Best laptops and hybrids of 2017

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Best laptops and hybrids of 2017
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Microsoft Surface Pro

We’ve been using the Surface Pro series since the third generation, and there’s no doubt the 2017 version is the best one yet. We tested the Intel Core i7-7660U model and it delivered very good performance and much improved battery life – in fact, it should go all day on one charge under most circumstances.

The Surface Pro is also very versatile – and not just because it’s a hybrid that can operate as a tablet or a laptop. It offers six different configurations for different needs and budgets, ranging from $1,119 (with Intel Core m3, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD) to $3,999 (with Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD). And apart from the entry-level Core m3, they all have full-powered, seventh-generation Core i5 or i7 processors.

Disappointingly, the Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen still have to be purchased separately, but otherwise, the Surface Pro is a high-quality device, with excellent screen, keyboard and kickstand. The Surface Pro is facing increasing competition, but if you want the versatility, the Surface Pro is still the best device around.

HP Elitebook X360

HP’s business ultrabooks are generally superb, and the Elitebook X360 is no exception to this trend. It’s a premium convertible 13.3in laptop, with pricing starting at $1,999 – and that entry-level model only includes a 128GB SSD and Windows 10 Home, along with an Intel Core i5-7200U processor and 8GB of RAM.

Thankfully, there are six other configurations to choose from, with pricing ranging up to $3,499 – and that high-end model offering a Core i7-7600U, 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD. All but the entry-level model include Windows 10 Pro.

Sleek, attractive, and dripping with power and functionality, this machine is a mightily capable business powerhouse. The Elitebook X360 is one of the most versatile and well-rounded convertible laptops we’ve seen. It’s got all the ports you could wish for and more than enough raw horsepower to handle just about anything you can throw at it without sacrificing its thin, lightweight design. It’s also packed to the gunnels with enterprise security and management features, along with the option to add 4G broadband capability.

It’s not perfect – the screen is somewhat disappointing, and the Active Pen feels a tad superfluous – but it’s one of the best business laptops around. For business users who want to maximise their productivity, the HP Elitebook X360 is a must-have for your shortlist.

Toshiba Portégé X20

The Portégé X20 is Toshiba’s latest stab at reclaiming some of the ground stolen by Apple and others in the business-class market. This sleek 12.5in 2-in-1 laptop is packing some serious specs, including powerful internal hardware, stonking battery life and enterprise-grade biometric security.

Don't be fooled by its unassuming exterior – under its demure shell, the Toshiba Portégé is secretly an enterprise-grade powerhouse. It blows other ultraportables out of the water, and even manages to match the mighty Dell XPS 13 in terms of raw performance.

Toshiba has also managed to pack in a superbly high-quality display. The resolution might not match up to more impressive rivals, but in terms of colour accuracy, contrast and general fidelity, it's a professional-grade panel.

It’s not cheap though. Prices start at $2,145, which includes an Intel Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB PCIe solid state drive. There are five other models, ranging in price up to $2,915 – which gets you a Core i7-7600U, 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD.

That entry-level price is around $150 dearer than an equivalent Surface Pro or XPS 13, although you’re getting plenty for your money – including Windows 10 Pro and business-grade security features.

There are few niggles, like the fan noise and small trackpad, that we’d prefer not to see in a premium laptop. However, there's still an awful lot to recommend the Toshiba Portégé X20, and if you can look past those niggles, you'll find yourself with a very capable and versatile business hybrid.

XPS 13 2-in-1

Looking for a hybrid version of Dell’s much-loved XPS 13 laptop? The XPS 13 2-in-1 could be what you’re after, but you should aware that there are more differences between the two models than a flip-over screen.

The 2-in-1 is slimmer and lighter than the XPS 13 laptop, but to get that size reduction, Dell has used lower-powered Intel Y-series processors rather than the full-powered Core i5 and i7 chips in the XPS 13. The Y-series chips offer lower power consumption and better thermal management, but performance is a significant compromise.

Otherwise, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is a well-designed, very usable device. But it’s also pricey, starting at $2,299 and ranging up to $2,799. The entry-level model includes a Core i5-7Y54 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD and 13.3in Quad HD+ display, while the higher-end versions offer a Core i7-7Y75 chip and, depending on the model, double the RAM and storage. If battery life is more important to you than the Quad HD+ display, some of the business models offer a Full HD screen instead.

For similar pricing, you can pick up the full-powered XPS 13 laptop – so the question is whether you’re prepared to trade that performance for the added versatility of the 2-in-1.

Lenovo Yoga Book

The Lenovo Yoga Book is a 2-in-1 laptop that that’s like no other. It’s incredibly thin and light for a flip-over-style convertible, weighing under 1kg.

But even more notable is the futuristic ‘Halo’ keyboard which, in laptop mode, shines out of a completely flat touch-sensitive surface. Tap a button and the keyboard becomes a second tablet surface, directly mirroring the main screen, allowing you to draw and write with the supplied stylus.

Alternatively, you to draw or write on actual paper over the top of the tablet area using the ‘Real Pen’ stylus, which can become a ballpoint pen by slotting in one of the supplied ink cartridges. Microsoft OneNote simultaneously creates a digital record.

On the downside, the Halo keyboard lacks the usability of a real keyboard, battery life is average and the Atom processor is not a great performer. In the $899 Windows model, that chip feels rather sluggish, but the Android version not only runs more smoothly, but it’s also great value at $699 – and remember, that also includes a keyboard.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1

Since we reviewed it last year, Dell has taken Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 down market, which is both good and bad news.

The bad news is the new casing looks and feels cheaper, and, overall, the range’s specs are less compelling now than they were last year.

The good news is it’s cheaper.  The entry-level model costs just $399, but that includes an Intel Celeron N3060 processor and a mere 32GB of eMMC storage (though more can be added with a Micro SD card).

The better-value option in our opinion is the $699 model, with a decent Core m3-7Y30 processor and 128GB SSD.

There are still compromises as you’d expect at this price, such as the 11.5in, 1366 x 768-pixel screen. But if you’re after an ultraportable hybrid laptop on a budget, there aren’t many better options.

Dell Chromebook 11 2-in-1

Do you only use cloud apps? That opens up your laptop choices to include Chromebooks. These run Google’s lightweight Chrome OS, which means they don’t need high-powered processors or much hard disk space – and they’re generally cheaper than Windows or Mac equivalents.

Not being able to run Windows or Mac apps is both a drawback and a benefit. It means they’re easier to keep secure and to manage, making them ideal for schools or businesses that only run cloud apps.

Most Chromebooks are regular clamshell laptops without touchscreens, but as the name suggests, Dell Chromebook 11 2-in-1 is a hybrid – flip over the screen and it becomes a tablet, with an 11.6in, 1,366 x 768-pixel touchscreen.

Inside is an Intel Celeron N3060 and 4GB of RAM, so it’s plenty powerful enough for Chrome OS. Dell gives you a choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB SSD.

Weighing 1.43kg, it might be a little chunky, but it’s designed to withstand the hustle and bustle of a classroom, with ‘Drop Protection’, rubberised edges and a sealed, spill-resistant keyboard.

With prices starting at $865, the Dell isn’t as cheap as some other Chromebooks, but you’re getting 2-in-1 versatility, a touchscreen, pretty good performance and a robust design.

Next: Laptop buyer’s guide

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