in standard and business versions, the latter running Windows 10 Pro and offering more GPU options.

Prices for the Surface Book 3 start at $1,599.99 for a 13.5-inch standard model with a 10th-generation Core i5-1035G7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD; the business model costs $100 more. At the other end of the scale, a 15-inch business model with a Core i7-1065G7 processor, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and discrete Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 graphics with 6GB of dedicated video memory will set you back a hefty $3,699.99.

Read review: Microsoft Surface Book 3 (15-inch) 

There are batteries in both sections of the Surface Book 3 (tablet and keyboard), but Microsoft only quotes battery life in laptop mode: 15.5 hours' 'typical device usage' for the 13.5-inch model and 17.5h for the 15-inch model. ZDNet's review of the 15-inch Surface Book 3 reported achieving a full day's work on battery power with "over a third of the battery left for the commute home, should commuting ever return after 2020".

Read more: The best Surface PC: Every Surface device is Windows 11-ready

The latest refresh of the Surface range, in September 2021, saw Microsoft moving away from the detachable laptop form factor with the introduction of the 14.4-inch Surface Laptop Studio, which has a slide-forward screen supporting laptop, 'stage' and 'studio' (tablet) modes. If handheld tablet-mode operation is important to your workflow, note that the 13.5in. Surface Book 3 weighs 719g without the keyboard, while the 15in. model weighs 817g. The non-detachable 14.4in. Surface Laptop Studio, by contrast, weighs 1.74kg (Core i5) to 1.82kg (Core i7).

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Solid specification
  • 3:2 display

Cons

  • Complex hinge mechanism
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

Best 2-in-1 Chromebook

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook
Images: Lenovo

OS  Chrome OS | CPU  MediaTek Helio P60T | GPU  ARM Mali-G72 MP3 (integrated) | RAM  4GB | Storage  64GB, 128GB | Screen  10.1-inch FHD (1920 x 1200, 224ppi) IPS touch screen, 400 nits | Wireless  Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) | Ports & slots  USB-C (with Power Delivery), 5-point pogo pins for keyboard attachment | Camera  2MP front, 8MP rear | Audio  stereo speakers, USB-C adapter for 3.5mm headset jack | Battery  7180mAh (up to 10h video playback, 8h web browsing) | Dimensions  239.8mm x 159.8mm x 7.35mm (tablet) / 244.87mm x 169.31mm x 18.2mm (tablet + keyboard) | Weight  450g (tablet), 920g (tablet + keyboard) | Price  from $259.99 (4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC)

Lenovo's IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is a 2-in-1 Chromebook comprising a 10.1-inch tablet, an attachable keyboard and a rear cover/kickstand, starting at $259.99. Running Chrome OS and with support for Android apps, this diminutive multi-modal device offers excellent value -- albeit as a companion rather than a primary device.

The entry-level configuration runs Chrome OS on a MediaTek Helio P60T processor with 4GB of RAM and a 64GB eMMC SSD. The 10.1inch IPS touch screen has FHD+ resolution (1920 x 1200, 224ppi, 16:10 aspect ratio) with 400 nits brightness. There's also a $264.99 model, which boosts the storage to 128GB and adds a Lenovo USI stylus. The latter looks like the preferred option.

Read review: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

Although some keys on the right side are rather narrow, the keyboard has good action, while the touchpad is also necessarily small. Lenovo claims 10 hours of battery life for the IdeaPad Duet Chromebook, and that's pretty much in line with what emerged in ZDNet's review.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Keyboard and kickstand included
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Cramped keyboard
  • Moderate specification

Also see:

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)

Best premium convertible

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
Image: Lenovo

OS  Windows 11 (Home, Pro) | CPU  Intel Core i5-1135G7, Core i7-1185G7 | GPU  Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM  8GB, 16GB | Storage  256GB, 512GB, 1TB PCIe SSD | Screen 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080, 157ppi) IPS touch screen, 400 nits / UHD (3840 x 2160, 315ppi) IPS touch screen, HDR 400, 500 nits | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) | Ports & slots  USB 3.2, USB-C Thunderbolt 4 | Camera  720p HD | Audio  Rotating sound bar with Dolby Atmos speaker system (2x subwoofers, 2x tweeters), 2x webcam mics, 3.5mm audio in/out jack | Battery  60Wh (15h FHD, 10h UHD) | Dimensions  319.4mm x 216.4mm x 14.6-15.7mm (Mica), 319.5mm x 216.7mm x 15.3-16.5mm (Shadow black) | Weight  from 1.37kg | Price  from $1,104.99 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)

Lenovo's Intel Evo-branded Yoga 9i is the renamed late-2020 update to the well-received 2019 Yoga C940. As well as an improved 11th-generation Intel Core compute platform and long battery life, the stylish-looking Yoga 9i features an excellent audio subsystem built around Lenovo's Rotating Sound Bar, plus a bundled active stylus with on-device garaging and charging. The Yoga 9i also comes in a 15.6-inch form factor, but we're highlighting the 14-inch model, which weighs in at 1.37kg.

Available in a silver Mica livery or as a leather-topped Shadow Black version with a fancy glass palm rest and an ultrasonic fingerprint reader, the 'build your own' Yoga 9i configuration starts at $1,104.99 for a Core i5-1135G7 processor running Windows 11 Home, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD and an FHD IPS touch screen. You can boost this to Windows 11 Pro (+$60), a Core i7-1185G7 (+$265), 16GB of RAM (+$50), a 1TB SSD (+$135) and a 4K/ UHD display (+$100). All of these options, along with the Shadow Black livery, bring the price up to $1,734.99.

Read review: Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)

The Yoga 9i's signature Rotating Sound Bar has two subwoofers and two tweeters built into the hinge, delivering impressive audio whether you're in laptop, tablet, tent or presentation mode. The active pen has a home at the back of the chassis, on the right side. Lenovo claims up to 15 hours of battery life for the FHD model or 10h for the UHD version. In ZDNet's review of the UHD model, battery life came in at around 7 hours running a typical mix of productivity workloads.

Pros:

  • Superb speakers in Rotating Sound Bar
  • Stylus with on-device housing
  • Excellent 4K screen

Cons:

  • No Windows Hello support
  • Moderate battery life (4K model)
  • Runs warm (4K model)

Also see:

Apple iPad Pro (M1, 2021)

Apple tablet-first detachable

Apple iPad Pro (M1, 2021)
Images: Apple

OS  iPadOS 15 | CPU  Apple M1 (8-core) | GPU  8-core (integrated) | RAM  8GB (128GB, 256GB, 512GB storage), 16GB (1TB, 2TB storage) | Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB | Screen  11-inch Liquid Retina (IPS touch screen, 2388 x 1668, 264ppi, 600 nits) / 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR (IPS touch screen, 2731 x 2048, 264ppi, 1000 nits) | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), optional mobile broadband (5G, 4G LTE via nano-SIM or eSIM) | Ports & slots  Thunderbolt/ USB 4, Smart Connector, Magnetic Connector, nano-SIM | Cameras  Front: TrueDepth Camera (12MP, f/2.4, 122° FoV) / Rear: wide angle (12MP, f/1.8), ultra wide angle (10MP, f/2.4, 125° FoV) , 2x optical, 5x digital zoom, LiDAR scanner | Audio  5 mics, 4 speakers | Battery  28.6Wh (11-inch), 40.9Wh (12.9-inch); up to 10h (Wi-Fi), 9h (mobile broadband) | Dimensions  178.5mm x 247.6mm x 5.9mm (11-inch) / 214.9mm x 280.6mm x 6.4mm (12.9-inch) | Weight  11-inch: 466g (Wi-Fi), 468g (Wi-Fi+MBB) / 12.9-inch: 682g (Wi-Fi), 684g (Wi-Fi+MBB) | Price  from $799 (11-inch), $1,099 (12.9-inch) / Magic Keyboard $299 (11-inch), $349 (12.9-inch) / Apple Pencil $129

Arguably, the most far-reaching aspect of Apple's April 2021 event was the introduction of 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros powered by the M1 system-on-chip (SoC). This is the same Apple Silicon that underpins the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini. It gives Apple's tablet similar horsepower to a high-end laptop (the company claims the M1 delivers 50% more performance and a 40% graphics boost over the previous-generation iPad Pro). With the addition of a Magic Keyboard, the iPad becomes a device that could, perhaps, replace a traditional laptop as a work tool.

Read review: Apple iPad Pro (2021)

It's an expensive almost-laptop, though: the M1 iPad Pro starts at $799 for an 11-inch model with 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and Wi-Fi 6, rising to $2,399 for a 12.9-inch model with 16GB of RAM, 2TB of storage and Wi-Fi 6 plus cellular (up to 5G) connectivity. That's before you add in a Magic Keyboard ($299 for 11-inch, $349 for 12.9-inch) and a $129 Apple Pencil. You can buy a lot of stylus-equipped 2-in-1 actual-laptop for $2,877.

Read more: iPadOS 15 hands-on review

The latest iPad Pro hardware, which includes a mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display on the 12.9-inch model, is impressive, if expensive. However, much will depend on how the software develops, starting with iPadOS 15.

Read more: Best iPad 2022: iPad Air, Pro, and Mini models compared

Pros:

  • M1 processor drives excellent performance
  • Near-laptop capability
  • Thunderbolt 4 support

Cons:

  • Expensive

Also see:

Panasonic Toughbook G2

Best rugged 2-in-1

Panasonic Toughbook G2

OS  Windows 10 Pro | CPU  Intel Core i5-10310U vPro | GPU  Intel UHD Graphics (integrated) | RAM  16GB, 32GB | Storage  512GB, 1TB (plus separate model with quick-release SSD) | Screen  10.1-inch IPS touch screen (1920 x 1200, 224ppi) with glove and rain modes, 1000 nits, IP55 digitiser | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), optional mobile broadband (4G LTE) | Ports & slots  USB 3.1, USB-C (with Power Delivery), RJ-45 Ethernet, port replicator connector, dual antenna connector / Configuration Port (serial, 2D barcode reader, USB 2.0, RJ-45 or FLIR thermal camera) / Rear Expansion Bay Area (smart card reader or HF-RFID [NFC] reader) | Cameras  Front: 2MP with IR & privacy shutter / Rear: 8MP, with autofocus & flash | Audio  stereo speakers | Battery  50Wh (standard), 68Wh (extended), hot-swappable (12h standard, 18.5h extended) | Dimensions  279mm x 188mm x 23.5mm | Weight  1.19kg | Price  from $2,999

Rugged computing specialist Panasonic recently introduced the Toughbook G2, a fully rugged tablet with an optional keyboard that transforms it into a 2-in-1 device.

The Toughbook G2 offers an enterprise-grade platform based on a 10th-generation Intel Core i5-10310U vPro processor with 16GB or 32GB of RAM 512GB or 1TB of MVMe SSD storage. It's a Microsoft Secured Core PC, and there's a variant with a quick-release SSD aimed at industry sectors with particularly data-sensitive use cases. Its rugged credentials include MIL-STD 810H testing and IP65 certification for dust and water resistance.

The Toughbook G2's 10.1-inch IPS display is 'sunlight viewable', with maximum brightness of 1,000 nits. It's a 10-point capacitive multi-touchscreen that works with fingers and the optional stylus, with selectable modes for gloved hands and rainy conditions. As well as a selection of standard ports, there's a 'configuration port' which can be fitted at purchase time with a serial port, a barcode reader, a USB 2.0 port, a second Ethernet port or a thermal camera. Another configurable element is the expansion bay at the back, which can take a smart card reader or an HF-RFID (NFC) reader.

Read more: Toughbook G2: Panasonic's new rugged 10.1-inch 2-in-1 Windows tablet 

Optional accessories include docking units, vehicle mounts, battery packs and the stylus pen. The detachable keyboard adds two extra ports -- USB-A and USB-C -- while the desktop cradle supports 4K output on two external 4K displays. Battery life with the standard 50Wh battery pack is quoted at 12 hours, or 18.5 hours with the optional extended 68Wh battery. Batteries are hot-swappable, which is a key requirement for many field workers. 

Pros:

  • Tough chassis
  • Good security features
  • Highly configurable
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Moderate specification
  • Expensive

Also see:

Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel

Best workstation-class convertible

Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel
Images: Acer

OS  Windows 11 Pro or 10 Pro | CPU  Intel Core i7-10750H | GPU  Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 (up to 6GB video RAM) | RAM  16GB | Storage  1TB | Screen  15.6-inch IPS touch screen, 4K/UHD (3840 x 2160) | Wireless  Bluetooth 5, Wi-F- 6 (802.11ax) | Ports & slots  2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, 2x USB 3.2, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet (RJ-45), SD card reader | Camera  720p HD | Audio  mic, stereo speakers, 3.5mm audio-out | Battery  4-cell (7h) | Dimensions  358mm x 259mm x 28.7mm | Weight  2.5kg | Price  from $3,499

Workstation-class systems in a convertible 2-in-1 form factor are not common, but a notable exception is Acer's innovative ConceptD 7 Ezel. Aimed at graphics professionals and, in the Pro version, "videographers, 3D animators, AI professionals and many more," the Ezel name refers to a flexibly-hinged touch-screen that supports multiple modes -- six according to Acer ('laptop', 'float', 'share', 'display', 'pad' and 'stand'). First unveiled at CES 2020, this design idea has since been taken up by HP with the Elite Folio and Microsoft with its recent Surface Laptop Studio.

The 15.6-inch screen is suitably high-spec, as you'd expect given the Ezel's target market: an IPS panel with 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution, Pantone validation and support for 100% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut (no mention of DCI-P3 though). Also included is a Wacom EMR stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity.

There are currently two ConceptD 7 Ezel models for sale on Acer's US website: one runs Windows 10 Pro on a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with 32GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPU with 8GB of dedicated video memory and costs $3,999.99; the other runs Windows 11 Pro on a Core i7-11800H with an 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD and costs $3,499.99. 

Read review: Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel

The Pro version offers Core i7 or Xeon processors, up to 16GB Nvidia Quadro RTX A5000 graphics, up to 32GB of RAM and up to 2TB of SSD storage.

ISV certifications are also offered with the Ezel Pro, to reassure users that their mission-critical apps will work without issue.

Pros

  • Versatile 'ezel' design
  • Attractive 15.6-inch 4K display
  • Touch controls and bundled stylus
  • Strong graphics performance

Cons

  • No DCI-P3 support
  • Limited upgrade/customisation options

LG Gram 16 2-in-1

Best large-screen convertible

LG Gram 16 2-in-1
Images: LG

OS  Windows 10 Home | CPU  Intel Core i5-1135G7, Core i7-1165G7 | GPU  Intel Iris Xe Graphics (integrated) | RAM 16GB | Storage  512GB, 2TB (2x 1TB) | Screen  16-inch WQXGA (2560 x 1600, 188.7ppi, 16:10) IPS touch screen with Gorilla Glass 6 protection | Wireless  Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) | Ports & slots  USB 3.2, 2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, MicroSD card reader | Camera  HD webcam | Audio  stereo speakers, 3.5mm audio-out jack | Battery  80Wh (up to 21h) | Dimensions  356.5mm x 248.4mm x 17mm | Weight  1.48kg | Price  $1,549.99 (Core i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD), $1,699.99 (Core i7, 16GB RAM, 2TB SSD)

There are plenty of 15.6-inch convertibles on the market, but your search for anything bigger will lead you to just one vendor -- LG, and its 16-inch Gram 16 2-in-1. Despite having the largest screen of any current convertible, the LG Gram 16 manages to combine good performance, relatively lightweight (1.48kg), military-grade (MIL-STD 810G) build quality -- and, of course, 2-in-1 flexibility.

The Gram 16 2-in-1 isn't exactly an affordable option, so you'll need to have a good reason for pushing the convertible format to its limit. The entry-level model, with a Core i5-1135G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, costs $1,549.99, while a Core i7-1165G7 configuration with 2TB of SSD storage costs $1,699.99. 

The 16-inch touch screen is a high-quality 16:10 IPS panel protected by Gorilla Glass 6, with 2560 by 1600 (WQXGA) resolution and support for 99% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. A stylus is also included.

LG claims up to 21 hours of battery life for the Gram 16 2-in-1's large 80Wh battery, and we've seen reviews reporting over 15 hours of 'real-world' usage, which is impressive for a system with a large, high-resolution display.

Pros:

  • Lightweight yet sturdy
  • High-quality 16-inch screen
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Basic webcam

HP Elite Folio

Best Windows on Arm 2-in-1

HP Elite Folio
Images: HP Inc

OS  Windows 10 (Home, Pro) | CPU  Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G Compute Platform | GPU  Qualcomm Adreno GPU | RAM  up to 16GB | Storage  up to 512GB | Screen  13.5in. 1920 x 1280 Edge-to-Edge Glass, 10-point multi-touch | Wireless  Bluetooth LE 5.0, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), 4G LTE and 5G mobile broadband | Ports and slots  2x USB-C 3.2, Nano SIM | Camera  HD IR + hybrid Y2.2mm HD webcam | Audio  2x front-facing mics, 4x stereo speakers, 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack | Battery  up to 24.5h of local video playback | Dimensions  299mm x 230mm x 15.9mm | Weight  1.3kg | Price  from $1,969

HP's Elite Folio is a 13.5-inch 2-in-1 whose touch screen folds forward by stages -- first to cover the keyboard leaving the touchpad accessible, then to lie flat on the keyboard, enabling tablet-mode operation. 

It's based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 platform, which includes both 4G LTE and 5G modems, along with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). The message is that this ultraportable (1.3kg) 2-in-1 is 'always on, always connected', with claimed battery life of up to 24.5 hours of 'local video playback'. With optional Sure View privacy for the touch screen, an Elite Slim Active Pen (with on-device storage and charging), a well-specified audio-video subsystem and fanless operation, this will be a sought-after laptop for the well-heeled mobile professional.

Read review: HP Elite Folio review

The Elite Folio's Arm-based processor certainly delivers on battery life (ZDNet's review recorded battery life of around 15 hours with mixed-use workloads), but there is a trade-off in that Windows 10 on Arm (WoA) can currently only run 32-bit Windows apps. Intel x64 emulation is coming to WoA, however, and is available now via the Windows Insider Program. ARM64-native apps are appearing too, and include Microsoft's Teams and Edge, and Adobe's Photoshop and Lightroom.

Pros:

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Innovative form factor
  • Premium design and build quality
  • 4G LTE and 5G option

Cons:

  • App compatibility issues
  • Few ports
  • Expensive

Also see:

What is the best 2-in-1 laptop?

Our pick for the best 2-in-1 laptop is the Dell XPS 13 convertible model. You can configure it with up to 1TB of storage, 16GB of RAM, and a UHD+ touchscreen to handle everything from content creation and photo editing to typical office work.

Buy this...

If you need...

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

A well-rounded 2-in-1 laptop

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

A tablet-first 2-in-1 laptop with detachable keyboard

Microsoft Surface Go 3

An affordable 2-in-1 laptop

Microsoft Surface Book 3

A laptop-first, detachable 2-in-1 model

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

An affordable 2-in-1 Chromebook

Lenovo Yoga 9i

A high-end 2-in-1 laptop 

Apple iPad Pro M1

A convertible Apple device

Panasonic Toughbook G2

A rugged 2-in-1 laptop

Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel

A workstation-capable convertible laptop

LG Gram 16

A 2-in-1 laptop with a large screen

HP Elite Folio

A Windows on Arm convertible laptop

What is a 2-in-1 laptop?

A 2-in-1 laptop, also called a convertible laptop, is a portable computer that is built with hinges which give the screen a larger range of motion in order to "convert" the laptop into a tablet-like device. 

Does Apple make a 2-in-1 laptop?

At the time of writing, Apple doesn't make a 2-in-1 version of their MacBooks. Though you can use the iPad Pro M1 as a laptop with a detachable keyboard.

What is the cheapest 2-in-1 laptop?

Within our list of the best 2-in-1 laptops available to buy, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is the cheapest at $259.99. It's a 10.1-inch Chromebook tablet-first detachable. If you prefer a Windows laptop rather than a Chromebook, consider the Microsoft Surface Go 3. It costs $399.99 and is a 10.5-inch budget detachable.

Which is better: A 2-in-1 or a laptop?

If you want maximum flexibility from your portable computing device, a laptop/ tablet hybrid, or 2-in-1, of some sort could fit the bill -- although that bill may be higher than for a regular laptop due to the touch screen, stylus and other extra features that may be required, such as a 360-degree rotating screen hinge. 

There are 2-in-1 devices to suit both 'tablet-first' and 'laptop-first' use cases, so you should be able to find one that suits your work practices. It's also an area of form factor innovation, so keep an eye out for new developments.

Which operating system should you choose?

Every computing platform has its committed supporters, but most people end up using a particular operating system because key applications run on it, or because it's chosen for them by their employer, or because of budgetary issues. 

Windows spans the range from budget to premium, while Chrome OS is largely confined to the affordable end of the market. There are no 2-in-1 laptops from Apple (yet) -- the nearest you'll get is an iPad Pro/Magic Keyboard combo running iPadOS 15.

Windows 11 is rolling out on new PCs, and has been available as a free upgrade on eligible Windows 10 systems since October 5 2021. All of the Windows devices listed here qualify for Windows 11, so if you buy one with Windows 10 installed you'll be able to upgrade to version 11 in due course if you wish. If you don't, note that Windows 10 support ends on October 14 2025, after which there will be no more security patches or feature updates.

See: Windows 11 hands on: Microsoft's biggest minor upgrade ever is all about new hardware

Laptop vendors: Should you stick to the 'usual suspects' or seek out lesser-known brands?

Generally speaking, the leading PC vendors have the broadest range of offerings and the best-documented track records in terms of product development and customer relations. 

So in the absence of a specialised use case or budgetary constraint, you're usually going to be looking at the likes of Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple and Acer -- which currently lead the PC market in terms of shipments -- plus a handful of other well-known brands, including Microsoft.

How did we choose these 2-in-1 laptops?

I have been writing, commissioning and editing reviews of laptops (and many other types of tech products) since the 1990s. The selection process for this 'Best' list is based on a combination of personal usage and experience, involvement in the ZDNet reviews process, and analysis of other reviews and roundups.

Which 2-in-1 laptop is right for you?

The key question when buying a 2-in-1 laptop -- as with any product -- is: 'What do you want to do with it?' Having established the use case, you'll have a focus for your research and should quickly get a feel for the key features to look out for.

Once you have a long list of potential candidates, your budget will likely trim it down at the top end, while your cautionary instincts should kick in at the bottom end (if something appears too good to be true, it probably is). Armed with a well-researched shortlist, you should have a good chance of ending up with a laptop that will satisfy your requirements.

Laptop

Screen size

Price (from)

Type

Dell XPS 2-in-1  

13.4 inches  

$1,1169  

360-degree convertible  

Microsoft Surface Pro 8  

13 inches  

$899.99  

tablet-first detachable  

Microsoft Surface Go 3  

10.5 inches  

$399.99  

budget detachable  

Microsoft Surface Book 3  

13.5 or 15 inches  

$1,599 (13.5in.), $2,149 (15in.)  

laptop-first detachable  

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook  

10.1 inches  

$259.99  

Chromebook tablet-first detachable  

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)  

14 inches  

$1,104.99  

360-degree convertible  

Apple iPad Pro (M1, 2021)  

11 or 12.9 inches  

$799 (11in.), $1,099 (12.9in.)  

iOS tablet-first detachable  

Panasonic Toughbook G2  

10.1 inches  

$2,299  

rugged detachable  

Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel  

15.6 inches  

$3,499  

workstation-class convertible  

LG Gram 16 2-in-1  

16 inches  

$1,549  

large-screen 360-degree convertible  

HP Elite Folio  

13.5 inches  

$1,969  

Windows on Arm convertible  


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