Microsoft's Windows 8 didn't just shake up the company's entire software empire, but the mobile computing industry as well.
Given the dualistic nature of the new Windows, laptop and tablet makers responded in kind with devices commonly known as 2-in-1 laptops, or hybrid laptops.
These are devices that are able to serve as both a laptop and a tablet, either in a detachable design that sees the touchscreen doubling as a tablet, or a convertible approach in which the notebook's hinge rotates 360 degrees for a similar effect. In the past, neither have been all that successful in providing both experiences in equal measure, but that's slowly changing.
Considering their similarity to Ultrabooks in terms of build quality, thinness and lightness, 2-in-1 laptops are generally priced in the same range: between $700 (about £450, AU$800) and $2,000 (around £1,169, AU$2,131). There are even 2-in-1s designed specifically for the business user, like the Dell Venue 7000 series. However, the hybrid market is almost entirely catered toward consumer needs.
These are sleek, powerful devices that look good and serve multiple use cases to varying degrees of success. With that, here are the best 2-in-1 laptops that we've reviewed thus far.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
The best tablet-laptop hybrid device yet released
This is not only Microsoft's most striking and versatile device to date, but the most convincing poster child for the hybrid category yet. And this ringing endorsement comes from a long-time skeptic of such devices.
That said, the Surface Pro 3 (starting at $799, £639, AU$979) is hamstrung by flaws that cannot be ignored. Namely, the battery life might be in line with most Ultrabooks, but isn't close to what Apple's leading laptop and top tablet. And the Type Cover billed as an accessory doesn't help Microsoft's cause – it's quite pricey to boot.
At any rate, this version of the tablet comes in cheaper than the most affordable iPad Air and 13-inch MacBook Air combined, even with the Type Cover, and that's the point. On paper, this slate is more powerful than either Apple device, not to mention most other comparably priced laptops and tablets. The Surface Pro 3 might not be perfect, but it's far and wide the brightest shining example of a potential tablet takeover. If you're not concerned about a downgraded performance, consider the new Surface 3, which doesn't provide as much kick as the Pro, but is lighter and a lot cheaper.
Read: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
This 2-in-1 laptop takes thinness to a new level
The Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi is one of the first laptops to finally get the hybrid form factor right. Thanks to the use of a magnet latching system and Intel's fanless Core M processor, Asus has been able to produce a lighter tablet-laptop hybrid that's thin to boot.
The detachable Bluetooth keyboard also opens up a few alternative ways to use the device. Over the last few weeks, I propped up the screen while I used the keyboard as a remote for Netflix and stood the screen on its side, using it as a makeshift vertical screen. The best thing about all this is it's entirely seamless, letting you easily switch between tablet and laptop modes with ease.
There are a few things Asus didn't get right in this go around with the T300 Chi, namely the micro-sized ports. It has helped Asus shave down it's latest Transformer Book into a much more svelte profile, but you'll need to carry around a set of cables and adapters to plug in something as simple as a USB drive. With battery life averaging five hours and maxing out at six at best, you might want to look into a tablet or Chromebook for longer use cases.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7130
A powerful, small tablet that wants to play in the big leagues
At the $700 (£437 and AU$800) entry price, the Venue Pro 7000 offers a nice balance of performance and portability in a travel-friendly size. However, unless you find yourself accessing CPU and GPU taxing apps, you might find more value in an Atom-based convertible. Going with Atom will lower your cost and give you better battery life.
For those who need power and performance, the confines of a 10.8-inch display may be too rigid to maximize productivity. Opening more than a few tabs or windows on the small display will trigger claustrophobia. If you need to be more productive, there are bigger convertible options, like the Surface Pro 3, to choose from that may fit that need better.
Asus Transformer Book T200
Another excellent transforming tablet-laptop from Asus
If you are looking for a combination of Windows laptop and tablet, the Asus Transformer Book T200 is a very appealing option that offers a fair amount for only $539 (£349, or AU$690).
The T200 is quiet, light, well built and feels responsive during normal usage. Battery life is excellent, so you won't find yourself hunting obsessively for charging points throughout the day. Its "smart" hard drive bay adds plenty of storage space alongside the speedy 32GB SSD, and despite having a disappointing resolution, the IPS display is at least vibrant with good viewing angles. Good connectivity in the form of USB 3.0 and RJ45 ports are welcome additions, with a reasonable pre-loaded software set finishing off the package nicely.
For those with a little more cash to splash, the Surface Pro 3 is a very appealing option that offers similar functionality in a slimmer form, and with much more power. Otherwise, if you are looking for something a little larger, Asus' 2013 13-inch Transformer Book TX300 comes with an i7 processor and a full-HD screen.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S
The laptop that will bend over backwards to help you out
The 11.6-inch Lenovo Yoga 11S (starting at around $799, £599, AU$1,299) laptop is a flexible machine that can fold over from a typical laptop stance to a stand position, to a position with the keyboard behind the screen, ready for delivering presentations.
It comes with HDMI, SD card and USB ports, and boasts a surprisingly impressive Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage. The screen is sharp and bright, though not full HD, and works well with Windows 8. It's also nicely light and small for portability. You can easily use the Yoga 11S as you would any other laptop, replete with a full QWERTY keyboard.
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro
Lenovo's former-flagship Ultrabook is a real stunner
With the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (starting at $1,099, £999, AU$1,599), we can now confirm that 3,200 x 1,800 pixels is delicious indeed. On top of the winning Yoga form factor, we loved the solid performance, backlit keyboard, and the snappy SSD, creating mobile device-like response times.
However, in our experience, a Haswell-based ultrabook this thin should run twice as long as the Yoga 2 Pro does on a full charge; we got about five hours in our testing. Even with cloud services like Google Drive, a 128GB SSD is hard to recommend for even your grandparents.
Drawbacks considered, the Yoga 2 Pro is a winner of a laptop, pure and simple. At the $1,000 price point, you could put the Yoga 2 Pro in just about anyone's hands and make them quite pleased.
For those of you who crave portability more than anything, Lenovo recently unveiled the new LaVie Z, which the company claims is the lightest convertible on the market.
Read: Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro review