Top picks: The best Windows 8 tablet laptops, convertibles, and Ultrabooks

HP and Dell lead Samsung, Lenovo, and Acer in InfoWorld's reviews of both classic clamshell notebooks and innovative touch-driven hybrids

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InfoWorld's top picks
Whether you're in the market for a classic Ultrabook or a device that straddles both notebook and tablet territory, you have some good options. Many of today's Ultrabook clamshells have done a fine job of accommodating Windows 8, or at least meeting it halfway. Of the dozen or so Ultrabooks reviewed by InfoWorld, we'd be happy to call most of them our own. But one stood head, if not also shoulders, above the rest.

Of course, the major innovation has taken place in convertibles and dockables, and this is where some remarkable systems can be found. If you long for tablet functionality and are willing to give up top-flight performance, you can also save some money. A good convertible or dockable can cost $600 and up, whereas the snazziest Ultrabooks reach into the $2,000-plus stratosphere.

Here's our rundown of the best Windows 8 Ultrabooks, convertibles, and dockables on the market, based on our reviews.

Top dockable: HP Envy X2

The HP Envy is aptly named. One glance and you'll be coveting it. Its brushed-aluminum exterior and elegant curves make it one of the sleekest -- and slickest -- tablet-laptops now on the market. Plus, the metal isn't just for show. It makes the Envy feel solidly built for both travel and long life. Despite that, it's only 1.5 pounds undocked, 3.1 pounds docked. No fans or vents are present, since the onboard Atom processor produces little heat.

The main advantage of the keyboard dock, aside from typing, is the second battery, which together with the Envy X2's own battery gave us more than 11 hours of use in our Netflix rundown test. Full-sized USB and HDMI ports, audio, and a full-size SD card slot are also in the dock, and the same charging port is available on both dock and unit. Our only gripes about the dock are the lack of backlighting for the keys and a hair-trigger touchpad.

Although the Envy's feature set and preloaded software aim it squarely at consumers, there's little reason it can't be used in a small-office fleet as well if performance isn't paramount.

InfoWorld score: 8.2 (Very Good); read the full review.

See also: The HP ElitePad 900, the Envy's very business-centric counterpart, is best as part of a fleet thanks to its service, management, and expansion-jacket features.

Runner-up: Dell Latitude 10
This business-oriented tablet is both ruggedly built and lightweight (1.43 pounds): magnesium-alloy construction, Gorilla Glass face, and the same soft-touch cladding as Lenovo's ThinkPad line of notebooks. In a further bid for corporate use, it comes with an optional docking station to make it work as a substitute low-end desktop.

"Low end" is the key term: The Latitude 10 is Atom-powered, with a maximum of only 128GB of internal storage. Plus, the small display (10.1 inches) and the fact that the dock only allows a limited range of viewing angles all mean you'll want to attach an external display to that dock to avoid eyestrain when you're using it in sit-down mode.

Various SKUs for the unit appeal to different classes of users. One features a double-life battery, another has WWAN through a variety of carriers, and a third sports a smart-card and fingerprint reader. That also means the low starting price can be deceptive. By the time you've finished adding all the extras (the docking station itself is $100), you might be in the same price range as better-performing hybrids.

InfoWorld score: 7.9 (Good); read the full review.

Other dockables worth a look: Acer Iconia W510. It lacks the build quality of the HP Envy and Dell Latitude 10, but battery life (15 hours 30 minutes) beat all comers in our Netflix test.

InfoWorld score: 7.8 (Very Good); read the full review.

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