When it comes to 2-in-1 laptops, Microsoft isCurrently taking the crown. It's light and powerful, comes with a wide variety of designs, and some serious improvements to its performance.
It's not the only good convertible laptop, however. We checked all available 2-in-1s, including Chromebooks, convertibles, and high-performance 15-inch versions. Even if you're not a Surface fanatic, below are some great options for 2-in-1 gaming.
The best 2-in-1 laptops at a glance
The best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
Why should you buy this: It's a great 2-in-1 device because of its thin and light design, and it has a solid physical keyboard, superior pen, and great performance for true productivity.
Who is it for: Anyone who just can't decide between a tablet and a conventional notebook.
Why we chose Microsoft Surface Pro 7:
The Surface Pro 7 launched in October 2019 is very similar to its predecessors, with the same basic design and the same choice between platinum and black. Inside, however, the Surface Pro 7 offers some real advantages.
The first is an upgrade to 10th generation quad-core Intel “Ice Lake” Core-U processors, which offer a real boost in performance (especially for graphics) but a small step back in battery life. The new CPUs offer very good performance, which is a step up from previous 8th generation processors, especially when the faster Iris Plus graphics are used in the high-end Core i7. Here, too, the battery life is a little shorter than that of the previous generation.
However, all of this power and convenience doesn't come cheap. The Surface Pro 7 starts at $ 750, but doesn't include the Signature Type Cover ($ 160) and Surface Pen ($ 100), which are essential for full functionality. This also applies to the low-end configuration with Intel Core i3, 4 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD. The Surface Pro 7 costs a maximum of US $ 2,300 with the Core i7, 16 GB RAM and 1 TB SSD.
The best convertible laptop: HP Specter x360 13
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
Why should you buy this: It's fast, has a long battery life, has a nice display, and rotates into multiple modes.
Who is it for: Anyone looking for a 2-in-1 device that works best as a laptop.
Why we chose the HP Specter x360 13:
We chose the 2019 HP Specter x360 13 because it offers the best combination of performance, battery life, display quality and price in a very busy area. We've already rated the Specter x360 13 as one of the best laptops you could buy in recent years, and the latest update to the “gemstone cut” introduced a new angular design that is both beautiful and functional.
The Specter x360 uses 8th Generation Intel Quad-Core Whiskey Lake CPUs which are fast and efficient. HP also installed a new Intel low-power display that offers impressive battery life for media usage and productivity tasks. Our tests of the latest Specter x360 13 managed to loop a whopping 17.5 hours in a local video. A slightly thicker chassis also ensures improved thermals.
The best thing about today's 360-degree convertible 2-in-1s is that they work just as well as traditional clamshell notebooks, and the Specter x360 13 is the best proof of that. The Surface Pro may be a better tablet replacement, but the Specter x360 is near perfect.
Note that HP just unveiled a new Specter x360 13 that has tiny bezels and features both Intel's 10th Generation Ice Lake CPUs and a new OLED display option. This is something you should consider before triggering the current generation's low prices.
The best 2-in-1 Chromebook: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
Why should you buy this: If you're a Chrome OS fan and like tablet features, the Duet is for you.
Who is it for: Anyone looking for a Chromebook 2-in-1 that is both a great tablet and a laptop.
Why we chose the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet:
The Duet is a Chromebook for people who like tablet designs and really like Chromebook prices, but are still looking for the right 2-in-1 PC. The slim Duet offers a 10.1-inch HD screen, a MediaTek Helio P60T processor and 4 GB of RAM. Since this is a Chromebook, the focus isn't on storage space, but it's nice to see 64GB for those who need it.
The ports on this Chromebook are limited to a USB-C connection, which is also used to charge the tablet. While it's nice that the keyboard includes a tiny touchpad for those who want it, it's still a bit cramped for our tastes. However, we rarely see similar specs for such a low price (and you can always choose a different keyboard if you want). The battery is designed for up to 10 hours.
The best touchscreen laptop: Dell XPS 13
Riley Young / Digital Trends
Why should you buy this: It can't be swiveled or broken off, but it's small enough that the touch display feels a bit like a tablet.
Who is it for: Anyone who wants to tap the display and toast it, but does not need a separate board.
Why we chose the Dell XPS 13:
The Dell XPS 13 has occupied our top laptop slot for quite some time, and the 2019 version got rid of the funky webcam location that was our only complaint. With the 2020 model, Dell switched to 10th generation Intel Comet Lake CPUs and a 13.4-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio that just feels more square.
As the screen increased, Dell reduced the lower bezel to complement the already thinned sides. The dropped hinge is just below the surface of the keyboard area, giving the impression that the lower bezel is thinner than it really is. The 720p camera is on top – no more nasal cameras are pushed into the keyboard deck.
The keyboard and touchpad are both full-size and comfortable to use. Somehow, Dell managed to create enough battery capacity for efficient components so that the battery life does not suffer. Thanks to a sophisticated thermal management technology, the laptop can work without throttling due to excessive heat.
The XPS 13 is sure to be a premium laptop when fully configured, at least, but it starts at a relatively inexpensive $ 900 for an entry-level configuration that's still quite usable. Despite its clamshell design, we included this laptop because it is so thin and light that it feels like a tablet.
The best little 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Go 2
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends
Why should you buy this: It offers the same ability to morph into a tablet as its bigger sibling, but is also more convenient in its primary role as a tablet.
Who is it for: Anyone who wants a tablet that can connect a keyboard in an emergency – and doesn't want to spend a lot of money.
Why we chose Microsoft Surface Go 2:
Affordable and slim, the Surface Go 2 gives you a classic tablet experience with Windows 10. It's also a notable upgrade to the first Surface Go, which was a very portable tablet, but not as good under heavy workloads.
The newer model shrinks the bezels and enlarges the screen to 10.5 inches. Using new processor options will also greatly improve performance. Our pick uses an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y Core m3 chip with 8 GB of RAM. The fast 128 GB SSD makes it easy to do work.
Connections include USB-C, a hidden MicroSD card slot for storage expansion, and a headphone jack. The battery is rated for 10 hours, an improvement on the first Go's battery life, but still doesn't impress when compared to other picks on our list.
The best detachable laptop: Microsoft Surface Book 3
Why should you buy this: It's a solid performance for just about any productivity task and can be turned into a tablet for on the go.
Who is it for: Business and creative professionals who can spend money on the best.
Why we chose surface book 3:
The Surface Book 3 is a welcome improvement over the Book 2 and a great option for those who want more powerful specs in a 2-in-1 PC. It comes with a 10th generation Intel Core processor (i5 or i7), up to 32 GB of RAM and up to a 1660 Ti Geforce GPU. Multiple options between 256 GB and 1 TB are available for storage on a single SSD.
There's also an option between a smaller 13.5-inch touchscreen and a larger 15-inch version. Not all of the top-line specs are available for the 13.5-inch model, but it's a great way to choose whether you want this laptop to be more portable or whether you're looking for something that can serve as a desktop replacement. The battery life of up to 17.5 hours on the larger Book 3 model is also impressive.
The main disadvantage of all this power is the price. You have to pay to add top-notch features to Book 3, which easily makes it the most expensive choice on our list.
Should you buy now or wait?
There has never been a better time to buy a 2-in-1. The market is full of great options and we believe the machines listed here will serve you well for years to come. Performance, battery life, displays and connectivity are top notch, and these flexible machines can do whatever you need now and in the future.
Intel launched its 10th generation Core processors in 2019, which are now found in most modern 2-in-1 processors. However, Intel didn't reveal the specs of its 11th generation Tiger Lake CPUs until after the family was announced during CES 2020. The first Tiger Lake laptops should be released in November 2020. So if you want the latest performance it may be worth pausing until then.
How we test
We spend a tremendous amount of time reviewing notebooks of all shapes and sizes – and that says something today when notebooks come in so many shapes, sizes, and configurations. To make sure our recommendations add real value to our readers, we live with the machines for a while and use them when writing our reviews to make sure we can judge how they work for real users.
But we have a method for our madness in conducting these reviews, and you can go behind the scenes in a separate article. Hopefully it will be evident that our reviews are real love work – or hate, depending on the notebook – and so at least you can tell that we are not reaching our conclusions without serious consideration.
Research and buying tips
What is a 2-in-1 laptop?
A convertible 2-in-1 laptop can be converted from a traditional clamshell laptop to a tablet. In some cases it's a misnomer – 360-degree convertible laptops like the HP Specter x360 13 can also be used in tent and media modes. The keyboard is not removable.
A detachable 2-in-1 laptop is a tablet-based device with detachable keyboard accessories. In most cases, the keyboard adds an extra cost, as is the case with the Surface Pro family. You can leave the keyboard attached and flip it over to use the screen as a tablet.
The main benefit of a detachable 2-in-1 device is portability – tablets are extremely thin, light, and easy to carry – and they're also best for drawing and jotting down on the pen-ready display.
The 360-degree convertible 2-in-1, on the other hand, isn't quite as convenient as a detachable device, but it works better in clamshell laptop mode – especially when used on the lap, where it's more stable than most detachable 2-in-1s.
Should I get a 2-in-1 or a regular laptop?
Newer 360-degree convertibles like our favorite HP Specter x360 13 make great clamshells – in fact, it's a great competitor to the Dell XPS 13 even if you never flip the display. Modern 2-in-1 devices are fast, have a long battery life and often enjoy even better displays than the typical clamshell laptop.
If you need the fastest gaming laptop or professional workstation that uses the absolute fastest CPUs and GPUs, a 2-in-1 PC likely won't work. As we mention below, 2-in-1s tend to be thinner and lighter because they can be used as slate. This leads to limitations in the performance of a 2-in-1 device compared to traditional laptops.
Does Apple make a 2-in-1 laptop?
Technically, Apple doesn't make a 2-in-1 laptop. At least not in the sense of a “real” PC running a full-featured desktop operating system.
The next Apple is the iPad Pro, which snaps together with an optional keyboard and is a viable laptop-like device as long as you can find an iOS app that suits your needs. Apple is improving the way the iPad works as a laptop by enabling mouse support and improved file system support in the new iPadOS.
Can a 2-in-1 laptop be used for gaming?
Unfortunately, most 2-in-1s don't have the capacity for sophisticated CPUs and GPUs, which can be a major disadvantage for dedicated gamers. Yes, you can play 2-in-1, but you can't expect the same performance or crystal clear graphics that you would get with an actual gaming laptop.
For example, consider the Microsoft Surface Book 2 15. It is equipped with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, which makes it more than fast enough for modern games at 1080p and moderately high graphics settings. It's held back a bit for thermal and power reasons, and uses an 8th generation 15-watt quad-core CPU, but is still good enough for light gaming sessions.
Another choice is the HP Specter x360 15that uses an 8th generation 6-core Core i7-8750H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. It's still limited, but it can also play many modern PC games at 1080p without affecting your graphics.