Buying a Hybrid Device: Here is what you need to know before buying one

by November 9, 2015 0 comments

Most people are generally confused by the differing terminology and don’t really appreciate the functionality offered by the two products. Here we provide a detailed differentiation between the two

1. What’s the difference between a hybrid and a convertible?

Since the launch of Windows 8, there has been a greater emphasis on having a hybrid “2-in-1” laptop that doubles up as a tablet. Some of the popular models include the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3, which has a screen that bends back 360 degrees to turn into a slate and systems with removable keyboards like the ASUS Transformer Book.

The Hybrid: A tablet that turns into a laptop, or a laptop that breaks apart into a tablet. The idea is simple: if there are two pieces that split apart, it’s a hybrid. The keyboard base generally has extra ports and connections like USB, as well as can have an extra battery built into it.

hybrid laptop

The top part’s a tablet that’s also the screen. Some of these hybrids run Windows 8, while others use the very different and more limited Windows RT. The processors family inside can also be vastly different from Intel Core i-series to Intel Atom-based or Nvidia Tegra processor.

The Convertibles: If you encounter a design that looks like a laptop, and allows you to swivel display around to make it more like a tablet, it’s a convertible. The key difference between this and a hybrid is that the parts in convertibles stay together.

lenovo yoga convertible

Convertible laptop/tablets have been around for years, but Windows 8 has given the form new life. These laptops have touch screens, and hinged top lids. To convert the laptop into a tablet, the screen is then either rotated, pivoted or flipped such that it then is back into a closed position but with the screen exposed

2. What constitutes the target audience?

The target audience for these device may vary from business professionals to home users to students depending on your needs. Professionals and students who intend to use their 2 in 1 hybrid to run complex software will need to consider powerful processor and large random access memory (RAM) for running sophisticated applications.

Corporate professionals who are always on the move need to consider factors such as connectivity (to networks and other devices), ease of use in presentations and meetings, and practicality of design when travelling. Battery duration may also be important.

If you like the idea of occasionally using your laptop in slate mode, a convertible like the Yoga is a versatile choice. But if you want the flexibility of using your device as standalone tablet, a detachable design is best.

3. Can they replace regular laptops?

The ergonomics on some smaller models are not ideal. The keyboards can be small and cramped. The machine may be so light that it lifts off the table when you tap the touch screen. You may also notice that touchpads found on these devices don’t have the side and top swiping enhancements you find on other laptops.

Also remember that 2-in-1 devices use the Windows operating system, and that’s what your tablet will have as well. The Windows app store doesn’t offer the wide selection of apps so you won’t be able to make most out of it.

4. Do I need one with discrete graphics?

Unless you plan on playing serious PC games on your device (The Witcher 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and so on), you can get away with using the graphics capabilities built into laptops by default. Intel’s current version is not meant for serious gamers, but you should be able to get away with playing casual or light games, or even some newer games if you keep the visual settings set to Low and drop the in-game resolution, although it may strike out the fun part during gameplay.

5. What kind of ports and extras do I need?

A couple of USB ports are a bare necessity. Most devices now include at least two USB 3.0 ports, which are faster than the older USB 2.0 version, but only when used with compatible USB 3.0 devices, such as external hard drives. An SD card slot should be non-negotiable, as well as an HDMI video output (mini-DisplayPort is also becoming popular). Every laptop includes Wi-Fi now and will be compatible with virtually any Wi-Fi signal or router.

types of laptop ports

The blue colored USB ports are USB 3.0 ports.

Make sure to look for the current spec for Wi-Fi, which is 802.11ac. As with technology evolving regularly, devices in future may be running on a single-cable world where everything is connected via USB-C (as in the case of the 12-inch MacBook), but that’s not common enough right now to be truly useful.

6. HDD or SSD? What is better?

HDDs are getting diminished in laptops, as these hard drives are large, add weight, heat, and lots of moving parts to your laptop and are found mostly in budget laptops. Look for at least a 320GB hard drive, even in a budget system. Most drives run at 5,400rpm (revolutions per minute), but some run faster, at 7,200rpm, useful for streaming data quickly from the hard drive when editing video or playing games.

SSDs run cool and quiet, and they produce less heat, but they’re also more expensive, with smaller capacities. Capacities from 256GB to 512GB are more common now, but budget hybrids and ultraportables may have only a tiny 32GB or 64GB SSD, which will hold the operating system files and little else. SSD’s allow for a faster system boot and helps apps open quickly.

7. What additional features will I get?

Various additional features in 2-in-1 hybrids include a full HD display that delivers vivid images and ultra-wide viewing angles, built-in webcams that allow video conferencing or calling, stylus pens for precise control in drawing or writing notes.

8. Flip vs Detachable vs Slider Design?

The flip design uses a 360-degree hinge that opens up like a laptop, then opens further, letting you fold the display back around into a tablet configuration. The simplicity of the hinge has a straightforward appeal, especially for shoppers confused by more complex designs using either twist design and latch design. Keyboard docks with detachable touch screens offers light-weight portability with full Windows 8.1 functionality, Remote use of touch screen tablet allows tactile handling, Independent batteries for tablet and keyboard increase overall charge life, tablets retains full Windows 8.1 functionality when separated from keyboard.

slider vs detachable design

Slider design is special version of the convertible wherein keyboard slides out and the top screen angles up, almost like a giant smartphone, to become a laptop-like device that feels more like a tablet with a permanently docked keyboard. The advantage: easier to open and shut in tight quarters. Disadvantage: it’s less flexible than other types of convertibles. Also, some shrink their keyboards down or eliminate touch pads to save space.

9. Should I buy now, or wait for the next update/upgrade/CPU/etc.?

That’s the question that comes to every buyer when looking for a new piece of hardware, and it applies to nearly every technology category. Every new piece of hardware is a step closer to being obsolete with each passing day, and there’s always a new version coming at some point in the not-too-distant future. Once you accept that, it’s a lot easier to just relax and buy a product you’ll enjoy using, without worrying much about upgrades coming in near future.

10. What are the drawbacks of convertibles?

There are drawbacks to many of these hybrid laptops. Generally they are best suited as either a laptop or a tablet. In order to do both, there are typically some sacrifices that are made. Laptop based models are generally much heavier than your tablet systems such that they are hard to hold over long periods of time. Conversely, tablet based hybrids tend to lack the performance of a traditional laptop. The question for buyers is whether these tradeoffs are worth for being able to use the two styles of computing in a single device.

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