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Microsoft is giving its line of Surface tablets a new lease on life. With the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, the company hopes to rectify its previous mistakes and deliver not only the best laptop of the holiday season, but also the best tablet of the season. And according to Microsoft, the devices are already "close to selling out."
Priced at $899, Microsoft's fully-fledged Surface Pro 2 isn't the cheapest Windows 8 hybrid available, especially when you add the $120 Touch Cover 2. So before you pre-order the Surface Pro 2, check out these Windows 8 hybrid alternatives, which may not offer the exact same features and specs as the higher-end Surface Pro 2, but attempt to provide a similar hybrid experience, sometimes at a lower price.
Why You'd Want It: Although we've seen laptops with dual screens before, few have won the design accolades received by ASUS' Taichi. This 11.6" laptop features a secondary 11.6" 1080p IPS touchscreen that's built into the laptop's lid. The Gorilla Glass-covered lid is tough enough to withstand nicks and scratches, yet at 2.8 lbs. the entire system is light enough to take on the road. And while it doesn't provide the best tablet experience — PC Mag calls it a "good ultrabook and a mediocre tablet" — it's roughly $200 cheaper than the Surface Pro 2.
Why You'd Want It: As far as hybrids are concerned, the Lenovo Twist is somewhat of a throwback, says CNET. It uses a center-hinge, swiveling-screen design that's reminiscent of pre-2010 tablet PCs. Nevertheless, the Twist feels firm and reliable with a responsive touchscreen, top-notch keyboard, and solid construction. It offers "one of the better tablet modes from the first wave of Windows 8 convertibles," says CNET. At about $150 under the Surface Pro 2's price, that sounds good to us.
Why You'd Want It: Though many will fault the Surface Pro 2 for its high price tag, HP's soon-to-be-released Spectre 13 x2 Laptop will command a $1,099 price when it debuts on October 16. But this tiny hybrid may be worth its premium price as HP boasts it'll be the first Windows 8 laptop/tablet hybrid to pack an Intel Haswell processor into a completely fanless chassis. For tablet use, the laptop's 1080p touchscreen will fully detach from the laptop leaving users with a bigger-than-average 13.3" slate. Pre-orders are scheduled to begin October 16.
Why You'd Want It: With its slimmer design, higher-res screen (3200x1800), and new Haswell processor, the Yoga 2 Pro leaves its predecessor — and many of its competitors — in the dust. The popular hybrid works much like the original Yoga with a 13.3" display that folds back a full 360 degrees to form either a thick tablet or a stand/kiosk device when only folded halfway back, says CNET. Like the above-mentioned HP Spectre, this new hybrid will command a $1,099 price tag when it debuts later this month, which makes it $80 pricier than the Surface Pro 2 and Touch Cover 2 combined.
The above-mentioned systems are just a handful of Surface Pro 2 alternatives. Other hybrids like the Sony Duo Series and the Dell XPS 12 12.5" 1080p Convertible Touchscreen Ultrabook provide even further options to Microsoft's Surface Pro 2, all at varying price points. But perhaps the Surface Pro 2's biggest competitor will come from Dell and its recently-announced Venue 11 Pro, a 10.8" $499 (starting price) hybrid that marks Dell's return to the mobile market. Various processor configurations will feature either an Intel Atom CPU or up to a Haswell Core i5. Pound for pound, this will be one of the Surface Pro 2's closest competitors. However, Dell has only announced pricing for the entry-level machine, so it's still unclear how much the stronger configurations, which will most closely match the Surface Pro 2, will cost. It's expected to arrive in November, along with a smaller Venue 8 Pro which will start at $299.
As more hybrids debut (and we guarantee you'll be seeing more), the marriage between laptop and tablet will become less awkward. Reliable designs will rise to the top, entry-level prices will fall, and better deals will be had on all new and existing hybrids. We may even see further price cuts on the Surface tablets from Microsoft. In the meantime your best bet is to wait and see what's in store for the holidays. Chances are slim these machines will see significant discounts, but with new competition debuting each month, we don't think these price points will have much staying power.