The perfect hybrid machine that’s as good a tablet as it is a traditional laptop still doesn’t exist. But last year, companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google continued to improve their operating systems for dual-duty machines. Windows 11 has features that make it more friendly for multi-screen devices, while Android is better optimized for larger displays. Additionally, with the rise of ARM-based chips for laptops, especially Apple’s impressive M series, the prospects for a powerful 2-in-1 with a wide touch-friendly app ecosystem are on the horizon. long time.
Even the best 2-in-1 laptops have limitations, of course. Because they are smaller than proper laptops, they have less powerful processors. Keyboards are generally less durable, with shortened layouts and shallower travel. Plus, they’re almost always tablets first, leaving you to buy a keyboard case separately. (And that’s not cheap!) So, you can’t always assume that the advertised price is what the 2-in-1 you want will actually cost you.
Sometimes, getting a third-party keyboard can be just as good, and they’re often cheaper than first-party offerings. If you’re looking to save money, Logitech’s Slim Folio is an affordable option, and if you don’t need your keyboard attached to your tablet, Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device wireless keyboard is also a good choice.
While we’ve usually made sure to include a budget 2-in-1 laptop in previous years, this time there wasn’t a good choice to include in our top picks. We often promote a device like the Surface Go, but the latest model is still very expensive. Other alternatives, such as cheaper Android tablets, lack power and don’t offer a good multitasking interface. If you want something around $500 that’s thin, light and durable, you’re better off this year looking at a custom PC (like our best budget laptops list).
When you’re shopping for a 2-in-1, there are some basic basics to keep in mind. First, look at the spec sheet to see how heavy the tablet is (alone, and with the keyboard). Most modern hybrids weigh less than 2 pounds, with the 1.94-pound Surface Pro 9 being one of the heaviest around. The iPad Pro 12.9 (2022) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 series are both lightweight. If the total weight of the tablet and its keyboard is close to 3 pounds, you better get an ultraportable laptop.
You’ll also want to opt for an 11-inch or 12-inch screen instead of a smaller 10-inch model. Larger displays make multitasking easier, and their accompanying keyboards are better spaced. Also, try to get 6GB of RAM if you can for better performance.
Finally, while some convertible laptops offer built-in LTE or 5G connectivity, not everyone wants to pay the premium for it. An integrated cellular radio makes checking emails or answering messages on the go much easier. But it also always costs, and that doesn’t count what you pay for data. And, for 5G – you can turn it off unless you live within range of a mmWave beacon. Coverage is still spotty and the current nationwide network uses slower sub-6 technology which is almost faster than LTE.
Best overall: Surface Pro 9 (Intel)
Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget
Nothing beats the great performance of the Surface series when it comes to 2-in-1s. They’re powerful, beautiful tablets that run on an OS that’s really designed for productivity. The Surface Pro 9 is Microsoft’s latest and greatest tablet, and it builds on the already excellent Pro 8. It features fast 12th-gen Intel CPUs and all the major upgrades from last year, including a 120Hz display and a more modern design. This is the best implementation of Microsoft’s tablet PC vision.
Don’t confuse it with the similarly named Surface Pro 9 with 5G, however, which has a slower ARM processor and lower software compatibility. Built-in cellular is nice and all, but the Intel Pro 9 is a better PC.
Like most of the other convertible laptops on this list, the Pro 9 doesn’t come with a keyboard cover — you’ll have to pay extra for that. That’s a shame, because it starts at $1,000. Microsoft offers a variety of Type Covers for its Surface Pros from $100 to $180, depending on whether you want a slot for a stylus. But at least they are comfortable and well spaced. You can also get the Surface Slim Pen 2 ($130) for sketching your diagrams or artwork, with haptic feedback for a more responsive experience.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 9 review
Best for Apple users: 12.9-inch iPad Pro
Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget
If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, the best option for you is clearly an iPad. The 12-inch Pro is our pick. Like the old models, this iPad Pro has a stunning 12.9-inch screen with a fast 120Hz refresh rate, as well as mini-LED backlighting. This year, it includes Apple’s incredibly fast M2 chip for excellent performance and longer battery life than ever before.
Apple’s Magic Keyboard provides a satisfying typing experience, and its touchpad means you don’t have to reach for the screen to launch apps. But it will also cost you an extra $300, making it the most expensive case on this list by a lot. The iPad also lacks a headphone jack and its webcam sits awkwardly along the left bezel when you hold it up horizontally, so keep in mind that it’s far from a perfect laptop replacement. However, with its beautiful design and respectable battery life, the iPad Pro 12.9 makes it a good 2-in-1 option for Apple users.
Read our full Apple iPad Pro review
Best for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9
Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget
Samsung has consistently made the best Android tablets for years now, and the company also offers an ecosystem of accessories that make the Galaxy Tab series the best choice if you want a device which is Android 2-in-1. This year’s Galaxy Tab S9 series comes in three sizes, but we think the S9+ or S9 Ultra are the best for productivity. The S9+ has a 12.4-inch display, while the Ultra ups the ante with a 14.6-inch screen – both are among the best we’ve seen on mobile devices like this. Otherwise, both devices are identical, with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processors and 12GB of RAM, both upgrades over last year’s model. And like in previous years, Samsung includes its S Pen stylus for drawing and note taking.
The default multitasking experience on Android isn’t as good as what you’ll find on Windows or on an iPad, but Samsung’s Dex software converts the tablet experience into something very similar to Windows. Each app is fully customizable, and you can have up to five different applications running simultaneously, some of which are just a click away from the taskbar.
We only reviewed the S9 Ultra, but that tablet has solid battery life when running multiple apps in Dex mode, up to about seven hours. Given that the S9+ and S9 Ultra have similar specs, we’re comfortable recommending both, though. Just choose your desired screen size and one of the keyboard covers Samsung sells and you’ll have a solid productivity device that’s thin, light and powerful.
Read our Full Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra Review
Honorable mention: Lenovo Yoga 9i
Photo by Sam Rutherford / Engadget
Adaptability is the biggest strength of a 2-in-1, with devices like the Yoga 9i that can change to a number of different modes at a moment’s notice. Although it has a relatively portable 14-inch OLED display, Lenovo still found room in the Yoga 9i for three USB-C ports, a fingerprint scanner and a smart rotating soundbar to ensure that sounds good in any position. Lenovo also includes a free stylus in the box but, unlike previous models, there is no longer a dedicated storage slot for it in the machine. It’s also worth noting that, while its overall design hasn’t changed much for 2023, Lenovo has improved the performance of the Yoga 9i with updated 13th-gen Intel processors.
Read our full Lenovo Yoga 9i review