Chillblast Helix 17 review

The Chillblast Helix 17 is slimmest laptop of its kind

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Great gaming prowess

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    Sleek Ultrabook-esque curves

  • +

    Impressive speakers

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Hissing cooling fans

  • -

    Serious heat

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    Hefty price tag

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Sporting a next-gen chipset, the latest from Chillblast is the slimmest 17-inch gaming laptop around but is worth your cash? Read our Chillblast Helix 17 review

Every device with even the slightest nod towards mobility is increasingly tending towards racehorse-chic. None of us want the massive phones or beefy laptops that litter the annals of technology and so our devices are getting ever thinner and lighter.

The only people in the world that hurts are the chiropractors who used to make a tidy living off the business folk and their warped spines, twisted out of all recognition by years of hauling weighty notebooks from office to meeting to home.

The Ultrabook spec, pioneered by processor manufacturer Intel, has been incredibly successful at driving down the weight and scale of today's productivity laptops. Now you can have all the PowerPoint prowess you could want in a machine that you'll barely notice in your handbag. What you can't have, though, is a thin and light notebook to keep you company in your downtime and let you game like a pro.

The traditional gaming-focused laptop has always been a chunky beast, for the simple reason that trying to squeeze proper desktop gaming performance into a laptop form factor is the sort of challenge thermal engineers either live for or go all Beautiful Mind over.

It's all about the graphics - modern PC games need serious graphical processing power to be able to throw around all the textured polygons and post-processed 'splodes a casual Battlefield 4 session demands.

And, unlike the humble CPU, the graphics processing unit (GPU) hasn't really had the icy spectre of power efficiency hanging over the heads of its architects. As such the general idea has been to throw as many transistors as possible into the package and to hell with the amount of power it craves to get gaming properly. And that also means they generate a huge amount of heat as wasted energy too.

That's all changing, though, and, with Nvidia's Kepler graphics architecture, it's trying to drive down both heat and power draw by creating powerful GPUs that don't need a tame nuclear reactor to operate.

Because of that Chillblast has been able to create a gaming laptop with the sort of slimline form-factor gaming laptops of barely six months ago would blush to be seen around.

The Chillblast Helix 17 is no shrinking violet, though; it's a wide 17-inch machine with a full 1080p HD screen and the sort of surprising PC gaming performance which belies its girth.

Chillblast Helix 17: Size and build

At just 22mm deep it's thinner than even Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro, though it's over half a kilo heavier than the 15-inch version. But still at just 2.66kg it's not exactly what you'd call a bloater in laptop terms, especially when you compare it against the sort of hulking beasts you'll see dominating the rosters of either Gigabyte or Asus.

We would have thrown MSI into the mix there as most of its gaming laptops are pretty chunky too, but this is where provenance becomes important. MSI doesn't just manufacture its own machines, it will also sell its chassis designs to other companies so they can rebrand and release their own laptops.

As such, the Chillblast Helix is actually rocking the same slimline chassis as the MSI GS70 Stealth series. That's probably much to the chagrin of MSI's marketing and sales bods, though, given the Chillblast Helix seems to be undercutting a similar spec GS70 Stealth Pro by a good £250.

Chillblast Helix 17: Features

The star of the show in gaming terms is that Nvidia GTX 870M GPU. It may be based on the aging Kepler architecture - soon to be replaced by the seriously power-friendly Maxwell silicon - but it's still able to hit impressive gaming frame rates without melting a hole in the laptop's chassis.

Alongside the powerful Nvidia GPU is one of Intel's latest Core i7 CPUs. The i7-4710MQ is a bona fide quad-core processor, but because it's one of Intel's finest it also comes with the HyperThreading tech, which allows it to take advantage of a full eight threads of processing power.

With a nominal clock speed of 2.5GHz it's no slouch, and if it needs to shift gears it can dynamically push that up to 3.3GHz with the Helix's thermal performance.

Backing those two silicon heroes up is a healthy 8GB of DDR3 memory and a 120GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD. Now that might not sound like a great deal of storage, so it's a good thing Chillblast is also dropping a 1TB hybrid SSHD into the Helix too.

Having an SSD as the boot drive is what makes the Helix feel so responsive and means it can boot in a matter of seconds. The fact Chillblast has opted for a hybrid drive rather than just a plain ol' spinning platter hard drive also means you'll get some decent speed out of the data drive too.

Chillblast Helix 17: Performance

All this makes the Chillblast Helix one of the fastest gaming laptops we've ever tested, allowing you to play the latest games at the native 1080p resolution of the laptop's crisp and clear panel, generally without having to knock down many of the graphics settings.

And, because there's an Nvidia graphics card at its heart, you get the added bonus of GeForce Experience. Its software enables you to use the combined wisdom of Nvidia's engineers, and a whole host of gamers, to automatically tailor pretty much any game's settings to run beautifully on your particular machine at the push of a virtual button.

Chillblast Helix 17: Verdict

Unfortunately the sleek lines of the Helix and it's impressive gaming prowess does come at a price, and for once we're not talking about the hit your wallet's going to take.

This GPU and CPU combination will still generate a hell of a lot of heat when it's being seriously taxed by a modern 3D game, and that's got to go somewhere. That means the Helix has to have cooling fans to drive the hot air out of the thin li'l chassis and it can get rather loud when the graphics card is being put to good use. The underside of the chassis also gets rather hot too, making it a laptop in name and not practicality.

But if you want the sleek looks and the gaming performance that's just something you can't avoid right now. And for us that's a trade off that's utterly worth the aural trauma, after all it gives you the excuse to push the volume up on the impressively rich speakers the Helix is rocking too.

Chillblast Helix 17 release date: Out now

Chillblast Helix 17 price: £1249.99

Review by Dave James

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