Lenovo recently revamped their line of IdeaPad S10 netbooks. The most significant change was the inclusion of a 6 cell battery option, which allows the computer to run for up to 5 hours away from a power cord, according to Lenovo. So does the new extended battery actually last that long? Read on to find out.
While I have not mentioned documentation in my previous reviews, I think it deserves to be mentioned here. Lenovo included a user guide, an operating manual for its OneKey Rescue System, a setup poster, and a regulatory notice in the box for the S10, and I was pleasantly surprised to have so much useful information readily available. For those who get a new computer and don't know what to do next, Lenovo's got your back!
- Intel Atom Processor N270 with Hyper-threading (1.6 Ghz, 533 Mhz FSB, 512KB L2 Cache)
- 1GB PC2-5300 667 Mhz DDR2 memory
- 160GB 5400RPM SATA hard drive
- 10.2” WSVGA (1024x600) widescreen display with LED backlight (16:10 aspect)
- Intel GMA 950 Graphics
- 85% standard size keyboard
- 6 cell battery
- 2 USB ports, VGA, Ethernet
- Broadcom BCM4312 802.11b/g wireless
- Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition operating system
Looks and Design
If you want to get attention, carry a red netbook. The people around you will not only be drawn to its small size, but also to its eye-catching color. For those of you who prefer a slightly more subtle color or one more matching your personality (or wardrobe), Lenovo offers the S10 in 5 different colors: the red version they sent me, pink, white, blue, and basic black.
Attention is not the only thing the shiny red lid attracts, and unless you wear gloves when carrying around your computer, it is a good idea to periodically wipe off the fingerprints that are sure to accumulate and mar the finish.
The S10 uses a latchless design, and the hinges are strong enough to keep the lid in place when closed or open at almost any angle you could desire. One inconvenience of the extended battery is that it prevents the lid from being able to open to a full 180 degrees, instead having to settle for 150 degrees maximum extension.
To provide a contrast to the glossy red of the outside, the inside is textured white. The battery is white as well, which provides some color coordination. The notebook is made of sturdy ABS plastic construction and does not seem weak or flimsy in any way. The only small issue I had with the design is that it was somewhat difficult for me to appropriately line up and insert the battery. Perhaps others less clumsy than me will not have this issue.
The matte screen, rated at 200 nits brightness, can be a bit dim when viewing dark colors. This is somewhat ironic because Lenovo's Quick Start instant-on OS has a very dark theme, which can make it difficult to maneuver. However, light colors appear crisp and clear. The resolution is big enough to accommodate most websites and applications without being so big that text shrinks to unreadability. Overall, it's a good resolution for a small screen. Viewing angles are fair, at around 120 degrees horizontal and 80 degrees vertical.
Lenovo touts the keyboard as being 85% standard size, and typing on it was an easy and pleasant experience, for the most part. A few issues still exist, however. One is that there appears to be a depressed outline of a slightly larger keyboard around the existing one. While this isn't a problem in itself, it does make me wonder if there was an earlier design of the S10 with a larger keyboard. Another is the size of the tab key. It is one of the smallest keys and can be difficult to hit when typing quickly. Also, in order to preserve the size of the numbered keys, Lenovo changed the placement of the ~ key. This required me to do some extra searching when I wanted to use one of the shift symbols on those keys because they were all one key to the right of what I was expecting. Another common gripe some may have is that the Fn key is on the bottom left of the keyboard instead of the Ctrl key. This doesn't bother me because I do most of my typing on a notebook with the same key configuration.
There are also several function keys on the keyboard, and Lenovo did their buyers a favor by including a poster showing where each of the function keys are and what they do. This small piece of documentation is an example of a detail that could easily be overlooked but adds a lot to the user experience when it's there.
The touchpad material is the same as the surrounding palmrest. It is fairly responsive, although small, and fits the aspect ratio of the screen. The touchpad buttons are metal, in contrast with the surrounding plastic, and have a distinctive click when depressed.
The S10 came with 2 features installed: an instant-on operating system (OS) called Quick Start, and a way to instantly restore the notebook to a previous setting or back to original factory settings.
I did not use the one-click restore function, but I can discuss the instant-on OS. Quick Start is based on Splashtop Linux, a distribution that partners with original equipment manufacturers to provide operating systems that can boot up within seconds. With Quick Start, you can surf the web, listen to music, play online games, talk via Skype, view and move pictures, and more only 10 seconds after hitting the power button. It does not allow as many functions as a full operating system, which is why the main OS of the S10 is Windows XP. However, it is very handy for the times you don't need more advanced functionality. It is a very useful addition to the S10, and I hope Lenovo will include it on their other notebooks as well.
The installed Broadcom wireless card was able to connect to available network connections without much issue, but the S10 took slightly longer to connect than other notebooks did. The wireless connection also sometimes fades in and out. Perhaps this is an indication that the Broadcom card uses less power than do wireless cards in other notebooks.
Since netbooks have no optical bay, their other connections become more important. The S10 has 2 USB ports, one each on the right and left sides. Also on the left side is the socket for the power cord, a VGA port for an external monitor or projector, and a card reader.
Joining the USB port on the right side are ports for Ethernet, mic in and audio out, and an ExpressCard slot.
The front of the netbook doesn't have any connections. It just has three blue indicator lights for power status, battery status (blue when charged, red when charging), and wireless activity.
The only thing on the back of the netbook is the extended 6 cell battery, which also elevates the rear of the netbook slightly.
The speakers are louder than I thought they would be on such a small unit. The S10 can generate sound as loud as most notebooks, although it has a decided affinity for higher frequencies. The higher the speaker volume, the more tinny they sounded, so if you plan to use the S10 for listening to music, I recommend you use the a pair of headphones plugged in to the audio out port.
Heat and Noise
The S10 can get rather hot when under full load. It has a surface temperature in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit in multiple places when running 3DMark03. Click on the following thumbnail to see its temperature distribution. The red numbers are for the keyboard side and the blue numbers show the corresponding area on the bottom.
While quiet in idle, the S10 has a somewhat loud fan when it speeds up. The fan noise can overpower that of other notebooks when the S10 is under load, so I would recommend not doing anything terribly intensive when using the netbook in a quiet class. In addition to the fan noise, there is one other noise of which anyone considering this netbook should be aware. Whenever the power cord is plugged in or unplugged, there is a loud beep. This beep is very noticeable even on the lowest volume setting, and startling on the highest volume setting. I recommend that you mute the netbook before plugging it in or unplugging it in order to avoid the beep.
For everyone who has been waiting with baited breath for this section, you're reading the wrong review. Netbooks are not designed with performance in mind. They are designed with mobility and utility in mind. Still, if you really wanted to, you could run games on them.
To test what is possible, I ran 3DMark01, 3DMark03, and Cinebench on the S10. I also tried to run 3DMark05, but the program could not complete the benchmark. From the results, which you can see on the right, I came to the conclusion that if the game you choose to play was made prior to 2003, then it will probably run decently. In other words, you can use this netbook to play Starcraft to your heart's content, but think again if your game of choice is pretty much anything released in the last 3 years.
I also tested the 1.6 Ghz Atom N270 CPU with the SuperPi and wPrime benchmarks. As you can see, the Atom takes a while to complete them. In fact, it takes more than twice as long to finish SuperPi as the 2.26 Ghz Pentium M processor in my personal notebook.
However, lackluster performance is expected in a netbook. Perhaps the only relevant test I did was Futuremark’s new web browser benchmark, called Peacekeeper.
While playing full-screen videos at full screen brightness, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes, which is fairly impressive. For some comparison numbers, check out Darren Yates' comparison of several netbooks in the same task. You'll note that the IdeaPad S10 with the 3 cell battery got slightly less than 2 hours in this test.
Surfing the web at 8/10 screen brightness lasted 4 hours and 24 minutes.
Lenovo claims in their spec sheet that the 6-cell battery lasts 5 hours and on their website that it lasts 6 hours. While I'm not sure if it would last 6 hours, I would say that by lowering screen brightness even more and by turning off wireless, you could have 5 hours of battery life for word processing or other light tasks.
It seems like the extra cells have made a difference. The extended battery version of the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 help it to significantly outlast its predecessor. All told, the addition of Quick Start combined with the higher capacity battery have made this S10 a worthy successor to the original one.
Buy this netbook if you want a small solid machine that lets you compute on the go.
Don't buy this netbook if you need a powerful machine for intensive applications or gaming.
good battery life
convenient instant-on OS
inconsistent wireless connectivity
fan is somewhat loud
beep when inserting or removing power cord
surface temps somewhat high