Should I Get a Laptop/Tablet Hybrid?

I’m going a little off topic today, but that’s why this is a Wednesday post. I thought I’d get some feedback from those of you who might have opinions here. I have an ultrabook now, but I’ve been thinking about one of these new-fangled laptop/tablet hybrids. So when Lenovo loaned me a Yoga for a week, I decided it would be worth playing with.

Lenova Yoga

There were some things that I loved. This was my first chance to play with Windows 8, and I thought it was great. I think part of the reason I loved it was because the Yoga has a touchscreen. It really does make a computer operate like a mobile phone. But when you don’t want that, you have the keyboard to use it the traditional way. The flexibility is great.

And the keyboard itself was really good – easy to click and the keys were all where you want them. (My current ultrabook still frustrates me with the Page Up/Page Down keys.)

There were also some downsides. It is a touchscreen but the screen smudges easily. I guess it’s not an issue when the screen is on, but it is still a little annoying. And yes, this thing is really bulky as a tablet. That’s why it’s really a laptop with tablet functionality and not a replacement for a true tablet.

I also got nervous that I was going to break the thing. When you use it as a tablet, the keyboard is open for abuse on the back. Apparently this thing can survive heavy use, but it still made me uncomfortable.

Of course, Lenovo is far from the only one doing this kind of hybrid. I think pretty much every manufacturer is making one of these including Microsoft itself with its Surface.

So do you guys have any experience with these? Any suggestions? I suppose I’m leaning toward just keeping my ultrabook for now, but I am still tempted…

49 Responses to Should I Get a Laptop/Tablet Hybrid?

  1. …and I thought today’s post would be about Virgin Atlanta….;)

    • Todd in IAD – Since it’s rare to have a Wednesday post, I’m sure Brett will mention VS/DL soon when people know it’s a normal posting day. I never used to come here on Wednesday until one day I got my days mixed up and found a rare Wednesday post and not check just to see if I find one, like today.

    • CF says:

      Indeed – I was posting something else tomorrow but it has been replaced by a Virgin Atlantic/Delta post. So that’ll be there in the morning. For those who want to subscribe, you can get this via email anytime something is published:
      http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=1392450&loc=en_US

      It sends an email once a day so on those very rare days when I post twice, you’ll only get one email.

  2. Erik B says:

    Have you seen the Lenovo Twist? It’s similar to the Yoga but does not have the issue where the keyboard is on the outside during tablet mode. I’ve been debating between one of those and the Microsoft Surface Pro when it comes out…

    • CF says:

      Erik B – Yeah, the Twist might be a better option, but then again, that’s just more stuff that can break I guess. I haven’t really spent much time with it.

  3. maxe says:

    Don’t bother with all things Microsoft. Including Windows 8. If you travel a lot, get a Mac in any form or shape. You will not regret it.

    • Bobber says:

      Indeed. Enough said:)

    • XJT DX says:

      Mac vs PC has been and will always be a matter of preference and familiarization. One is no better than the other except at an extreme novice and hardcore professional level (and even then it’s not always Mac>PC).

      Case in point: I’ve been using my wife’s mac since I lost my laptop back in march and it is far more tedious to use on a daily basis. The menu structure, lack of control, and always-missed 2nd mouse button has me missing windows more than I care to admit.

      • Alex Hill says:

        It’s been years since Apple shipped a computer without a second mouse button and even more years since the Mac OS started fully supporting third party two button mice. Check System Preferences > Mouse. On a trackpad, clicking with two fingers is right-clicking, or here are several other user-configurable ways to right-click. The two-fingered click is more natural to me than having separate physical buttons.

      • Tom says:

        I have both logitech and microsoft mice and they work great with my Macs. 2 buttons, scroll wheel you name it. Plus I never have to worry about viruses or malware on my macs… my PC friends computers are always screwed up.

    • I have a Mac and PC for work.

      I use the PC for Excel, E-Views and SPSS.

      Everything else is on the Mac, even the Mac version of Word seems to be more stable.

      For personal use it’s a toss up. Mac is still eons behind in the gaming world but great for just about everything else.

    • Arcanum says:

      Unless you’re a gamer or run some specialized high-end software, any modern system will handle your needs just fine regardless of manufacturer or OS. Choosing a computer today is like buying shoes – it’s about marketing hype and brand identification rather than actual function. Style over substance.

      As a cheap b*tch, I’ve never been able to justify the extra cost to purchase a Mac over a comparable PC (though I’m not quite cheap enough to go to Linux). The only Apple product I own is an iPad 2 that work bought me a couple years ago. I love it, but I think it’s the tablet idea that’s won me over rather than the iOS.

      Oh, and before all the fanboys start telling me how much better and more reliable Apple products are, let me just say that my Windows 7 PC is more stable than my Galaxy Note 2 Android phone which is more stable than my iPad 2.

      If you’re looking to replace the laptop, I’d look at the Asus Transformer, which has a detachable keyboard/extended battery unit that effectively turns it from a true tablet into a laptop. Frankly, I’m surprised more manufacturers haven’t jumped on the idea, but I suppose they’re worried it might eat into their laptop sales. Alternatively, an iPad plus one of those portfolio cases with a built-in keyboard would make an OK substitute if the app selection meets your needs.

      CF, once you get a tablet of any sort (a real tablet, not some bulky beast like the Yoga) I promise you will never go back.

    • CF says:

      I should have noted that I have no interest in a Mac. I’ve used Windows forever and now Android for mobile. My Google Account is the center of everything I do. A switch to Mac would be too much of a pain, and I’m not convinced I’d get anything out of it anyway.

  4. Hovig says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m an Apple. Purely for curiosity sake, do the programs you use for your job prevent you from using an Apple?

    Happy Holidays!

    • CF says:

      Hovig – I don’t believe Sabre technically works on a Mac, though there are always workarounds. But there’s nothing else preventing me from using a Mac except that I have no reason to switch. I’m perfectly happy with what I use now.

  5. VL says:

    During a recent trip to Taiwan I bought an Asus Transformer Prime, an Android-based tablet with a plug-in keyboard which acts also as a docking/charging station. It works well with or without the keyboard, it’s a nice shiny toy (some will like it for that), lighter than an iPad, when ones detaches the keyboard. It does not have the downsides you have encountered with the Lenovo device you tested, but it has its own, as one might expect… photo editing requires several apps, for instance: one for resizing (I use PicSay), one for effects (I am happy with Vignette, but the free version on my tablet is not outputting hi-res images), and I am testing several other apps for standard editing (crop-align-levels, if I can find those latter!). Another downside is that, with the keyboard, the Transformer Prime *looks* like a laptop but acts like a mobile phone: the performance level is quite different.

    And it must be only me, but holding a 550g tablet from one side – maybe even one corner – makes me think I need to spend more time at the gym.

    • Tom says:

      Does the Asus Prime support cellular? I use a iPad 3 which has a much better display and it supports wfi and cellular. Plus Verizons LTE is super fast, sometimes it faster then wifi. The Prime is sweet but Apple has tons of apps just for the iPad, Android has very few pad apps. Plus does Asus allow you to upgrade to Android 4.2?

  6. jvm says:

    I came here to mention that the Asus transformer infinity got much better reviews than the Lenovo.

  7. Jason H says:

    For me it is always about battery life, footprint, and applications. I’m usually flying coach and I want something that will be usable in the small space and give me enough useful time to last most of a long flight. For both of those aspects it doesn’t matter if it is OSX or Win 7/8, but it does cut down the number of options out there. When it comes to applications I end up firmly in the Win 7/8 camp since I have to connect to a corporate network using software that doesn’t run on a mac.

    Anyway, I checked out the Lenovo Yoga and it has all the right marks (8hr battery, 3.4lbs, SSD, etc), but I wonder about long term durability of the hinges and I’m still not completely sold on Windows 8. I would say Cranky, that if the pricepoint was right go for it, but if you still have adequate service from your ultrabook I would wait a few months and see what else might be released.

  8. XJT DX says:

    I love getting into technology but personal gear I steer more towards older (read: 6mo’s-1yr) tech, which by then has been proven and is much cheaper since there’s always something new on the horizon.

    As for YOUR needs CF, well it depends what they are. If this will be your only computer (no desktop) or you use it for work/productivity, go with a small full-featured laptop. if you have a primary PC and this will be just for casual web surfing, movies, etc… Then an iPad or a Nexus with a bluetooth keyboard case may be what you’re looking for.

    In any case, it just has to fit YOUR needs.

    • CF says:

      XJT DX – Definitely won’t be my only computer. I have a desktop, but I want something that’s easy to take with me. My ultrabook has that, but there’s something about a tablet that is really nice for just browsing around (or, um, surfing reddit).

  9. So far no one has said what or who is Lenovo. I watched a TV show once and learned they are second to HP in personal computers and are growning bigger everyday. Just about everyone in Chiina has one, so while your testing product might be new, doesn’t mean there is not good quality inside it.

    Don’t get caught up in what it can do, think about what you want/need to do. Didn’t Yoda say “Chose wisely” :-)

    • DAB says:

      Lenovo bought the old IBM laptop (and pc such as it was, I think?) lines several years ago when Big Blue got sick of making anything smaller than AS/400… I think Lenovo was previously an important Chinese player, but that turned them into a global player.

      My electrical engineering contractors carry around Lenovo ThinkPads, and while it looks strange to me for a ThinkPad not to be IBM, they do look like competent machines.

    • Fred says:

      I have an old Lenovo tablet from about 5 years ago (around when they took over from IBM) and it’s still going strong. Of course it’s not fast compared to other computers today, but I just put Linux on it as my personal preference and it still works well. Very durable machines.

      I would say wait another few months or a year or so before getting something with Windows 8. Prices will drop a bit, and most of the bugs associated with early adopters such as software compatibility will be worked out.

    • CF says:

      David SF – As has been mentioned, Lenovo bought IBM’s personal computing business, so the company is huge. My wife has a Lenovo laptop for work and she likes it. I have no concerns about Lenovo itself. But it is good advice to figure out which one is best for what I want to do.

  10. TimH says:

    My biggest complaint (relevant to this post) on the Surface is that with a keyboard, it only works in one position because it uses a built-in stand, rather than the keyboard, to support the device upright. I think this means that it would be mighty hard to use the device on a tray table with a keyboard- so if you just plan on reading/reviewing/watching while on the plane, it’s ok, but if you want to do writing, the Surface would be nearly impossible to use (unless you revert to the onscreen keyboard). I’m in the market for a new laptop in the next year, and after having played with a ton of devices, I’m not sure that anyone has figured out the ‘right’ format for hybrids yet – I’m planning on waiting longer to see if things get more settled.

  11. I would advise you to consider whether you want Windows 8 or RT as there is a functionality difference.

    I too am deciding if I should get the Yoga. It has had great reviews, but will the Asus transformer be better? The zenbook touch? The dell xps with flip screen?

  12. gobluetwo says:

    I don’t know how good it is, and I’ve not used Win8, but the Samsung ATIV 500T looks pretty sweet as a hybrid tablet/PC.

  13. john says:

    I see lots of “reports” on how Windows 8 is so great – but all I have seen is the “tile” home page, isnt it just regular olde windows when you use Excel, Word, etc?

    Sure – Snappy Keyboard and tiles are cool — but did the underlying Windows platform get better?

    • Tom says:

      Yes John… when you touch a tile it launches regular old windows desktop mode. Their are a few touchscreen only apps but most of the apps will switch you to the desktop mode. Rumor is Microsoft is going to go back to the all desktop mode because the touchscreens aren’t selling.

    • CF says:

      john – It’s true – a lot of it does just go to the desktop mode after the pretty tile home screen. But I do like how they’ve adapted it so that you feel more like you’re using a mobile device. It will take time for everything else to catch up on the software side, I’d imagine. And some things will never run well in a mobile-style, but 10 years ago, we couldn’t have imagined any of this running well in that style.

  14. Andrew says:

    If all you need is Office and long battery life, Microsoft’s own Surface tablet should be considered. The version with Windows RT can’t run old desktop applications, but it comes with Office for free. I would suggest getting the optional Type Cover since you do a lot of typing though (it’s 10 bucks more expansive than the Touch Cover).

  15. Chris says:

    Can anyone taller than 5’8 really type on any size laptop when sitting in coach without getting neck and shoulder pain way before the battery dies? I am 6’0 so when I fly I can only read on my cell or iPad.

  16. yo says:

    I have an Asus Infinity, it is great, detachable 10 inch tablet with keyboard, usb, sd and mini sd. It is Android, however, Asus has one that is the exact same hardware, but runs Windows 8.

  17. Ron says:

    I’m going to wait at least 6 months before considering any tables, I want to see how the market shakes out. For any real computer user the Surface is a toy,

  18. The Guy says:

    I always travel with a netbook, wouldn’t have it any other way. Whilst I’m tempted by a tablet they tend to cost more and you can do much less.

    My netbook is light, fully functional and compact enough to fit in my luggage without being a burden.

  19. Sonny184 says:

    If you decide on a Hybrid, you should wait until after the first of the year. Newer & better CPU’s will become available then. The Surface runs Windows RT (not Windows 8) and its not the same. Also Microsoft will introduce three new Surface’s after the first of the year too, all running Windows 8 not Windows RT. More apps will be available on Windows 8 than Windows RT. Lenovo Yoga is a good Hybrid, but you have already experience its weakness with construction and how it will last under normal use? I expect Lenovo to make corrections to the Yoga (maybe Yoga II) and make the device more sturdy. Lenovo is good equipment with a good reputation.

  20. Kathy says:

    I work for HP, and I’m buying the Envy X2 in January when my employee discount kicks in again. Can’t wait!

  21. Tom says:

    I’m retired so all need is a MacBook Air or my iPad. I travel tons and I love watching all the business guys/gals lugging around all that heavy computer crap. Does using Word or Excel need that much of a computer?

  22. Tom says:

    Also have you tried Win 8 on a touchscreen laptop? When you touch the Word tile it launches Word in “Desktop” mode. This makes trying to touch the menu bars really hard because they are so tiny. So then you have to go back to using the mouse/trackpad. So why bother with the touchscreen mode?

  23. rich says:

    Really depends on what you use it for. I love my ipad for travel since I just want movies, games, email, web browsing. serious work requires something more. The small Apple laptops are amazing in their size, but have an equally amazingly high price.

    Except at work I’ve avoid Windows stuff for the last 4+ yrs.Either Apple (and I’m no fanboy of them) or Linux for me.

    Sorry for any typos. Broke my wrist and typing is worse than normal.

  24. Ed Kelty says:

    It takes about a week to get used to working with the Mac OS, but it’s worth it. MacBook Air is probably more useful for business when traveling, but the iPad is very functional.

  25. Joe says:

    Hi Cranky:

    Have you considered the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1? The stylus pen would help you keep your screen clean. There’s a rumor that Samsung is coming out with a 7 inch Note at CES. Alot of choices out there!

  26. Jeremy says:

    Cranky, I have a Surface RT and its awesome. As an IT Pro (and extreme windows geek) for the first time I have something I can take with me and leave the laptop at home. That says a TON. But, its not for everyone. The Apps are still weak, and you cant install SABRE on it. If you can use one for a week, you might fall in love with it as I did, but I honestly think you have to give it a week, and you have to USE it. Leave the LT at home and force yourself to use it.

    • CF says:

      I think the problem is that I need to run Sabre on it. So if it’s not a Windows 8 machine, it won’t work for me.

  27. A says:

    Late to the discussion here but my employer has loaner iPads and now Surface tablets for when we travel. Most of us used them for email use and for that the Surface wins hands down. Keyboard FTW. The iPad seems more like a toy for media consumption.

    I also carry 2 phones; an iPhone and a Windows phone (I know, I know). Personally I find the Win phone much easier to use, which is very similar to Windows 8. Not sure if it’s just that I use Windows at work (which it flawlessly syncs with MS Office) but I really think it’s better than the sales say.

  28. Joe says:

    Hi Cranky:

    You might try the Samsung 10 inch Galaxy Note. The Stylus pen will keep your screen clean. Rumor has it a 7 inch version will come out at CES.

  29. Axelsarkis says:

    My school runs a one-to-one tablet PC program. We are outfitted with Lenovo X220 and 230s. (Disclaimer: I’m a die-hard life-long Mac loyalist.) The tablet bit is good for a classroom environment, but frankly, I find it to be a gimmick and I rarely use the tablet functions, preferring to remain in laptop mode. Some kid dual-booted Windows 8 on one of them and I got to play with it for a bit; I find Metro to be somewhat annoying and only useful if one has a touchscreen. I’d stay with 7 for now. Surface is a nice device; I wouldn’t take it over iPad, but that likely stems over bias more than anything else. The premium payed for the tablet PCs is not worth it, in my view. I rather have something like the Lenovo X1 Carbon, which is cheaper, than having the tablet set-up. In all, it looks cool and seems great for the first week… and then you realize that it is nothing special.

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