Best Hybrid Tablets 2014: A Beginner's Guide
How Will You Choose?
Tablets are fun but they cannot deliver the productivity of a PC. So what is the answer for people who need both and who do not want to haul a sackful of devices around?
The answer is to make a package that splits. At least, big PC makers are starting to think this. Microsoft, HP and others have finally decided that the world is no longer going to spin around their clumsy desktop dinosaurs. So the rush is on to produce powerful machines that can switch from tablet to fully featured PC, in a moment -- usually by docking the tablet section into a keyboard.
Of course, other, nimbler, makers have been onto this for a while. Asus began shipping the very useful Transformer series in 2011. Lenovo came up with the appealing IdeaPad last year.
So where are we in 2014? This page gives an overview of what hybrids are all about and then takes a look at the best devices available right now.
Biggest News from CES 2014? Dual OS from Intel
It is worth mentioning that one of the most important developments announced at the year's biggest computing show, CES, will be the roll out of Intel chips designed especially to run fun Android and serious Windows systems with one powerful chip. Hybrids look like they are here to stay.
The Different Types of Hybrid Tablet for Beginners
Hybrids can be:
- Laptop/tablet, the most popular kind
Generally, screen and keyboard can be separated. The screen can then be used as a tablet.
A few laptop and ultrabook hybrids fold over.
- Older and cheaper hybrid tablets use the Android operating system. This works well for games, surfing the web and social media like Facebook but does not give you the best productivity options.
- The most powerful new hybrids in 2013 use Windows 8 which fully supports touchscreens whilst bringing the productivity of Office and top graphics software.
- Some products have Windows 8 for the PC setup and Android OS for the tablet.
- Windows RT is a touchscreen operating system designed for the mobile-orientated, low-power, ARM processors. The problem with RT is that you cannot run software from other Windows OS's. You need to buy specially written software and apps.
- Google is certainly working on a Chrome OS with touchscreen support but it has not surfaced yet.
- Apple? They are not even running a horse in this race. Maybe, they think a bluetooth keyboard clumsily paired with an iPad is enough.
Windows 8 Critics
Not everyone loved WIndows 8 when it first launched. The start screen drew special criticism -- there was no start button and no familiar way to open Windows programs.
It was especially irksome for traditional desktop users but even tablet users complained. The familiarity of Windows makes innovation difficult.
My feeling is that the Windows 8.1 in mid 2013 answered most of the criticisms and the operating system has a lot to offer, including:
- Fast app switching with intuitive swipes
- Adjustable key sizes in the virtual keyboard
- Clutter-free screen with no connection bars, app buttons or other distractions (my favorite feature)
- The homescreen is simple, functional and does the job!
Best in 2014?
Below is an overview of the best devices in the following categories:
- Windows 8 Hybrids
- Hybrids that split
- Hybrids that fold
- Android OS Hybrids
- Best desktop hybrid
Best Windows 8 Hybrid Tablets
Surface Pro 3
Microsoft have really poured power and functionality into the Surface Pro series.
The latest device, released in August 2014, has enough onboard to successfully compete with most laptops, but gives you a lay-out-on-the-sofa tablet when you set aside the keyboard.
Key stats: Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, 256GB hard drive.
The 12-inch screen is smaller than rivals like the iPad Air and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro, both of which sport 13.3-inches but the extra portability will suit some people more.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro
Half the price of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 but almost as powerful, the only let down is a below par keyboard.
Key Stats:Core i5 processer (slightly slower version than the Surface Pro 3), 4 GB of RAM, a high resolution 13.3-inch screen.
If the Surface Pro is drifting towards being a laptop, this baby is more at home as a powerhouse tablet, with a keyboard that swings round to the back.
ASUS Transformer Book
The latest Transformer Book is a Windows 8 device with a top quality notebook specification and a big, fully functional tablet when split.
The Intel Core i7 processor means it is very fast and the HD screen is fully responsive to gestures. In tablet mode it has 128GB of fast SATA III drive space. When docked, you get an additional 500 GB.
Add in the refinements of a backlit keyboard, brushed aluminum finish casing, and better than average sound, and it is easy to see why this is first choice for most of us in 2013.
One drawback is that USB ports appear solely on the keyboard dock, a common weirdness on most hybrids.
The thirteen inch screen might be too big for some people who want to use it primarily as a tablet.
The Asus Transformer Book Duet td300-5 is expected in the second quarter of 2014. It will operate as a full quad-mode Windows laptop but also as a fully featured Android tablet.
Samsung ATIV XE700T1C-A01US Smart PC Pro 700T
This device is smaller and slower than the Transformer Book, above, but it is capable and it is very affordable.
iCore 5 is fast enough for most applications and powers Windows 8 sweetly.
The most noteworthy drawback is that the screen portion is unusually weighty. This makes it less steady than an ordinary laptop and it can easily topple over on uneven surfaces.
Best Windows RT? Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
The mobile Tegra 3 processor gives top tablet performance and the screen is a good size for carrying around with you.
Folding is easier than docking or undocking. The problem is the keyboard ends up on the outside, at the back of the tablet.
This is no problem if you like to use a tablet on a stand on a table. It gets more awkward if you like the prone position, or the 'curled up like a lizard' in an armchair position. The keyboard is tough but you cannot help thinking about it every time you put the device down.
ASUS Taichi Ultrabook
If this was simply a notebook it would be hard to keep away from the superlatives. The keyboard and touchpad are as good as you will find on any device. The screen res is excellent. The fact that It transforms into a lightweight fun tablet effortlessly takes it into another dimension.
It is also tough enough to take a few falls.
Battery time is around four hours.
Best Android Hybrids?
If you want the best of all worlds, the Transformer Trio (reviewed below) has Android OS in the tablet, and Windows 8 in the keyboard section.
If you think you might be happy with a fast, inexpensive, fun device with reasonable productivity apps, why not just take the all-Android route?
Some hybrids can be seen as tablets with dedicated, detachable keyboards. The question then becomes: why not get an iPad and a bluetooth keyboard?
One answer is in the pricing, The Lenovo Idea, for example, gives you something close to the iPad experience for around half the price.
It is a ten inch tablet with a Dual-Core 1.5GHz processor, HD display and one GB memory.
It is remarkably slim, lightweight and fast.
Best Desktop Hybrid?
Transformer Book Trio
This is a three-in-one laptop/tablet/desktop device launched in June of this year and soon to hit the shelves.
The tablet has its own 2GHz Atom processor and runs the Android OS. Used as a laptop or desktop an Core i7 processor powers Windows 8.
The screen is 11.6 inches HD.
Best Laptop Hybrids with Android and Windows 8?
Apart from the mighty Transformer Trio above, Samsung's Ativ Book Q is worth checking out if you want the best of both operating systems.
Jellybean 4.2.2 gives you the best Android apps, Windows 8 makes it a productive powerhouse.