Exploring the idea of getting a 2-in-1

So I find myself needing to teach online, suddenly, and what I’m rapidly learning is that certain tech would be helpful in this regard.

In particular, it would be very useful to be able to write on digital documents, both for purposes of generating content and for grading electronic student submissions. A tablet with a stylus seems like it might be the best solution to that problem.

On top of that, my old laptop is getting long in the tooth and is very sluggish under the (forced) Win10 upgrade, so a new general-use laptop (work, media, maybe light gaming) would be of use.

I’ve never bought or even really considered a tablet before. I’d prefer to get something that can run Windows for compatibility with work systems and existing formats for my materials. I’d like something with a keyboard, too - can’t imagine doing without one. Beyond that, I’m just looking for general advice on what might be a good fit at a halfway reasonable price. Any help appreciated. I’d prefer to keep this whole operation in the three-digit range in terms of price (I’m thinking mid 3 digits but if there’s good reasons to go higher I’d consider it).

It sounds like a Surface is your only good choice. They’re damn fine machines, though pricier than a straight up tablet. But if you have to run Windows, that’s the call IMO.

I recently got a Surface Pro 7 for somewhat similar reasons, and have been pretty happy with it so far. Fantastic in tablet mode with the pen for reading and marking up documents (and reading comics). Perfectly cromulent using the keyboard like a traditional laptop, though there are inevitably some minor trade offs there. Works fine for light gaming too as long as I stick to 2d indie or retro stuff, which is fine since I’ve got plenty of those to keep me busy. Most games do require the keyboard or at least the stylus, but I’ve found a few that are playable in touch-only mode.

I also looked at various 2-in-1 laptops but felt that the keyboard just folding flat rather than detaching would make them clunkier in tablet mode. And I considered an iPad, but decided it was worth dealing with Windows’ less-polished tablet UI for more flexibility and compatibility.

Probably at the high end of your range (I spent $800 on sale at Costco for a bundle with the cheapest i5 model, keyboard, and stylus).

The surface is a pretty good laptop and a pretty crappy tablet. If you plan to actually use it as a real computer and need a computer then sure, get a surface. Otherwise get an iPad and skip the keyboard, use your computer for computer stuff and the tablet for tablet stuff. IOS supports every format in the world.

I agree with Stusser; if what you want is writing on documents I tend to find iPads are probably the best, technically.

That probably depends heavily though on your exact workflow; the big problem with iPads is getting that content to the iPad, which is easier than it’s ever been before but might still be a pain depending upon your management settings, volume of documents being processed a day, ect. It also depends how much you use cloud storage for document management.

For me what I like about iPads is standby battery life. Put them in airplane mode and toss them in your bag and you’re likely to have well over 90% at the end of the day and probably closer to 98-95%, just sitting there, where Windows laptops burn power at a fairly regular clip even doing nothing. Unless you turn them on and off every time of course.

I have problem with the Surface Pen though… I have a Surface Laptop, and I used the SP about twice, and then it stopped working and has never worked again. It seems iPad pencils are, for me anyway, far more reliable. IMO Bluetooth and accessory connections are just more reliable with iOS products in my experience.

Getting content to iOS is extremely easy now. If you don’t use cloud storage you can just mount your windows or MacOS drive directly in iOS via SMB.

Thanks for the advice everyone. I’m actively hostile toward the iOS-sphere so an iPad’s a non-starter, plus there’s no world in which I buy a computing device without a keyboard. It sounds like a Surface would definitely be the way to go.

How much variation is there between models? I gather this isn’t like buying a computer where I’m looking at hardware specifics.

iPads have exactly the same keyboard capability as Surface. But yeah, I image your iOS hate outweighs the actual facts.

Barring the Surface Go, which I’m pretty sure you don’t want, buying a Surface Pro 7 is pretty much just like buying a laptop. Pick what specs you want, and make sure you add a keyboard since it doesn’t come with one. Not sure if the Pen comes with it or is separate.

There are a lot of 2-in-1 devices in Windows world. I was helping my sister shop for one over Christmas. They’re totally not tablets, but that might not matter to you if your use case is flipping them over and grading papers digitally at your desk. The only thing I can’t vouch for is the many varieties of styluses and screen digitizers, and how good or bad they are.



FWIW, everyone I know in Real Life who owns a Surface is pretty happy with it.

I definitely wouldn’t fuck with any non-Samsung Android tablet at this point, and you’re paying something like 50% of the Apple tax for Samsung anyway.

Have you considered any of the convertible Chromebooks? My wife had one a while back that she liked quite a bit, but ultimately the shitty proprietary power port on it (thanks Asus) died and we chucked it because any non-trivial repair on a year-plus-old $200 machine is a non-starter.

The Surface Go is either discontinued or getting an update, because you can get a refurb Surface Go from Best Buy for $330 shipped. Still need the keyboard and stylus though.

If I had infinite time and infinite money the Surface Pro X looks interesting in an ARM sort of way. But I don’t, and nobody else does, so don’t get. Apparently the battery life isn’t better than an Intel Surface, so what’s the point.

I have a Surface Laptop 2, and I like it but it doesn’t have that instantaneous responsiveness of an iPad. But it’s a pretty solid computer… for what it sets out to do.

Yes, the Surface is actually a really great laptop, even with the weird keyboard, people love them. They just aren’t good tablets. But if all you’re doing in tablet-mode is marking up PDF files, it’s fine.

Corrected title because you’re right, a tablet is not per-se what I’m after here.

Are there 2-in-1 Chromebooks? I haven’t looked at the market in awhile, but that might be a possibility as long as it would work with campus software. I’ve got some experience with Linux (I used it for research computing for a long time) and my only concern would be it playing well with campus software I need to use.

This seems to describe my actual needs - a good laptop with the ability to write on the screen. I did not articulate that clearly in the OP and original title!

The Go’s replacement has reportedly been spotted in CPU benchmarks.

I’ve heard almost nothing but good things about the Go from owners. It sounds like a good machine for what it is.

If you really don’t need to use it as a tablet at all, the Surface Laptop (currently up to Version 3 I believe) is pretty good, it can not fold down to a tablet though. It’s basically a nice regular laptop that has a touch sensitive screen and a pretty nice drawing pen.

Microsoft Pen is the best Windows-based drawing solution I’ve used — previously had several Lenovos with touch screens and pens, and the Windows Pen is much nicer. It isn’t as nice as a iPad with Apple Pencil though.

You could also look in to the Surface Book 2. It has a completely removable screen that is essentially a tablet (including CPU, memory, and crappy Intel graphics) with the detachable bottom containing the keyboard and GTX 1060 GPU. It’s a fair bit fussier to use than the Surface Laptop but it’s a lot more flexible.

You can run it as a regular laptop with a touch screen and pen (although size wise and aesthetically it’s not as nice as a Surface Laptop). You can detach the touch screen and get a tablet with intel GPU and 2 hour battery life. Or you can pull off the screen, reattach it backwards (not as easy as some 2 in 1s) and then you get a very fat tablet with 12 hour battery life and nVidia GTX1060 graphics.

Oh my, yes.

I wouldn’t get the surface laptop as he wants to write on the screen, with a stylus, marking up papers. He needs either a Surface-type tablet or a 2-in-1 where the keyboard folds all the way back.

My high-end recommendation would be the XPS 13 2-in-1 with Dell’s stylus. That thing is tight.

I still have a first gen Surface Pro 1, and I still enjoy it. For older games, or non fast paced games like Paradox it still runs great too.

Would recommend it for sure. I got mine for when I went back to college so I could do e-books. Paid for itself and then some.

I love my 2-in-1 Chromebook, which also runs Android apps.

Everyone I know who has that loves it. I had the XPS 15 non 2-in-1 and really liked it, too.

Lots of people like their Lenovo Yogas, too.