Lenovo ThinkPad Helix review

 Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix is a strong rival for Microsoft's Surface Pro, and can successfully be used as either a tablet or laptop. However, in laptop mode it is rather heavy for an ultrabook, while the system is also pricey. Enterprise buyers will find plenty to like in this device, which is well suited for Windows 8.

Can be used as tablet or touch-enabled laptop, long battery life, good security features, high quality build

Relatively heavy, expensive, few I/O ports, integrated battery in both tablet and keyboard dock

Overall Rating:
4 Star Rating: Recommended
Price: From £1,339.99; model reviewed £1,769.99
Manufacturer: Lenovo
 Model: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
Display: 11.6in 1080p (1920x1080) touchscreen with digitiser stylus support
Processor: Intel 2GHz Core i7-3667U
Memory: 8GB DDR3
Storage: 256GB SSD
Wireless connections: 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional 3G mobile broadband, NFC
Ports: USB 2.0, DisplayPort, headset jack (dock adds USB 3.0 port) (Ethernet via USB adapter)
Camera: 2.1MP webcam (720p) and 5MP rear camera
Dimensions: 296x187x11.6mm (tablet only); 296x187x20.4mm (clamshell)
Battery: 3-cell lithium polymer 42WHr (28Whr second battery in dock)
Weight: 835g (1.67Kg with keyboard dock)

Review : 

Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix is a hybrid tablet that combines a Windows 8 slate device with a keyboard dock that effectively turns it into an ultrabook. The combination works better than many other hybrid tablets we have seen, making the ThinkPad Helix a valid alternative not only for Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet, but also for many conventional business ultrabooks.

Announced back in January at CES in Las Vegas, the ThinkPad Helix is only just shipping now in the UK. The device is based on Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors with Intel vPro, giving it the power of a laptop for professionals, while the second battery in the keyboard dock gives users a longer battery life than you would see from a standalone tablet.

The downsides of the ThinkPad Helix are that it lacks many of the I/O connections you would expect in a full laptop - particularly an Ethernet LAN port - plus the fact that the docked system weighs more than Lenovo's X1 Carbon Touch laptop, which is itself rather heavy for an ultraportable.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
It is also rather pricey, but then you get what you pay for, and Lenovo's ThinkPad products are a favourite of the corporate market for their build quality and enterprise features, and the Helix is no different here.
In specifications, our review sample was Lenovo's top of the line model, equipped with a 3.2GHz Core i7-3667U processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid state drive (SSD). It also comes with 3G/HSPA+ mobile broadband in addition to 802.11a/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth.

Design and build

While hybrid tablets are nothing unusual these days, the ThinkPad Helix stands out for the way in which it connects to its keyboard cradle dock. This has been engineered in such a way that the tablet can be connected facing either forwards or backwards.
According to Lenovo, this enables four use case scenarios for the Helix: as a standalone tablet; as a laptop; with the screen facing backwards to serve as a display stand; and closed up so the screen is still visible, which Lenovo refers to as Tablet+ mode.

When used as a tablet, the Helix is somewhat heavy when compared with Apple's 652g iPad. However, at 835g it is slightly lighter than Microsoft's Surface Pro device, despite featuring a larger 11.6in display. We found that the Helix quickly grew tiring to hold in just one hand, even when using in portrait orientation, unless the device was resting on your lap or against a desk.


To set against that, the Helix feels reassuringly solid, as ThinkPad devices often do. We had few reservations about it being tough enough to stand up to everyday knocks and scrapes, while the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass.
The display is a full 1080p resolution (1920x1080 pixels), matching that of Microsoft's Surface Pro but still bettered by the Retina screen of the iPad. We found the display nice and sharp - though this hardly matters with the Windows 8 Modern interface, which isn't exactly hi-res - as well as clear and easy to read in a variety of light conditions.


Looking around the Helix tablet, there are few I/O ports to be seen, and this is because there are only a few present, comprising just a single USB 2.0 port, mini DisplayPort output, headset jack socket and the system's dock connector.

Lenovo has built a recess into the top left corner of the Helix for holding the system's stylus when not in use, while the power button is found in the opposite corner. The right-hand edge has the volume controls and headset jack socket, but most of the I/O is along the bottom edge, meaning it is hidden when the tablet is docked with its keyboard.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix tablet section
Here, the Helix has its dock connector, USB port, mini DisplayPort output, a SIM card slot with a cover that requires a paperclip or similar object to access, and a socket to connect the power supply. The latter accepts the new flatter power connector first seen on the X1 Carbon laptop rather than the round one that has been standard on ThinkPad devices for many years.

There is also a tiny hole that is actually a reset switch; again, you need to insert a paperclip to activate this. There are two pull-down tabs as well, the sole function of which is to display printed wireless certification information. As both tabs are about the size of a full-size SD Card, we feel that Lenovo has missed an opportunity here to fit a flash memory slot, which is sadly missing.

Lenovo has also equipped the Helix with a 2.1MP front-facing webcam above the screen, plus a 5MP rear-facing camera. We found that the latter, which is likely to be used for capturing photos or video, produced rather disappointing, slightly out of focus images.
Around at the back is a discreet symbol which indicates the touch point for the Helix's built-in near-field communications (NFC) capability. This supports scenarios such as tapping to pair up with a printer or other device.
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About Doru Somcutean

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