If there's one category that's heating up, it's the 2-in-1 category. Small format notebooks have largely stepped aside for tablets with a lot more power, while weak tablets seem to have given up completely; it's the age of the Pro tablet and there's a growing number of Windows tablets to choose from.

Microsoft holds the ace card, making its Surface hardware for a number of years. But the refinement of that design hasn't been missed by the likes of Samsung and Huawei, both ever keen to find a new device category to expand into.

The new Surface and new MateBook E were announced on the same day; here's how they all shape up with another newcomer, the Samsung Galaxy Book.

  • Surface Pro: 292 x 201 x 8.5mm, 768-784g (without keyboard)
  • MateBook E: 278.8 x 194.1 x 6.9mm, 640g (without keyboard)
  • Galaxy Book: 291.3 x 199.8 x 7.4mm, 754g (without keyboard)

In the battle for slim and light, Huawei comes out with the smallest tablet and also the lightest, shaving 100g off the weight of the other devices. The Surface Pro is the largest and heaviest, but unlike the other models, it has the kickstand built-in, whereas the other devices both rely on the keyboard case to stand up.

That means the Surface Pro has something of an advantage: even if you ditch the keyboard it's more versatile, with the new kickstand offering even more positions for use. This is reflected in the new cover for the MateBook E, which has a hinged design so you can set it at various angles too. The Galaxy Book is still at the mercy of folding the cover in various ways, so is less flexible than the other two.

The new Surface Pro offers a fanless design until you get up to the more powerful i7 model, at which point it becomes a hybrid cooling system. The Galaxy Book on the other hand is a fan-cooled design, and the MateBook E is fanless which perhaps explains how Huawei managed to get it slimmer than the others.

When it comes to the physical designs, we've got to say that we think the Surface's bolder physical design makes for better looks. It's worth noting that all offer a keyboard case with chiclet keys; Samsung and Huawei include it in the box, Microsoft sells it separately and it's rather costly.

  • Surface Pro: 12.3-inch PixelSense, 2736 x 1824 pixels, 267ppi, 3:2
  • MateBook E: 12-inch IPS, 2160 x 1440 pixels, 216ppi, 3:2
  • Galaxy Book: 12-inch Super AMOLED, 2160 x 1440 pixels, 216ppi, 3:2

A tablet is all about the display. It's your point of interaction, it's where you focus all your attention. All three of these 2-in-1 devices carry a 12-inch display (although there's also a smaller 10-inch Galaxy Book option at 1080p), with the Surface Pro edging out its rivals with an addition 0.3-inches, which explains why it's a little bigger in design overall.

The Surface Pro carries another advantage in its display: it's not only larger, but it also has a higher resolution and fairly substantially too, pushing the pixel density up to 267ppi over its 216ppi rivals. That means it has the potential to pack in more detail and give you sharper images.

The story doesn't end there though, as the Galaxy Book has an AMOLED display, meaning it's likely to offer better contrast and brightness than its rivals. Samsung has also made its display HDR capable, meaning it will give you richer visuals when watching HDR content from sources like Netflix or Amazon Video, so could be the natural choice for those interested in getting the best media experience.

  • Surface Pro: Intel Core 7-gen m3, i5 or i7, 4-16GB RAM, 128-1TB storage, Intel HD Graphics 615/620 or Iris Plus Graphics 640
  • MateBook E: Intel Core 7-gen m3 or i5, 4-8GB RAM, 128-515GB SSD, Intel HD 615 graphics
  • Galaxy Book: Intel Core 7-gen i5, 4-8GB RAM, 128-256GB storage, Intel HD Graphics 620

It's in the hardware that things start to move in a very different direction. It's also the hardware that dictates the price to a certain extent, which is where you have to decide exactly what you need and how much you want to pay.

The Surface Pro offers the most options, from lower-power and cheaper Core m3 options that more or less mirror the offering of the Huawei MateBook E.

Both the Surface Pro and the MateBook E step up to a Core i5 model which is where Samsung positions itself, although Samsung is using a fan-cooled chip and the other don't, so the Galaxy Book will potentially deliver more power.

Only the Surface Pro then makes the jump to offering a Core i7 option, along with 16GB RAM options and storage up to 1TB. Of course, the price difference between the entry-level surface and the top spec is £1900, so it's a very different device based on the specs you choose. 

When it comes to battery life, Microsoft is citing 13.5 hours, Huawei is saying 9 hours of battery life, and Samsung offers up 10.5 hours. Of course, a lot will depend on configuration and what you do with it - and all these devices are brand new, so we don't yet know what the real world figures will be.

  • Surface Pro: Surface Pen, 4096 pressure points
  • MateBook E: MatePen, 2048 pressure points, laser pointer
  • Galaxy Book: S Pen, 4096 pressure points, battery free or Staedtler Noris pencil

It you're one for scribbling on the display and want to use your device for writing notes or sketching, then we're into battle of the accessory pens. Samsung includes its S Pen in the box whereas the MatePen and the Surface Pen are optional extras.

Both Samsung and Microsoft offer greater degrees of sensitivity, so are likely to be the more natural and precise options for those who want to draw, with Microsoft claiming it's the fastest pen around. Huawei pitches its MatePen as being a handy business tool, offering a laser pointer function and clicker for presentations in the same device.

Both the MatePen and the Surface Pen need to be powered, whereas the S Pen doesn't need to be powered – as a fun alternative, Samsung also teamed up with Staedtler to create a Noris digital pencil instead.

Surface Pen comes in a choice of four colours to match your keyboard, however.

  • Surface Pro: 1x USB 3.0, microSD, 3.5mm, Mini DisplayPort, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • MateBook E: 1x USB C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Galaxy Book: 2x USB C, microSD, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE, GPS

When it comes to physical connections there's a very different story being told. Microsoft is yet to commit to USB Type-C, so there's none on the Surface Pro, but you do have a full range of legacy connections, so it's relatively easy to connect to.

Samsung offers a pair of Type-C connections, but offers wireless functions the others don’t, namely the option for LTE and GPS. There's also microSD to expand the memory.

Finally the MateBook E is the weakest option, only offering the single USB Type-C, so you'll need to use the MateDock to really get things connected. It does have a fingerprint scanner for security, however and boast 2x2 MiMo Wi-Fi.

If you're looking to just integrate with devices you already have, then the Surface Pro looks like your best option if you don't want to exchange all your cables for Type-C.

  • Surface Pro: From $799 + $149.99 for the keyboard
  • MateBook E: From €999 (about $1120?)
  • Galaxy Book: From $1299

We mentioned earlier that price is one of the key factors here and something to bear in mind is that Samsung's more expensive tablet comes with the keyboard cover and the S Pen in the box, so it's more complete package for your money.

The Surface Pro is the least expensive, although once you factor in the Signature Type keyboard, it has less of an advantage.

Comparing the model that they all offer, the Core i5, 8GB, 256GB the prices break down like this:

  • Surface Pro: $1299
  • MateBook E: $1454 (converted)
  • Galaxy Book: $1329

We've listed the price in dollars for the sake of comparison, although the MateBook E only has euro prices at the moment so we've converted it - but we suspect the price would be adjusted for the US market to bring it down. UK pricing for the UK hasn't been confirmed.

With these devices being so new it's hard to call which device will be the better. We have a strong feeling that Microsoft's experience in the sectior will make the Surface the easy choice. Huawei's MateBook E is better than the model it replaces, but offers fewer hardware choices. Once prices settle on the Huawei, it might be a low-spec champion, offering greater portability and able power for daily tasks.

Samsung's big sell is that you get the accessories in the box, along with a display to blow your socks off, but there's few configuration choices to choose from.

We'll update prices and more accurate details of how these devices compare as we review them, but one thing is sure - you now have a full range of excellent devices to choose from.