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.
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.
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