Lenovo ThinkPad Helix evaluation
It has been six months since Lenovo launched the ThinkPad Helix at CES, however throughout that point we have by no means actually stopped speaking about it. Each time we have reviewed a comparable product — a small-ish PC that could possibly be utilized in some type of pill mode — we have returned to the Helix as a beacon of what might be on this class. All informed, the Helix has had a number of issues probably recommending it: it rocks the identical sturdy, properly-spaced keyboard you will discover on different ThinkPads and a spec record that features NFC, a Wacom pen digitizer and a excessive-high quality, eleven.6-inch, 1080p show. Better of all, the Helix can be utilized in 3 ways: not simply in pill mode, however with the pill inserted both dealing with the consumer or pointed away, a design Lenovo is looking “Rip n’ Flip.” It is the type of versatility we beloved a lot in Lenovo’s Yoga line; solely this can be a extra compact machine with a better-res display and pen enter. Sounds pretty, proper? Learn on to see if it is nearly as good in apply as it’s on paper.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
- Lengthy battery life
- Creative, versatile type issue
- Sturdy, snug keyboard
- Brilliant show with nice viewing angles
- Some awkward design parts
- Costly contemplating the final-gen elements
The Helix is probably the most revolutionary Home windows eight pill hybrid but, with twin batteries, a vibrant show and a snug keyboard to match. Nonetheless, it is costly, particularly contemplating it ships with final-gen CPUs.
Appear and feel
Take away the keyboard dock, and the Helix seems to be kind of just like the ThinkPad Pill 2, which in flip seems like several current ThinkPad. Clearly, the corporate is aware of it has an excellent factor going with its design and, simply as essential, that its complete model is wrapped up in tender-contact supplies, purple accents and durable keyboards. In addition to, it was a very, actually huge deal when Lenovo revamped its touchpad format, so it is sensible the corporate is not taking possibilities on another a part of the design.
Clearly, the primary factor that makes the Helix totally different from the ThinkPad Pill is that it is greater (including a heavy-obligation Core i5 processor will do this). Additionally, this has an eleven.6-inch display, not a ten.1-inch one. If we’re speaking about simply the pill, it feels heavy, in the best way most tablets above 10 inches really feel type of cumbersome. Within the grand scheme of issues, nevertheless, it could not have been a lot lighter: the Floor Professional, which has a ten.6-inch display, weighs two kilos, although its smaller footprint admittedly makes it barely simpler to deal with. Within the strictly eleven-inch class, the one lighter Core i5 pill we will consider is the Acer Aspire P3, which weighs an analogous 1.seventy four kilos. All of which is to say: in the event you’ve already determined you need a Home windows pill with this type of horsepower, you’ve got in all probability already come to phrases with the load tradeoffs.
It is solely whenever you join the included keyboard dock that the Helix begins to really feel heavy. The complete package deal weighs three.eight kilos — almost half a pound greater than the 12-inch Dell XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook, which tops out at three.35 kilos. Even Lenovo’s personal Yoga thirteen, which has a bigger thirteen-inch display, weighs simply three.three kilos, and that, too, can be utilized in each laptop computer and pill modes, in the event you recall. There are some design points with the dock itself as properly, however we’ll get to these in a second.
First, taking a tour across the system, you will discover a 5MP digital camera round again — unusually with no LED flash close by. Additionally on again, there is a subtly drawn marking that exhibits the place the NFC sensor is hidden. Up entrance, there is a decrease-res 2-megapixel webcam for video chatting. Assuming you are holding this in panorama mode, that prime edge is the place you will discover the vent, which is sensible because it’s out of the best way whether or not you could have it docked otherwise you’re cradling it in-hand. Nonetheless specializing in the highest edge, you will discover a slot to stow the included pen, which, by the best way, has the identical pink TrackPoint-impressed cap because the one on the ThinkPad Pill.
Additionally on prime there’s the all-essential energy / lock button, which is simply recessed sufficient that you simply may end up utilizing a fingernail to get at it. Over on the suitable are the headphone jack, Kensington lock slot and quantity rocker for once you’re utilizing this in pill mode. The left, in the meantime, is completely clean. Lastly, we get to the decrease panorama edge, which is the place all of the motion is. Organized in a neat row, from left to proper, are an influence connector, SIM card tray, Mini DisplayPort and a USB 2.zero socket. On the again of the keyboard dock, you get two further USB ports, a DisplayPort and an influence connection — the identical USB-like one discovered on the pill itself.The dock
The issue, as we hinted earlier, is that the 2 items make for a clumsy duo. First, let’s begin with the great. To Lenovo’s credit score, the pill portion latches on sturdily, thanks to 6 totally different connecting factors, together with two tall, toothy guides at both finish. Significantly, you can seize this factor by the lid in case you needed to (hey, it is your toy) and the keyboard would keep tightly fixed. The pill makes a reassuring little click on once you snap it in, and it is also straightforward to launch (simply press the button on the left fringe of the dock, up by the hinge).
And but, attaching it within the first place might be an train in trial and error, as these docking guides are slender and straightforward to overlook if you’re making an attempt to drop the pill in by really feel. In the meantime, as a result of the connectors are so darn pointy, they grow to be a legal responsibility if ever you select to place the dock inside your bag with out the pill inside; make no mistake, issues are undoubtedly going to get caught on it.
Lenovo made another arduous-to-clarify design decisions too. Beginning with the apparent, there is a flap on the again of the hinge, masking the fan. Lenovo says the flap is there to redirect air from the followers to assist calm down the machine. The factor is, the vent nonetheless will get heat, as does your complete again aspect of the pill. Additionally, the flap is ugly, and infrequently will get in the best way. (And apart from, each different competing pill will get by simply positive with out such a contraption hanging off the again.) Particularly, when you have the pill inserted face-out (that’s, aimed away from the keyboard), the flap can truly cowl the bodily Begin button, relying on the way you angle the display within the dock. As an example, if the display is kind of upright, the flap is most undoubtedly going to obscure the Begin button, which is a disgrace since that is one state of affairs the place you may truly use it — it isn’t prefer it’d be handy to succeed in round and faucet the Begin button on the keyboard as an alternative, ya know? To get round this, you possibly can dip the display again at extra of a forty five-diploma angle, with the show nonetheless dealing with up, however that is not preferrred, particularly not for issues like shows.
The opposite weird factor concerning the dock is that until you have already got the pill latched in, it is very troublesome to push the hinge down in order that it lies flat towards the keyboard. You might do it that means, however you will be met with a great deal of resistance, to the purpose the place it’d truly really feel such as you’re about to snap off that essential hinge piece. Take it from us: if you are going to transfer the hinge, put the pill in first.Keyboard and trackpad
Earlier than Lenovo overhauled its laptop computer trackpads, it redid its keyboards. That was an enormous change on the time, however now it is previous hat. As on different current ThinkPads, the Helix has a six-row format, with chiclet-fashion, spill-resistant keys, every of which has a roomy U-form design that makes it straightforward to strike the best one with out wanting. On the similar time, there’s nonetheless loads of area between the person buttons and all the main keys are nonetheless amply sized, a feat contemplating this can be a petite eleven-inch machine we’re coping with. Actually, if something’s been shrunken down, it is the perform keys the place you’ll be able to management issues like quantity and display brightness. Looks like a good commerce to us.
Equally essential, the underlying panel is sturdy sufficient to face as much as even probably the most livid of typists. The buttons additionally supply a great deal of journey, particularly in comparison with Ultrabooks and standalone keyboard docks for tablets. No, these buttons won’t really feel as pillowy as your previous T-collection pocket book, however they weren’t meant to both.
The Helix is among the first ThinkPads to ship with Lenovo’s redesigned touchpad, which ditches bodily buttons in favor of an enormous, flush floor with totally different contact zones. All informed, it is 20 % bigger than earlier generations, based on Lenovo, because of the freed-up area the place the buttons was. Not solely are there no discrete left- and proper-click on buttons anymore, however the ones meant to accompany the TrackPoint are additionally hidden. There is no scroll strip to make use of with the monitoring stick anymore both; as an alternative, there’s only a collection of raised bumps on the prime of the trackpad, slightly below the area bar.
For any of the ThinkPad fanboys who’ve been ready months for the Helix to ship, this alteration to the touchpad shall be an enormous one. An alarming one, even.
For any of the ThinkPad fanboys who’ve been ready months for the Helix to ship, this modification will probably be an enormous one. An alarming one, even. Lenovo says it has a very good purpose: that Home windows eight laptops deserve bigger trackpads for finishing up all these native contact gestures, like swiping in from the highest to show app settings. That, and there are many potential ThinkPad clients who simply do not “get” the thought of a TrackPoint, a lot much less the buttons that go together with it.
So right here we’re, with a spacious touchpad that may look proper at house on another pocket book, however not essentially a ThinkPad. You’ll be able to whine that it is unfamiliar, or that Lenovo probably caved to the incorrect type of buyer. You could be proper. However actually, it really works simply high quality — when you grasp the training curve, anyway. On the very starting of our testing interval, there have been a number of occasions once I managed to hit a slender lifeless zone in the midst of the trackpad, a spot the place neither proper nor left clicks registered. With slightly extra arms-on time, although, that turned a moot level; now, I all the time nail proper and left clicks on my first attempt. Someway, then, it is attainable to re-practice your fingers to hit the suitable locations, not in contrast to the best way you regulate to a brand new keyboard. Follow makes good, not that that makes a superb advertising tagline for Lenovo.
Thoughts you, the trackpad is not good, however we’re having hassle blaming it on the redesign. For example, should you’re monitoring the cursor with one finger, it does not all the time go the place you need it to, however that is true of many Home windows laptops, no matter who the PC maker is or who provided the touchpad. In any occasion, extra complicated gestures like two-finger scrolling, pinch-to-zoom and all of the Home windows eight-particular shortcuts (swiping for the Charms Bar, and so forth.) work simply effective.Show and sound
Say what you’ll concerning the funky keyboard dock and newfangled trackpad: the show is flawless. For this, its flagship Home windows eight hybrid for companies, Lenovo selected an eleven.6-inch IPS panel with 1,920 x 1,080 decision, a digitizer for strain-delicate pen enter and a four hundred-nit brightness score. Notably with the brightness cranked all the best way up, the viewing angles are strong, each on the vertical and horizontal axes. Even in an workplace with each harsh overhead lighting and a great deal of pure mild, the display confirmed minimal reflections, even though it isn’t truly an anti-glare display.
Additionally, except for straightforward readability, we discovered that colours and distinction stayed the identical whilst we seen the display from odd angles, maybe with the laptop computer in a lap, or with the pill off to our sides. That latter state of affairs was of specific significance to us, as we sometimes used the docked Helix as a type of second display, a spot the place we might browse the web or load video with out disrupting something on our main PC. If that setup sounds interesting to you, too, be glad you will not need to endure any washed-out colours with the Helix sitting in your peripheral imaginative and prescient.
The sound high quality, in the meantime, is definitely respectable within the sense that there is not an enormous rise in distortion at greater volumes. Kanye’s “I Am a God” and Eric Clapton’s electrical guitar did not sound a lot worse at degree one hundred than they did at 70. Then once more, the quantity does not get very loud, although it ought to nonetheless be high-quality for a convention name in a quiet area. Failing low-noise environment, you may all the time pair it with a speaker, we suppose.Efficiency and battery life
In current weeks, we have been taking numerous PC makers to activity for pushing techniques into the market with final-gen Ivy Bridge processors. Within the case of the Helix, although, Lenovo may need an excuse: whereas Intel is delivery Haswell chips for shopper methods, it hasn’t but launched its enterprise-grade processors. So, until Lenovo needed to delay the Helix even additional till the autumn, it needed to make do with Ivy Bridge. (If you can wait that lengthy, Lenovo says the Helix will get Haswell… ultimately.)
As it’s, the 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U CPU, 4GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics assist the efficiency maintain tempo with different units on this class. We’re partly referring to benchmark scores, sure, although the Toshiba-made SSD additionally delivers quick learn speeds of 553 MB/s, with virtually equally quick write speeds of 501 MB/s. Normally, we had no drawback juggling totally different apps, even after we misplaced rely of what number of we had open. As all the time, too, shopping in Web Explorer felt quick with little to no tiling. Our principal concern is with the startup time: it routinely took us 20 seconds or so as well into the Begin Display. Heck, it takes about 4 seconds only for the Lenovo emblem to seem onscreen early within the boot course of.
Lenovo claims the Helix can last as long as six hours on a cost with simply the pill, and as much as 10 if you add the keyboard dock. As is often the case, we received lower than that on each counts, simply because our battery life check (video looping with WiFi on) is especially grueling. In any occasion, we obtained 5 hours and 7 minutes with the pill alone, which is not dangerous when you think about the Floor Professional did not even make it to 4 hours in the identical check. And once more, it is a taxing check, so you possibly can in all probability squeeze out greater than 5 hours in the event you’re slightly extra conservative together with your brightness settings than we have been. With the dock hooked up, battery life reached seven hours and 27 minutes, which is greater than any Core i5 Ivy Bridge pill might final by itself. (The okayeywords being “Ivy Bridge” — who is aware of what Haswell will do for tablets like these.)Software program and guarantee
Once you spend almost $1,seven hundred on a PC — a enterprise PC, at that — you do not anticipate to be greeted by a lot bloatware once you boot the factor up for the primary time. Thankfully, Lenovo principally makes good on that promise. All we’ve right here is Skitch, Evernote, Kindle, AccuWeather, the music-streaming service Rara.com and Lenovo Help.
There’s additionally Lenovo Companion, however we advocate you not click on on it. Perhaps even take away the tile out of your Begin Display. What it’s, principally, is a portal with shortcuts for Lenovo’s blogs and its YouTube channel. You will additionally discover presents for issues like Zinio’s journal retailer and Norton Web Safety. Kind of a waste of area in case you ask us.
All the numerous Helix configurations come normal with one yr of protection, although prolonged warranties so long as 5 years can be found too.Configuration choices
The Helix technically begins at $1,749; although as of this writing Lenovo’s US website is providing a promotion that brings the entry worth right down to $1,574. That comes with a Core i5 processor, although a special one than what’s in our unit: an i5-3427U, with a base clock velocity of 1.8GHz. Different specs embrace 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
Go a step up, and also you get the identical specs, simply with cellular broadband inbuilt. That brings the worth to $1,869 (excluding any promotions that occur to be happening). Lastly, going with a Core i7-367U processor additionally means you get twice the RAM (8GB) in order that’s one thing to think about when selecting which one to purchase. These even have a 180GB SSD, not a 128GB one. These Core i7 fashions begin at $2,069 (or $2,249 with broadband). Once more, these costs do not embrace any promotions Lenovo may occur to be operating.The competitors
The Helix falls right into a rising class of eleven-inch touchscreen PCs that both have a removable pill or can be utilized in some type of pill mode. Now that Construct has come and gone with none new Floor bulletins, we’re inclined to consider the prevailing Floor Professional will stick round for at the very least a short while longer. Just like the Helix, that ships with an Ivy Bridge processor and rocks a equally sized (10.6-inch) 1080p show with a Wacom digitizer for pen enter. As we have established, the battery life there is not nearly as good as on the Helix, and you do not even have the choice of a dock with a second battery inbuilt. The Contact and Sort Cowl keyboards do contribute to a lighter complete weight, however they are not as snug because the Helix’s keyboard. Neither of these has a passable touchpad, however then once more, nor does the Helix, in order that they’re even in that respect. There’s a method by which the Floor Professional wins, although, and that is worth: the 128GB model prices $999.
In Lenovo’s personal camp, there’s the Yoga 11S, which is actually a smaller model of the Yoga thirteen. (Do not confuse this with the Yoga eleven, which has an ARM processor and runs Home windows RT, not full Home windows eight.) We’ve not examined this man but, so we sadly cannot vouch for issues like efficiency or battery life. What we will say definitively is that it is cheaper ($999 with a Core i5 CPU and a 128GB strong-state drive), however that the specs are additionally inferior (1,366 x 768 show, no pen enter). Simply when it comes to type issue, it accomplishes most of the similar issues because the Helix, nevertheless it’s clearly a shopper gadget, not a enterprise machine.
“Progressive” is one thing of a backhanded praise, at the least on this case the place the design is considerably awkward.
When it comes out later this yr, Dell’s XPS eleven hybrid will probably be similar to the Yoga 11S, and will compete towards the Helix too, with a skinny, mild design and eleven-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 show. Till it comes out, although, the closest factor Dell has to supply is the XPS 12, which just lately received refreshed with Haswell — one thing the Helix does not have but. It’s kind of heavier, even whenever you issue within the Helix’s keyboard, and Lenovo’s machine is certainly extra snug to make use of as a pill. However the XPS 12 has a cushty keyboard and a dependable trackpad, in addition. So it actually depends upon whether or not you want a laptop computer first and a pill second, or vice versa.
There’s additionally the ASUS TAICHI 21, which has twin 1080p screens — one on the lid of the laptop computer and one on the within, above the keyboard, the place you’d anticipate it to be. However with Ivy Bridge processors, the battery life is fairly horrible, and the inside display does not even help contact. You may need been contemplating this one, however we might recommend you skip it; the Lenovo Helix and Yoga each accomplish the entire display-on-the-outdoors factor to a lot better impact.
Now that we have breezed via all the most important eleven-inch hybrids, we might ask you to a minimum of contemplate one thing with a extra conventional type issue — i.e., a laptop computer with a touchscreen. On that entrance, we’re keen on Sony’s VAIO Professional eleven, which presents quick efficiency and spectacular battery life, each because of Haswell. It additionally packs NFC and a 1080p show, together with a sheet battery choice and light-weight carbon fiber design — all for an inexpensive beginning worth of $1,one hundred fifty. The keyboard is not as cozy because the Helix’s, although the trackpad is about on par.Wrap-up
Even six months after it was initially introduced, the ThinkPad Helix is probably the most progressive Home windows eight pill hybrid we will consider. In a approach, although, “revolutionary” is a backhanded praise, no less than on this case the place the design is considerably awkward. Because it occurs, we take pleasure in with the ability to flip the pill portion over and have the show dealing with outwards for shows and such. However the Dell XPS 12 and Lenovo’s personal Yoga line can do this too, and with no difficult hinge that is troublesome to maneuver and more likely to trigger tangles in your bag. (Do not even get us began on the Helix’s weird cooling flap.) Furthermore, once you use this as a full-fledged laptop computer, it is truly heavier than competing PCs, even these with bigger screens. So contemplate how typically you will actually use this in pill mode, after which proceed accordingly.
As a lot as we’d mock the Helix’s “Rip n’ Flip” design, although, this product truly nonetheless has a number of issues going for it: a sturdy keyboard, dependable trackpad and a shiny 1080p show with vast viewing angles. Additionally, it accepts pen enter, which a lot of the different units we have talked about do not, save for the Floor Professional. As a standalone pill, it weighs lower than any common touchscreen Ultrabook, and it even weighs a bit lower than different Core i5 tablets, just like the Floor. The battery life is spectacular too, if solely as a result of Lenovo provides us two cells as an alternative of 1. So it is a good product in some ways, even when we solely find yourself recommending it to a sure area of interest (learn: enterprise clients who typically want a real pill with pen enter — not a laptop computer that can be utilized in a careless pill mode). Even so — and cease us when you’ve heard this earlier than — you would be higher off ready a couple of months for a Haswell refresh. Battery life shall be even higher, and what’s extra, that lofty beginning worth will appear just a little extra justified.