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Hybrids for laptop lovers

These laptop/tablet combos haven't forgotten that the clamshell comes first.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

If 2013 is remembered for one thing, at least as far as PCs go, it'll be the flood of new device designs that bridge the gap between laptop and tablet. From the Microsoft Surface Pro to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga to the Asus Transformer Book, there are many ways to be a hybrid.

Some systems are standalone slates that either include a wireless keyboard, or offer one as an add-on accessory. Others have a detachable design, with a screen that pops free (usually after hitting a button or sliding a latch) from a keyboard base. A few even keep their tablet screens permanently attached, merely allowing them to flip or fold over to form tabletlike shapes.

While it's great to have that kind multishape flexibility, let's be honest. Windows 8 still doesn't fully work as a tablet/touch OS, especially when held in portrait mode, as generations of iOS and Android tablets have trained us to do, and it frequently drops you into the traditional Windows desktop, where finger navigation is just as bad as it's always been on Windows.

Therefore, I'm always partial to hybrids that respect the laptop half of the equation. To date, the most successful hybrids have been those that are full-time laptops and part-time tablets. That means they do the least to disrupt the traditional clamshell design, and provide the most comfortable laptop experience for actual productivity, while letting you flip over to tablet mode for movies, games, and reading.

Dell XPS 12
The basic design, a screen with a center horizontal hinge that can flip 180 degrees and fold down to form a tablet, first came to us in the form of the Dell Inspiron Duo in 2010. Like the excellent Yoga 13, the new XPS 12 offers tabletlike functions without much compromise to the traditional laptop shape. Read the full review of the Dell XPS 12.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S
The fold-back hinge on the Yoga (both the 11- and 13-inch versions) differs from what most hybrids have tried to do. Of all the different ways to create a hybrid, Lenovo's Yoga method is arguably the best, especially if you're interested in a no-compromise laptop experience. In fact, when set up in laptop mode, you'd never be able to tell this is a convertible. While we're including the newer 11-inch model here, the same goes for its excellent 13-inch predecessor. Read the full review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S.

Asus Transformer Book TX300
This is, at first glance, an ultrabook-thin 13-inch laptop, similar to Asus' Zenbook line. Unlike many other hybrids, it has a high-end Core i7 CPU and full 1080p resolution. Beyond that, the Transformer Book has a 128GB solid-state drive in its tablet half, augmented by a full 500GB hard drive in the keyboard base. Read the full review of the Asus Transformer Book TX300.

HP EliteBook Revolve 810
The Revolve is clearly a laptop that can pretend to be a tablet. It's nice-feeling all around. It's a little more complex than the easy-fold hinge on the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, but it does make for very easy screen adjustment when planted on a table, for situations where you'd spin the display around to show something without having the keyboard in the way. Read the full review of the HP EliteBook Revolve 810.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
Lenovo describes the Helix laptop-tablet hybrid as a "flip-and-rip" system and the flipping and ripping comes into play when you activate the small hinge-based latch for removing the display from the rest of the body. When in laptop mode, the matte-black chassis feels like it could take a bullet, and the island-style ThinkPad keyboard, with keys slightly curved at the bottom, is impossible to beat. Read the full review of the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix.