The world of portable computing has shot into the stratosphere in recent years. Led primarily by upgrades to mobile phones that redefined the term “smart phone” to mean a miniature tablet – as opposed to just a tidy-looking slab with polyphonic ringtone capabilities – we’re now offered anything from Intel-powered Ultrabooks to high-end iPads and Galaxy Tabs. Indeed, anyone who’s been out of the tech game for only a few months will find it difficult to know where to begin.
One of the latest additions to the tech line-up is the so-called “hybrid laptop”. Tapping into a target audience of people lost for ideas as to what to invest in, it offers a great combination of laptop and tablet, with the central joint acting as a dock for the detachable screen as well as a hinge.
However, as with all new technologies, it’s never easy to pick a good one. Here, we look at three options you have – though each one has its own positives and negatives.
The powerhouse: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
While it’s far from the cheapest option on the table, Lenovo’s ThinkPad Helix – arguably its flagship product – offers laptop, tablet, stand and so-called “Tablet+” modes. While the first pair are self-explanatory; meanwhile, stand mode allows people to share data by putting the screen into the dock backwards. Folding it down onto the base from here offers Tablet+, giving more power, ports and battery life.
The screen is a full-HD 1920×1080 IPS display measuring in at 11.6″; the 400-nit Corning Gorilla glass means it’s resilient, as well as perfect for the ten-finger multi-touch technology that Windows 8 (included) is built around. With embedded 3G or 4G support, near-field communications and Wi-Fi, connectivity is no issue. However, at the best part of Â£2,000, it doesn’t come cheap -Â make sure you check the specs, though, as it’s really quite a rig to buy.
The show-stealer: Dell XPS 12
The Dell XPS 12 is certainly the most innovatively-designed hybrid laptop of them all; its 12.5″ touchscreen spins on its axis in the middle of its frame to switch it between laptop and tablet modes.
Built primarily from carbon fibre, it also contains the Intel Haswell processor, delivering battery life of over 12 hours. Combined with an SSD, it’s a smooth operator, to say the least.
While quite heavy for an Ultrabook, it’s worth its price tag – even though you’ll have to pay over Â£1,200 for the privilege of this head-turner.
The rank outsider: Windows Surface Pro
Despite a rip-roaring social campaign that featured dozens of people dancing to their own special beat, theÂ Windows Surface ProÂ hybrid laptop-ish tablet has since been classified as a tech flop by the community at large, though for the same reasons as the gradually-resurgent Nintendo Wii U games console – it lacked early software support.
It was revealed that marketing costs had exceed the sales, and even led to several firms suing Microsoft due to apparently misleading shareholders about income figures. However, it’s a good little bit of kit, and retails for around Â£700.
The keyboard element comes from the Touch Cover, which magnetises to the Surface much like a standard dust cover on the iPad. When folded back, it automatically disables keystrokes. The screen, at 10.6″, is full HD and packs an Intel Core i5-3317U, as well as 4GB RAM – impressive for such a small piece of kit. With storage of 128GB, USB 3.0 ports and the Surface Pen to make it an artist’s dream, you may find more to love about this pseudo-hybrid than the mainstream media.