Chillblast Helium review

Chillblast Helium review

Chillblast is best known for producing desktop PCs, as well as high-end gaming laptops that, while powerful, do tend to look rather like a slab of concrete. The new Chillblast Helium is therefore something of a change in direction. See all mid-range PC reviews.

It's certainly no gaming rig, as it relies purely on the integrated graphics of its Haswell-generation Intel Core i7 processor, and its relatively slimline design actually moves Chillblast into the realm of the Ultrabook for the first time.

Like most Chillblast laptops, the Helium still uses a generic off-the-shelf chassis, and it's not the most elegant ultraportable we've ever seen. Its dark-grey plastic casing is fairly nondescript, and sounds rather plasticky when tapped, but should be still sturdy enough to cope with day-to-day travelling in a backpack or briefcase.

The keyboard also has a tendency to rattle when you're typing. Fortunately the keys themselves have a nice, firm feel to them so you can certainly tap away at high speed when you need to get some work done.

Connectivity is something of a mixed bag. We're always pleased to see ethernet on an ultraportable laptop these days, but the Helium has only two USB 3.0 ports, which could prove a bit frustrating when you need to connect several peripherals at once.

Despite being named after the lighter-than-air Helium, the use of a 14-inch screen means that this laptop is at the bigger and heavier end of what Intel would market as an Ultrabook.

It measures 21 mm thick when folded flat and weighs a full 2.1 kg, which puts it in the outer limits of Ultrabook territory. But then again, it does provide considerably stronger performance than most Windows laptops inspired by the MacBook Air.
 
Chillblast provides a number of build-to-order options for the Helium, but we tested a model that costs £899 with a dual-core Intel Core i7 running at 1.8 GHz, along with 16 GB of memory and a hybrid storage system that combines a 500 GB hard drive with 120 GB solid-state storage.

The hybrid storage certainly adds some zip to the laptop – it recovers from Windows 8's ‘fast-start' standby mode in just 12 seconds, and wakes from sleep immediately when you open the screen up.

Running the general-purpose PCMark 7 benchtest produced a strong score of 5100 points, which is in line with other laptops we've seen using this processor.

The Home and Work tests in the newer PCMark 8 produced scores of 2450 points and 3100 points respectively, confirming that the Helium provides desktop levels of performance for productivity applications. And, with 16 GB of memory and plenty of fast storage, it can also handle demanding video and graphics applications that involve working with large file sizes.

Chillblast Helium review

The 14-inch screen isn't in quite the same league, though. The image is bright and colourful, but viewing angles could be better, with brightness falling quite significantly once you move past about 100 degrees either horizontally or vertically.

The speakers are also quite weak, and you'd struggle to hear anything over any local din, so headphones or speakers will be necessary if you want decent audio quality.

The lack of a discrete graphics means that the Helium can't match its Chillblast stablemates for gaming performance. Its integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 could only manage 21 fps when running our Stalker gaming test at screen native resolution.

Dropping to 1280 x 720 resolution did produce a more playable average of 29 fps, but the Helium is very much a laptop designed more for work than games.

With that in mind, we'd have liked to see slightly better battery life. To be fair, the Helium did manage 5 hours and 20 minutes of streaming video in our tests.

That was once respectable battery life for a laptop with such a decent processor, and lighter use might see you through a little longer too. It's not in the same league as long-lasting rivals such as Apple's MacBook Pro or the Dell XPS 12 – but both of those cost a little more, so the Helium can score better on price.

Chillblast Helium: Specs

  • 14.0-inch (1600 x 900 pixel, 131 ppi) TN display
  • 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-4500U (3.0 GHz Turbo)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 16 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 120 GB solid-state drive and 500 GB hard disk (5400 rpm)
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x gigabit ethernet
  • 1x HDMI 1.4
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • 720p webcam/microphone
  • 1x headphone, 1x microphone socket
  • 44.6 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 337 x 236 x 21 mm
  • 2.1 kg
  • 14.0-inch (1600 x 900 pixel, 131 ppi) TN display
  • 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-4500U (3.0 GHz Turbo)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 16 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 120 GB solid-state drive and 500 GB hard disk (5400 rpm)
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x gigabit ethernet
  • 1x HDMI 1.4
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • 720p webcam/microphone
  • 1x headphone, 1x microphone socket
  • 44.6 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 337 x 236 x 21 mm
  • 2.1 kg

OUR VERDICT

The display quality on the 14-inch screen is disappointing in a laptop costing the best part of £900. If you need true all-day battery life you may also want to look elsewhere. However, the Helium does manage to provide high-end computing performance at a more mid-range price. It could be a good option for anyone who needs a powerful desktop replacement system more than a lightweight ultraportable.