With school starting in several weeks, or even just a few days for some, back to school shopping is in full swing. For many parents and students, this means investing in a new laptop for the upcoming school year. Many people look at form factor along with accompanying specifications and price to make a decision on a purchase. Here at gap intelligence we track two different form factors of notebooks, the traditional Clamshell, and the somewhat newer Convertible. What type of laptop is best for you?

To start, let’s define what each of the form factors are according to gap.

Clamshell – This is the traditional form factor that has been around for a long time. The screen is the upper portion of the laptop and the keyboard is the bottom. The hinge has limitations and can only open a maximum of 180°. Clamshells can only be used in the traditional laptop mode, though it is possible for them to be touchscreen capable.

Image credit: hp.com

Convertible (sometimes referred to as a 2-in-1, x360, or 360°) –This form factor is always touchscreen capable and can be folded or flipped to enter into a variety of modes. Convertibles can be used in at least two of the following modes: laptop, tablet, stand, and tent:

Image credit: computershopper.com

In order to bend freely, these convertible notebooks require different types of hinges.

This first hinge allows the display to spin within the frame and folds down on top of the keyboard:

Image credit: notebookcheck.com

Another hinge type allows the notebook lid open like normal and then continues to fold back all the way until the top of the laptop touches the bottom of the laptop:

Image credit: notebookcheck.com

The last hinge type has a lot to do with placement. A laptop like the one below only has one hinge in the middle and once the laptop is open, the display and frame can spin 180° and then the top can be folded down all the way:

Image credit: shopfujitsu.com

Fun Fact: Convertible laptops NEVER have a detachable keyboard. If the keyboard can detach, it is automatically classified as a Tablet.

Pricing: Convertibles overall generally tend to have a higher price point because of the versatility of the devices. However, with the form factor becoming more popular, there are some very affordable entry level options.

Using gap’s notebooks retail data from the dates spanning 7/24-7/31, we find that there are 558 total notebooks in the retail channel. Of these 419 (75%) are clamshells, whereas 139 (25%) are convertibles.

Of the 419 clamshells, three different models come in with the lowest shelf price point at $149. Interestingly, the lowest shelf price point for a convertible (bolded below) is only $50 higher at $199.

The specs on all of the models are fairly similar, but the convertible has twice the storage (32GB vs 16GB) as the clamshell models, and is the only touchscreen capable model, likely justifying the $50 premium.

Specs: When comparing the two form factors against each other with a specific set of specifications selected, it’s interesting to see the price comparisons.

For example, let’s look at the following specification requirements:

Windows 10 Home Operating System
15.6” Screen Size
Intel Core i5 Processor
8GB Ram
1TB Hard Drive

Average shelf price of a convertible with these specs is $692 ($649 – $829)
Average shelf price of a touchscreen clamshell with these specs is $613 ($599 – $849)
Average shelf price of a non-touchscreen clamshell with these specs is $543 (range $474 – $799)

*All products have W10H OS, 15.6″ display, Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB Ram, 1TB Hard Drive


Interestingly, the highest overall shelf price option is not a convertible, but actually a touchscreen clamshell. Though, the range does start at a $50 lower shelf price for the touchscreen clamshell compared to convertible, and the highest average shelf price also belongs to the convertible form factor. Not surprisingly, the lowest average shelf price and price range are both associated with the non-touch clamshell.

Looking at the numbers and examples above, I think it’s pretty clear that if you are set on getting a convertible form factor notebook, it is definitely possible to purchase a device that compares in price to clamshells.

If you are just looking for an entry level model, and willing to pay a little more, you could get your hands on a convertible laptop with specs similar, and even a bit better, than the lowest priced clamshell counterparts.

If you’re looking for a device with a set of more competitive specs, you could still probably save a few bucks by buying a non-touch clamshell, while touch screen clamshells and convertibles seem to be competitively priced against one another.

Whatever device you opt to purchase, there are certainly a plethora of options to choose from as you can currently find 558 notebooks on shelves in stores across the country, as well as in gap’s data.