When it comes to 2-in-1 laptops, Microsoft’scurrently takes the crown. It’s light and powerful, with great design choices throughout and some serious upgrades to its performance.
It’s not the only good convertible laptop, however. We’ve reviewed every great 2-in-1 available, 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 7
- The best convertible laptop: HP Spectre x360 13
- The best 2-in-1 Chromebook: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
- The best touchscreen laptop: Dell XPS 13
- The best small 2-in-1: Surface Go 2
- The best detachable laptop: Surface Book 3
Who’s it for: Anyone who just can’t decide between a tablet and a traditional notebook.
Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Pro 7:
The Surface Pro 7 introduced in October 2019 closely resembles its predecessors, with the same basic design and choice between platinum and black colors. Inside, however, the Surface Pro 7 offers some real advantages.
First is an upgrade to 10th-generation quad-core Intel “Ice Lake” Core-U processors, which provide a real boost in performance (especially in graphics) but a small step back in battery life. The new CPUs afford very good performance that’s a step up from the previous 8th-gen processors, particularly when using the faster Iris Plus graphics in the high-end Core i7. Again, battery life is a bit less than the previous generation, so that’s something to keep in mind.
All that power and convenience doesn’t come cheap, however. While the Surface Pro 7 starts out at a reasonable $750, that doesn’t include the Signature Type Cover ($160) and Surface Pen ($100), which are must-have accessories for full functionality. That’s also for the lowest-end configuration with an Intel Core i3, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD. The Surface Pro 7 maxes out at a pricey $2,300 with the Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD.
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 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 Intel’s 8th-gen quad-core “Whiskey Lake” CPUs that are fast and efficient. HP also installed 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 slightly thicker chassis provides improved thermals, as well.
The best thing about today’s 360-degree convertible 2-in-1s is that they work just as well as traditional clamshell notebooks 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.
Note that HP just introduced a new Spectre x360 13 that has tiny bezels and offers both Intel’s 10th-gen “Ice Lake” CPUs and a new OLED display option. That’s something to keep in mind before you pull the trigger on the current generation’s low prices.
Why should you buy this: If you’re a Chrome OS fan and like tablet functionality, the Duet is made for you.
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a Chromebook 2-in-1 that’s both a great tablet and laptop.
Why we picked the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet:
The Duet is a Chromebook for people who like tablet designs and really like Chromebook prices, but are still looking for the right 2-in-1 PC. The slim Duet offers a 10.1-inch HD screen, a MediaTek Helio P60T processor, and 4GB of RAM. Since it’s a Chromebook, storage space really isn’t a focus, but it’s nice to see 64GB for those who need it.
Ports on this Chromebook are limited to a USB-C connection that also charges the tablet. While it’s nice that the keypad includes a small touchpad for those who want it, it’s still a little cramped for our taste. However, we rarely see similar specs made available at such a low price (and you can always choose a different keypad if you want to). The battery is rated for up to 10 hours.
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 2019 version did away with the funky webcam position that was our only complaint. With the 2020 model, Dell switched to Intel’s 10th-gen Comet Lake CPUs and a 13.4-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio that just feels more square.
With the screen increase, Dell reduced the bottom bezel to complement the already-thinned sides. The dropped barrel hinge sits just below the surface of the keyboard area, giving the illusion that the bottom bezel is thinner than it really it. The 720p camera resides in the top — no nose cam forced into the keyboard deck any more.
The keyboard and touchpad are both 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. Some nifty thermal management technology means that the laptop can perform without throttling due to too much heat.
The XPS 13 is 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. Despite its clamshell design, we included this laptop because it’s so thin and light that it feels like a tablet.
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 who wants a tablet 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 2:
Affordable and slim, the Surface Go 2 gives you a classic tablet experience with Windows 10. It’s also a notable upgrade to the first Surface Go, which was a very portable tablet but not that great on heavy workloads.
The newer model slims down the bezels and increases the screen size to 10.5 inches. It also significantly improves performance using new processor options. Our pick uses an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y Core m3 chip complemented by 8GB of RAM. The fast 128GB SSD makes it easier to handle work tasks.
Ports include USB-C, a hidden MicroSD card slot to expand storage, and a headphone jack. The battery is rated for 10 hours, an improvement on the first Go’s battery life, but still doesn’t impress compared to other picks on our list.
Why should you buy this: It’s a solid performer for just about any productivity task, and it 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 3:
The Surface Book 3 is a welcome improvement from the Book 2 and an excellent option for those who want more powerful specs in a 2-in-1 PC. It comes with a 10th-gen Intel Core processor (i5 or i7), up to 32GB of RAM, and up to a 1660 Ti Geforce GPU. For storage, you have several options between 256GB and 1TB on a single SSD.
There’s also an option between a smaller 13.5-inch touchscreen and a larger 15-inch version. Not all the top-line specs are available on the 13.5-inch model, but it’s a nice way to choose if you want this laptop to be more portable or if you’re looking for something that can act as a desktop replacement. Battery life is also impressive, with up to 17.5 hours on the larger Book 3 model.
The primary downside to all this power is the price. You’ll have to pay to equip the Book 3 with top-tier features, which can easily make it the most expensive choice on our list.
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.
Intel launched its 10th-gen Core processors in 2019, which now feature in most modern 2-in-1s. However, Intel just revealed the specs of its 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPUs after announcing the family during CES 2020. We should see the first Tiger Lake laptops appear in November 2020, so if you want the latest performance, it might be worth holding off until then.
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 in a separate article. 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?
- Should I get a 2-in-1 or a traditional laptop?
- Does Apple make a 2-in-1 laptop?
- Can a 2-in-1 laptop be used for gaming?
A convertible 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. The keyboard is not removable.
A detachable 2-in-1 laptop is a tablet-based device with a detachable keyboard accessory. In most cases, the keyboard is an additional cost as seen with the Surface Pro family. You can keep the keyboard attached and flip it around so you can use the screen as a tablet.
The main advantage of a detachable 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 detachable 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 2-in-1s.
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, then a 2-in-1 PC likely won’t work out. As we mention below, 2-in-1s tend to be thinner and lighter because they can be used as slates. That creates some limitations in just how fast a 2-in-1 can perform compared to traditional laptops.
Technically, no, Apple doesn’t make a 2-in-1 laptop. At least, not in the sense of a “real” PC that runs a full-featured desktop operating system.
The closest Apple comes is the iPad Pro, which can snap together with an optional 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.
Unfortunately, most 2-in-1s just don’t have the capacity for super-advanced CPUs and GPUs, which can be a big downside for dedicated gamers. While yes, you can game on 2-in-1s, you can’t expect the same performance or crystal-clear visuals that you’d get with an actual 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’s still limited, but it can also play a lot of modern PC games at 1080p without sacrificing your graphics.
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