By: John Dodge
I had a chance to really put the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 through its paces by using it on two flights and during a week away from home.
The IdeaPad S10 includes Wi-Fi connectivity and an Express Card slot for optional high-speed mobile broadband connectivity. The Windows XP-based system has a built-in Web camera, two USB ports and a four-in-one multicard reader.
The Lenovo netbook, which weighs less than 3 pounds and uses the Intel Atom processor, comes in a configuration with 512MB of memory and an 80GB hard drive, or 1GB of memory and a 160GB hard drive. I tested the low-end model for this review.
Keyboard usability is one of the most important criteria in the netbook category. The keyboards have to be small, but they also have to be usable.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 keyboard is decent, but it does not exceed the comfort and performance of the HP Mini, which has the best keyboard of the three netbook brands I've tested so far. But it's better than the Asus PC Eee, which has a cramped keyboard and small keys.
Mystifyingly, Lenovo has swapped the usual positions of the Fn and Ctrl keys. Lenovo's engineers put the Fn key on the outside, in the lower-left corner of the keyboard, with the Ctrl key next to it toward the inside. I frequently Ctrl-tab to scroll through documents, so this unfamiliar placement had me repeatedly turning on the volume control. I also often inadvertently hit the Caps Lock key, but that was the case with all of the netbooks I have tested. (By the way, my glove size is a male medium.)
The Lenovo doesn't have much room-2 inches-in front of the keyboard, which could frustrate touch typists who need a place to park the bottoms of their hands.
There were several things I really liked about the IdeaPad S10, which costs from about $350 to $450, depending on the model.
First, it's got a couple features that some other netbooks do not have-namely, a WWAN slot (although it looks like broadband support will quickly become a standard, built-in feature) and a 15-pin monitor jack.
In addition, the Lenovo IdeaPad's TFT display seemed a touch brighter and crisper than the displays on the HP and Asus netbooks, both of which have a backlit LED. The Lenovo netbook also produced the least glare.
The IdeaPad's touch-pad buttons are placed horizontally across the mouse pad, where they should be. The HP Mini's, in contrast, are placed vertically along the sides of the touch-pad (although the touch-pad is larger in the Mini's case).
The S10's 10.2-inch display tilts about halfway back from the straight-up position, which allowed me to slouch and still be able to make out what was on the display.
The Energy Management system offers four modes: Super Saver, Low Power, Balance and Performance.
The device I tested had a 3-cell battery. During tests in Balance mode, after 30 minutes of active use with a dimmed display, the power meter reported 80 percent battery left; after 60 minutes, 61 percent remained; and after 2 hours and 7 minutes, 22 percent remained. Good deal.
As for connectivity, all three of the machines I tested offer 802.11g and b Wi-Fi, and the Asus system also offers 802.11g.
I did run into one quirk during my testing with the IdeaPad S10 4068 model. The display's image would randomly zoom up to 440 percent and then drop back to 10 percent, which was enormously frustrating. After a couple of days, it stopped doing this for the most part with no conscious intervention on my part. Lenovo tech support was not able to pinpoint what the problem was.