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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.

In addition to Windows 8.1, the Fit 11a includes full copies of Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 and ArtRage Studio. The system comes with a one-year warranty; if you add $180 for a three-year warranty upgrade, the Fit 11a is still an economical $980.

Bottom line

A reasonable compromise between the competing interests of a laptop and a slate, the Fit 11a is a bargain, but its double-hinge mechanism is needlessly complex and doesn't allow it to convert into enough computing personas to make it a winner.

Computerworld reviewer Brian Nadel shows off features of the Sony Vaio Fit 11A | Flip PC Windows convertible laptop.

Conclusions

Each of these laptops is able to convert from a laptop to a presentation machine to a tablet, although all come at it from a different angle.

The HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G2 is a portable powerhouse that mixes excellent battery life with impressive performance. I found that it worked better as a laptop or presentation system than a tablet or fold-flat system; in addition, at more than a half-pound overweight, it's tedious to hold as a tablet. And even the entry-level models are surprisingly expensive compared to the competition.

Frankly, I was wowed by the Dell XPS 11's ultra-high-resolution screen, its sleek profile and low weight. Easily the best of the bunch at being a tablet, the XPS 11's soft skin is inviting to the touch.

I did miss having the stylus option. But more to the point, the XPS 11's lackluster keyboard provides a substandard typing experience and is a step back in terms of the evolution of mobile computing.

Finally, despite having the most complicated hinge design of the three convertibles, the Sony Vaio Fit 11A | Flip PC offered the least number of movement configurations of the three laptops. As a tablet, I found it awkward to hold vertically, while as a laptop, the screen wobbled noticeably and the volume control is hidden behind the display. The Fit 11a does, however, have a nice 5-degree tilt when it's set up on a desk as a tablet.

So all in all, while each of these convertibles is an impressive feat of engineering and design, none of them went obviously to the top of my list. Unless you're really eager to purchase, I'd wait until the next generation of convertibles comes out. They will hopefully be thinner, lighter, better designed and more versatile.

How I tested: Convertible laptops

To see how these convertible laptops compare with one another, I used them in a variety of locations for several different typical tasks over three weeks. Each accompanied me on a short trip.

I spent some time getting to know each system, examining every major aspect. I tried them out in their different configurations, paying attention to how hard it is to convert from one computing personality to another, how well they compare to single-purpose laptops and tablets as well as if any of the controls are inaccessible in any of the configurations.

 

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