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Hybrid laptops review

Can a cross between a laptop and tablet really work? We put eight hybrids to the test.
 
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01.Convertible computing

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Can’t decide whether to buy a tablet or a laptop computer? A convertible laptop - also called a hybrid - could be the answer. These versatile devices aim to provide the ease of one-handed touchscreen navigation with the power and functionality of a conventional laptop. 

But can one device serve the needs of all? Or in trying to please everybody, do they end up pleasing nobody? We bought eight hybrid laptops and put them head-to-head to see which offers the best combination of mobile computing performance, ease of use and features.

  • Hybrids can be used as a laptop or a tablet.
  • Tablet-laptop conversion methods vary.
  • All use Windows 8 and a touchscreen. 

Models on test:

  • Asus Taichi31
  • Lenovo Think Pad33474RM
  • Lenovo Think Pad Helix
  • LG H160-G
  • Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro
  • Panasonic Toughbook CF-AX2
  • Pioneer Computers Dreambook U12
  • Sony Vaio Duo 11

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The hybrids on test vary in screen size from 11.6-13.3 inches, but use various ways of converting from laptop to tablet - from detachable screen or slider mechanism, to flipping over or twisting, or a combination.

All devices we tested come with the Windows 8 operating system, which fully supports touchscreen use. Seven of them use Windows 8 Pro 64-bit OS and have Intel’s i5 or i7 processor. One uses Windows 8 32-bit OS and the energy-miser Intel Atom CPU.

How we test

Ease of use

Includes assessment of status lights/indicators, connectors, design flaws/advantages, the conversion process between tablet and laptop, general usage as a laptop, general usage as a tablet, overall style, mobility, and evaluation of security, manuals and recovery options.

Battery life

Assessment takes into account light-use and heavy-use scenarios. Each battery is conditioned before testing to achieve optimum performance. For the heavy usage test, the power management features are set to maximum performance or equivalent, screen brightness is set to 100%, with Wi-Fi turned on and connected to a network. For light usage, the power management features are set to the most economical setting, with screen brightness at 50% and with Wi-Fi turned off.

Performance

We benchmark each computer’s performance using software tools to evaluate common usage performance across productivity, entertainment and creativity tasks. We measure processor integer performance, processor floating point performance, memory performance and memory bandwidth.

Display and touch screen evaluation

Takes into account colour, glare/surface reflections, horizontal/vertical angles of view and visibility under direct sunlight.

Touchscreen evaluation is based on assessment of reaction, multi-touch, surface feel, accuracy and latency. 

The overall score is a combination of the following:

  • Ease of use (40%)
  • Battery life (25%)
  • Performance (20%)
  • Display and touch screen evaluation (20%)
CHOICE applies the following interpretation to the scores achieved in our tests. When we describe a result as "excellent", "poor" etc, it usually relates directly to a numerical score in that range.
  • 0 - 24 Very poor
  • 25 - 45 Poor
  • 46 - 54 Borderline
  • 46 - 54 Borderline
  • 55 - 69 OK
  • 70 - 79 Good
  • 80 - 89 Very good
  • 90 - 100 Excellent
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