ThinkPad Helix

The ThinkPad Helix, a slight variation on some of the convertible themes we've seen previously from Lenovo and other companies. Lenovo calls this clamshell a "rip and flip" design. That means the screen itself pops off from the keyboard base, as in a hybrid laptop/tablet, but then can reattach after being rotated 180 degrees, leaving the screen facing out from the back of the system (similar to the Dell XPS 12).

That makes for a good presentation mode, which I sometimes call a kiosk setup. Of course, you can also use the Helix screen by itself (which is covered by Gorilla Glass) as a Windows 8 slate.

The screen and base are each under 2.0 pounds, but that's on the hefty side for an 11.6-inch system. That said, it's 20mm thin, qualifying for ultrabook status, and can run processors up to Intel's current-gen Core i7. Travel-friendly features include 3G/4G antenna options, NFC chip, and a spill-resistant keyboard.

In person, the Helix design is a bit less clunky-looking than some of the detachable screen clasp/hinge setups we've seen, but I'm still not sure the demand is there for a small Windows 8 laptop with a detachable screen. Most of the other similar systems I've seen, however, are saddled with low-power Intel Atom CPUs, so the Core i-series chips might make a big difference.

Hardware specifications on the Helix are pretty impressive given the small form factor and include Ivy Bridge-based Core i7 processors, up to 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD, two USB 3.0 ports, RJ45 port, mini-DisplayPort and even mini-HDMI. The machine will also have optional LTE radios to go along with the 802.11n WiFi and even NFC support.

The display panel is an IPS 11.6-in 1080p rated at 400 nits - that is very high brightness for a Lenovo machine in my experience. The screen is rated for 10 point touch capability as well in case you need BOTH HANDS for your project.
Also new is the Lenovo glass ClickPad which I am very eager to get my hands and try. That is the one area where MacBooks have continued to dominate in terms of notebook design and if Lenovo's ThinkPads can match or improve then we might have a winner on our hands.

The machine will weigh in at 3.68 lbs for the tablet and dock, 1.84 lbs for the tablet on its own, for great portability. Battery life claims are at 5 hours on the tablet alone and 10 hours with the tablet and base combination, but as with all battery life specifications plan on cutting that to 50-60% for real-world usage scenarios.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix will be available in late February, starting at $1,499.

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