Lenovo's original ThinkPad Helix launched in 2013 with minimal fanfare. When we reviewed the laptop, Lenovo's first 2-in-1 detachable ThinkPad, we were impressed with the attractive display on its tablet and the springy keys on its keyboard, but not by its relatively thick chassis, high price and temperatures so warm that even built-in fans could not cool it. Enter the 2014 edition of the ThinkPad Helix, which uses Intel's new, low-power Core M CPU to provide a much slimmer design that does not require active cooling.
Announced today and due out in October, the new Helix starts at just $999, significantly less than its $1,649 predecessor. We had a chance to spend a few moments with the system and were impressed with its svelte chassis. At.38 inches thick, the new Helix is 15 percent thinner than its predecessor, though its tablet portion weighs the same 1.8 pounds. The back surface of the device is made from aluminum, but coated with an attractive black finish.
On the inside, the Helix is powered by Intel's brand new Core M processor, which is the first processor based on the chip-maker's 14nm Broadwell architecture. The chip uses significantly less power and generates much less heat than the third-generation Core i5 on the original Helix, allowing Lenovo to forgo fans on both the tablet and its keyboard docks. Like the original, the new Helix comes with a choice of SSD and RAM capacities.
The ThinkPad Helix will be sold with a choice of keyboard docks. The $999 base model comes with the Ultrabook Keyboard, which has solid key travel and a relatively large clickpad, but no TrackPoint pointing stick. Though the 11.6-inch tablet physically connects to this keyboard, there's no hinge for adjusting the angle and users must lay the slate on top of the keyboard for carrying rather than folding it closed like a clamshell. A slot for the active stylus sits on the right side of the dock. The look, feel and mounting connection of the Ultrabook Keyboard seemed nearly identical to the ThinkPad 10's optional keyboard dock.
Available in January for a higher price (TBD), the Ultrabook Pro Keyboard has a TrackPoint pointing stick and a snap-in hinge that allows you to fold the Helix into Tent or Stand Modes or fold it closed as a clamshell. Like the original Helix, you can also flip the tablet around 180 degrees and mount it facing backward with the keyboard behind it. Lenovo says the Ultrabook Pro Keyboard will increase the battery life to 12 hours while the tablet alone will endure for 8 hours.
Like the original, the 2014 ThinkPad Helix will come with a 1920 x 1080 touch screen. In our brief experience, the panel was bright, colorful and responsive. No matter which dock you use, the device comes with an active stylus for drawing and handwriting recognition. The Helix also features a 5-MP rear camera and 2-MP webcam, the same resolutions on the original.
We look forward to getting a closer look at the new ThinkPad Helix and its Core M processor when the device starts shipping next month.