If you think the MacBook Air is the pinnacle of ultrabook design and that the iPad is likewise for tablets, then my friend, you surely have been sucked into the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field.
At the end of April I wrote a brief review of the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, which is a good Windows 8 based tablet, and something any buyer should look at before buying any other tablet they intend for serious work purposes. Now I get to take a look at the ThinkPad Helix.
Like last time with the Tablet 2, the Helix was supplied to me on loan from a supplier for evaluation within a corporate environment, not a review unit supplied by Lenovo. Also, like last time, the Helix was a lower end model configured without the Wacom digitiser and active stylus (a feature I really would have love to have tried on both the Helix and Tablet 2).
As one of the new breed of Intel powered ultrabooks (the one I used was an i5, but it’s also available with an i7), the Helix is a beautiful machine. It’s slim (20mm) and light (1.7kg), has a beautiful big multi-touch tactile trackpad (as well as Lenovo’s trademark red trackpoint), and the legendary Lenovo keyboard.
Let me just talk a little about the keyboard. For work I currently use a 5 year old ThinkPad T61, so I’m very familiar with how good ThinkPad keyboards are. They have a reputation for a reason. I thought I knew what to expect from the Helix. It has a redesigned island style keyboard, which I had read much about a year or two ago when Lenovo first introduced it. I thought I would get the same great ThinkPad feel, with a slightly different look, but no. If anything I would say that the Helix’s keyboard is better than that on the T61. Maybe even the best keyboard I’ve ever used.
So, the ThinkPad Helix is an ultrabook right? Wrong. It’s a convertible ultrabook. With the press of a button, the screen undocks from the keyboard to become a fully functioning Windows 8 tablet. OK, being a i5/i7 powered device, at 835g this is no light weight (like the Tablet 2 or an iPad), and it does need active cooling, so it is a bit thicker (11.6mm) to accommodate that, but that certainly doesn’t make in feel heavy or unusable. The combination of the weight distribution, the subtle curves and the soft touch finish mean the tablet is very nicely balanced for one handed use.
Some people that used the Helix as part of trial, expressed some concern over the longevity of the hinge/docking assembly. In order to force additional cooling into the tablet portion when docked, there are two small fans in the hinge/dock. These are covered by a flap that opens as you open the Helix (when docked). This flap is free moving and made of plastic and could pop-off with some rough use.
Lenovo have a great “unboxed” video on their YouTube channel, of the Helix on show at this year’s CES. It shows may of the great aspects of the Helix. Check it out…
That said, I loved the Helix. When it finally does become available, you should definitely check it out. The Lenovo Australia website says it’s coming Winter 2013.
Note: Both the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 and ThinkPad Helix were supplied on loan as corporate evaluation units by Blue Connections Pty Ltd.