If you need a versatile machine for your work, art, or leisure, a 2-in-1 laptop is a good way to go. These laptops have touchscreens that can be folded to effectively turn the computer into a tablet.

Not only can this be useful for work that calls for a more intuitive interface, but it can also offer a way to change up the way you work or display a presentation.

The 2-in-1 laptop has surged in popularity in recent years and is available in a range of sizes and prices. There are no Apple 2-in-1 laptops as of yet, but models with both Windows 10 and ChromeOS are widely available.

Person laying back with convertible laptop on lap
2-in-1 laptops tend to be more expensive than traditional laptops with similar specs.
A 2-in-1 laptop can be an investment, and before you make a purchase, you should have a clear vision of what your computer will primarily be used for and where you will use it. Some computers will outperform others, but they will also generally come at a higher cost. If you don’t need the processing power, an inexpensive Chromebook might be perfect. But if you need a computer with excellent resolution and an accurate touchscreen for working on art or design, you’ll need a different type of machine.

Operating system
Everyone who is familiar with computers has a preferred operating system. With 2-in-1 laptops, your options are somewhat limited.

Windows 10 comes in the majority of 2-in-1 laptops and offers a wide selection of applications that most users will be familiar with. This is the operating system for artists, programmers, and gamers.

ChromeOS is found in Chromebooks, which are made by a variety of manufacturers. This browser-based operating system relies heavily on G Suite, which can make for an easy transition if you use Drive or Gmail regularly. Most Chromebooks are compatible with apps from the Google Play store, but some are limited to Chrome and Chrome extensions.

Almost all 2-in-1 laptops are capable of folding so that the keyboard is on the back of the touchscreen, mimicking a tablet. But that’s not all they can do.

Some models can convert into “tent mode,” propping upright so that the edges of the screen and keyboard rest on a surface, creating an angled screen that is easy to use for tasks like drawing. Some models may function similarly, allowing the keyboard to rest facedown on the surface while the touchscreen remains slightly angled.

Other models may have a swiveling hinge, which allows you to conceal the keyboard when using tablet mode.

The most versatile configuration is a detachable mode, which allows you to truly use the screen as a tablet, leaving the keyboard behind. This typically results in a decrease in battery life and processing power, but for a true laptop-to-tablet experience, it’s an excellent feature to have.

Take note of the technical specs of detachable models. Some of them are laptops that convert to tablets, which are better for professional use, while others are tablets that convert to laptops, which work better for leisure use or basic tasks like writing and browsing.

Resolution and screen size
Just like traditional laptops, 2-in-1 laptops offer resolutions of up to 4K (or 3480 x 2160). Depending on your work, 4K resolution may be a must-have. But if your laptop will be used primarily for sending email, browsing, and writing, the extra pixels may not be worth the added cost.

Screen sizes range from around 11.6 inches to 15.6 inches, and a larger screen means a larger laptop. There’s no right answer here — it comes down to preference, portability, and what you’ll be using your computer for. In general, the extra screen real estate demands a higher price.

The two biggest determiners in a computer’s performance are the CPU, which acts as the “brains” of the computer, and the RAM, which allows it to multitask. As with any computer, the speed of a 2-in-1 will suffer if either of these fall short.

For CPUs, most 2-in-1 laptops sport Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. While these aren’t as powerful as the i9, they will meet the needs of most.

RAM ranges from 4GB to 16GB. If you don’t plan on doing any heavy lifting, 4GB should be fine and will save you quite a lot at checkout. For more intensive work like video editing or programming, you may need as much as 16GB.

Depending on your work, a sizeable amount of storage can be a must. But with so many forms of cloud storage available, that number may matter less to you, especially if you have a Chromebook and can store up to 100GB of files on Google Drive.

Most 2-in-1 laptops offer anywhere from 64GB to 2TB of storage. There are two primary types of storage: hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). SSD storage comes at a higher price, but since it has no moving parts, it allows your computer to perform significantly faster. To get the most out of your RAM and CPU, an SSD is the way to go.

Battery Life
Almost all 2-in-1 laptops have lithium-ion batteries, which tend to charge quickly and hold a charge for a long time without use.

Most batteries will last from 6 to 15 hours, though this is dependent on factors like screen brightness and what tasks you are performing, as using Photoshop will drain battery a lot faster than Microsoft Word.

If you regularly work on the go, a reliable battery can be a lifesaver. But if you mostly work at your desk, a short battery life may make little difference to you.

Once you know what operating system is right for you and how fast your laptop-turned-tablet needs to be, you should consider additional features like the overall form factor and security features.

Size and weight
The size of your laptop is largely determined by the screen dimensions, but thickness and weight will vary.

With an impressive battery can come an impressive weight, which may take a toll on your shoulder if you take your laptop with you. Despite their touchscreen and flip designs, some 2-in-1 laptops are just as thin as traditional laptops.

Protecting your data is important, and you may find that a password doesn’t quite cut it.

Some 2-in-1 laptops include added security features that are fast, intuitive, and reliable.

Fingerprint scanners provide a quick way to log in to your computer and keep out unwanted users.

Facial recognition works similarly, identifying your face with the built-in camera. This may feel a bit strange at first, but it is extremely accurate and secure.

Encrypted drives protect specific files in the case of theft. These files can only be accessed with an encryption key — otherwise their information will appear garbled to any would-be thieves.

Cloud-based services and storage solutions like Google Drive may not offer these security features, which may affect you if you purchase a Chromebook. However, two-step verification is a trustworthy way of accessing important accounts and documents.

Camera and microphone
If video calls are a regular part of your work, you should ensure that the webcam and microphone of your 2-in-1 laptop are reliable and of decent quality.

Most cameras range from two to eight megapixels, and some models may have front- and rear-facing cameras.

Ports and connectivity
You won’t find a 2-in-1 laptop without WiFi capability, but some may offer a better connection than others. Most models will use a 2.4GHz connection, which is reliable but only moderately fast, but dual-band models can use 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi connections, allowing for faster upload and download speeds.

Bluetooth is another standard feature, but ports may vary. Most models will have USB 3.0 ports, but this is not always the case — something to take note of if you regularly use flash drives to transfer data. USB-C and Thunderbolt drives may be found in higher-end models and offer rapid charging and data transferring.

While just about any 2-in-1 laptop will have a touchscreen that is stylus compatible, few models include styluses. There are two main types of styluses you should look for.

A passive stylus works like an extension of your finger. The tip interacts with the screen for things like clicking and dragging, and there’s no need to charge the stylus.

An active stylus is more precise and feels like a pencil or pen in your hand. It has a rechargeable battery and communicates with your laptop, typically via Bluetooth. Active styluses include additional features like moving the cursor by hovering above the screen and distinguishing between the stylus and your palm.
Basic 2-in-1 laptops that tend to be smaller in size and have less processing power fall in the $200 to $500 range. These often work well for college students or people who are looking for a basic, functional computer with touchscreen capability. Many basic Chromebooks fall in this price range along with some of the better netbooks.

For $500 to $1,000, 2-in-1 laptops offer fast performance and often have SSD storage. These are capable machines that can be used for a variety of purposes and may keep pace with more expensive models.

Models in the $1,000 to $2,000 range offer performance suitable to professional artists and designers with impressive CPUs and high-resolution screens. With the added price you may get an active stylus and possibly a detachable screen.

Consider purchasing a case for your 2-in-1 laptop, and always ensure that the screen is protected. Storing your laptop in tablet mode may damage the screen or keyboard.

A matte or privacy screen can improve the look of your touchscreen and prevent scratches.

If you opt for a detachable model, always store the keyboard somewhere safe so it doesn’t become lost, damaged, or stolen.

Expect 2-in-1 laptops to weigh considerably more than most tablets.

Person looking at 2-in-1 laptop at a desk
If you don’t want the keyboard on your lap when you’re using tablet mode, consider a model with a rotating hinge, which conceals the keyboard during tablet mode.