L enovo’s ThinkPad range has been hugely successful in the business world, thanks to their combination of reliability, performance and corporate-focused features. The Helix aims to deliver these three attributes in the format of a 2in1 convertible tablet. There’s no denying that it packs some serious hardware for such a slim machine, but the entire package has one massive Achilles Heel – one of the worst stands we’ve seen on a convertible.
Before we explain why we’re not fans of this, let’s take a look at the tablet portion of the package. The 11.6 inch screen packs a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, and it’s a very respectable performer with decent viewing angles and excellent image quality. Being a Windows 8.1 tablet it’s also a touch-screen, and accuracy with the included Wacom stylus is excellent. It doesn’t seem to have the same pressure-sensing of Microsoft’s Surface though, and there’s absolutely no mention of this feature in the specs. The stylus slides away inside the base when not in use, making it easy to keep track of.
The tablet itself is tiny, measuring just 301mm by 192mm by 10mm, and weighing in at just 795 grams. It doesn’t get much more portable than this, yet Lenovo has managed to squeeze some impressive hardware within the razor-thin shell. Our sample came with Intel’s power-sipping M-5Y70 CPU, which ramps up to 2.6GHz when the going gets tough. This includes the Intel HD Graphics 5300 solution, which is fine for playing of HD videos but will struggle with any dedicated 3D work. It’s paired with 8GB of memory, more than enough for the usual office activities that this tablet will undertake. A 256GB M.2 SSD provides all of the storage, so cloud backup or an external drive will likely become necessary after a few month’s use, as there’s no option to increase the internal storage. A two megapixel 1080p camera graces the front of the tablet, while a five megapixel 1080p camera adorns the rear. The image quality for both is excellent, with the front fine for video conferencing while the rear is adept at capturing images and video.
Thanks to the decent hardware within, performance was snappy and responsive even with multiple applications open at once. Obviously it’s not going to compete with dedicated laptop CPUs, so the ho-hum PCMark 8 Home Accelerated score of 2176 isn’t too shabby at all. Battery performance was solid, coming in at four hours and one minute in the PCMark 8 Home Battery Test.
If there’s one price to pay for the tablet being so thin, it’s a lack of I/O options. A single USB 3.0 port sits next to the MicroSD reader. An optional 3G/4G port can house the necessary SIM card for built-in wireless broadband access, while a Micro HDMI output rounds out the range of ports. There’s no Ethernet adaptor built-in; instead Lenovo packs in a USB to Ethernet adaptor. Thankfully the Intel dual band adaptor supports the fastest Wi-Fi speed of 802.11ac, as well as older legacy connections.
While the tablet itself is very competent, things fall apart when the base is included in the equation. It’s a very simple keyboard base, and its main flaw is the lack of hinge for changing the angle of the screen. The tablet can be mounted in one of two ways – either in an upright, laptop position, or closed and unusable. There’s no way to fold the screen backwards and stand the unit in tent mode, which most other tablets can do. If you don’t like the default angle of the screen in laptop mode, too bad, as there’s no way to adjust it at all. The benefit of this lack of adjustment is that the screen is held rigidly in place, so won’t bounce when touched, but a lot of versatility has been sacrificed as a result. In fact, this is the only 2in1 Convertible that we can think of that doesn’t have a 180 degree hinge. There’s also another problem – in laptop mode the screen simply rests in place, and isn’t locked in. Try using it on your lap and there’s a good chance the tablet will fall out.
There’s also the price – at over two grand this is one of the most expensive convertibles on the market. When stood next to something like the Surface Pro 3, the lack of versatility and questionable base make this a hard purchase to justify.