Both the hardware and the Windows OS had to mature, and it finally hit its stride with 2015's Surface Pro 4. It instantly became the ideal that other PC makers should follow -- and they did, as Lenovo, Samsung, Acer and others released their own versions of Microsoft's 2-in-1 device.
Like the Surface, these 2-in-1s are Windows 10 tablet PCs with detachable keyboards, giving you a more laptop-like experience, whereas hybrids like or are laptops that have screens that fold back 360 degrees so they can be used as a tablet. Tablet PCs typically have fewer ports than their laptop counterparts and don't last as long on battery power, but they're also slimmer, lighter and have active pen support, giving you a more natural feel than you'd get from a passive stylus.
While we're expecting the Surface Pro 5's arrival this spring, there are several alternatives worth checking out right now. And since many were released after the Surface Pro 4, you'll find updated features like USB-C ports and active pens with greater levels of pressure sensitivity.
Lenovo Miix 510
The Miix comes very close to the Surface Pro 4 in performance, battery life and features, but it costs much less. They nearly look identical, too, and Lenovo includes its keyboard (though its Active Pen isn't). It's got a 12.2-inch 1,920x1,200-pixel display compared to the Pro 4's 12.3-inch 2,736x1,824-pixel resolution display, and it lacks a microSD card slot, but the Miix does have a USB-C port instead of Microsoft's proprietary Connect connector. Pricing starts at $600.
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16
It's pricey, but for digital artists Wacom's MobileStudio Pro is the ultimate mobile solution. The tablet has an exceptionally good feel and 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity with its new Pro Pen 2. Connect any Bluetooth keyboard to it and use it as a Windows 10 laptop, or like the Cintiq line from which it evolved, you can connect it to another computer -- Windows or Mac -- and use it as an interactive pen display and graphics tablet. Pricing starts at $2,000.
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
The Switch's design, keyboard and performance are impressive and it runs quiet, thanks to a fanless design (something the Lenovo Miix can't match). And while its screen resolution was lower than the Surface Pro 4's 4K display, it was still nice to use. The only disappointment was its optional pen, so unless that's crucial, you might want to investigate this Acer a little more. Pricing starts at $700.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
The TabPro S is thinner than others here, making it feel more like an iPad. It also has great battery life at more than 7 hours, and a brilliant AMOLED display that makes using it a pleasure. What's a little less pleasurable is its slightly underpowered Intel Core M processor. Also, the bundled keyboard cover's keys are a set too close together for comfortable typing. Plus, without a built-in kickstand, you're limited to the two positions the cover provides. The overall value here is excellent, though. Pricing starts at $700.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
Aimed at business users, the X1 lacks the more stylish design of Lenovo's Miix hybrid, but it gains something else entirely: modularity. A proprietary port for the keyboard attachment can also connect to add-on modules to increase your ports and battery life, add a small projector, or attach an Intel RealSense camera for depth sensing and 3D scans. Pricing starts around $1,000.
Like Samsung's TabPro S, the Matebook is designed more like an iPad than other Windows 10 tablets. It has an excellent screen and nice-sounding speakers (for a tablet, at least) and a responsive fingerprint sensor that made logging into Windows a snap. Unfortunately, the keyboard and pen aren't included, so unless you can find it at a significantly better price than the Samsung, you might just as well get that instead of the Matebook. Pricing starts at $500.
Though neither of these run on Windows 10, their features sure do seem inspired by Microsoft's Surface PCs.
Google Pixel C
The Pixel C is Google's Android-based answer to the Surface. It's a powerful tablet with a beautiful screen and an optional magnetic keyboard that doubles as a screen cover. Though Google doesn't have an active pen for it, there is a third-party one that works with it. The Pixel C has been around since September 2015 and supplies appear to be running low. Currently only the 64GB version appears to be readily available for $599.
Apple iPad Pro
Whether we're talking about the original 12.9-inch model or its smaller 9.7-inch linemate, the Pro is Apple's attempt to turn its tablet into a laptop substitute as well as a pen-enabled creative tool. The iPad Pro runs on the company's mobile OS, iOS 10, instead of Apple's MacOS, however. Pricing starts at $800 for the 12.9-inch and $600 for the 9.7-inch, though both are available at discounted prices. These discounts lend some credence to rumors the Pro will be replaced as soon as March.
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