Tablet, hybrid or convertible? Making sense of the new generation of Windows 8 PCs

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There’s a new breed of tablet-PCs rapidly gaining popularity in tech land, and they look like they’re here to stay. A recent study conducted by International Data Corp found that total worldwide PC sales fell 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 – the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year declines.

While people are moving in droves to get their hands on new tablet-PC gadgets, the different models, types and classifications may have some people a little confused about what the difference is between all these new flexible, portable, touchscreen, multi-use devices.

That’s why we’ve given you a rundown of the different models available, and we’ve also taken a look at some of the pros and cons associated with this new generation of computers.

Hybrid models

Hybrid PCs are essentially tablet devices with detachable keyboards. Hybrids include models like the ASUS Transformer Book, Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2, and the ACER Iconia W510. Hybrids are generally more powerful than regular tablet devices, and are perfect for people who need to frequently type documents, but just aren’t satisfied with an onscreen touchscreen keypad. Hybrids are also cheaper than laptops and notebooks, and an average model will set you back around US$500.

Convertible models

Convertible PC models are basically all those that aren’t hybrids. There are several sub-categories in the convertible classification, including dual screen models, sliding screen models, and laptops with touchscreens.

Convertibles include models such as the Dell XPS Duo 12 (an example of a flip screen model which folds down over the keypad to make the device look like a tablet) and the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 (which boasts four modes of use – standard laptop mode, tablet mode, ‘tent’ mode and ‘stand’ mode). There’s also the Lenovo IdeaPad Z500, and the Acer Aspire S7 – both are touchscreen laptops with non-flexible screens, and are ideal for those who still want the processing power of a notebook.

In terms of pricing, prices for convertibles can be around US$1,000, which is higher that hybrid models, but still cheaper than most regular laptops and netbooks.

Windows 8 capability

These types of computers have been a large driving force behind the development of Windows 8, which fully takes advantage of all the new touchscreen technology out there in the land of consumer electronics (unlike Windows 7, which was compatible with touchscreen devices but had very small buttons, making navigation difficult). Windows 8 itself has received very mixed reviews since it was released in October 2012. So, as the go-to software for all these hybrid and convertible models, we suggest taking the software itself for a test run along with your potential new device.

Pros and cons

There are a few main benefits to these new devices, one of which is flexibility. For those who want an ultraportable device that still has a proper keyboard permanently attached, convertibles are great. They also eliminate the need to keep detaching and reattaching a keyboard (which is also an inconvenience if you leave your keypad at home…) The sheer range of tablet-PC models available also means that there’s almost something for everyone – whether you have a preference for a screen that flips, slides, spins, folds, or comes off completely. The battery life of most of these models is also impressive, with the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2, for example, boasting a solid 10 hours.

On the flipside (excuse the pun), many have pointed out that using these convertible models as tablets can be difficult, due to the added weight of the attached keyboard. The screen size of these models can also make them awkward and heavy to use with one hand. Another observation is that models with sliding screens and detachable keyboards don’t have the most comfortable keyboards to use, with many being made out of somewhat flimsy plastic. All of this amongst reports that hybrid models could cause health problems like strain to the shoulder, or posture problems due to the need to hunch over the device to use it properly.

All of this being said, it’s important to do plenty of your own research to determine which exact model is right for you. With so many different options available, there’s bound the be a model to satisfy everyone’s individual needs,

What do you think of the new range of hybrid and convertible tablet-PCs? Is it worth investing in one, or should we wait until the technology or design behind them improves?