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From laptop to tablet: convertible systems offer the perfect mix

From Samsung to HP to Toshiba, manufacturers have aggressively adopted a variety of mechanisms to make the switch to convertible systems

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Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro: When it's assembled, the ATIV looks like a normal 11.6-inch laptop. But push the button at the top of the keyboard and the screen lifts off to become a fully functional Windows 8 tablet. Samsung includes a digital pen from Wacom so you can draw or write on the screen as well as type; it docks in the side of the tablet. The machine offers 128 gigabytes of solid-state-drive storage and 4 gigabytes of RAM, good for a tablet, but its cameras are not so great, at 2- and 5-megapixel HD. The keyboard unit offers two extra USB ports to supplement the tablet's single one. My experience was that the ATIV is better as a tablet than a laptop – it was sometimes hard to get it to talk to the keyboard section. Battery life is rated at up to 8 hours. Suggested retail price is about $1,300.


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HP Envy X2: Like the Samsung, the Envy detaches from its keyboard with the push of a button. It, too, has an 11.6-inch screen, but it’s a bit heavier, at a little over 3 pounds. It features up to a 64-gigabyte solid state drive (SSD), a front-facing 1080p HD camera and an 8-megapixel rear-facing one. Its screen resolution is lower than Samsung's, at 1366 x 768 vs the ATIV's 1920 x 1080. One downside: the processor is an Intel Atom, rather than a Core i5 or better, as are most of the others in this group. The price is great, starting at $849.99.

Hewlett Packard

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Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga: The Yoga bends over backward, literally, to provide both Ultrabook and tablet functionality. It’s gorgeous to look at, and its 13.3-inch, 1600 x 900 HD+ display is nice and bright but rather large for comfortable carrying in tablet mode. With Lenovo Motion Control you can use the webcam to control the device with a wave of your hand. However, the unit is a bit heavy, starting at 3.4 pounds, and when it's folded in tablet configuration the keyboard is exposed on the bottom, which is not ideal. Starts at about $1,100.


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Toshiba Satellite U920t: Toshiba has taken a different approach with its convertible. The 12.5-inch, 1366 x 768 (720p) screen is always attached to the keyboard, and you make the switch from tablet to laptop by sliding the screen forward, then tilting it up, revealing the keys underneath. It means the keyboard is protected, but the screen is always exposed. You need a good case with this one. It weighs about 3.5 pounds. Toshiba and Samsung are the only two with integrated near field communications (NFC). Suggested retail price: $1,149.99


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Dell XPS 12: Yet another twist – Dell chose to make the 12.5-inch, full HD screen rotate around a single pivot point into its tablet or laptop configurations. It works better as a laptop, since it's rather thick for a tablet. It tips the scales at around 3.5 pounds. It’s well configured, even in the basic model, starting with 4 gigabytes of RAM and a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive. Starts at $1,300.


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Sony VAIO Duo 11: Sony also went with a slider design: You gently lift the back of the screen and the spring-mounted mechanism lets you pull it into a laptop configuration. You'll notice that there's a track stick, but no touchpad; given the footprint, it just wouldn't fit. The 11.6-inch screen is full HD (1920 x 1080), and you can get up to a whopping 512-gigabyte solid-state drive and 8 gigabytes of RAM. A $169 accessory battery clips onto the bottom. Weight: 2.9 pounds. Starts at $1,219.99, available in March 2013.


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