5 Essential 2-in-1 Ultrabook Buying Tips

There are plenty of reasons to scoop up a 2-in-1 Ultrabook, starting with the fact that you'll have one device that can double as a laptop and tablet. When you need to get work done, you can use a keyboard and touchpad, and run desktop programs. And when you want to kick back and play games, check Facebook and enjoy other touch-based apps, you can go into slate mode. But how do you decide which hybrid is right for you? Use these five essential buying tips, and you're guaranteed to double your computing pleasure.

1. Choose Your Size

Some 2-in-1 Ultrabooks are laptops first and tablets second, while other models are designed primarily for notebook use. It usually comes down to screen size. The smaller the display, the more portable and nimble the device is. An 11-inch or smaller 2-in-1 is likely a tablet-first usage model, while a 12-inch or larger device is better for more productivity-minded users. With a 15-inch 2-in-1, the tablet mode should be considered as more of a bonus.

2. Detachable, Slider or Flexible Design?

One of the best parts about a 2-in-1 Ultrabook is that you can choose from a range of designs. A detachable design is good for those who want the option of leaving the keyboard behind. In these designs, the tablet portion typically attaches to a base that houses the keys and, in many cases, a secondary battery.

Other 2-in-1s let you flip the display around the keyboard, making it easy to convert from laptop to tablet mode. Or you could position the device in presentation mode, great for watching movies or giving presentations. A slider design can make it even easier to transform from tablet to laptop mode, though you may sacrifice key travel, wrist support and touchpad size.

3. Processor and Specs

Most 2-in-1 Ultrabooks feature one of Intel's speedy fourth-generation processors. A Core i5 CPU provides a good balance of performance and battery life, while a Core i7 chip gives you even more speed. Look for at least 4GB of RAM (6GB is better) in addition to a 128GB solid-state drive. An SSD allows your 2-in-1 to resume from sleep almost instantly. If you can afford it, upgrade to 256GB so you'll have more room for all your files.

If you are willing to sacrifice some power and screen size for affordability, consider a 2-in-1 powered by an Intel Atom Bay Trail (Z3000 series) processor.

4. What's the Right Screen Resolution?

As display technology evolves, full HD (1920 x 1080-pixel) screens are becoming almost standard on 2-in-1 devices. With a display like this, you'll enjoy sharp image quality and the ability to snap up to three open windows side-by-side for some serious multitasking. Some models offer even higher, quad-HD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels), which delivers still more detail for such applications as photo editing.

5. What's Your Budget?

A good 2-in-1 Ultrabook can cost anywhere from $699 to $1,399. Decide on the right mix of features for you budget. For example, a cheaper 2-in-1 may have an older, third-generation Core processor under the hood and a lower-resolution screen — 1600 x 900 pixels or 1366 x 768-pixels. We recommend stepping up to a fourth-gen Core CPU (which will deliver longer battery life and better graphics) and a full HD display. Models with these specs tend to cost $1,000 or more.

Shoppers looking for more of a companion device than a full-fledged PC should consider a 2-in-1 powered by Intel's Bay Trail processor. Some of these devices start as low as $349. Just keep in mind that you'll be using a smaller screen and keyboard, and that you won't get as much multitasking or graphics power.