You use a tablet primarily as a consumption device, while a laptop is usually really meant to work on. But as with so many things, the world is not black or white: you can also opt for a 2-in-1 device that is both a tablet and a laptop.
There are two types of 2-in-1 device: folding laptops (where the screen can be turned to the rear) or detachable models (where a keyboard can be connected to a tablet). In this article, we will discuss the latter category: detachable 2-in-1 laptops, also known as detachable. These detachable must offer the best of both worlds. On the one hand, a loose and relatively light tablet to consume information from, and on the other hand also a solid keyboard to work on. We tested three detachable Windows devices from Microsoft, HP, and Dell for this article. Acer and Lenovo, unfortunately, had no suitable model available. In addition, we have included Apple’s iPad Pro in the test, a device that Apple believes can do everything an iPad can do, but also everything you can do on a computer.
Although the big advantage of a detachable is that you can use it as a tablet and as a laptop, manufacturers do not always supply the keyboard with it. Moreover, such a keyboard cover costs somewhere between 150 and 229 euros – and a substantial extra expense. On Windows devices, a keyboard cover contains, in addition to the keyboard, a touch pad, allowing you to use the device as a fully-fledged laptop. The three Windows devices use a similar mechanism to magnetically stick the cover to an edge of the tablet, after which you can unfold a stand to put the detachable on the table. The cover of the iPad Pro is also magnetically attached to the tablet. The big difference is that the cover on the iPad also serves directly as a standard.
A disadvantage is that a detachable is less convenient to use on your lap. A laptop has a stable base, but a detachable rests on the bottom of the tablet and an unfolded stand. That works fine on the table, but it is much less firm on your lap. It is possible, but it is a significant disadvantage if you use your laptop on your lap often.
Working with the stylus
Compared to the average laptop, many detachables (and more expensive tablets) have another distinguishing feature: support for a pressure-sensitive stylus. Of course, you can use a simple passive stylus on any touch screen, but the devices in this article all support an active, pressure sensitive stylus. These pins support different pressure levels, nowadays usually 4096, so that when drawing, you get thicker lines if you press harder on the pen. The stylus is also usually paired via Bluetooth, so you can use a button for extra functionality. This has the disadvantage that the stylus is provided with an energy source that must be regularly recharged or replaced. Beautiful is Apple’s solution for the latest Pencil; this is charged via induction by sticking the pen to the iPad Pro.
Hardware is one thing, but another important part of the experience is determined by the software. Microsoft has designed Windows 10 with a 2-in-1 device as one of the starting points. In fact, in the Surface series, the tech giant only sells touch-screen devices. In addition to normal, Windows 10 can also be used in Tablet mode. By default, Windows 10 automatically switches to tablet mode, for example, if it is detected that the keyboard is disconnected.
You can also manually switch to tablet mode via a tile via the action center. In tablet mode, Windows 10 gets simpler window management, where programs are only displayed full screen. You can, however, show two programs next to each other. The start menu changes to the ‘title screen’, making it somewhat similar to a home screen of, for example, an iPad or Android tablet. The taskbar also receives a back button. Still, the tablet mode feels like a hack and the changes cannot hide the fact that Windows is primarily a desktop operating system. Some controls and buttons are actually too expensive to work within tablet mode. And in terms of software, there are actually no apps that are really focused on tablet use.
The tablet mode changes the start menu to an image-filling menu with tiles, allows only large windows and adds a back button.
Windows is clearly a desktop operating system with adjustments for tablet use, and in that respect, it works the other way around with iOS. iOS is optimized for finger control and has an app store full of tablet-optimized apps. Optimization is also the disadvantage if you really want to use the iPad as a productive office machine because the apps usually contain fewer options than their Windows counterparts. The apps for Microsoft Office are really stripped-down variants that lack all kinds of functionality. Working with multiple programs at the same time is also less well developed. Under iOS you can show two apps side by side, in a ratio of 50/50 or 75/25. However, it is somewhat cumbersome to place one app next to another app. iOS does not support a mouse, so you are always dependent on the touch screen for direct selection. You can connect a separate display to an iPad, but the usefulness is limited. In most cases, you can only duplicate the image of the iPad.
Because you cannot use a mouse, you cannot actually use the iPad as an ergonomic work PC. After all, with a separate Bluetooth keyboard, you also need the screen of the iPad to fully operate the device. Only a limited number of apps, such as iMovie, support the display of other things on the second screen. Although Apple places the iPad Pro as an alternative to a computer (and therefore a laptop), with the limitations of iOS for many tasks the iPad Pro still lacks the possibilities to use it as the only computer.
You can display two apps at the same time in iOS, but that’s a bit cumbersome.
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 inch (3rd generation)
The iPad Pro is already in its third generation, and it is available in two sizes: 11 inches and 12.9 inches. As said, the iPad Pro is according to Apple a tablet on which you can do everything you can on a computer. Despite its good build quality, the iPad Pro with a weight of 631 grams is nice and light and excellent for use as a tablet. Apple has made the screen edge of the iPad Pro as compact as possible, which has killed the home button of the previous generation. To be able to unlock the iPad quickly, the properly working Face ID has been added. Apple has solved the lack of a home button while using gestures. In terms of speed we have nothing to complain about; the iPad is smooth and apps open nice and fast. So the feeling is good, although we want to see that image confirmed. Geekbench is available for both iOS and Windows and tests the processor performance. Apple’s A12X Bionic chip achieves a better score than the Intel processors. Graphically, the iPad also scores a good score in 3DMark in the only test available for both iOS and Windows, although the CPU-based Physics score shows that the Intel processors are somewhat more powerful than only Geekbench suggests . Nice is that the smooth performance is possible without active cooling, and although the iPad has the smallest battery, you can work on it for over ten hours. although the Physics score, which is largely based on the CPU, shows that the Intel processors are somewhat more powerful than only Geekbench suggests. Nice is that the smooth performance is possible without active cooling, and although the iPad has the smallest battery, you can work on it for over ten hours. although the Physics score, which is largely based on the CPU, shows that the Intel processors are somewhat more powerful than only Geekbench suggests. Nice is that the smooth performance is possible without active cooling, and although the iPad has the smallest battery, you can work on it for over ten hours.
The iPad Pro stands out for its excellent 12.9-inch screen with a resolution of 2732 x 2048 pixels. The Apple offers both the best color rendering and the highest brightness of the devices tested. The iPad Pro is also equipped with no less than four speakers, making an impressive stereo sound possible in any orientation. What is really a shame is that the iPad Pro does not have a 3.5mm headphone connection.
For the Smart Keyboard Folio, with which you can use the iPad as a laptop, you pay 219 euros. The cover only offers two positions for the screen angle. A third, slightly larger angle would have been nice to be able to draw. The keyboard itself is fine, but the click of the keys feels less pleasant than the keyboard covers of the tested Windows laptops. However, the biggest disadvantage is the lack of key illumination. The smoothly working Apple Pencil, on the other hand, is beautifully charged by sticking it magnetically on top of the iPad.
So far a pretty positive story, but hardware is only half the story here. IOS is a limitation in particular. You are also inhibited by Apple’s operating system for relatively simple tasks. Under Windows, you can work with multiple applications side by side much more efficiently, and we also miss the mouse/touchpad. In addition, most applications offer more functionality under Windows. The iPad Pro must, therefore, do with a lower rating in this specific test than if we judge it purely as a tablet.
Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1
Dell has looked closely at Microsoft’s 2-in-1s. To begin with, the construction of the standard, for example, strongly resembles that of a Surface. Dell has added something smart, because the bottom of the tablet has two buttons. If these are pressed, the stand opens. This allows you to place the tablet on the table with or without a keyboard and let the foot fold out by pressing on the tablet. In terms of connections, the Latitude is also a lot more modern than the Surface Pro. For example, the Latitude has two USB-C ports that are both suitable for charging and connecting a monitor. What’s more, a normal usb 3.0 port is also provided. A micro SD card reader is placed under the base. Although you have 860 grams and a total weight of 1,
The 12.3 inch screen has a lower resolution with 1920 x 1280 pixels than the other tablets in this article. That is not a bad thing, because full HD is sufficient for a 12.3-inch screen. Moreover, the screen is noticeably brighter than that of the Surface Pro or the Elite X2. In terms of sound it is striking that the Dell does not give a lot of volume. Above the screen we find the same Intel webcam as on the Surface and the HP Elite X2, but face recognition is missing on this device. Incidentally, that is optionally possible, just like a fingerprint scanner. The travel keyboard, as Dell calls the keyboard cover, is included in the configurations on Dell’s website, but you can optionally delete it from the configuration. The travel keyboard costs 215 euros separately. The keyboard has a nice touch and the cover itself is stiff enough, so you can tap on it. The keys are illuminated, whereby you can adjust the brightness to two positions. The touchpad is as expected a precision touchpad that works smoothly, but feels a bit rough. Dell didn’t give us an Active Pen with the Latitude, but the device does support this through Wacom technology. The stylus of the HP, however, works without problems and sticks just like Dell’s own stylus magnetically to the side.
The Latitude contains the same Intel Core i5-8250U as the Microsoft Surface Pro, combined with 8 GB of ram and a fast 256GB-nvme-ssd from SK Hynix. The performance achieved by the system is therefore excellent and slightly faster than the comparable Surface Pro. The Latitude is equipped with active cooling, but the fan only audibly starts with heavier applications. The Latitude is equipped with a 42WH battery that is comparable in capacity to the other two Windows devices. With normal work we achieve a battery life of around eight hours.
HP Elite X2 1013 G3
HP’s detachable is a nice appearance. The tablet is made of aluminum with a plastic strip on top that probably serves as an antenna for the wireless signals. With a thickness of 7.9 mm, this is the slimmest Windows tablet of this test. In terms of connections, the HP Elite X2 is a modern device. We see no fewer than three USB-C ports, two of which support Thunderbolt 3. You can connect a screen to all three ports or charge the tablet. In that respect, it is a shame that the three USB-C ports are all on the same side of the tablet. Another thing we miss is a card reader. The tested configuration supports Windows Hello and is provided with both a camera with face recognition and a fingerprint scanner on the back.
HP has finished the keyboard with an aluminum plate, giving the X2 more the impression of a normal laptop when you work on it. Due to the hard nature of aluminum, HP has glued rubber caps on the metal to prevent the screen from being scratched. The back is finished with gray imitation leather. The keyboard itself ticks nicely and is equipped with key illumination in two positions. The touchpad is just like on the other Windows devices a precision touchpad, which is also nice and smooth. HP has thought that you can store the stylus in a loop next to the keyboard. The stylus is equipped with a battery that is charged via USB-C, for which you can use the charger of the laptop.
With a screen size of 13 inches, the HP Elite X2 has the largest screen in this test, which is also equipped with attractive thin edges. With 3000 x 2000 pixels, the screen resolution is also the highest. The screen uses an ips panel and offers excellent image quality. In terms of brightness, the screen is comparable to that of the Surface Pro 6. In terms of sound, it is noticeable that the HP can be nice and hard, but that the sound does not sound very full. The tested Elite X2 contains an Intel Core i5-8350U that is slightly faster than the Core i5 processors in the other two tablets. In the store, however, the tablet is sold with the same Core i5-8250U. It is therefore slightly faster in the table, but in practice, the performance will be at the same level as that of the Dell Latitude. The battery life during normal work is approximately eight hours. The HP Elite X2 is a nice device, but with a price of more than 2000 euros, it is very expensive. On the other hand, HP has a relatively large screen with a higher resolution and two Thunderbolt ports.
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Microsoft’s Surface is pretty much the standard when it comes to a detachable tablet. After the Surface Pro 4, the Surface Pro followed suddenly, but apparently that was still unclear, because the newest model is called ‘just’ Surface Pro 6. If you place the new variant next to the previous two, then you will actually not have any exterior see differences. Well, then one: the Surface Pro 6 is now available in black as well as in silver. Furthermore, Microsoft has not changed the case. That in itself is not a problem, because the magnesium housing is sturdy and the integrated standard feels solid. However, there is also a downside; after all, the same housing also means that the connections have not been changed again. The Surface Pro is equipped with a usb 3.0 port, a mini display port and the Surface Connect port. A USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connection is therefore not present. With the previous model, the Surface Pro, we called that a lack of guts. Nowadays there is no longer any guts; usb-c is just part of it on a modern device. According to Microsoft, usb-a is still indispensable in business terms, but the one does not of course have to exclude the other.
The Surface Pro 6 has an excellent 12.3-inch screen with a resolution of 2736 x 1824 pixels. The sound quality is better than that of the Windows convertibles from HP and Dell, but that of the iPad is even better. Just like the other Windows tablets, the Surface Pro 6 is equipped with an Intel quadcore processor. The Core i5 variant is deviantly cooled, so that the tablet always stays nice and quiet. A disadvantage of this is that the processor is less able to dissipate its heat if you carry out long-term heavy work, and that it then becomes a bit slower. With normal office work you will not be bothered by passive cooling and you will always have a wonderfully quiet and smooth device. The battery lasts almost nine hours longer than the other Windows devices.
The corresponding Type Cover has key lighting in three brightness levels. The integrated touchpad is, of course, a Windows-managed precision touchpad with support for gestures with two, three or four fingers. The variant with our test model is the Surface Pro Signature Type Cover, which is covered with Alcantara or imitation suede and costs 180 euros. You can also opt for a cheaper smoothly finished Surface Pro Type Cover. The optional Surface pen is available in different colors and costs 110 euros. The pen has an AAAA battery, a companion that is not used very often. The excellent working stylus supports 4096 pressure levels and uses Microsoft’s own technology. Conveniently, the button on the top of the back not only serves as a button but also as an eraser – something that the other manufacturers do not offer.
It is difficult to identify the best device; we do not give any awards in this article. We have not encountered bad devices, so the final scores are close to each other. Every device in our test has a good detachable, each with its own accents on plus and minus points. The most important distinction is that between Windows and iOS. Are you mainly looking for a tablet, then you can not ignore the iPad? Windows still has shortcomings as a tablet operating system. There are few apps that are really suitable for a tablet. In addition, you also sometimes encounter interface elements in tablet mode that are difficult to operate.
The iPad, however, again offers too few options to work with multiple programs at the same time. Under iOS, you can only basically multitask, while Windows is fully equipped to work with multiple programs and screens simultaneously. The iPad is therefore primarily an excellent tablet on which you can partly perform laptop tasks. If you mainly want a laptop, it is difficult to determine what the best Windows device is. The Surface scores points with us with its passive cooling and good stylus but again has old-fashioned connections. You can find USB-C connections on the Dell Latitude and HP Elite X2, with HP even providing Thunderbolt 3. HP and Dell, on the other hand, have active cooling, a feature that not everyone finds fit with a tablet. The HP is a more modern device than the other two,