Lenovo ThinkPad Helix18 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.
If you pay even a small bit of attention to the tech world, you've probably heard a lot of talk about tablets lately. Research organizations trumpet the death of the PC, while other market experts counter that nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that reality lies somewhere in between — so, when the opportunity arose to review Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix tablet/laptop hybrid, I jumped at the chance.
Lenovo describes the ThinkPad Helix as a "premium convertible" that combines laptop performance with the flexibility of a tablet, and the description is apt, if not understated. The ThinkPad Helix brings together the best elements of a full HD tablet and an excellent keyboard without losing the usability or benefits of either.
With a detachable screen that can function as a tablet, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix can be configured four different ways.
The Helix comprises a stand-alone, touch-screen tablet that docks to its keyboard. The tablet connects to the keyboard dock facing forward or backward with what Lenovo calls a "rip and flip" design, which allows use in four distinct arrangements, including:
- laptop mode, with the tablet and keyboard connected in the traditional configuration;
- tablet mode, with the tablet used alone for mobile applications;
- tablet+ mode, where the tablet faces the user with the keyboard connected and folded behind it to provide more power, ports, and battery life than the tablet used alone; and
- stand mode, where the keyboard sits behind the tablet to serve as a base while the user gives a presentation or works on the tablet for extended periods.
Hardware design. The ThinkPad Helix is designed in the image of Lenovo's other tablets and laptops, with a black satin finish and the distinctive red LED over the "i" in the ThinkPad logo. It comes with a choice of Intel Ivy Bridge processors: the i5-3317U, the i5-3247U, or the i7-3667U. Lenovo reports that upcoming models of the Helix will offer fourth-generation Intel Haswell processors.
The touch-screen tablet is responsive and features an 11.6" 1080p IPS screen that is vivid and bright. It includes a Wacom stylus that fits nicely into the 11.6-mm-thick bezel for storage. Much like other tablet designs, the Helix has both front- and rear-facing cameras, a power port, a 3.5-mm headphone/microphone jack, power and volume buttons, and a physical Home button. Unlike some tablets, the Helix also includes a USB 2.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, and a SIM card slot for cellular service up to the latest 4G LTE networks. The unit ships with Intel HD 4000 graphics and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, but is available with as much as 8 GB of RAM.