One of the fastest-growing segments of the PC market is the 2-in-1 laptop, a breed of machines that can morph from one form factor to another, make use of touchscreen displays and, most often, active pens as well. Microsoft kicked off the modern Windows 2-in-1 market with the original Surface in 2012, and since then Microsoft, its OEM partners, and even Chromebook makers have continued to grow the segment with increasingly high-quality options. These days, the best 2-in-1 laptops are just stunning.
Like all PCs, 2-in-1s vary in their configurations, performance, and battery life. They also span a range of price points, from the low-end to the stratospheric. The 2-in-1 has become so popular that there seem to be as many different models produced as traditional notebooks. And that makes some sense because the best 2-in-1 laptops can easily serve as your only PC.
|Surface Pro 6||Best 2-in-1 overall||4 out of 5|
|Surface Go||Best 2-in-1 for tablet usage||3.5 out of 5|
|HP Chromebook x2||Best 2-in-1 Chromebook||4 out of 5|
|HP Spectre x360 13||Best convertible 2-in-1||4.5 out of 5|
|Microsoft Surface Book 2||Best 15-inch 2-in-1||4 out of 5|
Why should you buy this: It’s a great tablet PC because of its thin and light form factor, and it offers a solid physical keyboard, superior pen, and outstanding performance for real productivity.
Who’s it for: Anyone who just can’t decide between a tablet and a traditional notebook
Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Pro:
Microsoft recently updated its popular 2017 Surface Pro — and reintroduced the numbering scheme — at a hardware event in October 2018. The new machine closely resembles its predecessors, adding in a new black color but retaining essentially the same outer chassis. But don’t let looks fool you, as the newest Surface Pro is a meaningful update over the Surface Pro.
First up is an upgrade to 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core-U processors, which provide a real boost in performance and a significant improvement in battery life. The new CPUs afford very good performance that’s a step up from the previous 7th-generation processors, particularly when multitasking.
Battery life was also dramatically improved, and is perhaps the more important benefit from the CPU upgrade. The Surface Pro 6 now lasts as long as most Windows 10 notebooks, tablet or clamshell, and that’s a real feat — for once, we can confidently say that Microsoft’s slate will get you through a full day of work, and then some. It’s a shame that the absolutely latest Whisky Lake CPUs didn’t make the cut, but we’re impressed nonetheless.
All that power and convenience doesn’t come cheap, however. While the Surface Pro starts out at a reasonable $900, that doesn’t include the Signature Type Cover ($160) and Surface Pen ($100), which are obligatory. That’s also for the lowest-end configuration with an Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD, and the Surface Pro maxes out at a pricey $2,300 with the Core i7-7660U, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro review
Why should you buy this: It provides the same ability to morph into a tablet as its bigger sibling, but it’s also more comfortable in its primary role as a tablet.
Who’s it for: Anyone wants a tablet first but one that can plug in a keyboard in a pinch — and doesn’t want to spend a ton of cash
Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Go:
You can buy an iPad with around a 10-inch display, but what if iOS just doesn’t cut it for you? Maybe you need Windows 10 for the occasional productivity work, but you still want a tablet that can let you consume your media without giving you cramps.
If that’s you, then you’ll want to give the Microsoft Surface Go some serious consideration. It provides the same basic form factor as the Surface Pro 6, with all of the same build quality and modern aesthetic. But it’s significantly smaller and thus even easier to use as a tablet, and it enjoys the same kind of awesome display quality as the rest of the Surface line, all for significantly less money.
As a detachable tablet, it has its own version of Microsoft’s excellent Type Cover that provides a great typing experience and mates with the tablet’s kickstand — as good as always — to become a workable laptop. The Type Cover is a $130 option if you go for the superior Signature version, and then you’ll want to factor in the excellent Surface Pen $100) with it’s 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support. Best yet, the Surface Go is very reasonably priced, starting at $400 for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and maxing out at $550 for 8GB of RAM and a fast 128GB PCIe SSD. Yes, things get a bit pricier when you add in the Type Cover and the Pen, but it’s cost-competitive with the iPad and runs the full Windows 10.
Performance is maybe its biggest let-down. There’s an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor that keeps up with productivity and media tasks but won’t win any races. The entry-level 4GB of RAM will limit multitasking, and so choosing the 8GB version will help considerably. As we mentioned earlier, the display is a standout feature, as a 10-inch 3:2 aspect ratio PixelSense panel at 1,800 x 1,200 (217 PPI) with excellent contrast, brightness, and colors.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Go review
Why should you buy this: If you’re a Chrome OS fan and the Surface Book 2 makes you jealous of Windows 10 users, then the Chromebook x2 offers a compelling alternative.
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a Chromebook 2-in-1 that makes as good a laptop as it does a tablet.
How much will it cost: $600
Why we picked the HP Chromebook x2:
The Windows 10 ecosystem doesn’t have a monopoly on the 2-in-1 form factor. If you haven’t bought into Windows 10 or you don’t have the cash for some of these Windows 10 machines, then you’ll likely be looking for a different option.
That’s where the HP Chromebook x2 comes in. It’s just as well-built as any of the 2-in-1s on this list, and it provides very good performance thanks to a 7th-gen Intel Core m3 processor that’s more than fast enough for the lightweight Chrome OS. 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage are enough to keep Google’s operating system humming — all for just $600. You’ll also enjoy a 12.3-inch display at a high 2,400 x 1,600 (235 PPI) resolution and in the same productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio as the Surface devices on our list. Brightness, contrast, and colors are all excellent, meaning that the Chromebook x2 can serve as both a fast productivity device and a great media consumption tablet.
The Chromebook x2 isn’t exactly an inexpensive Chromebook, but it’s still the second-least expensive notebook on this particular list. If you’re looking for a Chrome OS machine and don’t want to give up a great build quality, an innovative design, and great performance and battery life, then the Chromebook x2 should be on your short list.
Read our full HP Chromebook x2 review
Why should you buy this: It’s fast, has great battery life, offers a lovely display, and swivels around into multiple modes.
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a 2-in-1 that works best as a laptop.
How much will it cost: $1,150 – $2,310 (on sale for $950 – $2,200)
Why we picked the HP Spectre x360 13:
We picked the newly refreshed HP Spectre x360 13 because it offers the best combination of performance, battery life, display quality, and price, among a very loaded field. We had already rated the Spectre x360 13 as one of the best machines around at the end of 2016, and the late-2017 refresh added some impressive performance improvements to go along with a slight design update that makes for an even more attractive machine.
First, HP upgraded the Spectre x360 13 to 8th-gen Intel Core processors, up to the fast Core i7-8550U. The newest CPUs double the physical cores to four and lowers the base clock speed for enhanced efficiency, but with even quicker turbo speeds. That means that the new processors provide a significant power boost when being pushed but also increased efficiency for lower-demand tasks. The result is impressive battery life for media consumption and productivity tasks — in our testing of the newest Spectre x360 13, it managed a whopping 14 hours and 18 minutes looping a local video.
HP also sliced off just a tiny bit of thickness and chiseled some edges for a sharper look. That makes the Spectre x360 13 an even thinner and more attractive notebook, that’s both elegant and conservative at the same time. It looks good in a coffee house, but won’t attract undue attention in a conference room.
The best thing about today’s 360-degree convertible 2-in-1s is that they work as well as traditional notebooks as their inflexible clamshell cousins, and the Spectre x360 13 is the best evidence of that. As if that weren’t enough, HP just introduced a significant update to the Spectre x360 13, upgrading to Whiskey Lake 8th-generation CPUs for even more performance and efficiency, utilizing an innovative new 1W display for better battery life, and building in some new security features. The new version — which also sports a stunning new design — will be available in December, and we’ll update this list once we’ve had a chance to review it.
Read our full HP Spectre x360 13 review
Why should you buy this: It’s a solid performer for just about any productivity task, but converts to a tablet for on-the-go use.
Who’s it for: Business and creative professionals with money to spend on the best
How much will it cost: $2,499 – $3,299
Why we picked the Surface Book 2:
If money is no object, then Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 15-inch reigns supreme as the best overall 2-in-1 choice among large devices. Microsoft introduced he original Surface Book in October 2015, which was eons ago in computer time, but the design was so forward-looking that Microsoft saw no need to change it significantly in the new model. However, it expanded the line by introducing a 15-inch version. The Surface Book 2 is not only the best large 2-in-1, but it’s also one of the best laptops, period.
The Surface Book’s claim to fame has always been its detachable keyboard. The 15-inch display contains the main processing components and can be popped off the base to become a surprisingly thin, light, and powerful tablet. The keyboard base is more of a dock, one that contains Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 discrete graphics, and carries most of the combination’s total 90 watt-hour battery capacity.
Also, the Surface Book 2 introduced Intel’s eighth-generation Intel Core processors, specifically the Core i7-8650U quad-core CPU. It also comes with 16GB of RAM in all of its configurations, and up to a 1TB SSD can be selected. You’ll pay for all that power, starting at $2,500 for a 256GB SSD, and ramping up to $3,300 for a full 1TB of storage.
With the GTX 1060 on hand, the Surface Book 2 makes for an incredibly fast machine for advanced applications like AutoCAD and Adobe Premier. It can even play modern games at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution and high graphical detail. Don’t buy the Surface Book 2 if you’re looking for a hardcore gaming system or a portable workstation, though, because the power supply can’t keep up when the GPU is pushed to its maximum performance.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Book 2 review
There’s never been a better time to buy a 2-in-1. The market is full of great options, and we’re convinced that the machines we’ve listed here will serve you well for years to come. Performance, battery life, displays, and connectivity are all top-notch, and these flexible machines will handle everything you need them to do now and well into the future.
And there’s not much coming anytime soon to give you pause. Intel has just released it’s eighth-generation Core processors, and any machines — like the Microsoft Surface Pro — that don’t already have the newest processors likely won’t be getting them until well into 2018.
We spend a tremendous amount of time reviewing notebooks of all shapes and sizes — and that’s saying something today, when notebooks come in so many shapes, sizes, and configurations. To make sure our recommendations provide real value to our readers, we live with the machines for a time and use them in writing our reviews, to make sure we can assess how they’ll work for real users.
But we do have a method to our madness in conducting these reviews, and you can look behind the scenes here. Hopefully, it will be obvious that our reviews are real labors of love — or hate, depending on the notebook — and therefore you can at least recognize that we don’t arrive at our conclusions without some serious consideration.