The best 2-in-1 laptops

Tablet or notebook? Our favorite 2-in-1 PCs give you the best of both worlds

When it comes to 2-in-1 laptops, the Surface Pro 6 takes the crown. It’s light and powerful, with great design choices throughout.

But it’s not the only good convertible laptop. We’ve reviewed every great 2-in-1 out there, including Chromebooks, convertibles, and powerful 15-inch versions. Even if you’re not a Surface fan, you’ll find some great options for 2-in-1s below.

The best 2-in-1 laptops at a glance

The best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Pro 6

microsoft surface pro 6 review 3
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s a great tablet PC because of its thin and light form factor, and it offers a solid physical keyboard, superior pen, and outstanding performance for real productivity.

Who’s it for: Anyone who just can’t decide between a tablet and a traditional notebook

Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Pro 6:

Microsoft recently updated its popular 2017 Surface Pro — and reintroduced the numbering scheme — at a hardware event in October 2018. The new machine closely resembles its predecessors, adding in a new black color but retaining essentially the same outer chassis. But don’t let looks fool you, as the newest Surface Pro is a meaningful update over the Surface Pro.

First up is an upgrade to 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core-U processors, which provide a real boost in performance and a significant improvement in battery life. The new CPUs afford very good performance that’s a step up from the previous 7th-generation processors, particularly when multitasking. Battery life was also dramatically improved and is perhaps the more important benefit from the CPU upgrade. The Surface Pro 6 now lasts as long as most Windows 10 notebooks, tablet or clamshell, and that’s a real feat

All that power and convenience doesn’t come cheap, however. While the Surface Pro starts out at a reasonable $900, that doesn’t include the Signature Type Cover ($160) and Surface Pen ($100), which are obligatory. That’s also for the lowest-end configuration with an Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD, and the Surface Pro maxes out at a pricey $2,300 with the Core i7-7660U, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review

The best convertible laptop: HP Spectre x360 13

HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2018)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s fast, has great battery life, offers a lovely display, and swivels around into multiple modes.

Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a 2-in-1 that works best as a laptop.

Why we picked the HP Spectre x360 13:

We picked the 2019 HP Spectre x360 13 because it offers the best combination of performance, battery life, display quality, and price, among a very loaded field. We had already rated the Spectre x360 13 as one of the best laptops you can buy for the last several years, and the latest “gem-cut” refresh introduced a new angular design that’s both gorgeous and functional.

The Spectre x360 uses the latest Whiskey Lake 8th-gen Intel Core processors, quad-core CPUs that are fast and efficient. And, HP built in a new Intel low-power display that allows for impressive battery life for media consumption and productivity tasks — in our testing of the newest Spectre x360 13, it managed a whopping 17.5 hours looping a local video. A slighter thicker chassis provides improved thermals, as well.

The best thing about today’s 360-degree convertible 2-in-1s is that they work as well as traditional notebooks as their inflexible clamshell cousins, and the Spectre x360 13 is the best evidence of that. The Surface Pro might be a better tablet replacement, but the Spectre x360 is nearly perfect.

Read our full HP Spectre x360 13 review

The best 2-in-1 Chromebook: HP Chromebook x2

best chromebooks hp chromebook x2

Why should you buy this: If you’re a Chrome OS fan and the Surface Book 2 makes you jealous of Windows 10 users, then the Chromebook x2 offers a compelling alternative.

Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a Chromebook 2-in-1 that makes as good a laptop as it does a tablet.

Why we picked the HP Chromebook x2:

The Windows 10 ecosystem doesn’t have a monopoly on the 2-in-1 form factor. If you haven’t bought into Windows 10 or you don’t have the cash for some of these Windows 10 machines, then you’ll likely be looking for a different option. That’s where the HP Chromebook x2 comes in.

This 2-in-1 Chromebook is just as well-built as any of the 2-in-1s on this list, and it provides very good performance thanks to a 7th-gen Intel Core m3 processor that’s more than fast enough for the lightweight Chrome OS. 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage are enough to keep Google’s operating system humming and at a reasonable price too. You’ll also enjoy a 12.3-inch display at a high 2,400 x 1,600 (235 PPI) resolution and in the same productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio as the Surface devices on our list. Brightness, contrast, and colors are all excellent, meaning that the Chromebook x2 can serve as both a fast productivity device and a great media consumption tablet.

The Chromebook x2 isn’t exactly an inexpensive Chromebook, but it’s still the second-least expensive notebook on this particular list. If you’re looking for a Chrome OS machine and don’t want to give up a great build quality, an innovative design, and great performance and battery life, then the Chromebook x2 should be on your short list.

Read our full HP Chromebook x2 review

The best touchscreen laptop: Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 2019 review (9380)
Riley Young/Digital Trends
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It doesn’t swivel or snap off, but it’s small enough that the touch display makes it feel a bit like a tablet.

Who’s it for: Everyone who wants to tap and prod the display but doesn’t need a standalone slate.

Why we picked the Dell XPS 13:

The Dell XPS 13 has occupied our top laptop slot for quite some time now, and the latest version did away with the funky webcam position that was our only complaint. Now that you can videoconference without worrying about your nose hairs, the XPS 13 is a great touchscreen laptop with few compromises.

In spite of putting the webcam above the display where it belongs, Dell has managed to hold onto the tiny bezels that fit a 13.3-inch display into a very small chassis. The XPS 13 is so small, in fact, that you can tap and swipe on the display almost as comfortably as you can on a tablet. That’s where it fits in this roundup — as the clamshell laptop that might make you forget about swiveling the display around or ripping it off a detachable keyboard.

Is the XPS 13 too small? Not even close. The keyboard and touchpad are both still full-sized and a pleasure to use. Somehow, Dell managed to squeeze in enough battery capacity to go with efficient components, and so battery life doesn’t suffer. And some nifty thermal management technology means that the laptop can perform without throttling due to too much heat.

It’s a premium laptop for sure, at least when it’s fully configured, but it starts out at a relatively cheap $900 for an entry-level configuration that’s still quite usable. You’ll want to make sure to configure it with a touch display, either Full HD or 4K, or else it just won’t fit in this particular list.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 (2018) review

The best tablet laptop: Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go Review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It provides the same ability to morph into a tablet as its bigger sibling, but it’s also more comfortable in its primary role as a tablet.

Who’s it for: Anyone wants a tablet first but one that can plug in a keyboard in a pinch — and doesn’t want to spend a ton of cash

Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Go:

You can buy an iPad with around a 10-inch display, but what if iOS just doesn’t cut it for you? Maybe you need Windows 10 for the occasional productivity work, but you still want a tablet that can let you consume your media without giving you cramps. If that’s you, then you’ll want to consider the Microsoft Surface Go. It provides the same basic form factor and build quality as the Surface Pro 6 while being significantly smaller and even easier to use as a tablet.

As a detachable tablet, it has its own version of Microsoft’s excellent $130 Type Cover option and $100 Surface Pen that provide great typing and inking experiences. Best yet, the Surface Go itself is very reasonably priced, starting at $400 for a Pentium Gold 4415Y CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and only costing $150 or so more for 8GB of RAM and a fast 128GB PCIe SSD. In short, it’s cost-competitive with the iPad and runs the full Windows 10.

Performance is maybe its biggest let-down. It can keep up with productivity and media tasks but won’t win any races. The display is a standout feature, though, as a 10-inch 3:2 aspect ratio PixelSense panel at 1,800 x 1,200 (217 PPI) with excellent contrast, brightness, and colors.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Go review

The best detachable laptop: Microsoft Surface Book 2

microsoft surface book 2 review 15 inch 310
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s a solid performer for just about any productivity task, but converts to a tablet for on-the-go use.

Who’s it for: Business and creative professionals with money to spend on the best

Why we picked the Surface Book 2:

If money is no object, then Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 15-inch reigns supreme as the best overall 2-in-1 choice among large devices. Microsoft introduced the original Surface Book in October 2015, which was eons ago in computer time, but the design was so forward-looking that Microsoft saw no need to change it significantly in the new model. However, it expanded the line by introducing a 15-inch version — it’s not only the best large 2-in-1, but it’s also one of the best laptops, period.

The Surface Book’s claim to fame has always been its display that can be popped off the keyboard base to become a surprisingly thin, light, and powerful tablet. The keyboard base is more of a dock containing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 discrete graphics and housing most of the combination’s total 90 watt-hour battery capacity.

Also, the Surface Book 2 introduced Intel’s eighth-generation Intel Core processors, specifically the Core i7-8650U quad-core CPU. It also comes with 16GB of RAM in all of its configurations, and up to a 1TB SSD can be selected. You’ll pay for all that power, with greater storage configurations sending the price upwards of $3,000. Its power supply limits it from full-on gaming prowess, but it’s great for advanced applications like AutoCAD and Adobe Premiere.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Book 2 review

Should you buy now or wait?

There’s never been a better time to buy a 2-in-1. The market is full of great options, and we’re convinced that the machines we’ve listed here will serve you well for years to come. Performance, battery life, displays, and connectivity are all top-notch, and these flexible machines will handle everything you need them to do now and well into the future.

And there’s not much coming anytime soon to give you pause. Intel has just released it’s eighth-generation Core processors, and any machines — like the Microsoft Surface Pro — that don’t already have the newest processors likely won’t be getting them until well into 2018.

How we test

We spend a tremendous amount of time reviewing notebooks of all shapes and sizes — and that’s saying something today, when notebooks come in so many shapes, sizes, and configurations. To make sure our recommendations provide real value to our readers, we live with the machines for a time and use them in writing our reviews, to make sure we can assess how they’ll work for real users.

But we do have a method to our madness in conducting these reviews, and you can look behind the scenes here. Hopefully, it will be obvious that our reviews are real labors of love — or hate, depending on the notebook — and therefore you can at least recognize that we don’t arrive at our conclusions without some serious consideration.

Research and buying tips

What’s a 2-in-1 laptop?

A 2-in-1 laptop can convert from a traditional clamshell laptop to a tablet. In some cases, it’s a bit of a misnomer — 360-degree convertible laptops like the HP Spectre x360 13 can also be used in tent and media modes.

Today, you can pick from among a variety of different kinds of 2-in-1s. The most popular types are the tablet with a detachable keyboard, epitomized by the Microsoft Surface Pro 6, and the 360-degree convertible where the display flips around to turn into a (usually larger) slate. The main advantage of the tablet 2-in-1 is portability — tablets are extremely thin, light, and easy to carry around — while they also work the best for drawing and taking notes on the pen-enabled display. The 360-degree convertible 2-in-1, on the other hand, isn’t quite as handy as a tablet but it tends to work better in clamshell laptop mode — especially when using it on the lap, where it’s more stable than most detachable tablets.

Should I get a 2-in-1 or a traditional laptop?

Recent 360-degree convertibles like our favorite HP Spectre x360 13 make for great clamshells — in fact, it’s a great competitor to the Dell XPS 13 even if you never end up flipping the display around. Modern 2-in-1s are fast, have long battery life, and often enjoy even better displays than the typical clamshell laptop.

If you need the fastest gaming laptop or professional workstation that uses the absolutely fastest CPUs and GPUs, though, then the 2-in-1 form factor likely won’t work out. As we mention below, 2-in-1s tend to be thinner and lighter because they’re meant to be used as slates. That creates some limitations in just how fast a 2-in-1 can perform compared to traditional laptops.

Does Apple make a 2-in-1 laptop?

Technically speaking, no, Apple doesn’t make a 2-in-1 laptop. At least, not in the sense of a “real” PC that runs on the full-featured MacOS platform.

The closest Apple comes is the iPad Pro, which can snap together with a keyboard and make for a usable laptop-like device as long as you can find an iOS app that meets your needs. Apple is improving how well the iPad works as a laptop by enabling mouse support and improved file system support in the new iPadOS.

Can a 2-in-1 laptop be used for gaming?

Because they’re meant to be used as slates, 2-in-1s have some built-in constraints that limit the CPUs and GPUs that can be packed inside. And so, our answer is a qualified “yes” — you can game on some 2-in-1s, but don’t expect the same performance as a dedicated gaming laptop.

For example, consider the Microsoft Surface Book 2 15. It equips an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU that makes it more than fast enough for modern games at 1080p and moderately high graphics settings. It’s held back somewhat by thermal and power considerations, and it uses a quad-core, 15-watt 8th-gen CPU, but it’s still good enough for light gaming sessions. Another choice is the HP Spectre x360 15, which uses an 8th-gen six-core Core i7-8750H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. It, too, can play modern titles at 1080p and decent graphics.

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