The 2-in-1 vs Laptop (A World of Difference)

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2-in-1 vs Laptop

Just one look at all those fancy schmantzy portable computers offering fast performance with excellent features and pulling the trigger on a model becomes too scary. Add to that the fact that while the differences between a 2-in-1 vs laptop computer seem subtle, they’re big enough to change your entire computing experience. But you’ve taken an important first step; a good place to start is deciding which form factor will suit you best. That’s why we’ve compiled the pros and cons of 2-in-1s and traditional laptops so that by the end, you’ll be able to answer that aching question, viz. 2-in-1 or laptop?

What is a 2-in-1 Laptop?

2-in-1 laptops are also known as hybrid or convertible laptops; they’re basically a tablet with an attachable keyboard. 

They have a touchscreen and a physical keyboard that allows full access to the device.  Depending on your needs, you can use the touch keyboard or the physical keyboard.  And alternating between the 2 options is fast and practical.

In the past, you had to choose either a tablet or a laptop.  But enterprising manufacturers merged portability with flexibility by combining the convenience and ease of a tablet with the utility of a traditional clamshell laptop.

If you’re tired of managing both a tablet and a laptop, these hybrid models can replace both with performance that’s somewhere in the middle. 

2-in-1 laptops are best suited for users that need a portable yet powerful laptop that can be use for various purposes.  They have two different approaches that bridge the gap between laptop and tablet:

Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop

Convertible laptops bend the screen back 360-degrees behind the keyboard on a powerful hinge to view the screen in the traditional laptop mode, tablet mode, tent mode and every mode in between – You can use a convertible laptop to watch video content, write a document, or play a game. 

The motherboard and the battery are placed in the base of the laptop creating balance. This also provides the needed support for typing.  It’s the best option when you want a computing device that offers a keyboard, but don’t always have a need for it. 

They work best in laptop mode and deliver a far superior battery life than detachables. 

Detachable 2-in-1 Laptop

Detachable laptops easily “detach” the display from the keyboard to convert into a tablet.  The keyboard case or dock can be used remotely if you want maximum portability.  Some detachable docks have room for extra batteries to extend the time available for using your laptop.

The display on these models are heavier than the keyboard, so using the laptop successfully with one hand often requires some practice.  They offer a better tablet experience than convertibles because they’re basically a slate tablet with a keyboard case or dock you can attach.

If you only have occasional need for a keyboard, this alternative is lighter than convertibles and will match your needs best.

What are the Benefits of Buying a 2-in-1 Laptop?

Since they’re adept at combining the functionality of a laptop and a tablet, 2-in-1 models come with a lot of advantages:

  • Designed for efficiency, your hands-down going to get better battery performance from a 2-in-1 laptop than from many standard notebooks.  This is not only due to the lower power requirements of their hardware.  But much of the interior space of a 2-in-1 is taken up by the battery.
  • Since 2-in-1 laptops are flexible, they can cover all work and leisure-related needs.  This device can be used for word processing, editing, and internet browsing.  When converted into the tablet mode, the same laptop can be used to view movies and other types of video content in different modes via a detachable keyboard or 360-degree hinge.
  • The versatility of 2-in1 laptops allows them to meet the needs of various users, including students, writers, designers, and other professionals.  And it cuts down on the number of devices you need to charge to just one.
  • The screen of a 2-in-1 laptop can swivel into multiple angles so you’re sure to find a comfortable position.  For instance, you can easily set it up in tent mode to share the viewing experience with multiple users during a business meeting.  Or you can detach the keyboard and carry just the display with you when you need a device that’s more portable.
  • 2-in1 laptops are attractive and sleek. Their built to occupy less space compared to traditional laptops, making them excellent for travelling and for users that move around a lot.

Do You Need a 2-in-1 Laptop?

Before considering a 2-in-laptop, you’ve got to be sure that it’s right for you.  These laptops are lightweight and versatile, so they’re a great choice for many users.

The touchscreen options are extremely practical, especially for travelers, artists, students, and other users that need an easy-to-access laptop.

2-in-1 laptops are suitable for you in the following situations:

  • You work away from the office or home.  These laptops are extra lightweight and won’t be problematic to carry around.
  • You need a laptop as well as a tablet.  2-in-1 options offer the best of both worlds in a flexible, relatively lightweight design.  These models are more efficient. They combine the benefits of a laptop and a tablet without having to buy both.
  • You’re interested in a touchscreen capabilities.  You’ll be able to access various functions without touching the keyboard.  Plus, you still get access to various programs and functions.
  • You’re a frequent traveler.  The versatile design means you can use the laptop in any mode, with or without the keyboard if you need something less bulky for travelling or commuting on something like public transport.
  • You love watching movies.  The tent or stand mode is an excellent choice for various users including binging on Netflix or watching cat videos on YouTube.
  • College students and writers.  If you need the word processing and internet browsing capabilities of a traditional laptop, these practical devices are quick to fill in.  And some 2-in-1 models also come with a stylus which provides another more intuitive way to use the device and more flexibility in terms of notetaking. 
  • You need a laptop with a long battery life.  Most 2-in-1s use power-sipping Intel Core CPUs for performance that’s on par with standard laptops.  The best systems have a battery life that ranges from 8 to 12 hours.

Do You Need a Traditional Laptop?

While 2-in-1s are more flexible, traditional laptops are more robust and powerful.  It’s important to know that 2-in-1s sometimes lack the durability and functionality of traditional laptops.

Traditional l laptops come in all shapes and sizes.  You can find bigger laptops with screens that measure 15 and 17 inches.

Traditional laptops have sturdier hinges that makes them more durable.  But they can be more limiting than 2-in-1 laptops in that they don’t bend or swivel.  Ultimately, if you’re looking for a heavy-duty laptop for more stressful software programs or games, a traditional laptop should be your choice.

And not all traditional laptops are bulky.  There are several models in the ultra-lightweight and thin category that make perfect on-the-go companions.  Screen sizes range from 11-inches up to 21-inches – like the gargantuan Acer Predator 21 X – and they all come with several features to cater to various users’ needs.

Traditional laptops are suitable for you in the following situations:

  • You’re an avid gamer.  In this case, these laptops are more powerful than a 2-in-1, with a CPU that will play nice with the requirements of compelling games and they feature the all-important dedicated graphics card for un-paralleled fast-twitch performance.
  • You’re a graphic designer.  Most advanced graphics programs require special features that can only be found on traditional laptops like the aforementioned discrete graphics card.  And you get the perks of other hardware like RAM, lots and lots of RAM.
  • Traditional laptops are more affordable than 2-in-1 models.   It’s true.  While you can get a decent laptop for less than 300 bucks, an entry-level 2-in-1 laptop sells for twice that.  If you’re on a tight budget, you should consider buying a traditional laptop, instead of a 2-in-1 one.
  • More screen real estate.  If your work involves large spreadsheets, or design projects with lots of details.  You can find bigger laptops that have 17-inch screens compared to hybrid laptops which prioritize weight savings over display size.
  • They’re not called all-purpose laptops for nothing.  More tech needs more space.  Traditional laptops are widely used for work, education, playing games, surfing the Internet, and for creating and consuming media with desktop-like abilities; you’re typically not going to get that kind of power with a 2-in-1 notebook.
  • Display quality is often better.  If you like to see more details on the screen while working or playing a game, a traditional laptop will work better due to higher resolutions and generally better screen quality.
  • You’re a business professional.  Like suits, cell phones, and business cards, the business notebook is a symbol of the modern professional.  Business models typically have a mix of networking and security features that make them very attractive to professionals; they have sufficient power to handle most of your work applications. 

2-in-1 vs. Laptop:  The Other Side of the Hybrid System

The ability to turn your notebook into a tablet at the drop of hat gives you a solid number of reasons you might want to benefit from a 2-in-1 laptop in a good deal of different situations.  Now, let’s turn our attention to the respective cons of a 2-in-1 laptop versus a traditional laptop.

The 2 Types of 2-in-1s

Since you can’t remove the keyboard from the convertible-style 2-in-1, rotating the display to fold it into a tablet usually means you wind up with a thicker tablet, which can prove un-wieldy to manage with one hand.

On the other hand, because the keyboard is removable on a detachable-style 2-in-1, this input device tends to be flimsier; a great example is the keyboard of the Microsoft Surface Pro 7.  In terms of build quality, a better design is to have the keyboard fastened to the display.

And in terms of mechanical failure, a detachable hybrid computer is more likely to start showing signs of fault over time due to its detachable hinge mechanism.

Display Technology

Since a detachable 2-in-1 still needs to function as a portable computer even after you remove the keyboard, all the core hardware is crammed into the display portion of the “capacitive” screen.  That usually means compromises on performances due to the lack of space.

Expansion Ports and Slots

While 2-in-1s are more easily expandable than tablets, they still don’t offer quite as many ports as you’ll find on a standard notebook.  This could be a problem when it comes to connecting to peripherals like a larger screen during a presentation or a printer when connecting via Wi-Fi is out of the question.

Storage Capacity

For you, the difference between a 2-in-1 laptop and a regular notebook may lie in available storage space.

2-in1s are primarily designed for multimedia experiences (like reading, watching movies, listening to music, playing games, retrieving email, and browsing the internet).

The software structure of some 2-in-1s like cheaper detachables is similar to that of a mobile phone, punctuated by a very simple interface.  As such the memory capacity is sometimes as little as 16 to 64GB.

Laptops are designed to be mobile desktop computers and usually have a memory capacity of 250GB to 2TB.  And if you want to increase memory capacity, you can do so with external hard drives, USB flash drives, CDs and DVDs.  A tablet-like-hybrid usually has no such capability.

Hardware Restrictions

2-in-1 manufacturers are more focused on the portability of their devices than on power delivery.  Generally, 2-in-1s don’t run with the most powerful hardware like CPUs and their integrated graphics virtually eliminates the possibility of doing graphics heavy work.

In the case of gaming, a standard laptop is portable and will be able to run more demanding applications.  And you get sweet features like a backlit mechanical keyboard, dedicated graphics and larger cooling vents so your system doesn’t over-heat.


One of the downsides of a hybrid notebook compared to a normal laptop is that the sleek and slim form-factor of the 2-in-1 design generally means compromises on performance since there’s comparatively less space to fit beefier components.

The main point of buying a 2-in-1 is to save money by not having to buy a laptop and a tablet.  If you’re not certain how often you’ll use the tablet feature of a 2-in-1, a convertible hybrid is definitely the way to go.


For the same amount of money, you’ll be spending to get one of these machines, you could get a much more powerful traditional laptop.  That’s because with a 2-in-1 notebook most of your money is paying for the extra tricks and flexibility they provide.

If raw power and performance is an over-riding priority, a standard notebook is certainly the most obvious choice.  For tasks like Web browsing and playing video, performance is negligible between a 2-in-1 and a standard laptop.   But when it comes to something like gaming, the law of diminishing returns (translated: cost) takes over in favor of traditional laptops.

Just as bad is when things get more complicated with multitasking. Or you need more graphics capabilities, performance will favor laptops by a wide margin.

Keyboard Design

Although 2-in-1s and traditional laptops have the same basic physical QWERTY layout, the fundamental difference is the design of the keys and the fact that some keys are flat out missing on 2-in-1s; trying to type the greatest American novel on the flat keyboard of a 2-in-1 might prove to be a frustrating exercise in dexterity and patience.


Another difference between a 2-in-1 and traditional laptop is in the operating system and corresponding software capabilities that we’ve touched on.

It’s true that a 2-in-1 PC can run Windows and the same software as a regular laptop.  But performance can’t match a standard notebook for the same amount of money.

And the two major tablet platforms for 2-in-1s that are more tablet than notebook are: Android and iOS.  Both require applications specific to their operating systems.  Many of their applications will do most of a laptop’s basic tasks and no more.

The performance limitations and compromised input devices, however, means you won’t be able to take advantage of more advanced features.  And a manufacturer may choose to drop them altogether to fit into the tablet environment.

A 2-in-1 Vs. a Traditional Laptop?

If you’re looking for a versatile and portable laptop, then a 2-in-1 laptop will be better.  You can convert the laptop to work as a tablet for a better viewing mode.  A traditional laptop is more robust and affordable.  If you’re a heavy-duty user, then a traditional laptop is just the ticket.

In Summary

Just between us, you knew which one you wanted right from the beginning. And this article helped crystalize your decision. In the end, it’s all about balancing flexibility against performance. Initially, deciding between these two platforms may seem a little intimidating. But that’s okay. Buying a portable computer is an investment; it’s okay to draw a blank at first. Keep pushing through by considering the pros and cons of the models you find most intriguing. Don’t torture yourself, though. The best choice will be the one you can imagine living with for the next couple of years.