Do You Really Need a 2-in-1 Convertible Laptop?

If you can’t afford (or can’t justify buying) both a laptop and a tablet, you’re faced with a tough choice. Could a 2-in-1 laptop-tablet hybrid be the solution?
Maybe. But don’t rush out and buy one just yet. Read this guide to find out the possible benefits — as well as the pitfalls — of hybrid 2-in-1 devices.

The Problem

Deciding between a laptop and a tablet can be agonizing. Tablets are incredibly convenient and fun to use, but even the best ones are hampered in terms of productivity. Don’t even think of switching quickly between multiple documents and your email app, for example.
On the other hand, laptops can be powerful, but they’re clunky and bulky compared to an iPad. If you don’t need the power (or the keyboard and trackpad), it’d sure be nice not to have to carry them around.
The most obvious solution is to buy both and use whichever device makes sense for a given task. But given the cost of both devices, this just isn’t a possibility for many people.
There’s another solution that seems like it could be the perfect compromise — In theory, anyway: the 2-in-1 convertible laptop.

The 2-in-1 Convertible Laptop: The Perfect Solution (in Theory)

On the surface, a 2-in-1 convertible laptop seems like the perfect solution. Use it like a laptop when you need one, and flip it around into tablet mode when that’s what you need.
Most models don’t fully detach, but just fold around 360 degrees so that the keyboard lies flat against the back of the screen. But there are even a few detachable models that allow you to carry around the “screen half” of your laptop as a tablet.
Somewhere in the mix of options that are out there, you might find the perfect device for your specific needs. But before you dive into this seemingly perfect solution, there’s something you need to know.
Here’s the main problem: the 2-in-1 category is absolutely filled to the brim with compromises. No matter which device you choose, you’re definitely sacrificing something — and you might even pay more for the privilege.

Typically a Weaker Laptop Experience

Usually—though not always—buying a 2-in-1 laptop means a weaker laptop experience. There are all kinds of possible trade-offs, and few if any makers have avoided them all.
For example, 2-in-1s often have lighter-weight processors for sake of battery conservation. That may be fine for casual use, but it could create limitations if you want to do productivity tasks or use processor-intensive software.
Sometimes the screen’s aspect ratio doesn’t seem quite right. Device makers are trying to choose between a better handheld experience and a better laptop experience, and results are pretty mixed.
Build quality can sometimes seem flimsy, too, as manufacturers opt for lighter materials in an attempt to make the device usable as a tablet.

Usually a Bulky, Unwieldy Tablet Experience

Unfortunately, 2-in-1s often don’t make for a very good tablet experience, either. The fold-around types are impossibly heavy, and you’ll tire of holding most of them after just a few minutes. The detachable ones are typically much bulkier than an iPad, too, since they have to cram laptop-grade internals into the screen portion of the device.
Even if the weight or thickness aren’t a problem, the size and aspect ratio might be.
The best advice here is to get your hands on a demo model at a local store if at all possible. Know what it’s going to feel like in your hands before you buy.

Premium Device Means Premium Price

2-in-1s are positioned as an alternative to having to buy two separate devices. But makers have to cram so much additional tech and functionality into these 2-in-1s that the price tends to shoot up. You might end up saving a little bit over buying separate devices, but perhaps not as much as you’d think.
The devices in this category that do remain more affordable are unquestionably more tablet than laptop. They also suffer from performance limitations when you try to do serious productivity or run heavy business apps. And the ones that are more capable and more premium cost quite a bit.

A Mishmash of Windows and Manufacturer Support and Features

The last point of frustration is support. Chrome OS has solid support for convertibles, but Windows is a bit more of a mixed bag. Not all devices have the same features and functions, and some manufacturers have added their own custom apps. So the experience on one convertible could be quite different from the experience on the next.
Again, the best advice is to get your hands on one before you buy if at all possible.

Not the Best Choice for Most People

Until, and if, some of these issues can be overcome, a 2-in-1 convertible laptop isn’t the best choice for most people. You’ll likely have a better experience committing either to the laptop or tablet experience based on your usage needs — or saving up until you can afford two separate devices.
Whatever choice you make as far as device type, Upsie is there for you with quality extended warranties for laptops (including 2-in-1s) and tablets. With Upsie, you get the protection you need, including from accidents, for a very reasonable price.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.