We still haven’t seen the perfect hybrid machine that’s just as good a tablet as it is a laptop. But, this year we got closer than ever. The Surface series proved the 2-in-1 has legs, giving people a tablet-sized Windows device that transforms into a powerful multitasking system with a keyboard case attached. Microsoft’s success in the space drove Apple and Samsung to push their own tablets in the 2-in-1 direction, and the competition has led to improvements all around.
These machines still have their limits, of course. Since they’re smaller than a proper laptop, 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 and foremost, 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 and Zagg’s Flex Universal are cheaper alternatives. And if you don’t need your keyboard to attach to your tablet, Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device wireless keyboard is also a good option.
When you’re shopping for your 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 1.7-pound Surface Pro 7 being one of the heaviest around. The iPad Pro 12.9 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+ are both lighter at 1.41 and 1.26 pounds, respectively. 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. (Unless you’re trying to save some money, in which case our budget pick is a good exception.) 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 models of the iPad Pro 12.9 and Galaxy Tab S7+, though the Surface Pro 7 starts with just 4GB.
Finally, while some 2-in-1s offer built-in LTE 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 — forget about it. There’s no point shelling out any extra money for the next-gen standard this year. Coverage is still spotty and existing nationwide networks use the slower sub-6 technology that’s barely faster than LTE.
Best overall: Surface Pro 7
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 7 is Microsoft’s latest and, though it doesn’t offer major upgrades over its predecessor, it does finally add a USB-C port. You can use this to connect a plethora of accessories or charge the tablet, saving you some hassle if you already have compatible cables. While the Pro 7’s battery life is shorter compared to previous generations, it should still last you a full work day.
Like most of the other 2-in-1s on this list, the Pro 7 doesn’t come with its keyboard cover — you’ll have to pay extra for that. Microsoft’s Type Cover will cost you $160, but at least it’s comfortable and well-spaced. It’s even swathed in the company’s luxe Alcantara fabric. You can also get the Surface Pen ($100) for sketching out your diagrams or artwork, and Microsoft’s updated its software to make handwriting notes much more intuitive. Make sure to get a configuration with at least an Intel Core i5 CPU if you plan to power through most of your work on the Pro 7 — the base model’s Core i3 is really only good for emails and editing documents.
Buy Surface Pro 7 at Microsoft starting at $749
Best budget: Surface Go 2
Most 2-in-1s start at about $700, and that’s before you include the keyboard. That’s somewhat understandable given their large screens and high-end processors, but that makes finding a budget option difficult. The Surface Go 2, on the other hand, starts at just $400. It offers a nice 10.5-inch screen, a built-in kickstand and a comfy, if slightly small keyboard case. Remember, you’ll have to add $100 for the cover, so the base model bundle will cost you $500 in total.
At that price, you’ll get an Intel Pentium Gold processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. With those specs, performance won’t exactly be zippy, so consider spending a bit more to get the Core M3 variant with additional memory if you’re demanding. But if you’re simply looking for a low-cost convertible for quick tasks like looking up things on Wikipedia and clearing your inbox, the base Surface Go 2 is good enough.
Buy Surface Go 2 at Microsoft starting at $399
Best for Apple users: iPad Pro 12.9
If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, the best 2-in-1 for you is another Apple product. In this case, of the iPads you can choose from, the 12-inch Pro model is our pick. Like older models, this iPad Pro has a stunning 12.9-inch screen with a speedy 120hz refresh rate. Apple’s A12Z Bionic chipset here is as fast as previous models, which is to say it’s good enough for most things you’ll be doing on an iPad. More importantly, the latest iPadOS is far superior than older versions thanks to better trackpad support.
Plus, Apple made a new Magic Keyboard that not only has better keys but also a trackpad, so 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 – $999
Best for Android users: Galaxy Tab S7+
While Windows is better than iPadOS and Android for productivity, it lags the other two when it comes to apps specifically designed for tablets. 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. You’ll enjoy watching movies and playing games on its gorgeous 12.4-inch 120hz AMOLED screen, and Samsung generously includes the S Pen, which is great for sketching and taking notes. The Snapdragon 865+ processor and 6GB of RAM here will keep things running smoothly, too.
The company also significantly improved its keyboard case over previous models, and the keys here are comfortable and responsive. You could type for hours on this thing and not hate yourself (or Samsung). The battery life here is also excellent, so you won’t need to worry about staying close to an outlet. The main caveat here 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.
Buy Galaxy Tab S7+ at Samsung starting at $849
Best Chrome OS option: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
Android might suck as a desktop operating system, but Chrome OS doesn’t. Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet is a 10.1-inch tablet running Google’s browser-based software that comes with a keyboard cover, all for just $299. It’s not our budget pick because the Laptop Go 2 still offers a superior multitasking experience, but the Duet is a solid option if you have your heart set on Chrome OS.
Its 8-plus-hour battery life is respectable, as is its 1080p screen. You won’t want to spend too many hours typing on the Duet’s keyboard, but for light browsing and the occasional email, the Duet will suffice, without putting a big dent in your savings.
Buy Chromebook Duet at Best Buy – $299