The best convertible notebook is the Microsoft Surface Pro. The 12 incher has been significantly improved compared to its predecessor and impresses with long battery life, fanless cooling and consistently high performance.
Convertible notebooks are handy because you almost kill two birds with one stone – you have a notebook and if necessary also a tablet. Depending on how this mixture was implemented, the double pack is more or less practical in everyday life.
In any case, it is definitely worth the price, if you think about buying both devices separately. In addition, there should be something for everyone among our five recommendations. Price is here between 738 and 1962 dollars.
Short overview: Our recommendations
The current Microsoft Surface Pro is our clear favorite: The design is slim and elegant, the battery lasts easily a productive working day and the display shines with a high brightness and natural colors. Add to that a silent cooling and a high computing power. Too bad that Microsoft offers the useful stylus and the keyboard cover only optional. Those who are not deterred by the sometimes high follow-up costs are well advised with the Surface Pro.
Acer Switch 5
The Acer Switch 5 is in spite of its slim and compact exterior a real powerhouse and can pick it up thanks to the strong computing hardware inside with many ultrabooks. The Acer convertible works completely noiseless and comes from the factory even including stylus and keyboard. In addition, it offers even more memory than our favorite, in direct comparison, buyers have to compromise on the battery life, the display and the operating temperatures and spend just under 288 dollars & more.
The Microsoft Surface Book 2 offers a very long battery life of 15 hours when connected to the flexible keyboard dock. Speaking of input devices: The illuminated keyboard is consistently worthy of that of a regular notebook. But again, the stylus for handwritten entries is missing, there is only a surcharge. We also find it unfortunate that no Thunderbolt 3 was integrated at the relatively high price of around 1731 dollars. Furthermore, while the computing power is high, it can not last long under load because the temperatures force the CPU to throttle after a certain amount of time.
HP Elite x2 G2
The HP Elite x2 G2 is designed primarily for the business because it comes standard not only with the keyboard dock and stylus, but also with an LTE module, not to move from (Wi-Fi) hotspot to hotspot have to. In addition, the device is consistently impeccably processed and the high-resolution screen is a real feast for the eyes. Only the convertible heats up quite quickly at high load and must therefore also reduce the computing power. The price can be swallowed.
The Samsung Galaxy Book is our recommendation for those who do not want to spend much. Although the comparatively low price ensures that the device can not compete with its competitors in terms of computing power, it still offers enough performance on the go. The battery life is fine, even if the power dispenser is quite small due to the compact size (10.6 inches). It is also very light and also has an LTE module.
Different conversion solutions
Convertible notebooks are a mixture of laptop and tablet and can be used accordingly in both versions. The way to get there is technically different: there are 360 degree joints, turn-tilt hinges and docking keyboards.
360-degree joints and turn-tilt hinges have the disadvantage that the keyboard always remains on the device. This makes it heavier and unwieldy than a tablet. In addition, in their tablet mode, the keyboard points downwards, which is uncomfortable when worn and held.
Although 360-degree convertibles, such as the Yoga series from Lenovo, have proven their worth to date, their laptop processors provide notebook-like performance in tablet format. The devices are anything but handy, lightweight and compact.
There are different ways from notebook to tablet
With the Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft, the demand for convertibles has changed: it is primarily a tablet with stand, which can be equipped with an optional keyboard, no complicated joints interfere with mobility. If you invest more than 1200 dollars, the Surface Pro 4 can even purchase with a powerful Core i5 or i7 processor.
Microsoft was very successful with the Surface Pro 4 and so quickly competitors in the market, which offer a similar handling: Their models are tablets with fold-out stand and flat docking keyboards, which are magnetically attached to the device. The selection of such devices has grown over time: there are completely fanless devices with power-efficient processors, but there are also potent models with active ventilation and performance on the level of desktop PCs.
But Convertibles with docking keyboard also have a drawback: You can not really use them on the lap, because the connection between the monitor and keyboard is not strong enough to keep the screen on its own. You need a fold-out stand to support the monitor. This works well on a table, but on the lap this construction is too wobbly. An exception is the Surface Book 2from Microsoft: Thanks to innovative joint, it comes without kickstand, but you can remove the screen and use it as a tablet.
Convertibles prefers the stylus, also called stylus, which thanks to sophisticated technology allows natural handwriting as on the classic notepad. The advantage here is also the possibility of setting up a convertible, for example, slightly obliquely, which allows more comfortable writing. Ideal for creative users like designers and artists, as well as business users who need to capture thoughts quickly and easily.
Our favorite: Microsoft Surface Pro
The Microsoft Surface Pro is a successful development of the same name predecessor. The tablet works fanless, the touch screen with 2,736 x 1,824 pixels crisp, bright and color-accurate, while the device scores itself with impeccable and noble workmanship.
When it comes to computing power, there are hardly any wishes left: whether office, multitasking or less complex multimedia tasks. Of course, it is not possible to play graphically complex PC games.
Cooling without fan
When it comes to cooling, Microsoft uses a hybrid solution: On the one hand, the high-quality aluminum housing acts as a heat sink to radiate the heat to the outside, on the other hand, a liquid cooling is used. This technology, called the Vapor Chamber, can effectively and quickly transport waste heat using heat pipes. It all happens completely silently.
But the buyer does not have to worry about too hot a case, because even under continuous load, the device heats up to just under 40 degrees in places. Although the processor inside gets a lot hotter, with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees, it always stays within the safe range.
Equipment and processing
As already mentioned, the housing of the Microsoft Surface Pro isconsistently high-quality: It is machined from an aluminum block and, thanks to its neat material thickness, offers exemplary torsional rigidity. Also, the flexible folding base on the back of the tablet allows for an opening of up to 170 degrees, the associated joints are anything but cheap.
The tablet in itself brings only a slight 770 grams on the scales and has a thickness of only 0.8 centimeters. This makes the device one of the lightest and thinnest convertibles ever. So, if you are looking for an elegant, top-of-the-line work tool, you should be satisfied with the Microsoft Convertible.
The connections of the Surface Pro, however, are limited only by the compact format on the bare minimum: It is once a full-fledged USB 3.0 port and a mini display port ready. On the latter you can even connect up to two monitors. The equipment is supplemented with a 3.5-millimeter-Klinkenkombination to be able to plug in headsets. For wireless communication WLAN-ac and Bluetooth 4.1 is on board.
The tablet is also equipped with two cameras: One with five megapixels in the front, which can be used for video chats. Although it does not provide the very best image quality, it is fully sufficient for its purpose. In addition, she masters the login feature “Windows Hello,” which relies on biometric factors and makes passwords unnecessary. On request, only one look at the webcam is sufficient after the appropriate device. The second camera takes it to eight megapixels and take quite respectable photos. Buyers are not allowed to expect upper-class footage here, but the camera is definitely suitable for taking snapshots or snipping off documents.
The workmanship is great, as is the display
The slim chiclet keyboard called Type Cover is only available for a hefty surcharge of just under 138 dollars. It offers a high degree of writing comfort, as the pressure points of the buttons are noticeable and crisp and offer a certain stroke. The integrated clickpad is adequately sized and always reacts precisely to inputs and clicks. Here, too, the pressure points are clearly noticeable. The eleven dollar more expensive Signature version for the Surface Pro also features an LED backlight. After all, you can also use older type covers of the predecessor of the current device. The keyboard cover is magnetically held on the tablet and that also pretty strong. It’s unlikely that the cover will solve it.
Stylus, screen and battery life
Also only optional is the Surface pen, which is available from 92 dollars. Corresponding bundles with any discounts are unfortunately not available from Microsoft. But ten percent discount in the official online shop for parents, students and teachers on individual products. The advantage of the stylus is obvious: this makes it possible to work much more precisely, especially in comparison to touch operation with the fingers. Add to that a whopping 4,096 pressure levels that allow creative drawing as with a real pencil.
Model battery life
The high-resolution, touch-sensitive screen displays content in detail and sharpness thanks to its 2,736 x 1,824 pixels. However, the remaining features of the display are also exemplary: It offers above-average brightness, very high contrast and 99% RGB color space coverage. However, as the screen reflects, there may be disturbing reflections when used outdoors.
The lithium-ion battery is properly sized with 45 watt-hours. However, as with all other devices, it is mainly hardware and software that determines the actual battery life. And indeed we come across one of the biggest advantages of the Surface Pro : When continuous surfing via WLAN, we measure a whopping twelve hours. This is not only enough for a full working day, but also for after-work entertainment. There are only a few convertibles that can beat this runtime! Incidentally, the battery is fully charged in just two hours, provided that the device is not being used.
Are there any weaknesses?
Yes, they exist. The biggest weakness of the Microsoft Surface Pro is certainly the throttling of processor performance under continuous load. Although the CPU reaches the Turbo Boost clock rate of 3.6 gigahertz, it can only last a few minutes. Because the hybrid cooling comes then to its limits, which in turn leads to the so-called thermal throttling: For self-protection against overheating lowers the computing chip, the clock frequency to cause less waste heat.
This throttling ensures that full power is not always available. However, throttling occurs only when the tablet is tormented in parallel with particularly intense or even multiple work. Since this is not the rule in everyday life, this disadvantage is still reasonably limited. However, the clock reduction is not negligible.
Also in terms of connections to the user is not just a huge selection available, but only the absolutely necessary are ready. On modern interfaces such as Thunderbolt 3 or Type-C sockets buyers have to do without. We find it particularly unfortunate the lack of a memory card reader to expand the 256 gigabyte memory quickly and easily.
Despite some weaknesses still the best choice
And there we are already on the next topic: Upgrading, cleaning or replacing parts is not possible with the Surface Pro. On the one hand, the tablet can not be opened without causing damage, on the other hand, the components are almost all firmly soldered. But this feature shares the device with almost all convertibles.
And as already mentioned, the Type Cover and the stylus are only available for hefty surcharges. In our eyes, the investment should actually be made, because only in this way can the Surface Pro fully realize its potential. Because all three parts together (tablet, keyboard and pen) make the Microsoft Surface Pro a real recommendation. But you have to be prepared to dig deep into your pocket.
Microsoft Surface Pro in the test mirror
Other colleagues had the Microsoft Surface Pro in the test and it hailed only relatively little criticism. In the test of Chip (07/2017), the Surface Pro comes off very well and can secure a rating of a hefty 94.1 percent:
»The new Microsoft Surface Pro excels in the test with excellent measurement results. It sets a new record in the area of ”performance” and also achieves the rating “very good” in our mobility and display rating. Visually, the new generation hardly differs from its predecessor. «
Also tester Thomas Rau of PC World (08/2017) finds that the current Surface Pro is more than just a worthy successor and awards the test grade »good (2.10)«:
»Microsoft operates the Surface Pro successful model maintenance: The Kaby Lake processor offers a slightly higher computing power and helps the Windows tablet to a significantly better battery life. The manufacturer also screwed on the quality of the display. «
In the test of Golem (07/2017) there is criticism for the connections and the only optional accessories:
»The tablet is as big and heavy as before, the connections are identical as well. A Thunderbolt 3 port with adapter instead of a mini display port would be nice, but Microsoft has already saved the pen.At under 1.1 kg, the Surface Pro with Type Cover is an interesting, albeit expensive, hybrid device for everyday use. Especially the abandonment of the pencil is annoying, especially with the same price.«
Sebastian Jentsch also took a closer look at the device for Notebookcheck (06/2017). He, too, is less than pleased with the reduction in clock speeds:
»The fanless Core i5-7300U can only drive constantly in turbo mode at high tempo with Vapor-Chamber heatpipes for a short time. Then gradually begins throttling over several minutes.That’s one of the main arguments for the Surface Pro 2017, namely laptop performance without a fan. The performance is by no means bad, but not lasting.«
The English colleagues of Cnet (06/2017) are thrilled with the battery life, even if the design would have tolerated more changes in their opinion:
“Thanks to the CPU update, the Surface Pro gets more power and longer battery life, and most models now work fanless. The excellent folding stand has also become even more flexible.Microsoft’s flagship Surface Pro receives only an extremely conservative update, but thanks to the improved battery life, the device remains the gold standard for hybrid PCs based on Windows. «
Less well finds tester Dan Ackerman the barely changed appearance and the only available at extra cost parts:
»The minimalist redesign dispenses with USB Type-C and Thunderbolt. The Surface Pen is no longer standard and the keyboard covers are even more expensive than before – and still not well suited for use on the lap. «
The Microsoft Surface Pro has many advantages, not for nothing it has become our favorite. For example, if you want more performance, different form factors or much less money, you should take a look at our four alternatives.
Even more power than our favorite offers the Acer Switch 5.Because this convertible is equipped with a Core i7 CPU, which works with two cores and four threads. In combination with eight gigabytes of memory, the Acer Convertible can quite compete with some notebooks in the market. The internal memory is 512 gigabytes twice as large as the Surface Pro.
Furthermore, when you buy the Switch 5 you also get a keyboard cover and stylus. Acer refrains here therefore in favor of the customer on an additional merit in the aftermath. The keyboard is illuminated and provides clear pressure points. The touchpad also works like clockwork. The pen, baptized by Acer on »Active Stylus Pen«, offers 1,024 pressure levels and thus allows fine drawing or shading.
So why is not the Acer Switch 5 our favorite? This is due to several points: The battery life is much lower compared to the Surface Pro, it amounts to a maximum of seven hours.
And also the display has to leave feathers. From the slightly lower resolution (2,160 x 1,440 pixels) can be foreseen, because content is still presented in great detail. The display brightness is visibly lower, just like the contrast. In addition, there are sometimes significant color deviations and not too good black value. Since the screen surface is also mirrored, you can only use the device outdoors.
The next point, why it was not enough for the top recommendation, concerns the cooling: Similar to the Surface Pro comes with the Acer Switch 5 liquid cooling used, but not the performance level of the Microsoft Convertible achieved. The CPU heats up to around 70 degrees until it starts to slow down, but in addition the case also gets very hot in places: Sometimes over 47 degrees are measured!
But who accepts these weaknesses, gets a very powerful convertible, which comes from the factory already with the necessary accessories. Provided you have the necessary change.
The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is our recommendation for those who can not make friends with a fold-out stand. The flexible hinge of the Surface Book 2 is strong enough to hold the screen without support, so you can use it as a normal laptop. Nevertheless, you can also completely remove the screen from the keyboard dock and use it as a tablet.
In the cheapest version comes the Surface Book 2 with a 13.5 inch touch screen, Core i5 CPU with integrated Intel Graphics HD 620 and 256 GB of internal memory. The keyboard feels like that of a “real” notebook and offers quite a high degree of writing comfort. Even the touchpad can hold the high level of the keyboard.
In addition, the keyboard dock not only fulfills the function of a protective cover, but also comes with an additional, much larger battery. In combination with the power dispenser from the tablet is a battery life of fabulous 15 hours in continuous surfing via WLAN in it. That surpasses even our very persistent favorites. However, together with the keyboard, the Surface Book 2 weighs over 1.5 kilograms and is therefore relatively heavy.
Similar to the Surface Pro, the display can score with high brightness, great contrast ratio and vivid colors. The high resolution of 3,000 x 2,000 pixels also ensures a detailed reproduction of content. But even here, the reflective screen makes use in the open only to a limited extent possible.
Cooling is also completely silent in the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and unfortunately, after a certain time, a thermal throttling of the processor takes place, which has negative effects on the system performance.
Connections can be made to USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type-C, 3.5 mm jack and an SD memory card reader. However, the USB 3.1 socket is the slower first generation (Gen. 1). And for the price of around 1700 dollars, we would have expected Thunderbolt 3. Also missing in the scope of delivery of the Surface Pen. Who wants to use, must pay extra for it.
If you can do without the pen and get over the other negative points, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 is a great alternative to our favorite.
HP Elite x2 G2
The HP Elite x2 G2 is relatively expensive, but the intended target group of business users should hardly bother. Because in return, the convertible offers a consistently high-quality feel in a simple design. The built hardware hardly differs from the competitors, which means that the computing power is not from bad parents.
The device comes standard with the keyboard dock and stylus. The keyboard is even illuminated and even more robust than the Surface Pro. The typing goes quickly from the hands and there is no reason to complain. The stylus does its job as well as its competitors, which is why we do not have to complain here.
In the display, users benefit from a high-resolution (2,736 x 1,824 pixels) and high-contrast presentation of the contents. The average brightness and black levels are rather average. And again, the display is equipped with a reflective surface, which is not conducive to outdoor use. Overall, the screen is definitely fine, only he has to put up with the comparison with the excellent display of our favorite.
At the ports we finally find our much desired Thunderbolt 3 interface, which also acts as a power connector. There is also an LTE module, a micro-SD memory card reader, a conventional USB 3.0 socket and 3.5-millimeter audio. Very nice and modern!
Unlike the rest of the candidates, the HP Convertible is not equipped with passive cooling, here even a fan does the heat dissipation. In fact, it is the case that at low load is not audible. And if he starts then, then he is audible, but at no time disturbing. The noise is roughly a whisper to make the indication more tangible.
However, despite the active cooling, the device does not completely control the waste heat: if the device is heavily used for several minutes, the performance drops significantly because thermal throttling takes place. A CPU temperature of over 80 degrees is unfortunately not uncommon in the HP Elite x2 G2 .
The throttling takes place only with really lasting, full utilization – normally this is not the rule. One of the biggest hurdles might well be the price of over 2080 dollars.
Far less money costs the Samsung Galaxy Book , which makes it our cheap alternative. Despite the low price, the convertible is surprisingly high quality and in line with the competition.
The Samsung model can not quite keep up with the computing power. Because as a processor comes the very economical, but not as powerful Intel Core m3-7Y30 to the course, which offers, among other things, only low clock rates. But if you surf the internet with the convertible, type mails and want to watch videos, you do not need more performance either.
But the owners of the Samsung Galaxy Book do not have to fight with high operating temperatures within the device, despite passive cooling. The performance is always fully accessible. The display is 1,920 x 1,280 pixels not as high resolution as the competitors, but otherwise offers good values and is definitely presentable.
The not too potent hardware but has another advantage: It draws only a little power from the battery, resulting in a battery life of about seven hours. Not impressively good, but very respectable for such a compact device. In addition, it is very light at 640 grams and with 10.6 inches screen diagonal even the most compact.
We find that even the keyboard cover and stylus are included. The keyboard leaves a not too high-quality impression. For our taste, the keys are too close together, which is why we often mistype. Also the feedback of the keys is rather spongy. In addition, the cover serves as a positioning aid for the tablet: several positions are possible if the cover is folded accordingly. The pen works perfectly, but there is no place where it can be stored on the device – too bad!
The following is also noteworthy: The relatively small, 64 gigabytes of memory can be expanded via a micro-SD memory card. In terms of connections, there is not much to report, because there are only once USB 3.0 Type-C and a jack ready. Users can only connect USB sticks or a mouse with an adapter. In addition, the Samsung Galaxy Book still offers an LTE module, which is rather unusual for the price, but positive.
What else is there?
Our former favorite, the Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 , was able to score points with an innovative liquid cooling system at the time – meanwhile, this type of heat dissipation is almost standard, which is why the convertible alone can no longer stand out from the competition. Nevertheless, the performance is not bad even for today’s conditions, it does not even come to thermal throttling. But you have to accept a relatively weak running time of just over five hours.