Tech Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix


Lenovo has been dealing in tablet hybrids for years now, and the ThinkPad Helix may be one of their most innovative hybrid yet.

Features and Design:
If you Take away the keyboard dock, the Helix looks sort of like the ThinkPad Tablet 2, which in turn looks like any recent ThinkPad. Clearly, the manufacturer knows it has a good thing going with its design and, just as important, that its entire brand is wrapped up in soft-touch materials, red accents and sturdy keyboards. the main thing that makes the Helix different from the ThinkPad Tablet is that it's bigger (adding a heavy-duty Core i5 processor will do that). Also, this has an 11.6-inch screen, not a 10.1-inch one. If we're talking about just the tablet, it feels heavy, in the way most tablets above 10 inches feel sort of hefty. It's only when you connect the included keyboard dock that the Helix starts to feel heavy. The full package weighs 3.8 pounds -- nearly half a pound more than the 12-inch Dell XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook, which tops out at 3.35 pounds. Even Lenovo's own Yoga 13, which has a larger 13-inch screen, weighs just 3.3 pounds, and that, too, can be used in both laptop and tablet modes.  Taking a tour around the device, you'll find a 5MP camera around back -- strangely with no LED flash nearby. Also on back, there's a subtly drawn marking that shows where the NFC sensor is hidden. Up front, there's a lower-res 2-megapixel webcam for video chatting. Assuming you're holding this in landscape mode, that top edge is where you'll find the vent, which makes sense when you think about it.

Also on top there's the all-important power / lock button, which is just recessed enough that you might find yourself using a fingernail to get at it. Over on the right are the headphone jack, Kensington lock slot and volume rocker for when you're using this in tablet mode. The left, meanwhile, is totally blank. Finally, we get to the lower landscape edge, which is where all the action is. Arranged in a neat row, from left to right, are a power connector, SIM card tray, Mini DisplayPort and a USB 2.0 socket. On the back of the keyboard dock, you get two additional USB ports, a DisplayPort and a power connection.

Performance and Quality:
As it is, the 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U CPU, 4GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics help the performance keep pace with other devices in this class. We're partly referring to benchmark scores, yes, though the Toshiba-made SSD also delivers fast read speeds of 553 MB/s, with almost equally fast write speeds of 501 MB/s. In general, we had no problem juggling different apps, even after we lost count of how many we had open. As always, too, browsing in Internet Explorer felt fast with little to no tiling. Our main concern is with the startup time: it routinely took us 20 seconds or so to boot into the Start Screen. It even takes about four seconds just for the Lenovo logo to appear onscreen early in the boot process.  Lenovo claims the Helix can last up to six hours on a charge with just the tablet, and up to 10 when you add the keyboard dock. As is usually the case, I got less than that on both counts. got five hours and seven minutes with the tablet alone, which isn't bad when you consider the Surface Pro didn't even make it to four hours in the same test. And again, it's a taxing test, so you can probably squeeze out more than five hours if you're a little more conservative with your brightness settings than I was. With the dock attached, battery life reached seven hours and 27 minutes, which is pretty impressive.

Final Thoughts:
The Helix is the most innovative Windows 8 tablet hybrid yet, with dual batteries, a bright display and a comfy keyboard to match. Still, it's expensive, especially since it ships with last gen components.

+Impressive Battery Life
+Great Display
+Sturdy, Comfortable Keyboard
-The Dock is a bit Awkward
-Pretty Expensive
S&S Rating: 7/10
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