What is a hybrid laptop?

A hybrid laptop is one that can be used as either a laptop or a standalone tablet. Its changeable, hybrid design is intended to offer something for everyone:

  • For laptop users: A touch screen and other tablet-style conveniences
  • For tablet users: A PC operating system, keyboard, and other features of a laptop

Hybrids -- also called 2-in-1s or, somewhat mistakenly, convertible laptops (see below) -- are more powerful than tablets yet have more portable functionality than traditional laptops. As a tablet, they offer the same innovative touch screen capabilities users of those devices have come to love. As a laptop, they provide the processing power, keyboard and other features of a more advanced PC.

Is a hybrid laptop the same as a 2-in-1?

Yes, a hybrid laptop is also a 2-in-1 laptop, which is the term most manufacturers now use to describe the combination laptop-tablet category. Refer to "What is a 2-in-1 laptop?"

The terms "hybrid laptop" and "2-in-1" are sometimes used interchangeably. But increasingly, "hybrid" is used to describe only a specific type of 2-in-1 Detachable system that allows the keyboard and display to be completely separated -- essentially creating a standalone tablet device. [In another type of 2-in-1, the 2-in-1 Attached, the parts remain connected, but the touch screen can be flipped around to sit flat for use as a tablet.]

Advantages of a hybrid laptop

As a 2-in-1, a hybrid laptop offers several advantages compared to laptops or tablets alone:

  • Standard PC operating systems and faster, laptop-grade processors make 2-in-1 hybrid laptops better for multi-tasking than typical tablets, making them ideal for home/office use in addition to their tablet capabilities.
  • The touch screen-tablet functionality adds a new dimension for traditional laptop users, who can now draw up ideas in brainstorming sessions, do data entry on the shop floor, and so on.
  • 2-in-1 hybrid laptops give you less to pack when traveling, especially for users who already carry smartphones and end up debating whether to take both a laptop and a tablet on trips.

Are today's hybrids different than earlier laptop-tablet models?

Early laptops with tablet-style touch screens debuted in the mid-2000s, well before today's modern, standalone tablets became popular. Those early models pioneered the concept of a laptop that could also function as a tablet, but they were relatively heavy and thick and relied on hinges to flip the touch screen for use as a tablet while remaining connected to the rest of the laptop structure.

Over time, new shell materials and touch screen technology enabled designers to overcome the heavy, thick nature of the earliest laptop-tablet combos, creating the new category of 2-in-1s. Eventually, manufacturers released still newer models -- today's hybrid laptops -- with fully detachable and independently powered touch screens.

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