Digital Life


Hybrid tablet/notebooks: Two compared

Rather than carry around a separate notebook and tablet, a hybrid device offers the best of both worlds.

Hybrids are aimed at people who want to carry around a single device for both work and play. There's a physical keyboard at your disposal for typing business reports and school assignments, but when you've finished working you can tear off the keyboard and sit back to play with a tablet. The trade-off is that hybrid keyboards can be cramped compared to a traditional notebook.

Some hybrids run Google's Android software designed for smartphones and tablets, whereasothers run Microsoft Windows designed for desktops and notebooks. Microsoft offers mobile versions of Office apps like Word and Excel for Android, although Windows-based tablets offer tighter integration with the Microsoft ecosystem.

Keep in mind that hybrids like the Surface Pro 3 run a full version of Windows 8 Pro, giving you the choice of using the touch-friendly Modern UI interface or pushing it aside to install your own desktop software. Meanwhile, some Microsoft hybrids only run the stripped-down Windows RT, which doesn't let you install your own desktop software.


If you're looking for a notebook replacement then the Surface Pro 3 is the better choice – it has a larger, sharper screen and more comfortable keyboard, plus you've the freedom to run traditional Windows desktop software. Of course it's a lot more expensive than the smaller, lighter Transformer Pad TF103. Android offers much better value for money, so consider whether the Android ecosystem can meet all your needs while you're away from your desk.



from $979 (plus $150 for keyboard)

The Surface Pro 3 offers a 12-inch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio, shaped like an A4 page. It comes with a stylus for writing on the screen, plus there's a roomy detachable keyboard with a decent trackpad (although the keyboard costs extra). The Pro 3 runs Windows 8.1 Pro so you can install desktop software.



The Transformer Pad TF103 features 10.1-inch, 16:10 display shaped like a widescreen television. It runs Android 4.4, so you have access to the Google Play store but you can't install Windows software. The keyboard is smaller than the Pro 3 and the cameras are disappointing for video calls – 2 megapixel rear and 0.3 front compared to twin 5 megapixel cameras on the Pro 3.


iPads won't run Mac desktop applications, but Apple fans who want the best of both worlds can look to the unofficial ModBook Pro X – a Kickstarter campaign which puts MacOS on a 15.4-inch tablet with a stylus. The ModBook Pro X even comes with a detachable keyboard stand so you can use it like a normal MacBook Pro notebook.