In this week’s “Which Gadget Should You Buy,” we help a music teacher find the best hybrid tablet or laptop for their specific needs.
Ben is on the hunt for a system with enough power for writing music and a chassis that’s small and slim enough to be placed on a music stand as they perform. Our reader is leaning toward a hybrid tablet but isn’t ruling out a convertible laptop with a rotating screen. They note, however, that some pianos have shallow stands, so anything chunky might not fit properly.
Ben currently uses an iPad Pro for playing and a MacBook Air for composing. While that’s a strong duo, Ben will soon be a graduate student and understandably wants a single machine for play and studies.
As for the requirements, Ben has been “spoiled” by the large 12.9-inch panel on the iPad Pro, and won’t go any smaller (don’t worry, Ben, I wasn’t going to go there). Chromebooks are out of the question, because the music software they use, Finale, is only Windows and macOS compatible. Ben isn’t worried about speaker quality but does want something with stylus support. Graphics performance isn’t much of a concern, but a CPU capable of getting “serious work done” while away from a desktop is a priority.
All in, our reader doesn’t want to spend more than $2,000 and would prefer to stay closer to one grand. So far, they are considering the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable, Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable, Asus Vivobook 13, and HP Elite x2 G8.
OK, so, where do we start? Well, I’m surprised Ben isn’t giving the Surface Pro 8 a hard look. It’s a compact tablet with laptop-level performance, and the optional keyboard and stylus are both excellent. It’s expensive, though. I configured a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD model with a Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen bundle, and landed at $1,680. I still think it’s one of Ben’s best options despite landing in the top half of the budget.
I’m also on team ThinkPad X12 Detachable. I reviewed one at my previous gig and found very few faults. It’s fast, has long battery life, an awesome keyboard, and a durable chassis. Ben would, however, need to step down to a 12.3-inch display. Pricing is around the same ($1,600-ish) as the Surface Pro 8 when you add the optional Folio keyboard.
I think Ben would be happy with either option, but I’ll throw a few more favorites out there. Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 was released in late 2020, but it still hangs with the best of them, and its 11th Gen processor should give it more than enough power for Ben’s needs.
I’m choosing the XPS over other capable convertibles, like the Lenovo Yoga 9i or HP Spectre x360 14, because it’s extremely portable and should fit on a music stand. Ben should, however, consider the Spectre 13 x360 or, if they want to save some cash, the Envy 13 x360.
One device I haven’t reviewed but that gets plenty of praise is the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360. Samsung just released a new model, the Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 with an AMOLED touchscreen, an included S Pen, and the latest 12th Gen Intel CPUs. At only 2.3 pounds and 0.45 inches thick, it should be slim enough for the job.
For those shaking their monitors yelling, “just get a Magic Keyboard!” I agree, except Finale doesn’t seem to be coming to iPadOS anytime soon. And as far as the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable goes, it’s a fantastic hybrid tablet (another I had previously reviewed), but good lord is it expensive.
So Ben, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8, Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable, Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, and Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360, are my top choices for your needs. I really think you can’t go wrong with any of these. If you, our readers, have any other suggestions, leave them in the comments!