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  • Overview
  • Form Factors
  • Hardware & Inputs
  • Display, Weight & Battery Life
  • FAQ

Today’s highly mobile PCs are called by several names—2 in 1 laptops, hybrids, convertible laptops, Ultrabooks, 2 in 1 tablets—and the lines of classification get a little blurry. Most of the time, specific hardware features and usability dictate the nomenclature. How you will use the computer is more important than its classification when planning to purchase a laptop, but understanding the names will help you search properly.

By definition, 'Ultrabook' is simply a manufacturer designation by Intel for any laptop that meets certain build requirements. To be called an Ultrabook, a computer needs a slim profile (18 mm thick or less for a 14-inch display and 23 mm for larger screens) an Intel Core CPU, SSD storage, at least a five-hour battery life between charges, and other minor features.

An Ultrabook may resemble any other kind of portable computer. It can be a traditional one-piece clamshell, a touch screen laptop, a 2-in-1 tablet with an attachable keyboard, or a convertible laptop with a display that tents and bends. As long as it meets the specifications listed above, it is called an Ultrabook in addition to its other defining characteristics.

Ultrabooks with traditional ‘clamshell’ form factors are often touch screen laptops, though you will find some with regular I/O-controls. They hinge at the display but keyboard is not detachable. The Dell XPS is an example of a clamshell Ultrabook.

2 in 1 laptops, which are interchangeably called 2 in 1 tablets, combine detachable key covers and touch screen functionality. This gives users flexibility; it is a tablet when you want a tablet and a touch screen laptop when you need to type. Examples of 2-in-1 laptops include the Microsoft Surface, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book; see also the Dell Inspiron, ASUS Transformer Book, and Lenovo Miix.

Convertible laptops can tent and hinge their display at multiple angles. This gives them dual tablet-keyboard functionality similar to 2 in 1 laptops. They are ideal for viewing from nearly any position—on a tabletop, your lap, or viewing while lying down. They tend to be more expensive than 2 in 1 tablets with comparable specifications. Examples of convertible laptops include the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, Acer Aspire, and HP EliteBook.

Let your planned usage determine the hardware specifications. For basic web browsing and word processing, 2 in 1 tablets with a low-power CPU (Intel Atom, Intel Core i3, Intel Core M) and 4 GB of memory will suffice. Applications used for design and production work usually require a mid-level CPU (Intel Core i5, Intel Core M5) and 8 GB of memory typically found in an Ultrabook or certain 2-in-1 laptops. Only the most powerful tablet laptops can handle tasks like high-resolution gaming and video editing. An Ultrabook with a discrete video card (NVIDIA GeForce) and a powerful CPU (Intel Core i7) is your best bet.

Whether or not you plan on storing media files on your Ultrabook or 2 in 1 laptop will determine whether yours requires a large hard disk drive (HDD) in addition to the solid-state drive (SSD) that is standard on most models.

Connectivity features and inputs are fairly similar across all classes of 2-in-1 laptops and Ultrabooks. Nearly all of them connect via HDMI to larger displays, and Bluetooth comes standard. Most new models have the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard for wireless LAN connections and webcams.

Touch screen 2-in-1 tablets may come with a stylus or may be sold separately. Check the SKU for more information.

How portable does your Ultrabook or 2-in-1 laptop need to be? Balance this with your preference for screen size, as one determines the other. The screen makes up most of the weight and bulk of a laptop computer. Also, the display affects battery life more than anything else. Large, bright screens tend to consume more energy.

The smallest 2-in-1 tablets have 11.6-inch screens and can weigh as little as 2 lbs. with a battery life of 12 hours or more. On the other end of the spectrum, an Ultrabook with a 15.6-inch screen might weigh upwards of 5 lbs. and gets half the battery life.

A larger 2-in-1 with a detachable keyboard can provide the best of both worlds. The 13.3-inch ASUS Transformer Book and the 13.5-inch Surface Book weigh between 2-3 lbs. without the keyboard, and get around 8 hours of battery life depending on use.

Top of the line Ultrabooks and 2-and-1 laptops like the Dell XPS 12 boast spectacular 4K displays. Mid-to-high end models usually have quad extended (3200 x 2400) resolutions. Full HD (1920 x 1080) is standard for mainstream tablet laptops, and sub-HD displays are common in low-cost models.

How to clean a touch screen laptop

Clean a touch screen laptop or device the same way you would a pair of glasses. Use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe away fingerprints and smudges, applying light pressure in a circular motion. Only in extreme cases should moisture be introduced to an electronic device. Turn off the device first, and use distilled water, preferably, to lightly moisten a cotton cloth (not the microfiber!) and repeat the circular cleaning motion. Go back over the screen with the microfiber until it is clear of streaks.

What are the most powerful tablet laptops?

The most powerful tablet laptops have the latest Intel Core i7 or M7 CPU, 16 GB of memory or more, and a discrete graphics card—usually a NVIDIA GeForce. Several manufactures produce powerful tablet laptops (also called 2 in 1 laptops) to these specifications. Examples include certain SKUs of the Microsoft Surface Book, HP Elite x2, and Lenovo ThinkPad X1.

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