Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t tablet-convertible netbook
A Lenovo netbook with a tablet-convertible touchscreen
- Great keyboard, long battery life
- Ships with Windows 7 Starter, no native touchscreen software, sluggish performance when as a tablet, small palm rest, gestures not always responsive, webcam placed to the right of the screen
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t is a tablet-convertible netbook with a touchscreen. However, a poor software implementation, slow CPU and a unfriendly design make it a frustrating product to use. An on-screen keyboard is not supplied, the screen gestures place a lot of strain on the CPU and aren't always recognised, and the design of screen itself is not good enough for touch input. On the plus side, it has a great keyboard and long battery life. Ultimately though, this touchscreen netbook needs a lot of work.
Price$ 869.00 (AUD)
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t is the second netbook with a multitouch touchscreen to come to market (the first being the ASUS Eee PC T91MT) and it won’t be the last. But while a netbook is great for simple tasks such as browsing the Web, writing documents, listening to music or watching standard-definition videos, it just doesn’t have enough CPU power to smoothly run a touchscreen. On the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t, the overall user experience can be very frustrating; the problem is not only a lack of grunt, but a poor software implementation as well as a far from ideal screen design.
Lenovo Ideapad S10-3t tablet features
The IdeaPad S10-3t is a tablet-convertible netbook, which means you can use it as a regular netbook, or rotate and flip the screen to use it as a tablet. The screen’s hinge rotates both ways and you can press a button to change the screen orientation depending on the way you are holding the netbook. There is also an accelerometer that works in conjunction with Lenovo’s screen rotation program to automatically switch the screen view. It sometimes takes a while for the screen to be redrawn when the netbook is rotated and it’s definitely not as quick at rotating as the Apple iPad. The program also showed signs of being buggy; there were a few times when the screen orientation didn’t always revert back to normal when we returned to regular netbook mode. This was frustrating as we had to convert to tablet mode again and then back to netbook mode.
The Lenovi IdeaPad S10-3t in tablet mode.
Using the IdeaPad S10-3t in tablet mode will be a source of frustration in itself. Lenovo has installed Windows 7 Starter Edition, which lacks the tablet PC features that can be found in Windows 7 Home Premium and above. This means that extra software has been installed to provide the touch functionality and gesture support that’s required to navigate the screen.
Unfortunately, you don’t get an integrated on-screen keyboard to work with, which is vital for entering Web addresses and passwords, not to mention using social media sites! You can get around this by typing ‘osk’ in the Windows 7 search bar and launching the operating system's on-screen keyboard application. However, this version of the keyboard can not be summoned by pressing on an input field; you have to launch the application, leave it open on your taskbar, and switch to it manually when you need to enter text. It’s a cumbersome solution.
Because the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t ships with Windows 7 Starter, it doesn’t have the same touchscreen functionality as it would if it shipped with Windows 7 Home Premium. That means the on-screen keyboard has to be used manually. Unfortunately, Lenovo also doesn’t supply its own on-screen keyboard software to get around this issue.
Lenovo doesn’t supply a pen with the S10-3t. The screen is capacitive, which means you can only use your fingers to click links, write notes and scroll windows. The far edges of the screen can be a pain to navigate as the screen is not flush with the bezel. The bezel around the screen is approximately 2mm thick, which makes it hard to get a good chunk of your finger onto the scroll bar. At a resolution of 1024x600 on a 10in screen, you have about 4mm of width to work with. Sometimes it’s easier to scroll a page by using your left index finger, as you can get more flesh onto the scroll bar. You could use a two-finger gesture to scroll Web pages, but unless there is a lot of white space you’ll end up selecting chunks of the page instead.
Trying to scroll on content-heavy Web pages will often lead to a non-responsive Web browser as there simply isn’t enough grunt in the Intel Atom N450 CPU to process the page and the touchscreen input; touchscreen input itself consumed up to 44 per cent of the CPU when we were browsing, so when we loaded up a page that took up around 50 per cent of the CPU the whole system slowed to a crawl.
In this shot the CPU usage for the touchscreen application is 38 per cent, but it peaked at 44 per cent while trying to scroll a Web page in Internet Explorer. The overall browsing experience is poor when viewing heavy Web pages as touchscreen input can become unresponsive.
Without a pen, links can be hard to click on. You’ll have to use the pinching gesture to zoom in on a page to make the text bigger. The pointing gesture also requires white space to be effective, and even then it didn’t always work first go. In fact, all the gestures were very unreliable throughout our tests.
You could say that using the touchscreen on the IdeaPad S10-3t is a pain rather than an enriching experience. The lack of native touchscreen features in the operating system, coupled with a slow CPU and only 1GB of RAM, makes the overall user experience slow and frustrating. Furthermore, the lack of an easy-to-use on-screen keyboard makes browsing the Internet in tablet mode virtually impossible. About the only thing the tablet mode is good for is reading ebooks. There is a dedicated touchscreen interface for viewing photos, listening to music, watching movies and writing notes, but it’s quicker to do all those tasks (save for the writing of notes) in regular netbook mode using your regular photo viewer and media player.
Lenovo’s Natural Touch software can be used to view photos, movies, listen to music and write notes.
IdeaPad S10-3t as a netbook
Other than the touchscreen, the netbook has standard specifications. It has an Intel Atom N450 CPU with a built-in graphics adapter, Hyper-Threading and a frequency of 1.66GHz; there is 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM installed, as well as a 250GB Seagate Momentus (ST9250315AS) hard drive. You get Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, D-sub, microphone and headphone ports, but only two USB 2.0 ports.
The netbook recorded a time of 6min 58sec in our Blender 3D test, 8min 8sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test and 24.65 megabytes per second in our hard drive transfer test. The iTunes and Blender results stack up well against the previous Lenovo netbook we tested — the IdeaPad S10-2 — as well as other manufacturers' netbooks, such as the . The hard drive transfer speed is a little below what we expected — the IdeaPad S10-2 recorded 27.17MBps— but it’s still a little better than average.
When you aren’t using the IdeaPad S10-3t in tablet mode, it offers adequate performance when browsing the Web, typing documents and watching movies. It runs just like a regular netbook in that regard. It’s mostly when you try to use it as a tablet PC than the system slows down to a crawl and you feel like hurling it with all your might at double-brick wall.
The keyboard is one of the best we’ve used on a netbook, as the keys have plenty of travel and bounce-back, but there is a very small palm rest and touchpad due to the inclusion of the large hinge for the touchscreen. The webcam is also placed in an awkward position to the right of the screen. If you are sitting in front of the netbook while using Skype, for example, your face will be out of the frame.
Ideapad S10-3t battery life
The IdeaPad S10-3t has a 68 Watt-hour battery on its spine that can double as a grip when you are in tablet mode. Next to the great keyboard, it’s the IdeaPad S10-3t’s best feature. It gives it plenty of life on the road, but it also makes the netbook heavier than usual — it weighs in at 1.45kg. In our rundown test, where we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, turn up the brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the battery lasted a total of 5hr 5min. This is slightly less than the most recent endurance champ, the HP Mini 210, which lasted 5hr 11min in the same test, even though it has a 62 Watt-hour battery. If you’ll be using the netbook in tablet mode then the battery will last significantly less as the CPU will be doing more work than it does when you just watch a video.
Overall, the IdeaPad S10-3t seems more of a proof of concept than anything else. As a tablet, it’s not fun to use and it will have a negative impact on your productivity. Things could be better if Windows 7 Home Premium was installed, but the hardware also needs some tweaking. A screen with edge-to-edge glass would make scrolling a lot more comfortable and responsive; a trimmed-down hinge design would probably allow for a deeper palm rest and larger touchpad; and a webcam at the centre of the screen would make it possible to use the netbook for video conferencing. It’s clear that netbooks with touchscreens aren’t prime-time material yet; if you want a notebook with a touchscreen, save up and get a good one, such as the Fujitsu LifeBook T5010.
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