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Review + videos: 3 convertible Windows laptops try to be all devices to all people

Brian Nadel | March 12, 2014
We look at three Windows 8.1 convertibles that can transform into laptops, tablets or presentation devices, and try to discover how useful they really are.

Computerworld reviewer Brian Nadel shows some features of the HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G2 Windows convertible laptop.

Sony Vaio Fit 11A | Flip PC

The newest of the convertibles reviewed here, Sony's Vaio Fit 11A | Flip PC (and yes, that is the complete name) is built to be equal parts laptop and tablet. The Fit 11a has the most complicated convertible hardware of the three and delivers a trio of distinct computing personas.

In addition to the expected laptop configuration, the Fit 11a can be turned into a presentation system with the screen facing away or a wedge-shaped tablet. Unlike the others, it can neither fold flat on a table nor work in a tent-like configuration.

The system has a long hinge that allows the display to open up to 140 degrees in standard laptop orientation. There's also a second pair of hinges midway up the frame that supports the display, allowing the display to flip around the top of that frame so that it can also face away from the keyboard. According to Sony, the Fit 11a's hinge design is patent-pending. The company wouldn't disclose any details as to its construction or testing, except to say that it has been tested for durability.

The system has a screen lock that prevents the screen from inadvertently flipping over while you're using it.

I found this pair of hinges to be a lot to deal with — I had to make sure the screen was nearly vertical when flipping the screen or it banged into the base. At times, I wished I had an extra hand to better convert the system from one configuration to another.

As is the case with the Revolve G2, the Fit 11a has a magnetic clasp, but it has just enough holding power to keep the screen lid in place in tablet or closed-laptop mode. As a result, it is easier to work with than the Revolve G2.

On the other hand, the display wobbled a lot when I tapped or swiped along its surface. As a result, I frequently found that I needed to use my left hand to steady the display while I was tapping with the right one.

In a rare design faux pas for Sony, the Fit 11a's volume control (which is on the far right of the back edge) is covered by the screen when it is set up as a laptop or presentation system. As an alternative, you can adjust the volume using the system's function keys.

The system has an aluminum screen lid and a plastic base, but it lacks the XPS 11's soft coating. At 2.8 lb., it is a little heavy to hold with one hand for extended periods of time as a tablet.


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