Hybrid laptop-tablets

We investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 12 hybrid laptop/tablets brands.

We also take a look at hybrids and conflict minerals, toxic chemicals, profile Lenovo and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying a hybrid tablet / laptop:

  • Is it second-hand or refurbished? Because of the significant carbon footprint of making a computer, its life should ideally be extended for as long as possible. If you can’t repair an old machine you can extend the life of another by buying second-hand or refurbished. See our guide to buying second-hand tech for more advice. 

  • Is it TCO certified? The TCO-Certified label ensures that the model has reduced environmental and social impact throughout its lifecycle, from manufacture to disposal. Use the online product finder to find out if a laptop model has the TCO-Certified label.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying a hybrid tablet / laptop:

  • Does the brand score badly for its conflict minerals policy? Conflict minerals are associated with violence and serious human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

  • Does the brand score badly for its toxics policy? All electronics contain potentially dangerous toxic chemicals. We expect companies to have a policy that commits to phasing out the worst chemicals.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Our Analysis

Convertibles, hybrids or 2-in-1s are one of the fastest-growing products in the PC industry. They all mean the same thing in essence – a device which is trying to be both a laptop and a tablet.

But there are some big differences between a convertible laptop and a convertible tablet:

  • A convertible laptop comes in various different styles but is likely to have a screen which flips or folds to transform it into a tablet. In general, they are less powerful than comparably-sized laptops, as they use mobile processors that are designed more for cool, quiet operation than they are for speed.
  • A convertible tablet is more like a regular tablet with a removable keyboard. The keyboard either attaches magnetically or via a case which creates a laptop-like experience. The keyboard may connect over Bluetooth in some cases.

Hybrids and conflict minerals

Conflict Minerals Rating
Best Middle Worst
ASUS, Acer, Apple, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google) Toshiba Huawei, Micropro (iameco), MSI, VeryPC, Samsung

It has long been known that the extraction of minerals has become entangled with human conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

To build the components that make up a computing device, various paramilitary groups fight for control of small-scale artisan mines. This acts as a catalyst for grave human rights abuses including forced labour and child labour, and the money raised funds further violence, exploitation and corruption.

Known as conflict minerals or 3TGs, tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold mined in the DRC have been linked to the funding of armed groups, and have helped to fuel a war for over twenty years. Worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year, the minerals provide a valuable source of income to rebel groups, militias, and criminal gangs. More about conflict minerals and technology.

mine in congo
An armed guard at an open cast mine in the DRC

Toxic chemicals

Carbon Emissions Reporting
No emissions reporting Scopes 1 and 2 Scopes 1, 2 and 3 (best reporting)
Very PC, Micropro (iameco) MSI, ASUS, Huawei* Lenovo (including Fujitsu), Dell, HP, Apple, Acer, Microsoft, Toshiba, Google (Alphabet), Samsung

*reported limited data defined as Scope 3 such as employee travel, but did not include supply chain or product-use emissions.

Among the dozens of elements and compounds used in the production of electronic devices are numerous substances known to be toxic to human health and the natural environment.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are two substances often used in the plastic parts of electronic devices. Both substances are known to produce harmful by-products, such as highly toxic and carcinogenic dioxins, which can be released at various stages of a product’s lifecycle.

The danger becomes acute after the disposal of a device, when plastics are often burned in incinerators or by workers in informal recycling operations, releasing dioxins directly into the air.

Phthalates are a group of chemicals often used as a softener in PVC. Over time, they leak out of plastic materials into the surrounding environment and have been linked to a wide range of health problems affecting the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems. This is one of the reasons for which e-waste is deemed such an issue. More about e-waste.

In the European Union, the RoHS Directive restricts the use of toxic substances in electronics, including a number of BFRs and, as of 2019, four phthalates. However, the restrictions do not extend to all chemicals in these groups.

Ethical Consumer rates electronics companies on their level of commitment to completely phasing out PVC, BFRs and phthalates. The three PC brands that received our best rating for the use of toxic chemicals – iameco, Apple and Huawei – had committed to removing all PVC and BFRs from their entire product range. The companies that received our worst rating had either committed to reducing rather than eliminating these substances or had no public policy.

Are there any regulations on toxic chemicals?

TCO Certified is a sustainability label for IT products, which takes into account a broad range of social and environmental factors in the lifecycle of a product.

For a product to be awarded the TCO-Certified label, it must meet numerous criteria relating to both the design and manufacture including criteria on worker’s rights, conflict minerals, hazardous chemicals, user health and safety, durability, and recyclability.

Of the companies featured in these guides, Lenovo, HP, Dell and Fujitsu offered TCO-Certified PC models (including laptops, hybrids and desktop PCs).

On our score table, TCO-Certified products are awarded a Product Sustainability positive mark. To find out if a specific model has the label, we recommend using the Product Finder on the TCO Certified website.

Workers' Rights

Supply Chain Management Rating
Best Middle Worst
N/A Apple, Huawei, Lenovo & Fujitsu, Toshiba, HP, Dell, Microsoft Google, Samsung, VeryPC, ASUS, Acer, MSI, Micropro (iameco)

Inadequate working conditions are a persistent issue in the IT supply chain.

Conditions in Chinese electronics factories have frequently made headlines for low wages, excessive working hours, forced overtime and insufficient breaks, and the even the limited labour laws that do exist are frequently violated.

Chinese labour law does place restrictions on overtime and shift patterns for student workers. Despite this, repeated reports by NGOs and news publications suggest that the law is routinely ignored. Our feature on workers' rights in the technology industry will tell you more about what has been reported recently.

The carbon cost of laptop-tablet hybrids

Carbon Emissions Reporting
No emissions reporting Scopes 1 and 2 Scopes 1, 2 and 3 (best reporting)
VeryPC, Micropro (iameco) MSI, ASUS, Huawei* Lenovo (including Fujitsu), Dell, HP, Apple, Acer, Microsoft, Toshiba, Google (Alphabet), Samsung

The contribution of IT and the electronics sector to climate change is a growing problem, with studies suggesting that the production and use of electronic devices will account for 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, which equates to one half of today’s global transport sector. For notebooks, ‘non-use phases’ account for between 40% and 64% of the total Global Warming Potential (GWP), while the same figure for smartphones was between 51% and 92%.

Like the gadgets themselves, the issue is highly complex, with emissions occurring throughout the lifecycle of a product: resource extraction, multiple stages of manufacture, transportation, use and disposal all contribute significantly to the climate impact of a device.

The production stage is often the most significant. The complexity of the product means it requires large amounts of energy to manufacture, although the quantities are difficult to measure as a myriad of materials and components need to be processed and assembled by different companies along a huge supply chain 

Broadening the scope of reporting

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol defines a set of standards to assist companies with measuring and tracking their climate impact in real terms by separating emissions sources into three categories known as Scopes.

Scope 1 covers direct emissions produced by a company’s own facilities, while scope 2 accounts for the emissions caused by electricity use of the company.*Reported limited data defined as Scope 3 such as employee travel but did not include supply chain or product-use emissions.

Scope 3 takes into account “all other indirect emissions”, including those produced in the supply chain, product use and disposal as well as other activities such as business travel.

Although much more difficult to measure, Scope 3 emissions generally account for the largest share of a company’s carbon footprint. This is particularly true for electronics manufacturers, where so much energy use occurs outside of each company’s direct control.

Despite this, we found that not all companies we assessed measured and reported on scope 3 emissions. The level of reporting by each company is shown in the table above.

Tax avoidance

Tax Avoidance Rating
Best Middle Worst
VeryPC, Micropro (iameco) N/A ASUS, MSi, Toshiba, Acer, Lenovo, HP, Dell, Microsoft, Apple, Huawei, Google, Samsung

Ethical Consumer rated companies on the likely use of tax avoidance strategies based on whether they listed subsidiaries in countries or regions on our list of known tax havens.

Companies with two or more subsidiaries considered to be high-risk within these areas were given our worst rating, unless they published country-bycountry financial information, a policy statement or narrative explanation that could explain a different purpose for these subsidiaries.

Among the PC brands rated in this guide, all of the big multinational companies received our worst rating. Only the small alternative manufacturers VeryPC and iameco avoided losing marks.

Buying second hand

Perhaps the most effective way to limit the climate impact of your gadgets is by extending their life. A 2019 EU report compared the total emissions of ‘use’ and ‘non-use’ phases of their lifecycles. For notebooks, ‘non-use phases’ account for between 40% and 64% of the total Global Warming Potential (GWP), while the same figure for smartphones was between 51% and 92%.

As electricity supplies in some countries move gradually towards renewables, this proportion becomes even greater, particularly as the vast majority of electronics manufacturing takes place in China and other East Asian countries, where coal and other fossil fuels account for the majority of electricity supply.

This means that improvements in energy-efficient design rarely compensate for the impact of production when a device is replaced with a new one, with calculations suggesting that a smartphone may be used for between 25 and 232 years before it becomes environmentally beneficial to replace!

For consumers, this is yet another good reason to repair devices wherever possible, or else to buy second-hand or refurbished products.

Company Profile: Samsung

Samsung has allegedly had a ‘no union’ policy since it was founded over 75 years ago. In August 2016, Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, stated that “Samsung is a business model that has lost its moral compass”. In January 2016, the United Nations ‘Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association’ went on a mission to the Republic of Korea and met with Samsung.

He brought up that labour groups have alleged “that Samsung repeatedly undermines employee unions through various means including surveillance, threats and undue pressure on members, disguised subcontracting to avoid selected employer responsibilities and dismissal of members, among other tactics”. Samsung denied the claims. The resulting report recommended that Samsung “should commit to upholding the rights to freedom of association for workers and subscribe to the UN Global Compact and operationalise the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights Principles.”

Samsung has also been heavily criticised for failing to support people who have become seriously ill from chemical exposure at work. SumOfUs highlighted that a worker-safety group had documented more than 200 cases of serious illnesses at Samsung’s LCD and semiconductor factories, including leukaemia, lupus, lymphoma, and multiple sclerosis.  workers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, had died. Samsung was said to be withholding information which would help get compensation. Hwang Sang-Gi, father of Hwang Yu-mi, a former Samsung factory worker who died of leukaemia aged 22, said that the company once offered him 1 billion won ($914,000) in exchange for his silence.

The microchips inside phones are made at semiconductor plants that can use from 500 to 1000 different chemicals. Workers have been staging a sit-in at Samsung’s global exhibition space in Seoul since October 2015, calling for the world’s largest technology company to: 1) compensate all the victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.
 
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