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Want to generate some back to school excitement this year? It’s tough to beat a new computer—not just for homework assignments, but also as a portable entertainment hub—and when it comes to PCs, there’s probably no more exciting form factor than a convertible (or 2-in-1) laptop. These computers are thin, lightweight, boast long battery life and the amazing ability to transform from traditional laptop to tablet, and everything in between. Here’s why a convertible/2-in-1 laptop should be at the top of your back to school shopping list.

A Laptop is a Valuable Educational Tool

The days when a computer was considered a luxury for school use are long in the past. Technology has invaded classrooms in a big way and even primary grade kids are as likely to have a Smart Board at the front of their room as a black board. While most schools offer shared computer labs, having a laptop of their own means kids don’t have to line up for access, they become intimately familiar with using their PC (and will undoubtedly astound you with how quickly they become an expert in its use) and it’s available at home for research, essay writing, online test practices and all the other homework applications.

HP convertible touchscreen laptop.jpgConvertible Laptops are Super Slim and Lightweight

Convertible/2-in-1 laptops seem almost custom made for students. They are super slim and extremely light, making them easy to carry around. For example, HP’s Spectre x360 Convertible laptop boasts an impressive 13.3-inch Full HD touchscreen display. Yet despite that generous display, it still tips the scales at just 1.48 kg. 

Lenovo’s Yoga 3 Pro also has a 13-inch touchscreen display (although this convertible laptop offers an amazing 3200 x 1800 pixel resolution) and it comes in at just 1.19 kg!

Slip one of these in a backpack and no-one will be complaining about having to carry it around.

Excellent Performance and Great Battery Life

Thanks to the latest generation of mobile CPUs, this class of laptops is able to have it both ways: top notch performance and excellent battery life.

Convertible/2-in-1 laptops may be super slim, but they’re no lightweights when it comes to performance. That HP Spectre x360 packs an intel Core i7-5500U CPU at 2.4 GHz with Intel HD Graphics 5500, along with 8GB of LPDDR3 SDRAM and a 128 GB SSD.

That means fast performance that can take on any applications a student is likely to need and with its SSD, startup is almost instant. And despite the slim form factor and high power performance, this laptop also boasts all-day battery life. Its 4960 mAh Lithium Ion battery is rated at up to 12 hours or use between charges.

That means students don’t have to lug around the extra weight of a power adapter at school (which also means they won’t lose it), and they don’t have to go looking for free electrical outlets to recharge their laptop.

Replace Two Devices With One!

So Convertible/2-in-1 laptops are ultra light weight and thin without giving up performance or battery life. Sounds great, but don’t Ultrabooks or the MacBook Air offer essentially the same thing?

That’s true, but the namesake killer feature of convertible laptops is their unique ability to transform from a traditional clamshell laptop form factor to a tablet. No other device can pull off this trick, and it’s an especially valuable one for students.

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There are many ways 2-in-1 laptops accomplish this feat. 

The HP Spectre and Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro have a special hinge that allows the display to rotate 360 degrees until it’s flat against the bottom case. This offer the flexibility of a traditional laptop for typing, a tablet for casual gaming or mobile apps and various “stand” positions which are great for presentations or sharing information with other students.

Surface is ideal for note taking in school.jpgMicrosoft is one of the leaders in the 2-in-1 market with its Surface and Surface Pro series. These convertible PCs take the transformation to the next level, with optional magnetically attached keyboards that can be removed altogether. The Surface can be laptop or it can be a pure tablet. The Surface is also designed to work beautifully with a stylus, making it an excellent choice for students who want to take notes by hand, mark up files or use their device as part of an arts program. 

Windows 10’s Continuum (just one of the cool new features in Microsoft’s new operating system) makes the use of these 2-in-1 laptops even more compelling. By recognizing whether a keyboard is attached or not it can automatically adjust the user interface between desktop and tablet mode.

Convertible/2-in-1 laptops replace two devices—a laptop and tablet—with a single one. That doesn’t just mean one less device a student needs to load into their backpack, it’s also one less device to buy.  

It’s Also a Mobile Entertainment Centre

Any parent will tell you that even with the best student, school isn’t everything. 

There’s also music, movies, video games, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, YouTube and everything else kids like to do in their free time.

With a Convertible/2-in-1 laptop, students have everything they need in one, compact device that they can use at recess, during a spare, at the dining room table or after school in their room. These laptops have the storage needed for big music libraries and a large enough display for watching movies. Their flexibility means they can be adjusted for optimal viewing for virtually any angle. Built-in webcams means video chatting with friends will free up the phone line and if they want to lounge on the sofa and surf the web or play a casual game in tablet mode, that’s simply a matter of flipping the display or pulling off the keyboard.

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School may seem like it’s a long way off, but September is sneaking up. Along with new clothes, backpacks and pens, a new laptop and tablet will be on many students’ back to school shopping lists. Opting for a Convertible/2-in-1 laptop means buying just one device instead of two, it offers many advantages for students and as far as technology goes, it’s just plain cool—and that may be enough to make even the most jaded student look forward to school starting up again.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. I have been writing about technology for several decades for a wide range of outlets including Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, MSN, About.com, Kiplinger, and GeekDad. I’m in my 10th year as a senior contributor for Forbes with a focus on reviewing music-related tech, Apple gear, battery power stations and other consumer electronics. My day job is with the Malware Research Center at AI-native cybersecurity pioneer CrowdStrike.