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Pro’s: Thin & light, stylish, great keyboard
Con’s: So-so battery lfe
|Specs||Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3|
Intel Atom N450 (1.66GHz)
Windows 7 Starter Edition (32-bit)
Intel GMA 3150 integrated
160GB 5400rpm SATA
10.1-inch WSVGA (1024×600) VibrantView Glossy LCD
|Ports||5-in-1 card reader|
2 USB 2.0
10.6 x 6.6 x 0.6 – 1.5 inches
6-cell: 2.76 lb
Find the latest Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 coupons & discounts at eCoupons
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Unlike most of Lenovo’s recently announced laptops, the IdeaPad S10-3′s design is actually more revolutionary than evolutionary. While the S10 and S10-2 were more round and bulbous, the S10-3 comes across as thin and chic. There are plenty of rounded corners, but the beveled edges and island-style keyboard give it an almost angular feel.
Our model had the textured red cover, which actually comes across as more of a muted pink than a true red. When I first pulled the S10-3 out of its box, my lady companion commented on its purse-like appearance. This truly looks like a designer notebook, rather than the appliance-looking machines Lenovo usually pushes out.
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Netbooks are a smattering of compromises and the keyboard can be a huge one. Lenovo’s first generation netbook may have had the traditional Lenovo feel to it, but the layout was certainly non-standard. The S10-2 improved on that and had a larger keyboard, but the S10-3 trumps them all in size and layout.
This is the first netbook that I can type well on without a learning curve. The layout is very intuitive for anyone who is used to typing on a full-size, standard layout keyboard (i.e. ThinkPad or a desktop keyboard). The only major complaint I have as a touch typist is that the Home & End keys are relegated to functions of the PgUp & PgDn keys.
The travel and spacing of the keys is very comfortable and natural feeling. The backspace key is downsized a bit, but I have no trouble hitting it either.
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While I’m not a big fan of touchpads, the S10-3′s gets the job done. It is understandably on the small side, but is clearly separated from the palm rest and appears to be made of the same material as the palm rest, which gives a slick appearance.
Like many touchpads out there today, there are no separate left or right mouse buttons. There are two tiny dots to indicate where one should press to click, which produces a satisfying physical click for both the left and right buttons. You can also of course tap to left-click, which works equally well.
The touchpad surface is slick and generally very responsive. While the S10-3′s touchpad isn’t very large, it appears the sensitivity is well adjusted and mousing is generally hassle free.
Multitouch wasn’t enabled by default, but I did enable it and take it for a spin. Unfortunately the S10-3′s touchpad is a bit too small to comfortably use multitouch on a regular basis. Two finger scrolling worked well, but pinch to zoom was a bit iffy. My difficulties might be due to not using multitouch regularly, but either way it’s not something most people will miss.
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Netbook displays aren’t typically much to write home about and understandably so. Price and functionality constrain the capacity and need for bigger, better displays. The S10-3′s display is sufficient for the basic uses of the device. Brightness varies suitably for comfortable viewing in a dark room or the overcast outdoors; I wouldn’t expect good viewability in bright sunlight, especially with the glossy finish.
The colors and contrast are all sufficient, but nothing more. Since the LCD does feature the standard 1024×600 resolution, viewing remotely large photos, to say nothing of editing them, is less than ideal. The same goes for web browsing on most sites; while 1024px width is okay for most sites, you will have to do a lot of vertical scrolling. If you can opt for a 10-inch netbook with a higher resolution screen, like the IdeaPad S10-3s is said to be optioned with, or even a 12-inch notebook with the standard 1280×800 resolution, your experience will improve greatly.
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10-inch netbooks still haven’t evolved much on the multimedia front. You have to look to 11.6-inch and larger netbooks for HDMI output, optical drives are not built-in on any models and speaker output is of course tinny at best.
Loading up your favorite video site will work relatively well, as long as you don’t watch HD Flash content or try to do anything else at the same time. I took the time to watch some Netflix Watch Instantly titles and was surprised to see only 80-85% CPU usage. Watching similar quality content on Hulu at full screen pegs the CPU and isn’t an entirely smooth experience. The S10-3, and accordingly most other netbooks, can handle basic multimedia needs in a pinch, but avid media consumers would do well to opt for a better suited machine.
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Features & Technology
Intel’s latest Atom platform, codenamed Pine Trail, powers the S10-3 and most other netbooks these days. While not any faster than the last generation, it does move the memory controller and graphics processor onto the same chip as the CPU for cost and (minimal) power savings. 5400rpm hard drives and DDR2 RAM are also standard, along with the usual assortment of ports. Unfortunately an ExpressCard/34 slot is still lacking, lost since the original S10.
Thankfully if you decide you want more than a paltry 1GB RAM, you can easily access the RAM, wireless card and hard drive under the single panel on the bottom of the S10-3. Loosening four screws gains you access and there is even an empty mini PCI-Express slot with two extra antennae leads laying in wait, which I assume would be perfect for a WWAN card. Unfortunately there is only 1 RAM slot and the max amount supported is 2GB, though you won’t need much more than that with the wimpy Atom processor.
Connectivity & Ports
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Right side (front to back): Headphone jack, mic jack, (2) USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, lock slot
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Left side (front to back): WiFi switch, card reader, USB 2.0 port, AC plug, VGA output
Given the lack of multimedia capabilities, and of course optical drive, in the IdeaPad S10-3, you won’t find as many applications installed out of the box. This is overall a good thing, as it helps from slowing down the already barely-fast-enough netbook. You get the ubiquitous Office 2007 and McAfee antivirus trials, the latter of which was punted as soon as it turned on. With the McAfee AV uninstalled, performance perked up in general. There is also a utility for the webcam, but that is about it; overall, nice and light.
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For some reason, Lenovo’s netbooks have never led the class in battery life, but they’re no slouch either. While a 3-cell battery is technically an option on the S10-3, 6-cells are generally standard and was included on our machine. As with all of our reviews, we tested the laptop with a mix of real world usage scenarios. Running Photoshop or games on this machine is pointless, so we stuck with what the netbook does best: browse the web. Keeping an eye on the CPU meter, the little Atom kept itself very busy loading Flash and graphic heavy webpages, generally maxing out during the loading of a new page. We also left some Pandora playing through a website in the background and even loaded up Netflix Watch Instantly.
With this relatively challenging work load, Lenovo’s IdeaPad S10-3 lasted for 5.5 hours, with 1.25 hours of that spent watching Netflix video that keeps the CPU running in the 80-85% utilization range. If you stuck to less intensive web browsing or even just straight up typing with the wireless radios off, you could likely extend this another 1-2 hours. In fact, LaptopMag got nearly 7 hours out of their S10-3 doing nothing but continually browsing websites. This is a bit above average overall, although short of the 8-10 hours that some manufacturers get (Toshiba NB305, new Asus Eee PC’s, HP Mini 5102, etc).
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Real World Usage
The area where netbooks truly tend to fall behind, in my experience, is real world usage. Sure a super small, portable and cheap PC with long battery life sounds appealing, but you may wish you had opted for something else when you try to type up a storm or do more than 1.5 tasks at once. Many netbooks, particularly the previous generation from a number of manufacturers, have an abnormally laid out keyboard that impairs typing for most and we all know Intel’s Atom chip chokes up if you throw more than a webpage or opening a document at it at any given time. But first, let me tell you what makes the S10-3 Lenovo’s best netbook yet.
Lenovo has perfected their netbook’s form factor, on its third go around. It is thinner than all previous models, with a much larger keyboard and a key layout that should require no learning curve for most people. The now standard 6-cell battery no longer juts out awkwardly and while the previous designs weren’t terrible, the S10-3 is downright chic. When I first unboxed it, my fiancée said it looked like a purse, referring to the top cover’s textured design and subtle chrome hinges.
Battery life is plenty compared to most notebooks I use on a daily basis, but you can find better in a netbook. The typing is rather excellent for this size notebook. The keys are finally in a common layout and I had zero issues adjusting from using ThinkPad keyboards. I never noticed any noise from the S10-3, but with extended usage you can feel some heat around the exhaust vent and under the palm rest. It’s not uncomfortable, but it is noticeable.
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One final note on the S10-3′s usability: the power button on the left LCD bezel, shown above. The S10-3 is so thin & light that you think nothing of picking it up by the screen, perhaps to hold it up while laying in bed or on a couch. This power button is right where I put my thumb every time I picked the S10-3 up. I quickly changed the Windows settings so that nothing happened when this button is pressed. I don’t usually use the power button to shut a machine down anyway, but take this as a small blemish on an otherwise slick machine.
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If you’re shopping for a netbook, Lenovo’s IdeaPad S10-3 belongs in your shopping list. Netbooks are a very generic category, with the main standout features being design, keyboard and battery life. The S10-3 has a very slick design, top notch keyboard and respectable battery life. If battery life is your only qualm, you will likely want to look at some models from Toshiba and Asus that are pushing 8+ hours. Lenovo has always had an edge in their keyboards and this design is about perfect for a netbook, with great tactile response and a familiar key layout.
Another thing to consider in your shopping is if a netbook really makes sense. If you’re on a very strict budget and need strong portability, a netbook makes perfect sense. But for those who have a bit more flexible budget and can live with 3-5 hour battery life instead of 6-8 hours, a CULV notebook might make more sense.
Lenovo has both IdeaPad and ThinkPad CULV machines that combine a low power chip with a larger chassis to make for a cost effective laptop that is more usable and still has respectable battery life. The performance won’t be record setting, but CULV’s (whether AMD or Intel based) are generally a few ticks above the netbook Atom chips and offer comparable battery life.