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Lenovo Yoga: A folding Ultrabook/tablet that's not just a gimmick

The best laptop that's also a tablet, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (Est. $850 and up) relies on a simple but sturdy backward-bending hinge. You can use it like a regular laptop, fold it all the way back for tablet mode, or stop partway to set up your Yoga like a stand or tent.

And that's actually useful, experts say. "Surprisingly awesome," says PC World, awarding the Yoga a nearly perfect rating. "The best hybrid design we've seen so far," adds PCMag.com. TheVerge.com's David Pierce finds himself using tent mode constantly: "It's an ideal way to watch movies," he says. "There's something different when you can't see the keyboard -- the screen doesn't feel so far away, and I found myself somehow more immersed than I normally am watching things on my laptop."

Otherwise, the Yoga is "a pretty normal machine that does wacky things with its hinge," Pierce says. As a full-fledged Ultrabook, it's slim at 0.7 inch thick and light at 3.4 pounds, with speedy internals. Normal tasks will be a breeze whether you choose the base Core i3 version with 4 GB of RAM and speedy 128 GB SSD or a step-up Core i5 or i7 model with 8 GB of RAM. (The latest Intel Haswell processors hadn't hit the Yoga as of this update.) A 13.3-inch touch screen, comfortable keyboard and solid battery life of five to six hours add up to a very tempting Ultrabook. In fact, critics name the Yoga one of their favorite ultraportable computers, period.

As of October, a newer model, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro (Est. $1050 and up) has been available. There were no expert reviews and too few user reviews to definitively state how it stacks up, though preview articles find good positives. The most noteworthy differences are a move to fourth-generation Haswell processors (configurations with Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors are available) and a QuadHD+ touch screen like the one in the Samsung ATIV Book 9.

Its main rival, the Dell XPS 12 (Est. $1,000 and up) , also converts from a laptop to a tablet and gets good reviews, but it's held back by its more complicated folding mechanism. Its screen is smaller at 12.5 inches, but the touch screen is brighter and higher-resolution at 1080p. One concern is a history of less-than-stellar tech and customer support, but PCMag.com and, especially, Laptop Magazine report that things are notably improved for 2013.

Which is the best convertible laptop? We give the Lenovo a slight edge. Still, experts recommend them both; it just depends what you're looking for.

While the laptops above draw the bulk of admiration for their acrobatic screens, other convertible laptops get the job done via keyboards that simply detach, leaving you with a conventional slate tablet. One obvious choice in this category is the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (Est. $900 and up) . Not to be confused with the Surface tablet, this is a full-fledged Windows 8.1 device powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor. The base version comes with 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM. Other configurations with more memory and storage are available, all the way to a top of the line version (Est. $1,800) that ships with 512 GB of storage and 8 GB of memory. However, the keyboard is part of an optional Surface cover, tacking around $130 on to the price of the tablet.

Reviews are generally good, though perhaps not exceptional. CNET writes: "Microsoft's subtly updated Windows 8.1 tablet feels more like Surface Pro 1.5 -- improved battery life and better accessories make it a worthwhile (albeit pricey) laptop replacement, but it's still not an iPad-level category killer." In other reviews, the word "compromise" is often seen. For example, AnandTech.com writes that the "Surface Pro 2 isn't the perfect notebook and it isn't the perfect tablet. It's a compromise in between."

The Asus Transformer Book TX300 (Est. $1,325 and up) is another consideration among hybrid tablets. It features a detachable keyboard that allows the screen half to act as a Windows slate. Reviews say that the TX300 is one of the best hybrid laptops that had been seen to date, though some are edged with a little disappointment that the machine is not better still.

Weight and cost are oft-cited issues. Performance is speedy, though it is powered by a last (third) generation Core i7 processor. Part of the weight comes courtesy of a traditional 500 GB hard drive in the keyboard base. There's also a 128 GB SSD in the tablet. Some more comes in the form of dual batteries -- again, one in the keyboard base, the other in the screen/tablet. The touch screen is full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels). RAM is 4 GB.

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