The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix name isn't a brand new concept, with the first model unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2013. But fast-forward some 20 months to the Intel Developers Forum 2014 and the second generation model has shown face. And it looks to be a cracking tablet-meets-laptop device.
The Helix 2014 doesn't rest on its laurels. Now based on Intel Core M architecture, the fanless design is also thinner than the original. The 11.6-inch tablet measures 9.6mm thick, around 2mm less than the original tablet - and that was already slender for an Intel Core i device. Microsoft Surface 3 eat your heart out. However the Lenovo Helix feels like an altogether different device to Microsoft's offering, because it is designed to be so.
The Helix was shown with multiple docks this time around, including the classic keyboard arrangement of the original, a second with a more compact keyboard option, and a third tablet-only rest minus the keyboard. Our preference would be for a trackpad size somewhere between the large and over-small options between those two keyboard docks, as the second keyboard option didn't feel as eminently usable as the original design to us.
With the keyboard dock the Helix can be arranged into a number of different formations. Whether tablet, laptop, "tent" or stand, it's a device with multiple purposes. A 2-in-1 with personality, if you will, although Lenovo would probably try and call it a 5-in-1 or something.
It's also a device that's upping the ante on the tech front. Like the latest smartphones, the Helix introduces a fingerprint scanner for added security. We weren't able to use it, of course, as it wasn't matched to our fingers - but that's a rarity in among the laptop/tablet world thus far. It's interesting to see companies getting on board with such tech, particularly after Intel highlighted the importance of biometrics in its mission to eliminate all passwords starting in 2015.
We like that the ThinkPad Helix doesn't come in oversized formats too. While there are increasingly positive things to say about 13- and 15-inch desktop replacements - such as the HP Envy x2 models, also running Intel Core M - there's something about an 11.6-inch screen that's acceptable as a standalone tablet too.
And with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS panel things look great. Reflections are kept to a minimum, the viewing angles are great and the clarity is top notch. Good job. We found the touchscreen was responsive when using the Windows 8.1 interface.
But that's no surprise given the asking price. The Helix starts at $1,275 in the US, so don't expect it to be any less than a grand or more when it arrives in the UK. It's a serious bit of kit with a serious asking price.
The rest of the specs follow a relatively decent outlay too: 4GB RAM minimum joins the Intel Core M processor, there's a 128GB minimum SSD drive to store all your goodies, and Intel 4000 to handle things on the graphics front. There's also a press-to-release stylus literally tucked away in the body.
A lot of your cash is going into the build we suspect. It's a solid construction in that typical ThinkPad design. A little plasticky, perhaps, as there's no carbon to be seen here - but we could see it being used for both work or personal means no problems.
That's the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2014 in a nutshell: slimmer, more advanced than the original and yet still powerful. It's only the price point and love-or-hate-it black and red design that may work against it.