How do you improve on the classic laptop? Manufacturers have stumbled down a few evolutionary dead ends over the years, including desktop replacement systems and netbooks. But with the 2 in 1 form factor, traditional clamshell computers are finally under threat by some flipping amazing convertible and detachable designs.
For example, the dual-torque hinges on the Acer Aspire R14 enable you to fold back the 14-inch display through 360 degrees. It allows this convertible notebook to switch between four key usability modes — traditional ‘laptop’, ‘tablet’ (with the screen folded back on itself), ‘display’ (keyboard face down, screen up) and ‘tent’ (an A-shaped display).
The Lenovo Yoga 900S offers the same 4 in 1 functionality as the Aspire R14, but arguably delivers it with much more style. Rather than using two 360 degree hinges, it boasts a single ‘watchband’ hinge built from 813 interlocking gear sets, hinge cells, shafts, caps, brackets, platens and rivets. Rather than rotate, the Yoga 900S can flex from laptop to tablet and back again.
The Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge on the Microsoft Surface Book also catches the eye. Like the Lenovo watchband hinge, it’s designed to bend. But it doesn’t do so through 360 degrees. It doesn’t need to. Unlike the Yoga 900S, the 13.5-inch screen on the Surface Book is detachable and reversible, giving this 2 in 1 the ability to act as laptop, tablet, display and tent.
The Dell XPS 12 takes a different tack. It’s a 2 in 1 that does away with the hinge altogether. Like the Surface Book, it features a detachable display (a 12.5-incher), which slots into a groove on the accompanying keyboard dock and held in place by a series of magnets. Again, it aims to give you the best of both tablet and laptop worlds.
Arguably one of the most innovative of all the Windows 10, Intel 6th generation Core-powered devices here is the new Sony VAIO Z Flip. This tasty machine doesn’t opt for a detachable display and also avoids a bendy 360-degree hinge. Instead, the VAIO Z’s screen cleverly ‘flips’ up and folds back down so you can use it as a tablet. See how this works in the video below.
The clamshell laptop has been around since the early 1980s, when the Grid Systems Grid Compass 1101 defined the angled screen design. Since then, laptops have generally become more powerful, thinner and lighter, but until the 2 in 1 came along they hadn’t evolved to suit the sort of mobile work we use them for.
Today’s 2 in 1 machines, like the Acer Aspire R14, Surface Book and the Sony VAIO Z arguably represent the future of computing — portable PCs that give us a traditional laptop experience when we need it and a lightweight tablet when we don’t. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)