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I am restructuring my development setup from only laptop to a Linux based server running VS Code Server + a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet that I will use to connect to that server when developing.

This 2-in-1 should be capable of the following:

  • have a resolution of more than full HD
  • screen size of 10-13 inches
  • detachable keyboard
  • be able to connect two external monitors (through one USB-C connector)
  • run videos in the screen's resolution smoothly
  • either have a dedicated VS Code App or run smoothly when using VS Code Web
  • allow use of a stylus for note taking and the occasional drawings
  • run smoothly when 10-20 tabs are open in a browser
  • last for at least 5 years

Nice to haves:

  • completely passive cooling (no fans)

Older or refurbished models are welcome since I'm trying to minimize costs yet maximize productivity here.

Following the old habits, I started investigating Windows tablets thinking this would be the only possibility to run VS Code. Surface Pro tablets seemed too large and too costly, Surface Go 2/3 too underpowered (or are they?). So the only option I found is the new IdeaPad Duet 5. Still expensive at 1100€.

I then found out about VS Code Web which allowed me to think about (older) iPads, too. I wouldn't mind going for an iPad (Air) 4th gen but I have absolutely no idea how they would behave in such a scenario.

Then I found out about Chromebooks. While their price is usually really great, I don't understand why they only have so low RAM or storage specs. But I haven't got the full picture here yet. VS Code for Linux could run here and the IdeaPad Duet 3/5 is also available as a Chromebook but it seems to be somewhat unavailable (is it already being phased out?)

After investigating iPads or Android tablets I found out about the new StageManager in ipadOS 16+ which requires a 5th gen ipad Air or Pro. Also, in the Android world, only Samsung has DeX which allows connecting external monitors without mirroring. StageManager and Dex both provide a desktop like feeling but are limited to one external monitor only. After watching a couple of videos of how strange the "windows" behave with StageManager, I kept to Samsung tablets, Tab S8 and S8+ in particular since they feature Dex in 4k.
Still, there is the limitation to only be able to use one monitor so I found two solutions to that:

  • either buy a new ultrawide monitor
  • or use a video wall controller to splice one HDMI signal into a 1x2 configuration for two monitors. Simple units with 4k@60Hz input and 1080p@60Hz output are available on Amazon for ~80€.

At the moment I prefer the Samsung tablet solution which would give me a top-notch 2-in-1 tablet (using the Book Cover) with passive cooling and a great desktop like experience. I have set aside the Chromebooks as the concept does not convince me. So in the end I will decide between a Windows Ideapad Duet 5 and a Samsung Tab S8 or S8+.
(as a side note there is also the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 which seems to be the only higher-end Windows tablet without fans but it is too expensive.)

Are there any issues with those approaches I am missing? What would you recommend?

I think this question could be of help for others so once I found a solution I will post it here, of course!

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