2-in-1 Laptop Teacher vs Student Face-off: a tale of two power users

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2-in-1 laptops for back to school
(Image credit: Future)

The concept of the 2-in-1 laptop certainly isn’t new but, in 2019, this subgenre of the best laptops out there has gained major traction. The idea has been incredibly refined since its debut several years ago, with options all over the price spectrum.

In fact, we firmly believe that a 2-in-1 laptop could honestly replace most of your Back to School gear. This, too, is the case for 2-in-1 laptops across the price range.

There are several types of 2-in-1 laptops with niche applications, and many for general use at all performance levels. This also makes the 2-in-1 laptop uniquely useful to both teachers and students, with many 2-in-1s being ideal for both kinds of users.

Here’s what it is exactly about 2-in-1 laptops that are so universally useful, by building a tale of two power users: teacher versus student.

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Microsoft spent a lot of focus on the display with Surface Book 2.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The touchscreen

Our teacher in this face-off scenario – let’s call them … “Pat” – has a penchant for taking handwritten notes for everything from to-do lists to new lesson ideas. That requires a lot of paper and pens, and you can’t backup your paper notes to the cloud.

With a 2-in-1 laptop and a stylus, Pat can scrawl notes and convert them to editable text with ease. They can then take those notes and turn them into alerts, reminders, calendar events – whatever it takes to keep on task and organized.

As for our student – we’ll name them … “Max” – let’s say they’re in an art school within the university. (Since all of the above applies to students, too.) In years past, that required likely a Mac desktop or laptop along with a sizable Wacom tablet.

Now, students can get away with doing that digital drafting work on a 2-in-1 laptop with a touchscreen and stylus. All of their work can be saved, edited and shared digitally, with displays that are color accurate up to and including the P3 gamut and with thousands of layers of stylus pressure sensitivity. Today, Max’s creative work can be done where they feel most creative.

If either Max or Pat wants to save money, we find the Asus Chromebook Flip to be a fine, affordable touchscreen laptop running Chrome OS. If they want a 2-in-1 laptop that’s all about the screen, then the Microsoft Surface Book 2 is an excellent choice at either size option.

Surface Pro 6

The Surface Pro 6 has some of the best cameras in 2-in-1 laptops.

(Image credit: Future)

The camera(s)

Pat can use the cameras on their 2-in-1 laptop to hold meetings with colleagues and students, or even teach classes from afar. They also come in handy to photograph white boards for saving notes if need be or of students’ work, if you’re teaching a visual field of study.

Max, meanwhile, is mostly using their webcam to chat with friends and family while away at college. Though, they use it also for attending classes remotely during snow days or other closings. Finally, Max can get just as much use out of the camera in the classroom as Pat the teacher, photographing examples from the board and taking other photo notes.

We’ve found the cameras on the Surface Pro 6 to be particularly sharp, with 1080p video recording on either sensor and high megapixel resolutions. But, if they’re looking to save cash or don’t need, they can make the most out of something like the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 for 720p video chats.

Acer Chromebook Spin 11

This is what even the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 stylus can create in the hands of a pro.

(Image credit: Future)

The stylus

Most 2-in-1 laptops these days either include a stylus or sell one separately, and they’re incredibly useful for teachers like Pat, as they can easily mark up reports and tests and return them to students digitally. No more reams of papers. If they’re a teacher in the visual arts, then the possibilities just explode.

Back to Max creating wherever they please with the touchscreen, the stylus becomes their new pencil or brush when working with the 2-in-1 laptop. Those thousands of levels of pressure sensitivity can deliver the fine strokes of a pencil and the deep, bold strokes of a marker with just a little (or a lot of) pressure.

Again, it’s tough to beat the Surface Pen these days in terms of 2-in-1 laptop stylus quality, though it comes separately from any model device for $99/£99. If Pat or Max were looking to save, they’d know to optimize with – again – the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 with its included stylus.

One of our favorite 2-in-1 laptops as of late to come with a stylus included is the Lenovo Yoga C630.

Close up of laptop processor

A closer look at a laptop processor.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The components

This may sound like a strange one, but it’s important to note that the processors and other parts inside 2-in-1 laptops are generally comparable to traditional laptops of similar specification. These days, you’re not sacrificing performance for versatility. 

However, know that the thinner and lighter 2-in-1 designs generally employ fanless processors, meaning they’re lower powered without the additional cooling of fans, as is the case with most laptops. It’s good, then, that manufacturers are starting to build many 2-in-1 laptops with full-power mobile processors.

Naturally, Max and Pat already know this, and would optimize for budget with something like the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1. Though, if either of them needed some raw 2-in-1 power, there needs would best be served by a laptop like the HP Spectre x360 15.