Lenovo ThinkPad Helix review

A hybrid Ultrabook with Intel Core i power, great keyboard dock and decent battery life.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Lenovo has a history of providing excellent keyboards and trackpads and we're pleased to report the Helix continues this high standard. The Chiclet-style keyboard is easy to type on with and most buttons replicating a laptop experience. In order to squeeze a decent size keyboard into a small 11in machine trade-offs have to be made. In this case, it comes in the form of smaller function keys, but this is something we can live with.

The trackpad feels responsive and is larger than most laptop trackpads. This is because Lenovo has ditched mouse buttons in favour of extra real estate for the pad. The buttons are hidden underneath the trackpad and pressing down on one of the bottom corners reveals its use.

Sight and Sound

The display is one of the best we have seen on a Windows 8 machine. The 11.6in IPS panel sports a full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. There is also a digitizer for pressure-sensitive pen input. The viewing angles are exceptional with only a minor amount of glare in strong sunlight conditions. Contrast and colour range remained decent at all angles.

The device has a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel camera above the display. In good lighting conditions the front camera takes detailed shots with a good colour rendering. But we did notice graining in images that got notably worse in dark conditions.

The rear camera produced better shots, but with brightness in some areas saturating parts of the picture. Video was OK but lagged a bit with some image stutter.

The Helix has relatively few ports on the tablet chassis. One USB 2 and one slot for a SIM card. There is also a mini-display port as well as a couple of USB 3 ports on the docking station. Strangely lacking was an Ethernet port and an SD card slot, but Lenovo aims to mitigate the former by providing a USB-to-Ethernet adaptor.

Performance and battery life

Various specifications of the Helix can be ordered depending on how powerful you want the machine to be (see specifications). Our Lenovo Helix came with a mid-range 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-3427U processor backed up by 4GB of RAM and a 180GB SSD. This allows it to cope admirably with business applications without any noticeable slowness. The Helix will happily run multiple browser tabs and video playback without any problems.

It also boots up to a usable state in under 10 seconds and in day-to-day use, when the lid of the device is flipped up, it comes back to life instantly.

The Helix sports batteries in both the tablet and in the dock to help give it longer life than a standard Ultrabook. In our battery test running an HD video continuously we got 5 hours 21 minutes of life with just the tablet, and a total of 7 hours and 44 minutes when we had the dock connected.

Overall

This is a good stab at a convertible Ultrabook and the best we've seen on the market. It's not to say that it doesn't have problems. The flap on the back detracts from its looks and for 1,300, it is all too tempting to go out and buy a MacBook Air with is cheaper and sports a Haswell Intel processor too.

Verdict

One of the best Windows 8 hybrids on the market, but it comes at a high price. The ThinkPad Helix performs provides good performance with the x86 architecture without sacrificing battery life. Coupled with the excellent keyboard from the trusted ThinkPad range, it's a well crafted all-round machine.

Display: 11.6in Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS (400 NITS) Processor: Intel Core i5 5-3427U (2.8GHz) or Intel Core i7-3667U (3.2GHz) Memory: Up to 8GB DD3 Operating System: Windows 8 (64-bit) or Windows 8 Pro (64-bit) Storage: 128GB/180GB/256GB SSD Wireless: WANN Ericsson C5621 TFF (with GPS), Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235) Ports: 1x USB 2, 2 x USB 3, 2x Mini DP, Sim, audio jack Camera: 720p HD face-tracking technology, low light sensitive Dimensions: 297 x 185 x 12.7mm Weight: 816g (Tablet only) 1.72kg (Clamshell) Battery: 4-cell battery in keyboard dock and 3-cell battery in tablet.

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