Chillblast Helios i5 review: Like a MacBook Air, but cheaper and running Windows 10

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LIKE A CHEAP MACBOOK AIR WITH WINDOWS 10

This Air clone from Chillblast starts at a tuppence short of £700, with a similar specification and an attempt at duplicating the all-metal casework.

The Chillblast Helios i5 is a 13.3-inch ultraportable weighing under 1.4 kg, 19 mm 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 far-eastern Topstar U731 laptop and makes it available in the UK with 2.2 GHz Intel Core i5-5200U for £699.98; or with 2.4 GHz Core i7-5500U for an additional £99.

We tested the Chillblast Helios i5 selling for £722.78 – you must pay another £19+VAT for 1600 MHz memory, which we’d recommend to bolster integrated graphics.

BUILD AND DESIGN

The chassis is based on that of Apple’s ultraportable, 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 thumbdrives.

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 which 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 the original. Replacing the familiar Apple logo, Chillblast has stuck a thick plastic badge of its own 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 500 GB mSATA SSD, a Samsung 850 EVO, while Wi-Fi supports 11ac networks with a single-stream adaptor from Intel.

PERFORMANCE

With the help of up-to-date Core i5, the Chillblast 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, only 27 fps 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. The backlit uses PWM which creates flicker.

Battery life was good at 9 hr 46 min in the wireless video-streaming test.

SPECS

VERDICT

The Chillblast Helios i5 trumps the Air in screen res and image quality, and Intel and Samsung chips keep the pace, but it’s let down by a lousy trackpad, smaller, flickering display and cheaper-feeling build. If you can live with these issues along with the OS, you can save over £100 on the real thing.

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