Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (341,666)
  • Pros

    • Attractive, well-built
    • Good performance
    • Easy to upgrade
  • Cons

    • Cramped keyboard
    • Huge battery

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:

  • 1.6GHz N270 Intel Atom Processor
  • 1GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz
  • Windows XP Home Edition (SP3)
  • 10.1″ WSVGA Glossy LED-backlit display with integrated camera 1024×600
  • 160GB 5400rpm Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard drive
  • Intel GMA 950 Integrated Graphics
  • Broadcom 11b/g Wi-Fi wireless
  • 4-in-1 Media card
  • 6-Cell Li-ion 10.8v 4.06Ah 44Wh battery
  • 40W AC Adapter
  • Size: 10.2″ x 7.6″ x 0.7-1.8″ (including battery)
  • Weight: 2lbs 11oz, 3lbs 5.4oz travel weight
  • Starting price: $439 (Currently on sale for $349 at the time of this review)

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.


Front: Activity lights, SDHC slot

Rear: Battery

Left: LAN, VGA, 1 USB, Mic/Headphone

Right: Wireless On/Off, 2 USB, Kensington lock slot, AC power

Performance and Benchmarks
System performance seemed on par with many of the newer netbook models hitting the market. Boot and shutdown times were excellent, quickly coming up to a fully ready state without much waiting. For normal tasks such as web browsing, typing documents, playing music, or even watching video the IdeaPad S10-2 performed flawlessly.

Normally, users buying a netbook (outside of the ASUS N10 with dedicated graphics) understand that gaming just isn’t going to be realistic. For this reason we find 3D benchmarks, which normally register very slow performance, to not be as relevant for these systems. Thus, we are shifting toward HD movie tests for netbooks, which are more in the realm of what a netbook can handle on the high end in terms of performance. In our HD video test the S10-2 played up to 480p and 720p video without much trouble. 720p video was starting to task the processor leaving little overhead, but it was very watchable. However, 1080p video was badly out of sync and painful to view.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240 seconds
HP Pavilion dv2 (AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 @ 1.60GHz)
103.521 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 114.749 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 116.030 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1005HA (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 116.421 seconds
Lenovo S10-2 (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.6GHz) 122.247 seconds
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz) 123.281 seconds
Acer Aspire One D250-1165 (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz) 124.829 seconds
Acer Aspire One 150-1635 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz)  125.812 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 126.406 seconds
Samsung NC20 (VIA Nano ULV U2250 @ 1.30GHz) 173.968 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 2,446 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.60GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB) 2,191 PCMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,851 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 1,839 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1005HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,637 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,564 PCMarks
Acer Aspire One 150-1635 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,555 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,535 PCMarks
Lenovo S10-2 (1.6GHz Intel Atom N270, Intel GMA 950) 1,511 PCMarks
Acer Aspire One D250-1165 (1.60GHz Intel Atom N270, Intel GMA 950) 1,456 PCMarks
Samsung NC20 (1.30GHz VIA Nano ULV U2250, VIA Chrome9 HC3) 1,441 PCMarks
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GM1 950) 1,437 PCMarks

In our ongoing quest to provide helpful information to our readers we are adding the following video playback table to our reviews of netbooks. Since netbooks are starting to be used for mobile entertainment (watching movie trailers or streaming video) it’s important to know how a netbook performs when trying to play a simple video file. We selected a family-friendly movie trailer and downloaded three different versions in 480p, 720p, and 1080p resolutions. We used the CCCP Codec Pack for decoding and Media Player Classic Homecinema (version 1.1.796.0) for playing all of the video files.

Video Playback Performance:

Video Resolution CPU Usage Playback Comments
480p 20%-30% (hyperthreading) Plays flawlessly
720p 44%-49% (hyperthreading) Plays with an occasional dropped frame
1080p 50%-60% (hyperthreading) Plays with severe stutter, dropped frames and audio out of sync


HDTune for the built-in hard drive:

 

Heat and Noise
While performing normal activities (browsing the web, playing MP3s, typing documents, etc.) the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 ran fairly cool and quiet. The fan remained off during this time, which included the majority of our battery test. Under more stressful activity, like running benchmarks, watching HD video, or playing Peggle, the fan came on occasionally, but was quiet enough to not be a nuisance. On the top surface of the notebook, the only part that stuck out as warm to the touch was the touchpad, while on the bottom the heat was centralized around the RAM. If you are sensitive to heat or noise the S10-2 seems to be a pretty acceptable choice.

Battery Life
Battery life was excellent, but at the downside of having a gigantic battery sticking out and down from the back of the netbook. With the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and Windows XP set to the laptop/portable power setting the notebook managed 7 hours and 15 minutes with light web browsing. During the test power consumption fluctuated between 6 and 7.5 watts.

 

Conclusion
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 performed quite well in our tests, showing consistently better results that the previous model. The design looks much cleaner than before, and with the black color scheme, at least, the netbook is visually excellent. Battery life was improved, no doubt due to the large extended battery that sticks out behind and below, giving us over 7 hours in out battery test. The S10-2 handled 480p and 720p video without too many problems, but 1080p video was too much to ask for from the Intel Atom N270 and GMA950 chipset. Overall, the IdeaPad’s price is very attractive, with a $439 MSRP – lower than previous models, and sale prices put it as low as $349. Our only big complaint is the rather cramped keyboard, but if you don’t mind typing on the smaller keys the keyboard feels very well built and easy to type on.

Pros

  • Good looks and excellent build quality
  • Great battery life
  • Good performance
  • Easy to upgrade

Cons

  • Keyboard feels cramped
  • Extended battery doubles the thickness in the rear


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