The best 2-in-1 laptops for any budget

The best 2-in-1 laptops for any budget

Hybrids. 2-in-1s. Flexi-hinge laptops. They all have roughly the same aim. You get a laptop when you want to work, and something more like a tablet for afters. Handling the shift between these two identities well is a sign of a good hybrid.

We came away from this test with one observation you should keep in mind when shopping for a 2-in-1 laptop. No design is perfect.

If the picture of a hybrid you see on an Amazon shopping page looks more like a laptop, it won’t offer a tablet experience to shame an iPad Pro. And if it looks like a tablet with a keyboard attached, you probably won’t want to write a novel on the thing.

Microsoft is the master of blurring these borders. The Surface Book 3 is the ultimate hybrid chameleon, but even that £2,500 wonder of engineering has to confront some hard practical truths.

With that thorny caveat out of the way, we’d recommend any of these six hybrid laptops if their particular style matches your needs. And if none of these seem quite right for you, head to our best laptop guide for some more conventional recommendations.

What is the best 2-in-1 laptop in 2021?

To be short, the HP Spectre x360 13 (from £1,199). Versatile much? The best 2-in-1 laptop for 2020 has a superb keyboard and trackpad and if you go to the top end, a glorious 4K OLED screen. Want to save a little? Go LCD and get a long battery life.

View the HP Spectre x360 13 from £1,199 on Amazon

The best budget 2-in-1 meanwhile is Acer’s Chromebook Spin 311 (£229). It’s not exactly a looker and there isn’t much real power to speak of either but this affordable hybrid is just so nifty to work on.

View the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 for £229 on AO

Then there’s the Microsoft Surface Book 3 (from £1,599). It’s the best 2-in-1 laptop for gaming, on account of the Nvidia graphics you get on the higher-spec models and the strong, sturdy and really quite clever hybrid mechanism.

View the Microsoft Surface Book 3 from £1,599 on Amazon

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HP Spectre x360 13

WIRED Recommends: The HP Spectre x360 13 is the best overall 2-in-1 laptop

Dimensions: 306 x 194 x 16.9mm | Weight: 1.3kg | Screen: 13.3in 3840 x 2160 AMOLED | CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Battery: 7.75 hours (tested), 10 hours (claimed)

The HP Spectre x360 13 (from £1,199) is one of the strangest-looking laptops. There are several unusual angles and provocative contours.

It’s not for everyone. But the Spectre x360 is an incredible 360-degree hinge laptop, and even the top-end £1,799 version, which we tested, breezes through the task of justifying its cost. It is £400 cheaper than a MacBook Pro 13 with the same core specs but has a jaw-dropping 4K OLED screen.

Colour depth, contrast and the 3D punch of HDR video show up even the MacBook Pro 16. And easy-access presets for colour standards sRGB, DCI P3 and Adobe RGB should please photographers, video editors and graphics pros.

HP has also nailed the design of this laptop, if you can take its stark lines. The aluminium keyboard plate and lid are ultra stiff, there’s zero screen wobble and the Spectre X360 13’s footprint is small. This series has finally followed the slim screen surround trend, making this 1.3kg a true ultra portable.

The display even has an anti-reflective coating for better outdoors use, which pairs beautifully with the bright 400-nit panel. A stylus is included too.

Where are the weaknesses? There’s no option for a Spectre X360 13 graphics card. Gaming performance is limited. And if you want truly long battery life you should check out the cheaper version with an LCD screen.

Pros: Fantastic OLED screen; small footprint; great keyboard and touchpad
Cons: LCD version has much longer battery life; angular design may not please all eyeballs

Price: £1,799 (4K), from £1,199 | Check price on Amazon | Currys

Acer Chromebook Spin 311

The best budget buy in 2-in-1s

Dimensions: 296 x 206 x 24mm | Weight: 1.34kg | Screen: 11.6in 1366 x 768 IPS LCD | CPU: AMD A4-9120C | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 8 hours (tested) 10 hours (claimed)

A Chromebook is the best option if you want an affordable hybrid laptop to chuck in your backpack.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (£229) feels great for work. That’s the highlight here. The keyboard has full-size keys and feels sturdy. And while plastic, the trackpad is smooth enough and responsive.

If we had to work all day on a hybrid, we’d rather do so on a Spin 311 than a Surface Go 2 (below). It simply does not feel cramped or comprised in the same way.

Look at the Spin 311 front-on and you’ll see why. This Chromebook may have a small 11.6-inch screen but fat borders give it a footprint closer to a 13-inch laptop. If you’re out for glossy design, you won’t find it here. The 1377 x 768 resolution won’t seem sharp if you’re after a second, cheaper laptop you won’t worry about damaging either.

Still, the Acer Chromebook 311 feels like it wouldn’t mind the odd bash around. Its all-plastic shell is hardy. And while the screen surface is glass, it is Gorilla Glass, the same scratch-resistant stuff used in phones.

The Chrome OS software also gets you up and running quickly, with few potentially confusing parts to the interface and the ability to install Android apps. Challenging games like Asphalt 9 run poorly thanks to the humble AMD A4 processor, but the Spin 311 offers plenty of ways to have fun in between all the work.

We have one build criticism: lean on certain parts of the keyboard surround and the touchpad clicker stops working.

Pros: It’s affordable; hardy casing; solid, comfy keyboard
Cons: Giant screen surrounds; low-power CPU

Price: £229 | Check price on AO | Currys | Argos

Microsoft Surface Book 3

The best 2-in-1 for gaming

Dimensions: 312 x 232 x 23 mm | Weight: 1.64kg | Screen: 13.5in 3000 x 2000 LCD | CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7 | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 512GB | Battery: 11 hours (laptop), 3 hours (tablet), 17.5 hours (claimed)

The Surface Book line is where Microsoft lets rip to really see what it can do with the hybrid concept. A 13.5-inch tablet screen slots into a keyboard base with the help of clips and magnets. The mechanism is so good, so strong, you might never guess the screen detaches without knowing it can. Its keyboard and trackpad can stand next to those of any traditional laptop too.

Higher-spec versions of the 13-inch Surface Book 3, like the £2,499 model we reviewed, even have a punchy Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q graphics card in the base, powerful enough to play games like The Witcher 3 at Full HD comfortably.

It’s a tablet. It’s a laptop. It’s a portable gaming rig. And the 3000 x 2000 pixel LCD screen is lovely too, if not at quite the same level as the OLED HP Spectre X360 13 (above).

Just make sure you are ready for the compromises that come with a design that spreads itself over so many categories. The Surface Book 3 is large for a 13-inch laptop. Relatively chunky screen borders fill out its footprint, the heavy duty hinge helps increase the weight to several hundred grams above the competition, and it is quite thick.

2.2cm is more like the thickness of a normal laptop than a slim hybrid. We don’t love its weight balance for work out-and-about with the thing perched your knees either. While the hinge is designed for the job, it still feels more precarious than we’d like.

Use the screen solo and the battery only lasts 3-4 hours, although plugged in you should get around 10-11 hours of light work from a charge.

Pros: Class-leading gaming performance; ingenious hybrid mechanism; keyboard and touchpad feel great
Cons: Relatively large and heavy

Price: From £1,599 | Check price on Amazon | Currys | John Lewis

Samsung Galaxy Book Flex

An excellent 2-in-1 for travellers

Dimensions: 302.6 x 202.9 x 12.9mm | Weight: 1.16kg | Screen: 13.3in 1920 x 1280 QLED LCD | CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G4 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB | Battery: 11 hours (tested)

Samsung largely left the world of laptops in 2014, but is back in a big way. Its Galaxy Book Flex (£1,349) is the star of the new range.

It has a 360-degree hinge and two of the top features of Samsung’s phones and TVs. The screen has a bright QLED panel, which delivers rich colour for an LCD panel, and holds up extremely well even though the screen is glossy and quite reflective.

A Galaxy Note-like S-Pen slots into the Flex’s side too. It is less substantial than the average laptop stylus but you are 86 per cent less likely to spend an hour looking for the thing when you need it.
The Galaxy Book Flex is slim at 12.9mm thick and very light at 1.16kg but it still lasts 11 hours of streamed video off a charge.

Several elements of the Book Flex are near-perfect, and the Core i5 has just as much power as many thicker models.

Still, there are a few significant problems. The Samsung’s hinge is quite weak. Work with it on your knees and a quick movement may cause it to flop backwards. It wobbles as you work too. The keyboard is very shallow, in the mould of an Apple MacBook too. Your fingers may pine for a little more travel. Ours did.

Pros: Ultra thin, ultra light; bright and colourful QLED screen; surprisingly long battery life
Cons: Weak hinge; shallow keyboard

Price: £1,349 | Check price on Amazon | Samsung | John Lewis

Microsoft Surface Go 2

The best 2-in-1 laptop for casual use

Dimensions: 245 x 175 x 8.3 mm | Weight: 544g (without keyboard) | Screen: 10.5in 1920 x 1280 IPS LCD | CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 8 hours (tested), 10 hours (claimed)

The Microsoft Surface Go 2 (from £399) is Microsoft’s entry-level hybrid. It is here to let you do the basics and run most of the same apps you might use on a more powerful Windows 10 work PC.

Fresh out of the box it runs Windows S, which will only install apps from the Microsoft store. But you can take off those training wheels and convert it to standard Windows 10 Home if you prefer.

The Go 2 excels at the glossy surface-level stuff. Its case is a slab of magnesium alloy just like the Surface Pro 7. Its kickstand is just as sturdy too, and the screen is far better than that of any budget laptop.

This hybrid feels timely, too, as it probably has the best webcam of any Windows computer at the price. The webcam: ignored in 2019, adored in 2020. However, you will need to factor in an extra £100 for the Type Cover. It’s an essential buy.

The lower-end Surface Go 2 tested, with a Pentium 4425Y CPU, has real performance limitations. Even basics like pulling up the Start menu are slower than they would be in a low-end Intel Core i3 CPU laptop. And video editing? Don’t even think about it.

The Surface Go 2 keyboard is also cramped. We can’t criticise the quality of the keys, the backlight or the lovely little glass trackpad. But after a full day of work you may be left begging for a bigger keyboard.

Pros: High-quality build; great webcam
Cons: Keyboard is cramped, makes Windows 10 feel slow

Price: From £399 | Check price on Amazon | Argos | John Lewis

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

A Surface alternative with superb screen and design

Dimensions: 292 x 201 x 8.5mm | Weight: 775g | Screen: 12.3in 2736 x 1824 IPS LCD | CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G4 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 6.5 hours (tested), 10.5 hours (claimed)

The Surface Pro 7 (from £738) sits in Microsoft’s hybrid goldilocks zone. It’s large enough to fit a full-size keyboard but nowhere near as expensive or bulky as the Surface Book 3.

However, make sure to buy the Surface Pro 7 with a Type Cover (£99) as it feels naked without one. This may be the best all-purpose Windows tablet around, but Windows 10 still works best with a keyboard and touchpad to hand. This pushes the price closer to one of the mid-range 2-in-1 laptops from Asus and HP. So why would you pick a Surface Pro 7?

The 12.3-inch screen is excellent. Its resolution is higher than the sub-£1,000 hybrid standard and is brighter than most too. There’s no major performance compromise either, as the Surface Pro 7 uses the same 10th generation Core i7 CPUs as many conventional laptops.

A Surface Pro 7 feels a bit like a slightly heavy pad of paper when carried around with the Type Cover attached. Flip out the kick stand and, there you have it, a fully formed computer is sitting there in front of you.

A few real-world issues may make you want to consider a flexi-hinge design instead. While the keyboard is superb for a clip-on accessory, it still flexes when you type. If a normal keyboard bent as much as this under finger pressure, we wouldn’t be happy.

A Type Cover plus kickstand combo is not the most comfortable if you’ll need to work with the Surface Pro 7 resting on your knees either. And with battery life of around 6-7 hours we wouldn’t trust it to last a full day in the virtual office.

Also consider: The series doesn’t end there. There’s also Microsoft’s Surface Pro X (£999) which a premium Windows 10 2-in-1, running on the new ARM-based Microsoft SQ1 chip. Sleek, with good battery, it suffers from the same typing issues as the Surface Pro 7.

Pros: Quality screen; highly portable magnesium design
Cons: Relatively short battery life; better typing experience elsewhere

Price: From £738 | Check price on Amazon | Microsoft | Argos

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