First Click: The 2-in-1 PC is now the first one to consider buying

February 23rd, 2016

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PC manufacturers first started copying Microsoft’s Surface last year, building devices that act as laptops with a detachable keyboard. While Microsoft may not have invented the 2-in-1 itself, its success with the Surface range of tablets has clearly inspired the industry. Up until this week, that has largely consisted of PC makers attempting to try the new form factor in a desperate attempt to boost falling computer sales. Now smartphone makers are getting in on the game.

Alcatel and Huawei announced 2-in-1 tablets powered by Windows 10 this week at Mobile World Congress. Both companies have never created this type of device before, but Huawei’s first effort is generating a lot of interest here in Barcelona, and it’s easy to see why. Huawei has taken its phone design and simply dragged and dropped it into a tablet form factor, and it works well. Dell, HP, Lenovo, and others have really struggled to transfer their PC design skills into 2-in-1 form factors, but phone makers like Huawei and Samsung have nailed it with ease recently.

So why are phone makers suddenly interested in 2-in-1s? Two reasons: there are clear signs of consumer interest, and the tablet market has stalled. Microsoft’s Surface tablets are generating a considerable amount of revenue for the company, and now Apple has entered the market with its iPad Pro. Many will argue it’s still a tablet, but the detachable keyboard and stylus makes it more akin to the 2-in-1s we’ve seen over the past few years. The iPad Pro also outsold Microsoft’s Surface tablet last quarter, proving once again that there is interest in larger hybrid tablets.

Most laptop makers are now doing a good job of offering devices that are powerful, stylish, and lightweight. If you’re interested in a laptop then there are plenty that are as good as, if not better, than Apple’s universally praised MacBook Air. Laptop options are easy, but if you want something a little different then the hybrid tablet form factor might finally be worth considering.

2-in-1 tablets are now starting to mature to the point where they’re capable enough to use daily. Crazy twisting form factors from the Windows 8 era have been replaced with the idea of making a tablet work just like a laptop, with a keyboard that fades away when you don’t need it. Windows 10 has also helped on the software side, making things a lot easier to use with helpful modes for different form factors.

These new devices are still not perfect on the lap, but that seems to be a tradeoff that manufacturers still haven’t fully nailed. However, if you’re looking around for a laptop this year and you really want a tablet, it’s probably time to start considering all the various 2-in-1s. I use laptops, tablets, and 2-in-1s daily, and they're all starting to look and feel so similar. This form factor will only get better, and it's clearly here to stay.


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