Gizmodo Back To School & Uni Guide... 8 Hot Convertible Ultrabooks + Tablets

So far our Back To School & Uni Guide Gear Guide has looked at the latest Ultrabooks plus some great gadgets for students. But this year, if you want to be fast and versatile, you might want a convertible ultrabook/tablet device to stay ahead. Here are eight of the latest convertibles to kick start your studies.

We've listed some of our favourite Ultrabooks below, but you can find more over at Lasoo.

Sony Vaio Duo 11

With a liftback widescreen, touch inputs, a dedicated stylus and power to stoke you for a long night hitting the books, the Vaio Duo 11 is the perfect school device.

It's saddled with an 11.6-inch, 1080p screen with a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9. Inside, it has a 1.9GHz Core i7 Intel Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics.

Like with all of these devices, you won't be setting the world on fire with your gaming or high-end processing performance, but you'll have the grunt you need to get your work done on time and looking better than ever.

For $1449, the Vaio Duo 11 isn't a bad deal at all. [Sony]

Asus Taichi

The Taichi is the simplest form of convertible ultrabook: 1080p screen on the inside of a clamshell, followed by a 1080p touchscreen on the lid. Both measure 11.6-inches on the diagonal and both pack in a screen resolution of 1920x1280.

You can pick it up in two configurations: $1599 will nab you an Intel Core i5 1.7GHz processor with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, or you can drop $1899 on an upgrade to a 1.9GHz Core i7 processor and a 256GB SSD. Not only is the Tachi practical as both a Windows 8 tablet and ultrabook, it's also a beautiful statement of a machine.

The battery is strong, the screens are bright and beautiful and the price comes in at around $100 under the Dell XPS 12, making it a stellar buy and an even better device to live with.

The only issue is that the internal screen isn't touch like the external screen is. It's a small concession for such a great device. [Asus]

Dell XPS 12

The XPS 12 is something else. Rather than a liftback design or a second screen on the lid, the XPS 12 actually backflips its way right into place for when you need either a tablet or an ultrabook. The silver frame that girts the screen stays static while the screen flips vertically within.

Under the hood you'll find a 1.7GHZ Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge Processor), a whopping 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. That configuration will set you back $1699, but the model we tested was the Core i7 model which bumps the processing speed up to 1.9GHz and the price tag up to $1999. All the other features remain the same between the two models.

It's wrapped in the same material companies like Ferrari, Pagani and Aston Martin use to make their sports cars light and strong: carbon fibre. That means it'll take a few knocks in the bottom of your bag without scuffing terribly.

The high-res screen on the XPS 12 is enough to put it to the top of the list alone, but with the $1699-$1999 price tag it might be a bit too rich for some. Either way, it's an awesome device no matter how you flip it. [Dell]

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity

The Transformer series built and backed by Asus defined the convertible category. It took an Android tablet and saddled it with a fantastic keyboard dock that extended the battery life some time into the next century while giving you a brand new form factor to get on with.

10.1-inch monster tablet that sports a quad-core Tegra 3 brain from NVIDIA, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, expandable up to another 32GB with a microSD card. The screen is an 1920 x 1200-pixel, Super IPS+ display which carries 224 ppi.

The battery has a claimed life of 9.5 hours of use and when it’s connected to its bundled keyboard dock, the device will run for up to 14 hours. It’s got an 8-megapixel camera on the back and stares at your pretty face all day with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.

One key thing to remember with the Infinity is the operating system. It's an NVIDIA-powered device, which means you're running Android — which is great a mobile operating system, but when it comes to fully fledged tasks like advanced word processing, image editing and software installations, you'll could be left wanting. It's for those who only want to take brief notes in class or lectures before syncing them to something like Dropbox or Evernote.

If you're after a similar — but fully-fledged Windows 8 device —consider something from the Intel-powered Asus VivoTab series. [Asus]

Microsoft Surface

The Surface is Microsoft's hardware play for those who want to get their Windows 8-goodness straight from the vein of Redmond.

It took Microsoft almost a decade to design its first piece of tablet hardware. Seven years of hard development, refinement and tuning before it wound up with what we now know as Surface. You have two models of the Surface tablet to decide between. The ARM-powered Surface RT arrived in Australia last November and the beefier, Intel-powered Surface Pro will be coming in the next few months.

Adding a nifty Touch Cover to the equation will set you back an extra $100, while the more tactile Touch Cover that feels more like a real keyboard will cost $149. However you cut it, it's still the best bang for buck here.

The Surface RT packs an impressive quad-core, 1.3GHz Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA, 2GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of storage, depending on what you shell out for. It also packs expandable storage via a microSD card and a glorious, full-sized USB 2.0 port that supports file transfer. Windows RT has limited desktop file system support, among other things, but you can pick it up for as little as $559 for the 32GB, Wi-Fi-only model.

The more powerful Surface Pro hits the US on February 9 (no word yet on Australia). It packs a dual core 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor, Windows 8 Pro and either 64GB or 128GB of storage. [Microsoft]

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist

Starting at $1049, the Lenovo Twist is some of the best bang for buck on the market right now.

The Twist executes its own brand of daring, acrobatic insanity to convert between an ultrabook and a tablet by twisting on its hinge and folding flat. There's only one 12.5-inch screen to speak of here, much like on the Dell XPS 12.

Just over $1000 gets you a 1.8GHz Intel Core i3 Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. For solid state storage you'll be paying extra.

If you really want to go the whole nine yards on the Twist, however, you'll be looking at just under $1700 for a 1.9GHz Intel Core i7 with 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and an integrated mobile broadband modem for staying connected on the go. [Lenovo]

Samsung ATIV Series

Samsung already make some pretty nifty tablets in the Galaxy line. The only problem is that they're all relatively low-powered and filled to the brim with Android. Not great for productivity junkies. Thankfully, Samsung has the 11.6-inch ATIV Smart PC: a $999 convertible tablet with impressive specs and Windows 8 to boot.

Under the hood is one of the great low-powered Intel Atom processor as well as 64GB of flash storage. The Ativ also docks with a keyboard in the same way the Asus Transformer does, making it awesome for taking notes and getting stuff done.

If you're a Samsung fan seeking something a little more powerful, check out the rest of the ATIV range, including the $1399 ATIV Smart PC Pro. [Samsung]


Ideal for students, the price-savvy $999 ENVY x2 features an Intel 1.8GHz dual-core Atom processor, 2GB of memory, Windows 8 and 64GB of storage. And like the competing Samsung ATIV series, its 11.6-inch touchscreen separates from the keyboard base to become a tablet.

The ENVY x2 has some nice extras too: Beats Audio speakers, 1080p HD webcam and HDMI output. With a thin design and 1.41kg weight, the x2 will be right at home in your backpack. [HP]

What's your perfect back to school convertible? Let us know in the comments.



    No mention of Asus Vivo tab?

      Yes there is. In fact, there is a whole (short) paragraph dedicated to it, with a link.

      Last edited 12/02/13 3:24 pm

        Not that I love pointing out where people are wrong; but there isn't.
        There is a paragraph dedicated to the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity; and a line about the Asus Vivo that goes

        If you’re after a similar — but fully-fledged Windows 8 device –consider something from the Intel-powered Asus VivoTab series.

        But that's all.

          That's still kinda the opposite of "no mention of" though, isn't it? I mean, it was mentioned...

          Did you notice the blank line immediately preceding the part you quoted? That denotes a new paragraph. As your quote encompaases that entire paragraph, all you have done is show in detail how correct my statement is. Weird thing to do, but thanks.

    Or Acer W510

    Gizmodo World - Here, buy your 3 kids each one of these $1,400+ laptops for school.

    Real World - Buy your 3 kids the cheapest < $400 laptops you can find at Harvey Norman.

    LH either has zero kids or gets paid too much. "Back to school guide", very funny.

      Or its an article written for uni students who might have saved some dough and are looking for a new device this year - they do exist you know, I'm one of them.

      steve f., that was yesterday's article. Do try and keep up, please.

      Uni student here, I want my machine to do a hell of a lot more than your crappy $400 laptop for a 13 year old kid will do.

    I have never had need for a laptop at university. It seems to be the facebook junkies that cnant survive a day without their laptop. Pen and paper good enough for me! Smartphone for general duties.

      Onenote is a fantastic way to keep everything organised. Absolutely love it.

        I've been horribly torn between OneNote and Evernote. I hear that more people in uni use OneNote, is it much better than Evernote? Or even just Word docs?!

          I haven't actually used evernote so can't compare the two, but I'm not terribly organised with my notes when hand writing so being able to keep everything perfectly organised and synced between devices is great, and given how many years I've been typing I can type at least 4-5 times quicker than writing.

    I haven't used either the Vaio Duo or the XPS 12, only seen and touched them in stores, but they both seem far too flimsy to be carried around school or uni all the time.

    Just got home from another looksie at JB, they had tachai posters everywhere but didn't have a display yet. Still think the Vaio Duo mechanism is a bit flimsy and awkward. XPS12 though was fantastic, i7 8gb made it fly, and the flip mechanism was extremely smooth. If I get totally stuck on waiting for the Surface Pro and have to buy something else, the XPS will be it.

    It's a shame the HP Envy feels so much better than the plasticy awful Samsung Ativ, I couldn't deal with another atom.

    I'm waiting for the Lenovo Helix.

    I know the Yoga isn't technically sold in Australia but given Lenovo provides a 1 year international warranty and you can get them off ebay brand new it really is just a technicality. Also including postage I paid a little over $1300 ($1100-$1200) now so the only cheaper i5 is the twist (which doesn't have an SSD at that price) if you compare it to ones you buy in Aus ^_^

    Just thought it deserves a mention because it's a really nice design. I am curious to see what common design the market settles on once these products have matured, most of them offer a lot of convenience the only ones I don't really like are docks (takes away too much of the switching between modes) and the Taichi (no touchscreen while using the keyboard is a killer and the added cost of 2 separate screens just seems like production costs could be used elsewhere, have to admit it is pretty though :P)

      The Yoga doesn't have a Trackpoint, which was is a deal breaker for me. (The Helix does have a trackpoint.)

      The Twist would be good, except you can't separate the screen from the keyboard. (I find I do sometimes like to take the screen off my Asus Transformer.)

        Really? I've never liked trackpoints, I'm not overly fond of touchpads either but I definitely prefer them to trackpoints still each to their own ^_^

        Being able to separate the screen would be handy for weight reduction but only the docking style hybrids allow it and as I said above I really like being able to change from laptop to tablet in a couple of seconds which the convertibles like the Yoga, Twist, XPS 12 etc allow nicely ^_^

        The other downside of having one that is able to separate the screen is it means all the major hardware has to be in the screen section which makes the devices extremely top heavy and prone to tipping (especially when your poking the touchscreens :P)

    JB near mine has all of them. have to agree with you

    Taichi seems horrible, id always be worried about scratching the back screen (even though its gorilla) putting it in my bag accidentally hitting it against a wall while walking with it etc... also yea the front no-touch-screen is not a good idea at all especially once you get used to using windows 8 touch with it in tablet form.

    HP envy was soo slow and terrible

    Samsung like horrible build quality

    Dell was very well crafted and built , loved the speed and screen just worried about wear and tear with those hinges turning all the time.

    Sony keyboard was awful and the design seemed a little unfinished and could only do one angle but it was definitely the most stable in regards to using it as a touch screen laptop the others would wobble a tiny bit because of the force applied at the upper end of the screen

    Why is this still pinned? It's not that great. Paid advertising again?

    FWIW, I've had a Taichi for nearly a month now. I think it's fantastic. Don't need touch when a notebook, because it's got a keyboard and the touchpad offers the swipe-from-side if needed (or right click). Starts fast. Works well. Bright screens. Responsive. Lightweight. All good.

    Problems I have had, FWIW: had to return the first one because the accelarometer (sp?) failed inside the first week. New one has been flawless, so I'm gong with manufacturing fault, or friday arvo build. Only other issues are small software glitches (e.g. typing password on startup in tablet mode always requires two touches of on-screen keyboard before it gets going).

    For my purposes (I'm an IT lecturer at a Uni with several community roles and hobby interests in programming) it's about perfect, given that everything will always have glitches.


Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now