Traditionally, choosing a laptop has been about compromise.
Lenovo IdeaPad S10
Small idea leads to big things.
- Light, sturdy, perfect for surfing the Web and using as a journal during your travels, ExpressCard/34 slot
- Gets a little warm, the standard battery didn't last two hours in our tests
The S10 is a refined netbook that possesses good looks and solid construction. It's easy to use and perfect for travellers and students who don't want to cart around more than 1.4kg (including the power adapter).
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
Look out world: it's another netbook. This one comes courtesy of Lenovo, and it's definitely a winner. It runs Windows XP, has a 10in screen, a conventional (spinning) hard drive, weighs 1.3kg, and is quite easy to use. It costs $699, so it's not too expensive — which is just as well in the current economic climate.
The S10 is based on Intel's Atom CPU, which is HyperThreaded and runs at 1.6GHz, and it has 1GB of RAM, integrated Intel graphics and a 160GB, 5400rpm hard drive. It's suitable for browsing the Web, writing documents, dumping photos from a digital camera, listening to music and viewing DivX-encoded or QuickTime videos.
You won't want to use it to do too much at once: the Atom CPU will max out quite quickly, which will lead to sluggishness. However, you will still be able to listen to music in the background while you type up a document, for example. To give you an idea of the speed of the 1.6GHz Atom, it completed our iTunes MP3 encoding test in 8min 5sec. This is actually a little faster than the MSI Wind U100
For a student, traveller, or just about anyone after an inexpensive ultraportable laptop, the IdeaPad S10 will be a convenient workhorse. It has an adequate array of ports and slots, and it's surprisingly easy to use. Its keyboard is not overly cramped — the alphabet keys are 1.4cm wide — and there aren't any keys in awkward places. However, to fit all the keys on the unit, some of them have undergone liposuction. The Control, Windows, Alt, right Shift, colon, quote mark, square bracket and Function keys are smaller than the other keys.
Typing on the keyboard, which is 23.3cm wide, is initially a little uncomfortable. Your hands need to be much closer together than on a regular keyboard, but this is the case with all netbooks. However, the quality of the S10's keyboard is top-notch, and once you get used to it, you'll love it; the keyboard doesn't bounce at all when you type, and the keys have plenty of travel.
The IdeaPad S10 is 25cm wide, 18.5cm deep and 3cm thick (including its little rubber stops). It has a slim battery that sits flush along the spine, and it's a cinch to carry to and from wherever you need to go. It's perfect for travellers who want a light and easy laptop for keeping in touch with friends, writing documents and uploading photos. It doesn't have the latest and greatest in connectivity, but its configuration does the job. For example, you get 10/100 Ethernet instead of Gigabit Ethernet, and an 802.11g wireless adapter instead of an 802.11n-capable one.
Unlike most netbooks, the S10 ships with an ExpressCard/34 slot. This is handy if you want to plug in a 3G data card, for example. Because the ExpressCard takes up space along the right edge of the S10, it only has space for two USB 2.0 ports. Both ports are capable of running external hard drives, but if you use an older 2.5in external hard drive, such a Maxtor OneTouch III, you might have to use both of the USB 2.0 ports (for data and power) in order to get it working. When we used one port for our drive, Windows warned us of a USB power surge and soon after issued us with a blue screen of death. For newer 2.5in external drives, such as Seagate's latest FreeAgent or Maxtor's BlackArmor, one port will be able to supply enough power to run it.
Additionally, the S10 has a D-Sub port and an SD memory card reader. You also get a built-in webcam. There's not much more you'll need. After all, it's a basic laptop for basic tasks.
After using the S10 for about 30min, you start to notice that its base gets warm. This can become a little uncomfortable when you use it on your lap, with the warmth concentrated near the middle and near the spine of the laptop. The palm rest also gets a tad warm after prolonged use. There are vents on the underside of the laptop, near the front, which will be blocked when you use it on your lap. There is also an exhaust vent and a fan on the left side of the laptop. The good news is that it won't get progressively warmer as time goes on, so the heat is managed quite well.
Even with a fan, the only noise you'll probably hear from this laptop is the hard drive, which is a 160GB Western Digital Scorpio. Throughout most of our test period, we only heard the fan spin-up once. If the touchpad's left- and right-click keys were soft, and didn't make a clicking sound, this would be the ideal laptop to use at night without disturbing anyone sleeping near you.
As the unit ships with a 3-cell battery, you won't get to use the S10 away from an outlet for a long time. In our rundown test, in which we looped a DivX-encoded video while using the laptop's maximum performance setting, the S10 lasted only 1hr 53min. This is better than what HP's Mini-Note can achieve with its standard battery, but much less than the MSI Wind and Eee PC 1000H; it is even a lower score than the Acer Aspire One ZG5 (Linux). Lenovo supplies power management software for the S10 that automatically adjusts the scheme depending on the battery level. This software usurps Windows' built-in power management setting in the Control Panel.
The S10's 10in screen displays videos very well; it's bright and has good contrast. Its native resolution is 1024x600, which isn't enough for some programs. For example, the OK and Cancel buttons of the preferences dialog box in iTunes, can't be viewed at this resolution. The screen itself is held by sturdy hinges that allow it to tilt back to approximately 130 degrees.
In fact, the whole laptop is sturdy. Its shell feels like it can withstand a few knocks and squeezes when surrounded by textbooks in a school bag. The S10's all-white shell and front speaker grill contribute to its good looks, as does its rounded spine, which is chrome at its ends. You won't find any gloss on the screen or its bezel.
Underneath the laptop, there is one access panel, which covers the 2.5in SATA hard drive and the SO-DIMM memory slot. Our test unit came with a 160GB hard drive, and a 1GB memory module. The S10 comes with 512MB of RAM built in, as well as a 512MB module, so it can be expanded to 1.5GB if a 1GB module is installed. When upgrading, you might appreciate some of the design features that Lenovo incorporates into its laptops. We love the fact that the screws are permanently attached to the access panel. So often we've lost screws while opening up these types of units; this helps us out a lot.
There's not much more to say about the S10. It performs a little better than other Windows XP-based netbooks on the market, it's solidly built and well presented, and it's also very easy to use.
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