by Jerry Jackson
The ultra-portable laptop market has never been more active than it has in the last year. Since the introduction of the "netbook" category of small budget notebooks last year our office has been flooded with at least a dozen compact laptops priced well below $500. With so many manufacturers scrambling to create their own "netbooks" it was only a matter of time before Lenovo came to the table with their own value-priced IdeaPad S10.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 is a 10-inch netbook with a $439 starting price and some impressive features that help place it a step above the competition. Does the S10 have what it takes to stand out in a market that is becoming increasingly more crowded? Let's take an in-depth look.
Our Lenovo S10 features the following specifications:
Build and Design
The design of the IdeaPad S10 is unsurprisingly similar to other netbooks we've seen in recent months, but Lenovo has managed to include a few pleasant surprises. The exterior is covered in white "pearl-like" plastics with a slight glossy finish. The interior keyboard and palmrest surfaces are covered with matte white plastics with reasonable durability and only a minor bit of flex around the palmrests when you press firmly on those surfaces.
What first appears to be a giant beefy hinge for the 10-inch display is actually the 3-cell battery with a small hinge on either side of the tiny laptop. Overall, the look is quite nice, but the white plastics do give this netbook a slightly "toy like" appearance. When I took the S10 with me and was using it in public with my 2-year-old daughter nearby several other parents asked me if the S10 was a toy laptop for my daughter. That is unfortunate since, as we are about to mention, the S10 is a remarkably capable ultraportable laptop.
The build quality of the IdeaPad S10 is extremely solid for a subnotebook of this size and weight. The construction is mostly plastic but all of the plastics feel strong enough to handle being tossed around inside a bookbag.
In terms of upgradeability, the S10 is much easier to upgrade than many netbooks currently on the market. Some of the netbooks we've seen to date require complex disassembly in order for you to get to the storage drive, system RAM, or wireless cards. Even worse, some other netbooks have slots for upgrades but no connections on the motherboard so it is impossible to upgrade them. This is not the case with the S10.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Most low-priced, full-size notebooks currently on the market feature poorly built keyboards that show significant flex/bounce when typing pressure is applied. Thankfully, most netbooks have remarkably firm keyboards due to the fact that the chassis is so small there isn't much empty space inside the notebook for the keyboard to flex or bounce.
The keyboard on the IdeaPad S10 is less cramped than what we've seen on most 7-inch and 8.9-inch netbooks, but the S10 keyboard is still extremely compact. Most touch typists will probably need some time to figure out proper finger placement on the keyboard in order to avoid making typos. Again, this is nothing new for netbooks, which usually require you to use a "hunt and peck" style of typing rather than traditional touch typing methods. Bottom line, this keyboard isn't designed to be used as a primary/main computer. For users who are considering the S10 as their "main computer" in their home or office, a full-size external keyboard and external mouse are recommended.
The touchpad design, while smaller than a traditional laptop touchpad, is surprisingly nice for a budget netbook. The touchpad in our review unit was a Synaptics touchpad with excellent sensitivity, responsiveness, and smooth tracking. The touchpad buttons are located in the correct position and have nice, deep, well-cushioned presses with a satisfying "click" when pressed. A nice addition to the touchpad was support for Synaptics multi-touch gestures which allow you to do things such as zoom in or zoom out simply by "pinching" or "spreading" the touchpad with your fingertips.
The matte 10.2" WSVGA (1024x600) AntiGlare TFT display on the S10 is nice and vibrant with rich colors and good contrast. The white levels are very clear and the matte surface prevents glare and reflections which help make the screen easier to read outdoors under bright sunlight.
Horizontal viewing angles are good, so you and a friend won't have trouble watching a movie on the 8.9-inch screen at the same time. Vertical viewing angles are acceptable, but colors do tend to become darker and slightly inverted when viewed from below.
Ports and Features
Port selection was pretty impressive on the S10 compared to other netbooks, with the standout features being an ExpressCard slot for additional expansion and built-in Bluetooth for using an external mouse and keyboard without needing to sacrifice one or more of the two USB ports.
In fact, if there isn't much to complain about here other than the fact that the S10 has only two USB ports. However, if we had to choose between a third USB port or an ExpressCard slot and Bluetooth we will gladly sacrifice the third USB port. Here is a quick tour of what you get:
Front: No ports, just indicator lights and the speakers.
Left: Heat vent, power jack, VGA out, 3-in-1 card reader, and USB
Right: ExpressCard slot, headphone/mic, USB, Ethernet, security lock slot
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