/ Technology

Laptop + tablet = hybrid: but would you buy one?

Microsoft Surface in pink

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show revealed many common themes, including new Ultra HD TVs with eye-watering price tags. But the trend that caught my eye was ‘best of both worlds’ laptop-tablet hybrids.

Electronics manufacturer Asus brought along their newest tablet-laptop hybrid, which was my pick of the bunch.

The terribly named VivoTab Smart ME400C is a relatively cheap Windows 8 device (£399, or £479 with keyboard) that makes the more limited Microsoft Surface look like an expensive trinket.

While the VivoTab Smart ME400C isn’t perfect, it’s already had plenty of praise from people for giving them everything they want (on paper, at least). So why are laptop-tablet hybrids such a popular idea? It seems obvious to me – they can save us money. After all, why buy two devices when one just one will do?

Phablets, laptabs and tabtops

We’ve already seen this development in mobile phones with a new category emerging, unofficially known as ‘phablets’. These are phones with extremely large 5 to 6-inch screens, and they’ve become a staple in the tech scene. And now Windows 8/RT has brought the hybrid craze to laptops – but shall we call them ‘laptabs’ or ‘tabtops’? Or should we just be old-fashioned and call them tablet PCs?

Whatever you choose to call them, they’re certainly on the rise. But at this stage, I have my doubts about the execution. In the case of mobile phones, I think the transition is far easier – you only need to make them bigger and you’re most of the way there.

But it’s far more complicated to combine laptops with tablets. Finding a balance between a laptop’s best features (easy-to-use keyboard and touchpad, decent size screen and connections) with those of a tablet (great portability, usability and battery life), means making a lot of compromises.

Striking a balance

Whether it’s scaling down on connections; a screen that’s slightly too large to use comfortably as a tablet; or just being too heavy – everything I’ve seen so far tells me the technology simply doesn’t exist yet to make a great tablet PC at a good price. This will probably change, particularly as new, more efficient processor technology becomes available and costs are driven down.

But if you’re thinking of buying a laptop-tablet hybrid now, I’d suggest you do some serious research before taking the plunge. Does the idea of a laptop-tablet hybrid appeal to you? How much would you be prepared to pay?


I’m convinced this is the way forward but I will wait to see what Apple comes up with.

Although it’s wise to wait to see what Apple’s doing, there are lots of good options coming out and often much cheaper.

I agree. As long as it does not have anything to do with Microsoft/Windows, I’m open to ideas. Helping others sort out problems with Windows etc. is bad enough without having my own.

Price is an important consideration for something that will quickly become outdated.

Oliver says:
20 January 2013

Every time I go away I feel the frustration at wanting to take both a tablet and ultraportable, since I use them both in such different ways. So I agree that this year will be an interesting one in terms of hybrid developments and that Apple will ultimately set the standard. It will be interesting to see whether Apple comes up with a new concept to ultimately replace its iPad and Air products, since I can’t see that there’s space for marketing all three. Somehow it seems unlikely but we’ll see…

When I compare the price of Tablets V Laptops / PC’s of I sometimes find it difficult to understand the relative values / qualities which enable the manufacturers to set the prices. For instance it is now common place to find a really useful laptop with a 15″screen, Large hard drive, built in keyboard and relatively speaking a massive amount of internal memory with tons of expandability options such as Humongus hard drives, USB memory sticks or SSD for around the £300 mark.

Yet when we look at tablets a 10″ Android Tablet with 1 / 2 meg of ram, 16 / 32 / 64 gig storage capacity and only software keyboards we are almost certainly looking at no less than £300 and quite often significantly more! The only advantage they offer is mobility and touch screen input (I don’t know if a touch screen is a good or bad thing as they have their Pros and Cons)

I personally use a Windows XP desktop with 22″ monitor, Quad Core processor. Microsoft keyboard and mouse and the whole package cost me less then £400. Its easily upgradeable and repairable (no specialist repair centres required as there are PC outlets on almost every street) and I can choose where I get my software. music, films and E.books from.

I also have a ASUS Nexus 7 which I find to be a superb bit of kit. Its great for playing games, reading books and if necessary for the children to watch films or listen to music when on long journeys but I would never attempt to undertake any major work on one. No spreadsheets, Word documents, Database documents, film editing or any other PRODUCTIVITY application on it. For these I do and probably (crystal ball moment) always will use a PC with the largest Monitor I can afford.

As I said at the top of this comment. When it comes to pricing tablets I just don’t get it.

Tony HuttTony Hutt says:
27 January 2013

I recently upgraded from old style mobile to the Google Nexus 4, which in theory could do the job of my laptop, old mobile, camera, MP3 player and books. And to some extent it does, but it doesn’t do any job as well as those dedicated predecessors. The camera is OK but not nearly as good as a compact digital camera, even a cheap one. It’s smaller and handier than a laptop, good for the odd bit of web browsing, but there’s no clipboard, the keyboard is fiddly and transferring files is not easy. It works reasonably well as a phone but I’d rather have my old phone back, which had better reception anyway. It can play MP3 files but I had to search for an app that includes bookmarks, and switch to another app to delete files, and none is as convenient as a personal cassette player you could operate by feel in your pocket—nor can you use it sensibly as an MP3 player in a car while driving. It can replace books too, especially in the dark, but I like books; the only advantage of electronic reading is being able to search text easily. No doubt if I had a satnav and GPS I would find these better than using a phone too. Also when I got the phone I had to install lots of apps before I could exploit its numerous capabilities. In summary, it’s handy to have all these functions in one pocket-size gadget but the dedicated device is nearly always better.

Gerard Phelan says:
10 February 2013

I bought the ASUS Transformer Infinity, as a way of viewing photographs and Internet sites at Full HD resolution on a Tablet with a detachable REAL keyboard AND with all the connections that Apple does NOT provide.
It does everything I expected, BUT I am still struggling with Android, being a long standing (suffering) Windows expert. Simple tasks like closing windows and viewing files, seem extraordinarily complex compared with what I know. It was also very expensive, though once bought, that becomes immaterial.