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With Helix, Lenovo Rips and Flips Ahead

Lenovo is making a strong case that it's Microsoft's most committed OEM partner on Windows 8.

Anecdotally, the company's been the heaviest advertiser, in U.S. markets at least, for convertibles that take full advantage of the Windows 8 OS. On the shows I watch and sites I visit, IdeaPad Yoga ad saturation has been very high.

What's more important, though, is that the company has a diverse and compelling line of convertible PCs that really run with the idea that a Windows 8 PC can be your tablet and your PC -- more expensive than one or the other device but fully capable of doing everything either could do.

Nor is Lenovo sitting on the laurels of the Yoga and the ThinkPad Twist, two of the most interesting Windows 8 designs so far. At CES this week, Lenovo introduced another laptop/tablet hybrid that takes some of the ideas of those earlier models and moves them even further along.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix has a new design that Lenovo is calling "rip and flip."  Like some other convertibles, i.e., the Microsoft Surface and some Dell, Acer and ASUS models, the screen separates from the keyboard to be a tablet. Lenovo's innovation hinges on, well, the hinge.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix

Like some other Windows 8 convertibles, the hinge is built into the keyboard, but on the Helix, it's much more pronounced. It makes for a less aesthetically pleasing keyboard when the Helix base is sitting around tablet-less, but the flexibility far outweighs the disadvantages.

The hinge allows the tablet to be removed, spun 180 degrees and reconnected -- enabling both tablet-style usage with the keyboard attached and "Stand" usage, similar to the Yoga and Twist, in which movies or presentations can be viewed while the screen is upright. As a tester of the Yoga, I found the Stand mode incredibly useful. The benefit of the new Helix design is that it would avoid some of the keyboard damage that might occur in Stand mode on the Yoga. With the Yoga's 360-degree hinge, the Stand mode puts the keys face-down, potentially leading to wear and tear. The Helix rests on the keyboard base.

The only other real problem I had with the Yoga was that the tablet mode was heavy. Because the Helix tablet can come free of the keyboard, that issue is also resolved in the Helix.

Lenovo has also separated the batteries on this Ultrabook PC. The tablet portion of the Helix has its own six-hour battery. But the keyboard also boasts a battery that can recharge the tablet battery or combine with it to provide 10-hour battery life, according to Lenovo.

With a 4G option, Near Field Communications capabilities and a pen built in to the tablet, Lenovo's Helix means it's also well positioned for when future apps start taking advantage of those technologies. Availability is expected in late February with a starting price of $1,499.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 09, 2013