A quickly growing category of computers is the hybrid laptop. This is a computer that functions as both a laptop and a tablet.
The most innovative players in the hybrid laptop category are Lenovo and Microsoft. Both have released new hybrid laptops that are wowing reviewers and new users alike.
These two products are unique in the hybrid laptop category. They are also very different from one another in operation. Lenovo’s Yoga 900 has a screen that folds back 360 degrees on a watchband-like hinge to convert to tablet mode.
In contrast, the screen on Microsoft’s Surface Book uses an interesting “dynamic fulcrum hinge”. The screen separates from the keyboard with the press of a button for tablet duty. It can be used either with, or independently of, the keyboard.
There are pros and cons to each hybrid laptop’s approach, so let’s look in more depth at both.
Hybrid Laptop: Lenovo Yoga 900
All models of this hybrid laptop include a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, 13.3 inch multi-touch display, integrated Intel HD graphics, 3 USB ports, card reader, audio jack, webcam, battery, wifi, Bluetooth, Windows 10, and a one year warranty. The unit weighs less than 3 pounds.
Starts at a heady $1,199, and that includes 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB solid state drive (SSD).
At $1,399 you get 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD – twice the RAM and storage.
More to Know
Reviewers have found that the battery, rated by Lenovo for 9 hours, lasts at least 7 hours in tests.
Like previous Yoga models, the computer can be used in: standard laptop mode (clamshell); as a presentation device (tent or stand modes); or in tablet mode (with the keyboard rotated beneath the screen). The Yoga 900’s hinge seems sturdier and in laptop mode more stable than earlier models. When used in tablet mode, the keys are exposed underneath the screen. While the keys are inactive, holding the Yoga can be uncomfortable as fingers slide over keys to get a grip.
Hybrid Laptop: Microsoft Surface Book
Heavier than the Yoga 900 at 3.3 pounds, the Surface Book has a greater variety of hybrid laptop models to choose from than its Lenovo counterpart. It also has a heftier price tag. All models include 2 USB ports, an SD card reader, and a mini DisplayPort (to attach an external monitor).
The lowest end model includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, and a 128 GB solid state hard drive (SSD) for $1,500.
The costliest model, at $3,200, gives you an Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, a discrete NVIDIA graphics processor for video, and a 1 TB SSD.
More to Know
Because the Surface Book has a battery built into the keyboard and the screen, battery life should exceed 8 hours with regular use through the day. Charging time is only 2 hours for the tablet/screen, or 4-5 hours for the entire computer.
The keyboard action feels a bit stiff to some, and not as easy or quick to use as the Yoga.
This convertible does not fully close. This is an intentional design decision. Instead it magnetically locks into place with a bit of a gap between the keyboard and the screen. Closed, it has a wedge shape with the rear wider than the front.
The screen couples to the keyboard with magnets and a “muscle wire” lock that secures it firmly in place. When the screen is removed from the keyboard to act as a tablet, Windows 10 automatically shifts into tablet mode for full touch use. This tablet is a little heavy at about one-and-a-half pounds. But consider that in this configuration it’s nearly half the weight of the Yoga 900, which can get heavy fast when used as a tablet.
Which Hybrid Laptop is Best?
Hybrids are still not 100% successful in executing every mode for which they are designed. But the Lenovo Yoga 900 and the Microsoft Surface Book are the hybrid laptop leaders right now. They come closest to meeting that high goal of being everything to everyone.
Better Tablet Experience: Surface Book
If you are a heavy tablet user that could use some extra oomph in processing power and graphics, the Surface Book may be a good choice. There’s a good deal of versatility with the tablet removed from the keyboard – it’s very portable and easy to handle.
Better Laptop Experience: Yoga 900
If you are pounding the keyboard, and the tablet experience is less critical, then the Yoga 900 is kinder to touch typists. The Surface Book screen, due to that magnetic locking mechanism, doesn’t hold as firmly as you might like. It tends to wobble a bit as you type on its hard, “short-travel” keys.
Better Movie Watching Experience: Mixed Results
If you watch a lot of movies and video, you might find the Surface Book’s bright screen a treat. However, you won’t be happy with its 3:2 square-ish shape, which leaves black bars at the top and bottom of the image. The Yoga 900’s screen at a 16:9 proportion is a better match for such viewers, but the screen is not quite as bright as the Surface Book.
Which is best? Both are now available through Microsoft and Lenovo’s websites as well as at Best Buy. Walmart, Staples, and other retailers should have them soon. Go and try them out. The best one is the one you’re most comfortable using. They’re both excellent.
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