A few months after the iPad came out, computer makers who had made convertible laptops started phasing them out, believing the iPad usurped their need. What's old is new again: several computer makers are planning to introduce new Windows 8 convertible laptops soon after Microsoft makes the OS official on October 26.
I agree with the assessment that the iPad stymied the need for convertible laptops; if you need a keyboard with the lighter-than-a-convertible iPad, or even an Android tablet, you could buy an auxiliary Bluetooth QWERTY keypad. In fact, your bag would probably be lighter with an iPad and an ultrabook both contained therein, as opposed to a single convertible laptop.
But if these new hybrids succeed, we can't keep calling them "convertible laptops" (for one thing, it takes too long to type). So, I'm inventing a new name for these sometimes-a-laptop, sometimes-a-tablet combo computers.
It's a name I'd trademark if I could (I wish I'd made up "phablet," for instance). Please cite me if you use it. (And don't get dyslexically clever and start calling them "tablaps" — I'm claiming that portmanteau, too.)
Here's the convertible rundown on the five laptabs I found during last months IFA electronics showcase in Berlin, Germany — some have sliding tops and some have detachable tabs, but they're all proper laptabs.
1. Dell XPS Duo 12 It looks like a regular clamshell at first glance, but the 12.5-inch screen pops out and swivels 360 degrees on its central horizontal axis inside the machined aluminum frame, then lies back-to-front over the keyboard to create one fat tablet. The idea isn't exactly original — the company put out a 10.1-inch Inspiron Duo netbook a few years back with the same swinging configuration, but was discontinued when the iPad also killed the netbook.
2. HP Envy X2 Here's a detachable tablet laptab with an 11.6-inch snap-off screen. Combined with its keyboard, the X2 weighs a whopping 3.1 pounds; the separated screen/tablet tips the scales at just 1.5 pounds. Its heavier-than-thou nature stems from HP building a battery into both the X2's keyboard and the screen/tablet. HP didn't have a battery life rating, only saying the dual configuration meant it will be naturally massive.
3. Samsung ATIV Smart PC/Smart PC Pro Like the HP, Samsung's offering has an 11.6-inch screen that pops off the QWERTY keypad. The Pro sports an Intel Core i5 processor, measures 11.9 mm thick when closed and will run for eight hours on a single charge, while its sibling is endowed with an Intel Core i3 chip, measures a relatively svelte 9.9mm thin and operates for a healthy 13.5 hours on its battery.
4. Sony VAIO Duo 11 Isn't it odd that Sony and Dell came up with similar laptab appellations? Or maybe not. The VAIO Duo 11 is equipped with an 11.1-inch touchscreen that slides flat-then-back-to-front so it lies back-down on top of the keypad. You also get a digitizer stylus. Sony's Duo doesn't offer any weight advantages compared to an ultrabook, though, which I think poses a problem for most of these laptabs. For instance, both the Intel i3 and i5 Duo 11 editions weigh in nearly a half pound more than Apple's 11-inch Mac Book Air, and at 2.86 pounds, just 0.1 pounds lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air.
5. Toshiba Satellite U920t Like the Sony Duo, the Satellite U920t is a back-to-front slider, but lacks the seemingly overly complex mechanism of its sliding laptab competitor. Instead, you lay the U920t's 12.5-inch screen flat, then slide it over the keyboard. While easier to slide, it's a bit thick at 19.9 mm compared to Duo 11's 17.8 mm depth, and weighs a heftier 3.2 pounds.
Choices, Choices And More Choices
So: a light ultrabook, or a heavier laptab? And once you pop the tab top off the HP and Samsung when mobile, your bag continues to be weighed down by the keyboard, obviating the whole advantage of carrying a tablet.
In other words, laptabs carry all the disadvantages of a heavier laptop with none of the weight advantages of a tablet. Perhaps there are some functionality advantages by having both; I just don't see these worth a sore back.
Check out the gallery below for a closer look at each laptab written about here.
All images above and below by Stewart Wolpin for DVICE.