Why students should get a 2-in-1 laptop for back to school season

Student using the HP Spectre x360
(Image credit: HP)
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This back to school season, we’re making a compelling case for the convertibles. It’s not because clamshell laptops are no longer good enough. On the contrary, traditional laptops will never go out of style. However, matriculating minds might just benefit more from the versatility, portability and money-saving advantages that 2-in-1 laptops bring to the table, especially those who will gain more from having both a tablet and a laptop.

So, why should students buy a 2-in-1 laptop for back to school season? In short, this relatively new form factor that’s changing the way we use our portables is not just one or two, but several devices in one. As a student laptop that can transform into a tablet and offer other viewing modes, a hybrid notebook can save you time, space, effort and possibly even money, as well as also potentially reduce your carbon footprint. That’s while still giving you that level of performance you need for school.

Not quite convinced yet? Read on to find out exactly why students should absolutely get a 2-in-1 laptop for back to school season.

Versatility is the name of the game

The Dell XPS 2-in-1 in tent mode.

(Image credit: Dell)

Although a case can still be made for the clamshell laptop form factor, 2-in-1 laptops typically offer several viewing or use modes in one device. A handful of hybrid notebooks have a detachable keyboard that lets you enjoy both the traditional laptop experience and the convenience of a thin and light tablet

Need to work on your paper or essay at your dorm room desk? Use it in laptop mode. Need to jot down notes digitally? Simply pop that keyboard off and bust out that nifty stylus.

Most 2-in-1s, however, come with a flexible pair of hinges that offer even more modes. These hinges are often designed with a 360-degree rotation that lets you pitch your laptop in tent mode, lay it flat on a surface, or prop it up in stand mode, giving you many options for optimal viewing and use.

That stand mode is useful for presentations, sharing your screen with a project partner, or taking advantage of that touchscreen for specific workloads. Meanwhile, the tent mode is best for enjoying an episode or two of your new favorite show with your college best friend.

2-in-1 laptops are more portable

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is tiny and has a removable keyboard.

(Image credit: Lenovo)

2-in-1 laptops tend to be thinner and more portable than many traditional laptops. That’s because they need to give their users as close of a true tablet experience as possible without compromising on performance. 

A MacBook Pro 13-inch M1, for example, is already incredibly thin and light at 0.61 inches and 3.0 pounds. However, a 13-inch Dell XPS 2-in-1 is even thinner at 0.56 inches and tops out at 2.9 pounds, and the Acer Spin 5 is only 0.59 inches and even lighter at 2.65 pounds. 

This isn’t a hard and fast rule. The HP Spectre x360 (2021) is slightly thicker than those three laptops. However, it’s also just as light as the Dell. Meanwhile, the Lenovo Yoga 9i may be slightly heavier, but it’s also almost as thin as the Dell at 0.57 inches.

Meanwhile, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, in its 10-inches of goodness, is only 2.03 pounds and can fit in a utility jacket pocket.

Of course, there’s also the fact that 2-in-1 laptops let you carry just a single device. Instead of lugging around a laptop and a tablet, you just have the one lightweight portable in your probably already overloaded and heavy backpack.

They’re great space savers too

Having only one device doesn’t just save you from a lot of back and shoulder pain. It also helps you save space. After all, dorm rooms are already cramped enough, and they don’t leave you much space for a lot of things. 

A compact 2-in-1 is the perfect solution for minimizing and can help you prune the number of things cluttering your room. We’re not only talking about having an extra portable here. With a device that already lets you conveniently stream and enjoy your favorite shows and movies, you also won’t even need a TV, which takes up considerable space, in your room.

Less devices and electronics to worry about also means less things to pack and secure when you need to move out after each academic year. Think of how many more things you can pack in your car when you don’t have a TV taking up all that space.

2-in-1s can be just as powerful as traditional laptops

Thanks to the advances manufacturers have made in mobile components, 2-in-1 laptops can now be as powerful as clamshell laptops without giving up on their thin and light promise. 

The best hybrid laptops today boast the same CPUs, integrated graphics and speedy RAM as the best laptops today, many of them fitted with the same Tiger Lake chips and Intel Iris Xe graphics as their non-hybrid counterparts. Case in point, both the Dell XPS 13-inch and the Dell XPS 2-in-1 13-inch offer mostly the same CPU, graphics, memory and storage options. 

Of course, that also means that traditional laptops can now be as thin as convertible notebooks. However, they still cannot offer the same versatility, so that’s still a point for 2-in-1s.

Less devices, less expenses

Acer Spin 5

(Image credit: Acer)

Before you get on the hybrid bandwagon, you should know that 2-in-1 laptops are generally more expensive than clamshell laptops. That makes sense. After all, you simply cannot get that kind of versatility and functionality for the same price as those without them.

At the same time, you’re also not paying a massive surcharge here. There’s generally only going to be a less than $500/£500 difference between convertibles and traditional laptops. And, while that may feel like a massive uptick in price if you don’t need a 2-in-1, it’s miniscule compared to how much you might have to pay if you get a notebook and a tablet separately.

Bear in mind that the cheapest iPad Air and Galaxy Tab S7 will cost you more than $500/£500. Even the regular iPad already starts at $329/£329 without the tax. 

By getting a 2-in-1, you’re offsetting some of that cost while also taking with you all the other benefits that these laptops offer. In the long run, you’re actually saving a bit of money.

Verdict

There are many reasons why students should get a 2-in-1 laptop for back to school season. Especially when you’re in college, it’s all about minimizing your spending and the amount of stuff you own while maximizing the use of those things you do own. 

In college, instant ramen isn’t just instant ramen. Add in vegetables and some protein, and it’s a cheap meal with most of the necessary food groups. It’s the same with a 2-in-1 laptop. It can be a student’s tool for school as well as the main source of entertainment and a way to stay in touch with friends and family.

Moreover, it’s also versatile, portable, lightweight, and space-saving. And, by being an effective replacement for other electronics, it can save you a whole lot of money as well.

It’s one thing if you don’t really need a tablet, watch very little TV and take notes the old-fashioned way – a regular clamshell laptop should do. However, if a 2-in-1 laptop is something that will make your college life a whole lot easier, it’s something to seriously consider.

Michelle Rae Uy
Buying Guides Editor

Michelle Rae Uy is the Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.