Lenovo ThinkPad Helix (2nd Generation) Review – Flexibility At A Price

There’s certainly no shortage of Lenovo PCs in nearly every conceivable form factor, and that includes the second-generation ultrabook/tablet hybrid ThinkPad Helix. Unlike the Yoga hybrids, the display is fully detachable from the keyboard base, making it a relatively svelte (for an 11-incher at least) tablet. That flexibility comes at a price, however.

Specs (as tested)

  • Intel Core M-5Y71
  • 11.6-inch 1080p display
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB SSD storage
  • Windows 8.1 Pro

Ultrabooks are already more expensive than laptops in exchange for providing you PC-grade power in a more portable chassis, and this one throws in a digitizer pen and tablet mode for a starting price of $1049. For that you get a full 1080p display with digitizer pen, an Intel Core M-5Y10C processor (up to 2GHz), Windows 8.1, a 128GB SSD and 4GB RAM. The configuration I tested will set you back $1629 for a bump up to the Core M-5Y71 (up to 2.9GHz), Windows 8.1 Pro, a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.

Chassis

As I mentioned, the ultrabook features a keyboard base with its own battery and a fully-detachable 1080p display. You can re-attach the display “backwards” to put the device in tent mode or stand mode. You can see these modes for yourselves in the gallery below:

Performance In Everyday Use

The ThinkPad Helix seemed to struggle a bit with playing Netflix videos, frequently buffering them or sometimes freezing entirely. Considering Ben experienced a lack of processing power in the Core M-powered Yoga 3 11-inch edition, I blame Intel and I believe they rushed the Core M processor series to market too soon. In tablet mode, I found the digitizer pen satisfactory, but there was some lag in responsiveness, which meant some offset between the tip of the pen and the cursor on the screen. Microsoft OneNote comes preinstalled, and the app performed well when I attended a recent convention and used the detached tablet to take handwritten notes.



Battery

Speaking of the convention, I was able to use the detached tablet to take notes throughout each day’s program (9:30AM – 5PM with some interruptions) without having to recharge the battery (though I had to set the screen brightness down somewhat). As I mentioned, the keyboard/base has its own battery, so the device will obviously last even longer on battery power with the tablet attached.

Sound

Sound quality was underwhelming on speakers, both in tablet mode and in laptop mode (base and tablet each have their own speakers). My recommendation is to use headphones or an external speaker. Though the speakers leave something to be desired, the 1080p display is stunning – colors are accurate and vivid, and image clarity is exceptional.

ThinkPad Helix Final Thoughts

Ultrabooks certainly aren’t casual purchases, as that portability comes at a price. Those that come with 1080p displays that can be detached to act as full-fledged Windows tablets are even more expensive. Throw in a higher-grade Core M, double the RAM and SSD space and throw in a $30 upgrade to use Windows 8.1 Pro (as opposed to regular 8.1), and you might be better off with a Surface 3 or even a Yoga 3. Overall, the ThinkPad Helix is an excellent device, but it’s rather pricey.

Header image courtesy of MobileCupOfJoe. Watch their video review below.

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