Forget convertibles: Where are the attractive, low-cost, all-day laptops?

Bay Trail laptop

As a product reviewer, I’ve seen dozens of convertible laptops since the launch of Windows 8, from the impressively complex to the clunky and woefully underpowered. And yet, news flash: they don’t seem to be selling very well.

Why? Well, it’s complicated. Combine the legitimate complaints/confusion/general aversion to change over Windows 8 with what seems to be dozens of different convertible designs, and most consumers are too overwhelmed to know what to buy. Is it any wonder that they’re flocking to tablets, smartphones, and Macs?

But there are also millions of consumers who either can’t afford to pay $1,000 for a MacBook Air, or actually want to stick with Windows because it’s familiar, or because they have money invested in Windows-based software. Also, the average consumer doesn’t need anywhere near as much CPU muscle as the power that even the lowest-end MacBooks deliver. So how can Windows device makers win these consumers back?

Give them a device that’s familiar, attractive, lightweight, long-lasting, and affordable. This seems entirely possible if Intel and PC sellers would team up to deliver laptops based on power-efficient, low-cost Bay Trail processors. We’ve seen Bay Trail tablets, like Dell’s Venue 8 Pro, selling for as little as $200. We’ve also seen a few Bay Trail convertibles–most notably, Asus’ T100, a 10-inch Netbook-like device with a removable screen that was generally well-received by reviewers which was hard to find in stock over the recent holiday season at its $350 starting price.

The average consumer doesn’t need anywhere near as much CPU muscle as the power that even the lowest-end MacBooks deliver.

More recently, HP announced a larger 11-inch Bay Trail convertible with a 360-degree hinge, much like Lenovo’s Yoga, dubbed the Pavilion x360. This device will start at $400, and sports a familiar laptop-like selection of ports, but it also looks a bit chunky. On top of that, the fact that HP hasn’t said much about potential battery life is probably a bad sign.

What I’d like to see, and what I’m fairly sure would sell well, is a professional-looking, IPS touchscreen Bay Trail laptop that ditches the complicated, cost-increasing convertible hinge altogether. That should allow prices to dip even further. If Asus can sell the T100 for $350 with a removable screen, then there’s no reason someone couldn’t make an 11- or 13-inch Bay Trail laptop based around similar internals, including solid-state storage, for between $300 and $400—especially if Microsoft is indeed lowering the price of Windows to better compete with Android.

There’s also no reason a device like this shouldn’t get at least 10 hours of battery life, weigh less than three pounds (for the 11-inch model, anyway), and be about 0.7-inches thick. And just like Bay-Trail tablets, it could be fanless, which would allow it to operate silently.

Sure, the profit margins on a device like this won’t be as high as, say, a $900 Ultrabook. But a good Bay Trail laptop could slow the exodus away from Windows, would likely sell in much higher volumes than pricier systems, and would also entice some tablet users who miss physical keyboards to come back to Windows.

A device like this, with at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, would be my ideal on-the-go productivity device, with enough performance for Office, Web browsing, and some light image editing. For many, this level of performance is all that’s needed. Even an Intel Core i3 CPU is overkill for many, especially when CPU power is traded for battery life. Microsoft, Intel, and PC makers need to start thinking along these lines instead of shoving overpowered, over-complicated systems on users who don’t need them and can’t afford them.

If they don’t, millions more will switch to Android and iOS, and the Windows PC will become a niche device primarily used by professionals, gamers, and those who need more CPU power than Qualcomm, Apple, and Samsung can cram into the latest-generation of mobile chips.

Computing

I tried an LTE laptop for a month, and I wasn’t really convinced

LTE laptops offer up plenty of benefits and are becoming more common. After spending one month with one in my daily life in New York City, I really wondered if it is something that consumers really need in their lives.
Product Review

Why spend more? The Yoga Chromebook outdoes most laptops for $600

The Yoga Chromebook features great build quality, a 1080p display, and all-day battery life. All that for $540? That’s right, but there’s one catch.
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?
Mobile

Best iPhone: Which Apple smartphone should you buy?

There are three main iPhone models available, and prices vary significantly, so it's important to make the right decision. We've used them all, and we break down what makes each one great, and which model will be best for you.
Computing

3DMark’s Port Royal lets you benchmark ray tracing on Nvidia’s RTX cards

UL is adding another benchmarking utility to its popular 3DMark suite to help gamers measure their graphics card's ray tracing performance. You'll soon be able to measure how Nvidia's RTX 2070, 2080, and 2080 Ti stack up.
Computing

Snatch Apple’s 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro for up to $1,200 off at B&H

The latest deal at B&H is offering up 2017 15-inch Apple MacBook Pros, in space gray and silver, with Intel Core i7 quad-core CPUs, 16GB of RAM, and AMD Radeon Pro 560 GPUs with up to 2TB of SSD storage.
Computing

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.
Gaming

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Computing

Qualcomm’s dual-screen PC concept looks like two connected Surface Go tablets

In Qualcomm's video teaser, we got a glimpse of the company's vision for how a dual-screen ARM PC should work. The internet reacted to Qualcomm's video, calling the device in question merely a mashup of two Surface Go tablets.
Deals

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Computing

Hololens 2 could give the Always Connected PC a new, ‘aggressive’ form

Microsoft is said to be leaning on Qualcomm to power its Hololens 2 headset. Instead of Intel CPUs, the next Hololens could use a Snapdragon 850 processor, allowing it to benefit from the always-connected features.
Computing

Chrome’s dark mode may cast its shadow over Macs by early 2019

By early 2019 Google may release a version of Chrome for Mac users that offers a Dark Mode feature to match MacOS Mojave's recent darkening.
Computing

These laptop bags will keep your notebook secure wherever you go

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.