A new school year sometimes means the need for new tools and resources, and a tablet or laptop might be first on the list for any student. There’s plenty to choose from, depending on what features you need most.

Breaking them down into separate sub-categories is the easiest way to compare them. Whether it’s something premium for intensive tasks, or budget-friendly to get the job done, there are laptops and tablets available for students of all stripes. First I’ll present the list of the top 2-in-1 laptops and tablets, then I’ll explain the categories in more detail:

  1. Surface Book (Premium laptops and tablets)
  2. HP Spectre x360 (Premium laptops and tablets)
  3. Surface Pro (“Step-Up” from basic)
  4. Asus ZenBook Flip UX360UA rose gold or grey body (“Step-Up” from basic)
  5. Dell Inspiron 7000 (“Step-Up” from basic)
  6. HP Pavilion x360 (“Step-Up” from basic)
  7. Acer Switch 3 (Budget Friendly)
  8. Acer Aspire Switch Alpha (Budget Friendly)
  9. HP Pavilion x360 11.6-inch (Budget Friendly)

 

The line is slowly blurring between tablets and laptops, but they are still inherently different in what they each do best. Either device is great for consuming content, but when it comes to being creative, tablets can be ideal canvases for your artwork, while laptops are as versatile as it gets. Between word processing, coding and graphic design, there’s not much left in between.

Premium laptops and tablets

The Type Cover keyboard clicks on and off with ease (you even hear the click each time), and is full size, so you won’t have to cram your fingers together to type out documents. Running a full version of Windows 10, the operating system can switch between desktop and tablet modes simply by attaching or detaching the keyboard. Desktop applications run like normal, though the more power you get under the hood, the easier it is to run resource-intensive apps, like Adobe Photoshop or video-editing programs.

If you want the Surface experience, but in a more traditional laptop form, consider the Surface Book. The display still detaches from the keyboard, but you get a slightly larger 13.5-inch screen size, compared to the 12.3-inch Surface Pro . Like the Pro, the Surface Book also plays nice with the Surface Pen, letting you scribble notes on top of documents or write memos to save in OneNote.

Using the full Microsoft Office suite, which both Surface devices run with ease, would surely help any student stay organized and prepare to get work finished. With Office now also available for tablets, accessing and editing documents is pretty seamless no matter which device you use.

Not to be outdone, HP has its own convertible 2-in-1 device worth a look. The Spectre x360 has a 13.3-inch display that also twists 360-degrees, letting you angle it however you like when you want to use it as a touchscreen.

The ‘step-up’ laptops and tablets

So, you may not need or want to go premium, but don’t want to skimp out on performance too much, either. The ‘step-up’ category has the mid-range chops to work like a horse, without trying to be a stallion.

Again, there’s a Surface Pro that fits the bill. It has a very capable 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage. Mid-range specs, by any measure. The keyboard, pen and mouse don’t come in the box, so if you are purely looking for a tablet, this is a good place to start.

If you want something a bit more colourful with a bump in RAM and storage, the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360UA comes with that inside, and in either a rose gold or grey body.

Another flipping example is the Dell Inspiron 7000, a 13.3-inch convertible that also swings back a full 360-degrees to double as a tablet. Specs are comparable to the ZenBook, but performance may differ despite that. Go with the one that feels right between them.

Also similar, though not quite as stylish, is the HP Pavilion x360, which has a slightly larger 14-inch display. If size matters, this is the biggest in this group.

Budget-friendly laptops and tablets

Keeping costs low is the story of almost any student’s life. Regardless of the reason, a budget-friendly convertible 2-in-1 might be just enough to get through the school year.

The Acer Switch 3 is made for such a scenario. The Intel Pentium N4200 is modest at best, but that’s the point. You’re not getting a budget-friendly device to run heavy apps requiring a lot of power. With 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage (you can expand that a further 64GB via the memory card slot), this is more tablet than laptop, but browsing and word processing shouldn’t be a problem.

Something a little more robust may be found in the Acer Aspire Switch Alpha, a convertible sporting a 12-inch display and Intel Ci3-6100U processor. It’s not a 7th-generation processor, but even one generation removed doesn’t detract from its steady performance. This is a workhorse that has a higher screen resolution, the latest connectivity ports and detachable keyboard.

For something a little familiar, the HP Pavilion x360 11.6-inch is basically a smaller version of its larger ‘step-up’ sibling. The difference is this one runs on an Intel Pentium N4200 processor and uses a 500GB hard drive (not the SSD drive the others use). The screen is naturally smaller, and the resolution tops up at 720p. If really light usage is what you have in mind, this one might warrant consideration.

The right laptop or tablet

Given how subjective this is, it’s hard to pinpoint what someone else wants in a laptop or tablet. The good news is there are plenty to choose from. Though form factors might differ somewhat (flip versus detachable), convertible laptops have been growing in sophistication. The group already noted above are part of a wider set of models currently available.

The same is true of tablets, which also come in a variety of sizes and designs. Not to mention the number of accessories that are available.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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