Jan 9, 2013

Lenovo has heartily embraced Windows 8, building the inventive IdeaPad Yoga to highlight the new tablet-friendly operating system. Other touch-enabled systems from the ThinkPad maker include the swivel-screen ThinkPad Twist, and a touch version of the slim ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

Joining that lineup is 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.

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


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