Mystery Shopper: Which retailer has the best 2-in-1 offering?

With a budget of £300, our Mystery Shopper goes in search of a notebook/tablet hybrid online this month, taking price, delivery options and ease of use into consideration.

Our list was formed by typing ‘2-in-1’ into Google and choosing the first six relevant retail links that appeared.

After landing on the PC World 2-in-1 laptops page directly from Google, I was greeted by a host of devices including the Surface Pro 4.

A deal banner took pride of place at the top of the screen, pulling me in with its persuasive words: “Trade in and get up to £100 to spend on any new Windows laptop £399 and over.”

Scrolling down, the HP Pavilion x2 caught my eye with its £229.99 price tag – but unfortunately it was only available for in-store pickup. I clicked the easy-to-spot price filter on the left before searching for 2-in-1s under £299.

The Acer Aspire R3-131T 11.6-inch 2-in-1 also caught my eye with a £229.99 price.

I decided to put it in my basket, but had to put in my contact details before finding out I could receive free delivery within five working days, or get it next-day delivery from between £3.95 and £11.99. It wasn’t the cheapest retailer I visited, but I was impressed at how easily I had gone from Google to purchasing an item.

While it’s rather basic- looking, the Laptops Direct site is functional and simple to use.

After arriving on the convertibles laptops page, the first product at the top – the Gigabyte U2142 Windows 8 11.6-inch Convertible Ultrabook – jumped out at me with 29 per cent off and a £199.99 price tag.

There was no excuse for the ‘Convertable’ spelling mistake in the product’s name, but the sheer range of products available on this page impressed me. In terms of the most affordable 2-in-1s, there was a £197.98 ASUS Transformer Book and £189.97 HP Pavilion x2, but both only had 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

The HP Pavilion x360 11.6- inch touchscreen convertible laptop with 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive seemed a steal at £249.97. I added that to my basket, but was annoyed to discover an F-Secure Internet Security product and ‘Laptop Essential Set Up & System Check’ had been added without my doing, bringing the total price over £300.

COSTCO – 5/10
I was surprised Costco had a 2-in-1 page appearing higher in Google than bigger- name etailers like Amazon.

I was equally shocked to see just two devices on said page: the £449.89 14-inch Toshiba Radius notebook with 4GB of memory and a 128GB SSD, and the £269.89 10.1-inch Toshiba Click 2GB of memory and a 32GB SSD.

I had a quick look around using the site’s navigation bar, but alas, these were the only two 2-in-1 hybrid computing devices Costco had in its range.

With just one product falling within my budget, I placed it in my cart and clicked through to the checkout page.

It was nice to see that delivery was free, but ultimately unacceptable to have just a couple of 2-in-1s to choose from, especially considering that Costco had a surprisingly large range of other tech devices in stock, from laptops to tablets, gaming PCs, monitors, consoles, software, TVs, audio and even smart home lighting.

CURRYS – 7/10
Currys has an identical layout to the PC World website, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

The same trade-in offer was present at the top of the page, but the products were in a different order.

This time the £399 HP Pavilion 1TB 15.6-inch laptop was at the top – which isn’t a 2-in-1.

I quickly realised I was actually on a laptops page and not a convertible area. After using the navigation at the top of the page to find the correct part of the website, I was instantly met with the exact line-up from the PC World site.

With the Lenovo Miix still priced at £129.95, I placed that in my basket with no trouble at all.

While my shopping experience with Currys was similar to my time on the PC World website, Google brought me to an incorrect page, which could confuse some customers.

VERY.CO.UK – 7/10
“The shopper is fun-loving, doesn’t take herself too seriously and has an ‘up for it’, outgoing personality,” says the company on its website.

Bearing that in mind, the headings for each product on the 2-in-1s page only contained the vendor name, making it difficult to see the differences between each product. However, when I clicked the easy-to-miss ‘explore the range’ button, a computing hub popped up with a message urging me to ‘try the new product picker’.

This made things ten times easier. I was asked a series of questions and selected what I would be using the device for and what features I wanted. Despite checking the ‘laptop and tablet convertible’ box, I was disappointed to see a number of Lenovo tablet-only products appear in the results.

Despite that, I did find a nice red HP Pavilion x2 for £229.99, so proceeded to place that in my basket. I felt like I was being forced to purchase warranty, and had to click two separate buttons to remove it from the basket.

ARGOS – 6/10
This Argos web page was very busy indeed with more than 50 different devices on show, not to mention other banners, free delivery and ‘save 20 per cent’ promotions scattered around.

Like other websites, it was disappointing to see many laptops listed that weren’t actually 2-in-1s.

I quickly realised Google had misleadingly taken me to a ‘laptops and netbooks’ page on Argos’ website. After browsing around the site, I discovered that Argos doesn’t actually have a 2-in-1 section.

I found myself back on the ‘laptops and netbooks’ page and had to scan each product individually to find out if it was a 2-in-1 or not.

Thankfully, Argos’ search options on the left were great. I selected £300 as the maximum price and a number of Acer Aspire and Toshiba 2-in-1s appeared.

I added a £229.99 Aspire to my trolley and was greeted with breakdown care and Office 365. Like Laptops Direct and Very, I got there in the end, but the site could have made things simpler.

My time spent searching for an affordable, decent 2-in-1 online was actually quite frustrating.

Most of the websites I visited placed incorrect standalone tablets and notebooks in their 2-in-1 sections, or failed to make it clear what kind of products I was browsing.

PC World had the widest range, the lowest-priced 2-in-1 and the best user experience by far, making it my star site this month. But it wasn’t perfect, as Laptops Direct arguably had slightly lower prices across its range.

I was surprised that the likes of Costco, Very and Laptops Direct appeared higher in Google than retail giants Amazon, Ebuyer and John Lewis, which also means the latter don’t have their SEO strategy as fine-tuned as they should have.

Perhaps ‘2-in-1’ isn’t a popular search term for consumers, or maybe etailers simply aren’t focusing their efforts enough of on this specific computing category. Either way, a lot can be done to improve the online shopping experience.

I was left feeling that I’d have had a much easier time going into a bricks and mortar store and asking a sales assistant for some help in choosing a laptop that’s also a tablet.

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