Technology

3 Great Tablet/Laptop Computer Hybrids

Second-generation Windows 8 devices give you the best of both touch-screen and desktop computers.

If you’ve yearned for a device that’s light like a tablet but allows you hassle-free access to traditional Windows programs such as Word and Excel, one of these three hybrid machines could fit the bill.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 ($900 for 64 gigabytes of storage; $120 to $130 for an optional keyboard). The Surface Pro 2 is one of the best choices for Windows loyalists seeking a tablet-laptop combo. As most PC users know, Windows 8 works well on a tablet, but it’s a pain to navigate on a PC with a keyboard and mouse. (The latest version of Windows 8.1 helps a bit by bypassing the “tiles” and going straight to a traditional desktop on PCs without touch screens.) But on a hybrid device, Windows 8’s dual design makes more sense. In tablet mode, the Pro 2—which is slightly larger and, at 2 pounds, a pound heavier than the Apple iPad Air—runs mobile-style apps designed for a swipeable screen. But with the keyboard attached, the Pro 2 turns into a powerful laptop that runs conventional Windows programs. The 10.6-inch high-definition (1920-by-1080-pixel) display is vibrant and large enough for laptop use, and the fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor has features that boost battery life to seven to nine hours between charges. The built-in kickstand props up the device in your choice of two positions. The downside? The Surface Pro 2 is pricey, more like a high-end laptop than an iPad-like slate.

Dell XPS 11 ($1,000 for 80GB of storage and built-in keyboard). Dell classifies the XPS 11 as an Ultrabook, a category of high-end, razor-thin laptops with Intel processors. But what distinguishes this sturdy hybrid is a flexible, two-in-one design that makes it a top-notch Windows 8.1 tablet, albeit a hefty one at 2.5 pounds. The keyboard is permanently hinged to the display, but it can rotate 360 degrees and nestle flat against the back of the screen, a quick switcheroo that transforms the XPS 11 from a laptop to a surprisingly thin tablet. The keyboard also doubles nicely as a stand. Like the Surface Pro 2, the XPS 11 is well constructed and has high-end components. Its best feature is its stunning 11.6-inch (2560-by-1440-pixel) display—ideal for movie-download marathons. The well-spaced keys don’t depress, but they do make a clicking sound when tapped. (If you prefer a more traditional keyboard, Dell recommends the heavier, 12.5-inch XPS 12.) The XPS 11’s biggest drawback is its weight. A 2.5-pound tablet can get cumbersome during a lengthy reading session.

Asus Transformer Book T100 ($350 with 32GB of storage and a detachable keyboard). The Surface Pro and the Dell XPS 11 are lightweight laptops with tablet capabilities. The Transformer is the opposite: It’s a good option if you want a touch tablet that can double as a laptop in a pinch. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too small and underpowered to cut it as a full-time laptop. Still, the price is reasonable, and battery life is excellent (up to 11 hours of Web browsing). The 10.1-inch (1366-by-768-pixel) touch display is nothing special, and the cramped keyboard is reminiscent of netbook PCs. The tablet alone weighs 1.2 pounds; the laptop comes in at 2.4 pounds with the keyboard attached. The T100’s Intel Atom mobile processor isn’t as powerful as the Surface Pro’s Core i5 or the Dell’s Core i3, but it can run your old Windows programs.

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