GHD was due another success in the hair dryer department – and the Helios is the shining star we've been waiting for
- Stylish, lightweight design
- Superfast drying times
- Quiet yet powerful
- Hair lacked volume
GHD has long ruled the hair straighteners roost, but when it comes to hair dryers the British brand hasn’t had it quite so easy. Having retired its GHD Aura a few years back, the brand’s only remaining full-sized dryer has been the GHD Air. With cheaper models increasingly snapping at the Air’s heels, the company’s latest model – the GHD Helios – has arrived just in time.
The Helios has actually been available exclusively in a small number of salons since the start of January, but now it’s on general sale in the UK. The burning question, as ever, is whether it has been worth the wait. Has GHD built another hair dryer worthy of a place in Expert Reviews’ best hair dryer list?
GHD Helios review: What you need to know
GHD’s first foray into the hair dryer market was the GHD Air in 2012. It was released at a time when so-called professional hair dryers, and their matching high price tags, were fairly rare outside of hair salons, and GHD carved out a niche by charging a premium price for a premium, luxury product that was designed to appeal to consumers and hair stylists alike.
At launch, it was considered a game changer, and it’s a testament to that dryer’s quality that eight years on it’s still considered one of the best hair dryers on the market. That said, many of GHD’s rivals have caught up, selling dryers with similar – and in some regards better – performance for a cheaper price.
Having seen these rivals gain ground, the iconic brand is back with the GHD Helios. This redesigned, re-engineered hybrid of the GHD Air and GHD Aura is the model that the brand is hoping will re-establish it on top.
|Cable Length||3 metres|
GHD Helios review: Price and competition
The GHD Helios is pitched firmly as a premium, professional product. At £159, it sits between cheaper competitors – including its predecessor the £99 GHD Air – and the exceedingly expensive Dyson Supersonic (£300).
We’d also class the Panasonic Nanoe as another key rival and while it has an RRP of £110, it rarely sells for anywhere near that price. At the time of writing, it’s retailing online at around the £65 mark.
In terms of features, the GHD Helios and GHD Air are on par, yet the Helios lacks the styling settings of the Nanoe – two power and two heat settings plus a cool shot button vs the Nanoe’s three power, three heat and cool shot. It also only ships with a single concentrator nozzle, compared to Dyson’s two nozzles and diffuser.
It is however the most stylish of the bunch, and performance is a distinct step up from both the Air and the Nanoe. In fact, we’d say it’s the first hair dryer to rival the Dyson Supersonic for sheer drying power – and that’s an impressive feat. At this price, you really only have two dryers to choose from – and they both happen to be sold by GHD.
GHD Helios review: Design and key features
The design of the GHD Helios and GHD Air is remarkably similar, from the location and design of the power, heat and cold shot buttons (a literal copy and paste job from the GHD Air) to the overall shape, the branded grille and the metal that sweeps around the rear of the dryer. Yet instead of looking like siblings, the two dryers are more like cousins.
The 510g Helios is smaller, sleeker and 20% lighter than the 640g GHD Air, but is a mite heavier than Dyson’s 465g Supersonic. In fairness, though, the GHD Air’s extra weight never really caused any issues thanks to how well-balanced it is, and the GHD Helios follows suit. Its handle shape is ever-so-slightly more slender, making it feel more comfortable to hold. The weight is beautifully balanced, too. The downside to this is that the heft of the GHD Air was partly what made it feel so sturdy and luxurious compared to the lighter, cheaper rivals on the market. Close your eyes, and the Helios’s lightness lacks that same weighty reassurance.
This may, in part, explain why GHD is selling the Helios in four two-tone colourways – black and silver like the GHD Air, navy blue and black, maroon and gold, and white and gold. The Air only ever came in one colour option, although you could get models with different coloured grilles in the limited edition gift sets. By comparison, the white and rose gold Helios is far more alluring however. We’ve never been big fans of the white Platinum Plus styler but the Helios’ rose gold finish really adds a dash of class to the all-white body. The only concern is that it may not stay looking fresh and clean for long. Whether it’s foundation, hair spray or just everyday grime, a white product probably won’t stay very white for long. We’ll report back once we’ve been using the dryer for a few months.
The feel of the Helios is a cut above, too. The plastic shell of the GHD Air feels a little rough to the touch by comparison, and the plastic shell of the Helios feels smoother, silkier – almost like silicone. It also replaces the hard plastic hook by the cable with a soft silicone loop which is attractively branded; the GHD name imprinted on a chrome-plated button. Similar branding appears on the rose gold grille, and even the holes in the filter and the shape of the impeller inside have an industrial beauty to them.
Although the heat and power settings are the same between the two models, the GHD Helios has had a motor boost – 2,200W up from the Air’s 2,100W. This exceeds the power of the Nanoe and the Dyson by 400W and 600W respectively but this is largely moot. As the Dyson proved with its 1,600W motor, it’s not the amount of power but rather what the dryer does with it that counts. Simply blasting air as fast and as hot as possible at your hair won’t give you the desired effect. It will cause turbulence and leave your hair frizzy and dry. And that brings us onto the GHD Helios’ performance.
GHD Helios review: Performance
What the GHD Helios lacks in settings and accessories, it more than makes up for in performance. The Dyson Supersonic set the benchmark by which we compare all other hair dryers, particularly in terms of drying speed, and the Helios absolutely trounces it.
In just one minute and six seconds, our hair went from wet out of the shower to dry. This is a minute faster than the Supersonic, which itself is a minute faster than the competition. It was slightly slower at drying our hair after a swim – 1 minute and 50 seconds. By comparison, the GHD Air took a little under four minutes for the latter. What’s more, despite this test only rough drying our hair, we didn’t feel the need to use straighteners to complete the look and smooth flyaways. A rarity.
Styling our hair, as we’d expect, took a little longer, but only marginally so at 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
This speed comes from what GHD calls AeroPrecis technology. A system that uses a brushless motor with a built-in power supply to create a blast of focused air travelling at 75mph. This is coupled with GHD’s redesigned nozzle that curves at the end like the wingtip on a plane, which is engineered to reduce air turbulence. The combination of speed and power removes water from the hair quickly, while the nozzle reduces frizz. The result – when both rough drying and styling our hair – was smooth, shiny hair with little frizz and very few flyaways.
GHD has even patented the shapes of the holes in the grille to make the dryer quieter, and it is. Noticeably so. The GHD Air wasn’t a loud dryer so we weren’t concerned going into this review, but it’s a nice improvement and brings the level of noise down to Dyson levels.
GHD has also seemingly solved the issue that plagued a number of GHD Airs we tested in that the nozzle fits tightly enough to not twist and move as you’re drying your hair.
The sacrifice you make for this shine is a lack of volume and movement. Our hair is fine and blowdrying gives it body and bounce. With the GHD Helios, we were disappointed with how flat our hair was. Another, small complaint is that while GHD has solved the nozzle problem, the cold shot issues remain. As with many dryers we’ve tested, the cold shot on the GHD Helios doesn’t differ vastly in temperature to the lowest heat setting. You have to press the button for a few seconds to really drop the temperature and, as it’s awkwardly located at the top of the handle, our hands ached if we tried to use it for too long.Buy the Helios now from GHD
GHD Helios review: Verdict
GHD was due another success in the hair dryer department and it’s definitely achieved it with the GHD Helios. It combines style with substance, something GHD is renowned for, and the years of research and development have seemingly paid off.
It is expensive, but we believe the performance makes it worth the investment. It surpassed our expectations and edges out the Dyson Supersonic as our go-to, favourite hair dryer.