Posts with «tablet» label

The best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy

The perfect hybrid machine that’s just as good a tablet as it is a laptop still doesn’t exist. But, in 2021, companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google continued to improve their operating systems for machines that do double duty. Windows 11 has features that make it friendlier for multi-screen devices, while Android 12L is on the horizon and promises an optimized experience for larger displays. Plus, with the rise of ARM-based chips for laptops, especially Apple’s impressive M1 series, prospects for a powerful 2-in-1 with a vast touch-friendly app ecosystem is at an all-time high.

These machines still have their limits, of course. Since they’re smaller than proper laptops, they tend to have less-powerful processors. Keyboards also tend to be less sturdy, with condensed layouts and shallower key travel. Plus, they’re almost always tablets first, leaving you to buy a keyboard case separately. (And those ain’t cheap.) So, you can’t always assume the advertised price is what you’ll actually spend on the 2-in-1 you want.

Sometimes, getting a third-party keyboard might be just as good, and they’re often cheaper than first-party offerings. If you’re looking to save some money, Logitech’s Slim Folio is a cheaper option, and if you don’t need your keyboard to attach to your tablet, Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device wireless keyboard is also a good pick.

While we’ve typically made sure to include a budget 2-in-1 in previous years, this time there isn’t a great choice. We would usually go with a Surface Go, but the 2021 model is too expensive. Other alternatives, like cheaper Android tablets, are underpowered and don’t offer a great multitasking interface. If you want something around $500 that’s thin, lightweight and long-lasting, you’re better off this year looking at a conventional laptop (like those on our best budget PCs list).

Chris Velazco / Engadget

When you’re shopping for a 2-in-1, there are some basic criteria to keep in mind. First, look at the spec sheet to see how heavy the tablet is (alone, and with the keyboard). Most modern hybrids weigh less than 2 pounds, with the 1.96-pound Surface Pro 8 being one of the heaviest around. The iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+ are both slightly lighter. If the overall weight of the tablet and its keyboard come close to 3 pounds, you’ll be better off just getting an ultraportable laptop.

You’ll also want to opt for an 11-inch or 12-inch screen instead of a smaller 10-inch model. The bigger displays will make multitasking easier, plus their companion keyboards will be much better spaced. Also, try to get 6GB of RAM if you can for better performance — you’ll find this in the base model of the Galaxy Tab S7+, while this year’s iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 8 start with 8GB of RAM.

Finally, while some 2-in-1s offer built-in LTE or 5G connectivity, not everyone will want to pay the premium for it. An integrated cellular radio makes checking emails or replying to messages on the go far more convenient. But it also often costs more, and that’s not counting what you’ll pay for data. And, as for 5G — you can hold off on it unless you live within range of a mmWave beacon. Coverage is still spotty and existing nationwide networks use the slower sub-6 technology that’s barely faster than LTE. 

Engadget Picks

Best overall: Surface Pro 8

Dana Wollman/Engadget

There’s no beating the Surface series when it comes to 2-in-1s. They’re powerful, sleek tablets running an OS that’s actually designed for productivity. The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft’s latest and it addresses most of the issues we had with its predecessor. It’s thinner and looks more modern, borrowing the design of last year’s Pro X. Plus, it has a 120Hz display that makes scrolling endless spreadsheets or emails feel much faster. Just remember to drop the refresh rate to 60Hz if you want to get respectable battery life out of this thing. Windows 11 also offers a better split-screen experience for on-the-go multitasking.

Like most of the other 2-in-1s on this list, the Pro 8 doesn’t come with a keyboard cover — you’ll have to pay extra for that. That’s a shame, considering it starts at $1,099. Microsoft offers a variety of Type Covers for its Surface Pros ranging from $100 to $180, depending on whether you want a slot for a stylus on it. But at least they’re comfortable and well-spaced. You can also get the Surface Slim Pen 2 ($130) for sketching out your diagrams or artwork, and it also features haptic feedback for a more responsive experience.

Buy Surface Pro 8 at Microsoft starting at $1,099

Best for Apple users: 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)

Chris Velazco/Engadget

If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, the best option for you is obviously an iPad. The 12-inch Pro is our pick. Like older models, this iPad Pro has a stunning 12.9-inch screen with a speedy 120Hz refresh rate, but this year it uses mini-LED backlighting to deliver greater dynamic range. Apple’s M1 chipset is impressively fast too, and more than good enough for most tasks. Plus, the latest iPadOS is superior to older versions thanks to widgets and quick notes support.

Apple’s new Magic Keyboard provides a satisfying typing experience, and its trackpad means you won’t have to reach for the screen to launch apps. But it’ll also cost you an extra $300, making it the most expensive case on this list by a lot. The iPad also lacks a headphone jack and its webcam is awkwardly positioned along the left bezel when you prop it up horizontally, so be aware that it’s still far from a perfect laptop replacement. Still, with its sleek design and respectable battery life, the iPad Pro 12.9 is a good 2-in-1 for Apple users.

Buy 12.9-inch iPad Pro at Amazon - $1,099

Best for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

While Windows is better than iPadOS and Android for productivity, it lags the other two when it comes to apps specifically designed for touchscreens. If you want a tablet that has all the apps you want, and only need it to occasionally double as a laptop, the Galaxy Tab S7+ is a solid option. Though it was released last year, it’s still the best Android-powered 2-in-1 around. You’ll enjoy watching movies and playing games on its gorgeous 12.4-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen, and Samsung includes the S Pen, which is great for sketching and taking notes. The Snapdragon 865+ processor and 6GB of RAM keep things running smoothly, too.

Thankfully the company significantly improved its keyboard case over previous models, with more comfortable and responsive keys. You could type for hours on this thing and not hate yourself (or Samsung). The battery life is also excellent, so you won’t need to worry about staying close to an outlet. The main caveat is that Android isn’t great as a desktop OS and, while Samsung’s DeX mode offers a somewhat workable solution, it has plenty of quirks. Still, with Android 12L on the horizon, a simple software update could ease some pain.

Buy Galaxy Tab S7+ at Samsung - $849

Best Chrome OS option: HP Chromebook x2

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Android might suck as a desktop operating system, but Chrome OS doesn’t. If most of your tasks take place inside a browser, the HP Chromebook x2 will serve you well. It has great battery life, an excellent 11-inch screen and looks nice, to boot. HP even includes the keyboard and stylus with the tablet, which almost none of the competition does.

Chrome still isn’t a great OS in tablet mode, and the Chromebook x2’s Snapdragon 7c processor sometimes struggles if you rack up too many tabs. It’s also a little pricey at $600, but you can often find it for $400 when it goes on sale at sites like Best Buy. That makes it a solid choice considering everything HP includes for the money.

Buy Chromebook x2 at HP - $679

The best laptops and tablets to give as gifts

If you’re thinking of getting a laptop or tablet as a gift, you’ve got a wealth of options. Thanks to the latest round of hardware from Intel, Apple, AMD and NVIDIA, all of our portable devices have gotten steadily faster and more efficient. Even the cheapest iPad can be a decent productivity machine, while gaming laptops now have almost all of the power of their desktop siblings. And with the arrival of Windows 11, it's a perfect time to give someone a nifty PC upgrade, especially since very old computers won’t be able to step up.

Dell XPS 13

Dell

Not to sound like a broken record, but the XPS 13 is still the best Windows ultraportable you can buy. The design hasn't changed much, but that's not a huge problem: It's still incredibly light and features extraordinarily thin screen bezels. And now you can also take advantage of Intel's latest 11th-generation processors. The XPS 13 can also be configured with an OLED screen, an ideal gift for someone who could use a bright and color accurate display. And if you’ve got someone in mind who could use even more power, the new XPS 15 has the same sleek design, but it has more room for a bigger display and better hardware.

Buy XPS 13 at Dell starting at $950

Apple MacBook Air

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Apple's MacBook Air hasn't been upgraded since last year's miraculous model — which gave it the winning combination of Apple's M1 processor, a fan-less design, and incredible battery life — but it's still one of the best laptops on the market. It's powerful enough to handle most productivity tasks and a few games, and whoever’s lucky enough to get it won’t have to worry about any fans spinning up, since it’s completely passively cooled. You can also find the M1-equipped MacBook Air on sale occasionally, making it one of the smarter gift purchases this season.

Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon - $999

Apple iPad

Apple

Kudos to Apple for continually improving its entry-level iPad. Once again, it's one of the best tablet gift options on the market. It's faster than ever, thanks to Apple's A13 Bionic processor, and it includes more storage. The $329 model now comes with 64GB, or you could bump up to 256GB for $479. That's more than enough space to save every episode of Bluey and several seasons of Sesame Street to survive long car trips. Sure, the design hasn't changed much since last year, but that doesn't matter much — it’s still a more than capable tablet.

Buy iPad at Amazon - $329

Amazon Fire HD 10

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Amazon's Fire tablets are basically just video-first Android slates, but they also prove you don’t have to pay a ton to buy a useful tablet for someone. This year, the Fire HD 10 is a bit faster, has 50 percent more memory and features a slightly brighter screen. And, as a bonus, there's a Bluetooth keyboard accessory that can turn it into a cheap productivity tablet. But its core selling point is the same as always: it can tackle most tablet tasks easily, and it won’t cost too much. (There are also kid-centric Fire tablets worth considering, which come with a more durable case and two years worth of free replacements.)

Buy Fire HD 10 at Amazon - $150

Razer Blade 15

Razer

You can take all of the praise we've given Razer's Blade 15 over the years and apply it to the latest model. Razer's flagship gaming notebook still has a sleek unibody aluminum case, and it packs in the latest CPUs and GPUs, including NVIDIA's top-end RTX 3080. And thanks to improved screen choices, you can also gift models with fast 1,440p displays, which are sharper than 1080p screens, and easier to run natively than 4K displays. If portability is a greater concern, take a look at the new Razer Blade 14, a sub-four-pound notebook sporting AMD's latest processors.

Buy Blade 15 at Razer - $1,700

ASUS Zephyrus G15

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If the gamer in your life wants something more flashy and a bit lighter than the Razer Blade, consider the Zephyrus G15. With the combined power of AMD's latest processors and NVIDIA's latest graphics cards, it'll handle practically any game thrown at it. And if you're on a budget, you can find lower-end models cheaper than the equivalent Razer's. Mostly, though, we love this laptop because it has pretty much everything we'd want in a mobile gaming rig — that includes an excellent keyboard, a speedy 165Hz 1440p screen and excellent battery life. The only downside is that there's no webcam, but any aspiring streamer would rather have a separate external camera anyway.

Buy Zephyrus G15 at Best Buy - $1,550

Acer Chromebook 512

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The best Chromebooks are cheap, sturdy and powerful enough to handle basic school and office work. Acer's Chromebook 512 is one of the best current options, especially if you're looking for something for a child. It has a spill resistant keyboard, a sturdy impact-resistant case, and anchored keys that are harder for kids to pull off. Its Intel Celeron N4000 chip isn't the fastest, but it's enough to work on Google Docs, Sheets and Presentations without breaking too much of a sweat.

Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Amazon - $200

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sometimes it seems like there are just too many PC ultraportables to choose from, but Microsoft's Surface Laptop line are always a solid option. They feature some of the best keyboards on the market, excellent displays and support for all of Microsoft's notebook accessories, like the Surface Stylus. But mostly, we appreciate them for their design simplicity. They're sturdy, attractive and built for productivity. The latest 15-inch model also packs in speedy AMD processors that are powerful enough to play a few rounds of Overwatch.

Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Microsoft starting at $799

Telepresence upgrade with a minimum of effort

This telepresence upgrade lets an employee take part in the office from more than four thousand kilometers away. It’s an upgrade of their previous setup which used a laptop on a rotating platform to add a bit of control to the video conferencing experience. But all that original version could do was swivel, this one lets you drive your virtual self around for fifteen hours between battery charges.

The real work is in the base of the robot, as the audio and video are handled by a tablet independently from the locomotion. The team spent about four hundred bucks to throw the thing together. It starts with a hunk of plywood. Two 3A motors were mated with lawnmower wheels for the front of the bot. Dragging under the back of the base are a couple of casters that make it possible to turn without skidding. A motor shield and a WiFi shield for the Arduino make it possible to control the thing over the Internet. They even added some functionality on the client side to use a PlayStation 3 controller. Check out the completed machine in the clip after the break.


Filed under: news
Hack a Day 28 Jan 20:01