by Kevin O'Brien
The IdeaPad S10-2 is the latest generation 10" netbook from Lenovo, offering the 1.6GHz N270 Intel Atom processor and a 6-cell extended battery. Lenovo redesigned this netbook to make it look slimmer and more attractive than its predecessor, giving the edges a rounded look and a more modern appearance. In our review we see how well the IdeaPad S10-2 performs in our tests, to help you make an informed buying decision.
Our Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 Configuration:
Build and Design
The second generation Lenovo S10 looks great, with a cleaner and smoother appearance all around. In the redesign, the sides changed from flat surfaces that looked stuck onto the chassis, to a rounder and smoother form that looks integrated into the netbook. As a result, the new S10 is thinner in most dimensions, with varying heights depending on the inner structure of the notebook. The all-black model which we were lucky enough to get looks great, with every bezel matte black, except the screen lid which has a glossy black finish with a faint metallic weave pattern. Contrasting the black surfaces the Lenovo logo, power button, and touchpad buttons are all silver. This theme continues to the bottom of the S10-2, which if some of the stickers were removed would share the same clean look. My only complaint is Lenovo stuck with the large Windows COA sticker, instead of the new netbook-sized stickers that can be hidden underneath the battery or someplace out of sight.
Lenovo went with an extended battery that significantly improves runtime over the smaller flush-mount one. The downside to this is it sticks out the back, and raises the netbook up off a surface about 0.75". Some could argue that it moves the keyboard into a more comfortable typing position, or it works great as an extra handle. I would personally like one that just sticks straight out the back, making aftermarket carrying cases much easier to choose.
Build quality is very good, with firm plastic used throughout the chassis and very little obvious flex or squeaking when you are carrying the netbook around. The screen hinges feel solid, needing two hands to easily open up the display. The matte plastic finish on the inside and bottom of the notebook stayed scratch free throughout the review. Likewise, the glossy finish held up surprisingly well; it did, however, give us a few scares, making us think we created huge scratches... which turned out to be smudges. Even if you did scratch this model, the black finish hides most blemishes (including smudges and dust).
From an upgrade standpoint Lenovo really wins our hearts with its user-friendly design that puts every swappable component behind one of two removable panels. Under the main panel, we have access to the hard drive, wireless card, and spare mini-PCIe slot with the connector included (some don't solder this in place so they can save money). The other slot is for the system memory, which is expandable to 2GB total. The only thing that could have made this better is if they went with the HP Mini approach, which doesn't even need a screwdriver to open the RAM cover.
Screen and Speakers
The glossy panel on the Lenovo S10-2 is average compared to other netbooks, with bright and vibrant colors, but somewhat limited viewing angles. The glossy screen really does an awesome job at making colors pop, and also helps reproduce deep blacks as well - handy for watching Sci-Fi flicks. The downside to this and any other glossy screen, though, is added reflection, making screen visibility poor when outdoors or under a bright light.
Viewing angles seemed average, with colors starting to shift if the screen was titled about 20 degrees forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles just showed a slight hint of color shift, but nothing that would really bother you if you were sharing the screen with someone sitting next to you. Backlight brightness was perfect for viewing in bright office conditions, but might not have been strong enough to use outside. I spent a couple of hours out in my garage with bright shop lights on around it, and my motorcycle schematics were still fully visible from a few feet away. One possibly limiting factor of the screen design which might affect a few people is the limited hinge range, which prevents the screen from tilting completely flat. It stops the screen about 45 degrees back from vertical.
The speakers on the S10-2 are lap-firing, facing down underneath the palmrest. If you are listening to the speakers on a flat desk surface you can hear the full (albeit limited) range of the speakers, but if the notebook is sitting on a soft surface like your bed or lap, they get quite muffled. Music from the speakers sounds clear and crisp with excellent higher frequency reproduction, but falls flat with midrange and low-frequency support. For VOIP, streaming music, or YouTube they will probably work fine, but headphones would be the best option if you plan on watching a movie or are doing something that requires you to pay attention to all the little nuances of the audio source.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the S10-2 is a bit small compared to some netbooks, sticking with a condensed layout (instead of cramming in as much keyboard space as possible like what we see on the HP netbooks). This in itself isn't a bad thing, since you get used to it after a while, but coming from full-size notebook and larger netbook keyboards can be challenging. Keyboard support is excellent, exhbiting no flex or trampoline affect when typing. Individual keys feel sturdy with no wobble when sliding your fingertips across the surface, and key action is smooth with a very mild "click" given off when you trigger a key.
The touchpad is a Synaptics model with limited multi-touch support. The only multi-finger control you get in the control panel is "pinch", to zoom in on the cursor area. Just the same, sensitivity and speed were excellent, with no lag present in our testing. The size of the touchpad could be slightly larger or wider, to give a more defined scroll region. The surface texture is a smooth, almost gloss finish, which has decent traction but still lets a sweaty finger glide across the surface without sticking.
The touchpad buttons are easy to trigger, with only a light touch needed to activate them. Feedback is minimal with a very short throw. They both give off a mild click when pressed.
Ports and Features
Port selection is average compared to other netbooks, with three USB ports, audio jacks, LAN, VGA, and a Kensington Lock slot. Lenovo also includes a wireless on/off switch, SDHC multi-card slot, and an open internal mini-PCIe slot (probably for WWAN). One feature missing from the previous generation model is the ExpressCard/34 slot, but its uses are fairly limited for what netbook users might need.
Left: LAN, VGA, 1 USB, Mic/Headphone
Right: Wireless On/Off, 2 USB, Kensington Lock slot, AC power
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