Chillblast Helios i5
This laptop from Chillblast starts at a tuppence short of £700, with a similar specification and an attempt at duplicating the all-metal casework. The Helios i5 is a 13.3in ultraportable weighing under 1.4kg, measuring 19mm thick, and packing the latest Broadwell Intel processor, plus full-HD display. This has IPS-like technology for improved image over cheapest TN types.
Chillblast uses the Topstar U731 laptop and makes it available in the UK with 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U for £699; or with 2.4GHz Core i7-5500U for an extra £99. The chassis is similar to that of Apple’s MacBook Air, sides that taper toward the front to give the illusion of a wedge. There are two USB ports, but only one USB 3.0, even if the left port is erroneously labelled ‘SS’ for SuperSpeed. The DC power inlet is too close, so you may have trouble inserting thumb drives. There’s an upside-down HDMI and an SDXC card slot, along with a rarity in ultrabooks – built-in ethernet. This has a hinged flap that flops down, even when not required.
With lid closed, the Chillblast Helios i5’s top and bottom are plain, in unfinished aluminium, and while there are no defects in manufacture it feels flimsier than we would like. Chillblast has stuck a thick plastic logo in one corner.
The keyboard works satisfactorily but we had trouble with the trackpad, a budget component with poor sensitivity – it would take several taps to register a click, for example, and steering was not particularly precise. You can select 250- or 500GB mSATA SSD, a Samsung 850 EVO, while Wi-Fi supports 11ac networks with a single-stream adaptor from Intel.
With the help of up-to-date Core i5, the Helios i5 didn’t want for speed – 2652 points in Geekbench 3, rising to 5269 in multi-core mode. PCMark 8 Home scored the laptop with 2812 points, about right for a midrange ultraportable. Gaming was less certain, just 27fps at the low setting of 720p/Low in Batman.
The AAS display is a budget attempt at IPS, here able to cover 97 percent sRGB and 670:1 contrast ratio. Colour accuracy was disappointing, Delta E average 3.12.
Battery life was good though, at nine hours 46 minutes in the wireless video-streaming test.
The Chillblast Helios i5 trumps the MacBook Air in screen resolution and image quality, but it’s let down by cheaper-feeling build. If you can live with these issues along with the operating system, you can save over £100 on the real thing.