Ben currently uses an iPad Pro for playing and a MacBook Air for composing. While that’s a strong duo, Ben will soon be a graduate student and understandably wants a single machine for play and studies. As for the requirements, Ben has been “spoiled” by the large 12.9-inch panel on the iPad Pro, and won’t go any smaller (don’t worry, Ben, I wasn’t going to go there). Chromebooks are out of the question, because the music software they use, Finale, is only Windows and macOS compatible. Ben isn’t worried about speaker quality but does want something with stylus support. Graphics performance isn’t much of a concern, but a CPU capable of getting “serious work done” while away from a desktop is a priority.
In this week’s “Which Gadget Should You Buy?” segment, we assist a music instructor in selecting the finest hybrid tablet or laptop for their needs. Ben is looking for a system that can write music and has a compact, slim chassis that can be placed on a music stand when they perform. Our reader is leaning toward a hybrid tablet, but a convertible laptop with a rotating screen isn’t out of the question. They do point us, though, that some pianos have shallow stands, so anything bulky may not fit.
OK, so, where do we start? Well, I’m surprised Ben isn’t giving the Surface Pro 8 a hard look. It’s a compact tablet with laptop-level performance, and the optional keyboard and stylus are both excellent. It’s expensive, though. I configured a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD model with a Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen bundle, and landed at $1,680. I still think it’s one of Ben’s best options despite landing in the top half of the budget. I’m also on team ThinkPad X12 Detachable. I reviewed one at my previous gig and found very few faults. It’s fast, has long battery life, an awesome keyboard, and a durable chassis. Ben would, however, need to step down to a 12.3-inch display. Pricing is around the same ($1,600-ish) as the Surface Pro 8 when you add the optional Folio keyboard.
I think Ben would be happy with either option, but I’ll throw a few more favorites out there. Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 was released in late 2020, but it still hangs with the best of them, and its 11th Gen processor should give it more than enough power for Ben’s needs. I’m choosing the XPS over other capable convertibles, like the Lenovo Yoga 9i or HP Spectre x360 14, because it’s extremely portable and should fit on a music stand. Ben should, however, consider the Spectre 13 x360 or, if they want to save some cash, the Envy 13 x360. One device I haven’t reviewed but that gets plenty of praise is the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360. Samsung just released a new model, the Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 with an AMOLED touchscreen, an included S Pen, and the latest 12th Gen Intel CPUs. At only 2.3 pounds and 0.45 inches thick, it should be slim enough for the job.