When Microsoft Surface hit Best Buy shelves two weeks before Christmas, consumers were able for the first time to hold the tablet and compare it to similar products, like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer and others (see below). Until then, consumers could only see the device in ads and test it in one of the 70 Microsoft stores and kiosks in the U.S.
Despite the Surface's physical similarity to other tablets, the specs are not always displayed. I ran a side-by-side spec comparison of hybrid tablets from Lenovo, Asus, Toshiba, Microsoft, and Dell. To be considered a hybrid, each tablet must have an OEM keyboard that closes like a clamshell for a notebook-like look.
There are many similarities between the tablet/keyboard hybrid models. All are around 10 inches and have 90 percent or more of standard keyboard size. (Keyboards are typically sold separately).
Dell XPS 10
With a starting price of $499, the Dell XPS 10 has an advantage over Microsoft Surface. The XPS has a battery built into the keyboard. Dell says it provides "all-day productivity." Expect five to seven hours per battery for a total of 10 to 14 hours.
The Surface is Microsoft's flagship Windows 8 tablet product. Consumers who don't know the difference between storage space and memory can purchase the Surface and know that it is backed by the OS developer. Windows 7 and below had performance issues with underpowered hardware and Microsoft didn't want to risk that same problem with Windows RT. Microsoft is following in Apple's footsteps with hardware and software to be built by the same manufacturer. The price? $628 with an optional keyboard.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer was the first of the major brands to introduce the detachable keyboard. Variations of this design appeared at the 2011 CES show in Las Vegas, where every manufacturer was searching for the right form factor in products with single screens, dual screens, slide-out keyboards, running Linux, Android and Windows 7. Some devices even ran multiple operating systems.
Unlike the other devices here, the TF101 runs Android. It comes with version 3.2 (Honeycomb) but is upgradable to version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).
It is the detachable keyboard that was the innovative feature. Today the design seems to be more standardized due to popular demand. The clamshell design, which allows the keyboard to protect the screen when not in use, is the preferred design. Asus added a battery to the keyboard for a whopping 16-hour battery life.
The IdeaTab Lynx K3011 starts at $599 and has an 11.6-inch display which allows the optional keyboard to be full-sized. Lenovo, more than any other computer manufacturer, is exploring different form factors with the Yoga and the ThinkPad Twist. It has patents pending on the Twist. Other than the Microsoft Surface, this was the only other tablet I held. It feels well-engineered and oddly light, considering how big it is. The keyboard is docked with a click and seems sturdy enough. The 11.6 inch display allows the optional keyboard to be full-sized as well.
The HP Envy is on the pricey side, at $849 per tablet. HP doesn't give you an option to buy the tablet alone — the keyboard is part of the package. To get the real value from Windows RT, you need a keyboard. Unlike the others, it does not add a battery to the keyboard so battery life is limited to 7 hours. It also has an 11.6 inch display.
Like Dell, HP gives customers a wizard when purchasing from the website to upsell customers on items such as a docking station and port replicator. The USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station offers dual video ports that deliver "beyond HD video and graphics" up to 2048 x 1152(1x DVI-I, 1x HDMI ) to two monitors. In addition it includes a DVI to VGA adapter.
Dell XPS 10
Detachable mobile keyboard dock- 92% full size keyboard with dedicated Windows soft keys Gesture enabled trackpad
Tablet only: 9.2 x 274.7 x 177.3mm or .36 x 10.8 x 6.98 inches
Tablet only (WIFI): 635g / 1.4lbs. Tablet only (LTE): 645g / 1.42lbs. Tablet+dock: 1310g / 2.89lbs.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Detachable mobile keyboard dock Touchpad input
271 x 176.8 x 12.98 mm 680 gm
Lenovo Ideatab Lynx K3011
300.9mm x 188mm x 9.48mm 18.7mm-24.5mm with dock attached
1.5 lbs. tablet, 3 lbs. with optional keyboard
Traditional Typepad 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37in
HP Envy X2 11t-g000
11.6-inch diagonal HD LED-backlit IPS Display (1366 x 768)
8.12 x 11.93 x 66 – 76"
Dell XPS 10
Not specified. Dell promises "all-day productivity"
2MP webcam (front) supporting 720p@30fps 5MP Auto Focus (rear facing)
Accelerometer Gyroscope Compass AGPS (with LTE/HSPA+ configs) ALS
Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) Bluetooth 4.0 LTE(USA) and global HSPA+ options
If you're looking for the most processor for your buck, the Surface's Quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 would play a large factor in your decision. But that's the difference between hybrids and laptops. Where bragging rights on laptops where earned on processor and RAM, on hybrids they're on display, battery life, and versatility.
None of these 5 hybrids separated themselves with a display better than 1366 x768. In contrast, the iPad's Retina display has a 2048 x 1536.
Long battery life like the 16 hours battery life in the Lenovo Ideatab is a game-changer -- beating even the iPad by 5 hours. For the first time, a laptop/hybrid user can do work without being tethered to the wall and not race the power indicator to zero.
Other than the HP Envy, the pricing is deceptive because to get the real value out of these hybrids, you'll need a keyboard, which can boost the price as much as $180. But in some cases, the keyboard increases the value because it extends battery life.