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Should you get a hybrid laptop? A user report card

Rick Broida | March 21, 2014
Hybrids -- laptops whose displays detach to become tablets -- were designed to allow users to have one device with many uses. But do they work as advertised? We talked to some users to find out.

He also likes the VivoTab's OneDrive integration, but notes, "that's really Windows 8.1 more than Asus specifically." Likewise, he appreciates the "fast booting, but I think that's also a feature of Windows 8 generally."

Speaking of which, "I have learned to appreciate landscape mode and really like the way that thumbs are a big part of how I now manipulate the screens," says Braun. "I also like the way I can bounce back and forth between the keyboard and the touch screen."

Nagele praises his VivoTab RT's battery life, which he says blows away that of laptops he's used. "With the hybrid, I can use it for a few hours on Monday evening, put it on standby and the battery is not drained when I open it for use Tuesday or even Wednesday." Not so with a traditional laptop, he says, which "needs to be near an electrical outlet, even when it's on standby."

Nothing thus far points to any hybrid-specific benefits for Gale, but he did discover at least one key advantage: "If I need to do a presentation, I can undock the tablet, lay it on the podium, and not have a screen blocking the audience from seeing me."

He also speaks highly of his Acer's battery life, which he pegs at about six hours for the tablet alone and 12 to 14 hours when it's docked with the keyboard. (The Acer Iconia W510 keyboard dock incorporates its own battery, which according to Acer can boost the tablet's runtime by as much as nine hours.)

That is arguably one of the best tools in a hybrid's arsenal and something a convertible can't match. Microsoft's forthcoming Power Cover, designed for the Surface Pro 2, will similarly layer an extended battery beneath its keyboard/cover combo.

What users don't like
Perhaps unsurprisingly, users' dislikes mostly fall into the same general-computing categories as their likes. Says Chalom of his hybrid: "The system can be a bit touchy. Sometimes it sleeps harder than a frat boy on Sunday morning, so getting it to wake up can be a challenge."

The system can be a bit touchy. Sometimes it sleeps harder than a frat boy on Sunday morning, so getting it to wake up can be a challenge. Rabbi Adam Chalom, Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation

He has to disconnect it from the keyboard and reconnect it before it will boot up. And occasionally the mouse pointer decides to stop working, so he needs to use the Function keys to disable and re-enable the mouse, "and then it works fine."

Hybrids can also suffer from everyday Windows issues. Braun finds cut-and-paste functions "spotty" on the Surface's touchscreen, while Gale notes that "some apps don't respond well to touch, mostly when you need to use right-click."


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