Workstations

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix

19 Dec, 2013 By: Curt Moreno

First Look Review: Hybrid device offers practicality of a laptop and convenience of a tablet on a Windows 8 platform that’s powerful enough to support CAD.


The unassuming ThinkPad keyboard has an 8.8-mm profile, is spill resistant, and sports a full set of keys. Fans of Lenovo keyboards will be glad to see the much-loved TrackPoint pointing stick but may be surprised to see Lenovo's recently revised glass touchpad, which is a joy to use. Keys are pleasant to the touch, with a good strike. The attached dock includes two USB 3.0 ports, one Mini DisplayPort, and the power port.

Lenovo ThinkPad HelixThe docking mechanism features six points of connection: two large guide rails to simplify aligning the two units, two locking hooks that secure the units, and two data/power posts for functionality. A loud click lets you know the tablet is fully seated and the connection is secure. A release button on the left side of the dock is both easily accessible and not very likely to accidentally release.

Software performance. Whereas the average tablet is designed around a mobile operating system such as iOS or Android, the ThinkPad Helix uses a full version of Microsoft Windows 8. This alone separates it from the army of tablets with keyboards, because you can install and operate any program designed to run on Windows 8. With this unit, you don't have to worry about which apps are available at which app store. The lastest versions of Microsoft Office, AutoCAD, and video games will all feel at home when installed on the Helix.

For the duration of this review, I replaced my tried-and-true 17" desktop-caliber laptop with the ThinkPad Helix. I suspected that I would not be able to go very long before supplementing this change with my larger laptop. To my surprise, I found that the Intel i5 processor packed enough power to handle all my office and CAD needs. AutoCAD 2014 and AutoCAD Civil 3D 2014 worked well on the Helix. However, large 3D CAD models and extensive Civil 3D calculations did reach the limits of the unit's Intel HD 4000 graphics and installed RAM. For better performance, I recommend the i7 model with 8GB of RAM. Still, the Helix outperformed any tablet or hybrid I've ever seen attempt these demanding tasks.

To test more recreational applications, I used the Helix for video streaming and to play Borderlands 2 and Elder Scrolls V; all were enjoyable experiences.

Battery performance. One of the great features of the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix is its battery life: six hours of use in tablet mode and ten hours when docked to the keyboard. Performance under continuous use was slightly less, but six or more hours of continuous gaming, CAD work, and video playback is not representative of this device's practical use. In a more realistic scenario of e-mailing, web surfing, writing, and YouTube viewing, I found that the Helix can easily last all day and into the evening.

Price and warranty. The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix that I reviewed has a base price of $1,549.99. It comes with Lenovo's standard three-year warranty, with a one-year warranty on the battery.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix is a fantastic choice for any work-related scenario that involves mobile computing. The Intel processor and Windows 8 combination opens a world of mobile computing options that clearly surpasses the capabilities of the average iOS or Android tablet.

It is easy to recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, a business-class device that offers the mobility of a tablet, the software support of a full-fledged Windows 8 computer, the battery and size benefits of an Ultrabook, and the style and reliability of the Lenovo brand. Highly Recommended.

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About the Author: Curt Moreno


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