This year students have a wider variety of 2 in 1 computing devices that transform from a laptop into a tablet.
With college tuition at an all-time high, affordable technology for students is more important than ever. Let’s face it, these days a laptop is more of a necessity than a luxury. Understandably, parents worry about investing in a laptop, but at the same time want to provide their kids with the right tools. That’s where the 2 in 1 comes in.
Sometimes referred to as “hybrid” or “convertible” computers, 2 in 1s are the latest advancement in portable computer technology. The configurations between the tablet and laptop are uniquely versatile — the screen can detach for a tablet environment, as well as fold and swivel for reading, movie viewing, or gameplay. They also come at a price-point comparable to tablets and much lower than a traditional laptop.
“This is one the best times to buy a PC in the last decade,” said Robert DeLine, program manager for the 2 in 1 effort at Intel. “The PC has fundamentally reinvented itself.”
With 2 in 1s, DeLine points out that the lid or screen provides both the touch functionality and lightweight feel of a tablet, but with a sleek keyboard and high-performance processor similar to a performance-focused laptop.
While the 2 in 1s seem brand new, many current models are in their second or third generation. As DeLine explains, awareness marketing for these hybrids did not roll out in meaningful ways, save for the earliest adopters, until last year.
The latest 2 in 1 models incorporate improvements in functionality based on feedback from the first models, in tandem with thoughtful and exciting enhancements to the user experience.
DeLine advises parents looking to invest in a 2 in 1 to “buy as much as your budget can afford. Scrimping $50 or so is not worth it when it comes to a [2 in 1] that will last a while for your kids.”
With that in mind, Asus bolts strongly out the gate in the economic vs. performance category. The Transformer Book is a 2 in 1 with what’s known as “tablet first implementation,” meaning the model leans more towards the user experience of a tablet. A respected name in reliability and forward-thinking features, Asus’ foray into the 2 in 1 race offers a shoe-in for best value (under $500). While we wait for the Transformer Book Duet to settle patent issues, allowing the device to switch between Android and Windows, the Transformer Book ticks all the current possible boxes across a number of attractive models: Windows 8 OS, 10- or 13-inch screen and a sleek outer look and feel. It comes out of the box with the Student Editions of software like Word and PowerPoint, and packs a battery life of 11 hours.
On the “PC-first implementation” side of things, the Lenovo Yoga 13 (starting at $889), which comes with the durable hardware and high performance of their Ultrabook series, has wowed product reviewers since its release. Most attractive is the 13.3-inch display, the same base dimension as the MacBook Pro. As a PC-first model, the Yoga comes with a larger keyboard and robust Intel Core processor. Encrypted Lenovo cloud storage, and motion-activated navigation (called Lenovo Motion Control) that makes use of the device’s 720p camera, are also worth nothing.
The HP Split x2 also leans more heavily toward a laptop, but at a bit of a lighter price (starting at $799.99) with the added tactile quality of a tablet. Spectre features a 1920 x 1,080-pixel-resolution IPS screen (another beautiful 13-inch display), Beats Audio speakers, two USB ports and a full-size HDMI port for the future filmmaker. Add a sleek steel chassis for a beautiful, feature-rich machine at a great value.
While a model like the Split is a convertible 2 in 1, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (starting at $799) offers a completely detachable tablet. To replicate the rigidity of a dedicated laptop, the Surface Pro 3 comes with dual magnetic connections between the keyboard and lid — a vast improvement over previous models. It features an adjustable kickstand so the viewing angle can be greatly expanded for the most versatile usage, while the 12-inch screen and Intel processor offer up laptop performance. The premium stylus included is a great value-added feature, especially for art students who use tablets in the classroom.
At 15.6 inches, the Acer Aspire R7 (starting at $699) has a display larger than most in its class, and offers multiple pivots and modes of display — from traditional notebook and pad, to their patented Ezel hinge, which pivots to make the most of both the touchscreen, trackpad and keyboard. With four speakers and Dolby Home Theatre, it also delivers in the multimedia department.
Parents and students will also find many of these innovations in Classmate PC models that run Windows operating system and are designed for classrooms and younger children, as well as Intel-based Chromebooks, which run Google’s Chrome OS.
While the newest wave of 2 in 1 devices offers both the functionality and convenience of mobile operating systems with the power of a traditional laptop, some devices can feel awkward and little software comes perfectly optimized for both tablet and laptop modes (yet). However, the latest 2 in 1s come packed with two to seven times more performance with better battery life, lighter casing and smarter integration than both the first 2 in 1s and comparable devices released just a couple years ago. Powerful and affordable, they can certainly meet the demands of today’s technology-rich class assignments.
Michael C. Powell keeps his spear sharp in all sorts of creative endeavors, freelancing as a writer, designer, and photographer for outlets like Consequence of Sound and IMPOSE Magazine. He’s also an alum of The Guardian, Tiny Mix Tapes, Pitchfork’s hypnagogic sister site Altered Zones, his home’s alt newsweekly LEO Weekly and others. When not making the most of his journalism degree, you can find him developing websites for a wide variety of clients, spinning records and putzing about on his two-wheeler. His breadth of interests in technology, art, and culture makes iQ by Intel an ideal home. Michael, who sometimes authors under the nom de plume Kenny Bloggins, loves Twitter and tries to make creative use of the platform at @kbloggins.