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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.

Ironically, the very keyboard that can boost a hybrid's versatility and longevity can also be a sore spot among users. Braun, Chalom and Nagele all use the word "cramped" in describing their hybrids' keyboards, to the point where Nagele retreats to his laptop or desktop when he needs to do a lot of typing.

Gale also discovered shortcomings in the areas of "expandability, upgradability and repairs." If you want to upgrade the SSD, for example, you can't because it's soldered in. And he was forced to buy micro-to-standard adapters for his Acer's micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports. They were only $5 each "but it's just two more cables that I have to worry about losing," he says.

Hybrids: Yea or nay?
Users' overall satisfaction with their hybrids seems to have more to do with Windows and various aspects of the hardware than with the basic execution of the hybrid design. One could argue, then, that a convertible would serve just as well, and perhaps even better, given the wider selection of models and configurations currently available.

That said, all four users report that they are thoroughly pleased with their hybrids. Chalom didn't expect that the new machine would work out as well as it did. "Being so light, I take the system with me every day on the off chance I wind up somewhere I could use it," he says, "whereas before I would only take my heavier laptop when I knew I would need it."

Gale was "expecting tablets to be slow and sluggish; however I was quite impressed with how well this tablet functions," he says. "I don't think it's made any meaningful changes" to the way he works, "but it's enhanced the ability of how I can get things done."

Finally, Nagele reports being "pleasantly surprised by the battery life" of his hybrid, having been frustrated with Android devices that would be "three-quarters drained after half a day of sitting on my desk without really being used."

Would he buy another hybrid? "I'm not ready to go 'tablet only' and forgo the keyboard," he says, "but the ability to have both form factors is a big plus."

The three other respondents also state they would buy hybrids again, though they're hoping to see more variety and lower prices. Notes Gale: "I've become so accustomed to the way [the hybrid] works for me. I can't see not having one."


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