Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Lenovo IdeaPad S10e netbook
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10e is the perfect netbook for students, travellers and even business users
- Includes ExpressCard/34 slot, good battery life, includes Splashtop interface
- Smaller screen and resolution than the previous model, only two USB 2.0 ports
Despite its reduced size and resolution, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e is one of the best netbooks on the market. It's very well built, it has an expansion slot and its battery lasts a long time. Its keyboard is hard to get used to, but some of the people we showed it to loved it.
Price$ 649.00 (AUD)
Splashtop is an integrated Linux-based operating system that wasn't available in the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 when we tested it. It resides in a chip on the motherboard and lets you use the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e within 20sec of pressing the power button. By comparison, Windows XP takes about 45sec to load before you can use it. Splashtop is useful if you just want to browse the Web or exchange instant messages with people (using Pidgin). It can also be used for viewing photos and listening to music. However viewing photos is tedious: they take a long time to be displayed from an SD card and can't be transferred to the netbook's hard drive in one hit.
The other annoying aspect of Splashtop is that double-taps from the touchpad are not recognised and the cursor travels across the screen far too quickly, which makes it hard to accurately scroll and press Web browser buttons. You can't change the mouse pointer settings. Still, we like the inclusion of Splashtop as a quick way to get online, and think it's much better suited to netbooks than it is to high-end motherboards for desktop PCs.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10e has a 10.1in screen instead of the 10.2in screen used by the IdeaPad S10. This means it weighs the same as S10 (1.3kg), despite having a larger battery (6-cell as opposed to 3-cell). The battery life on the S10e with the 6-cell battery is good: it lasted 4hr 7min in our video rundown test. During this test we loop a video with the screen at full brightness and the wireless radio enabled. The battery lasted approximately 20min less than we expected.
The 6-cell battery sticks out of the rear of the IdeaPad S10e.
Lenovo has installed its own dynamic power management utility on the S10e. It will change the power setting on its own depending on the status of the battery. For example, we ran the S10e in performance mode and noticed that it changed to a balanced power profile when the battery was at less than 20 per cent capacity.
The IdeaPad S10e has an Intel Atom N270 CPU, which runs at 1.6GHz. It's the same CPU as the IdeaPad S10, and the rest of the specifications are the same, too: 1GB of RAM, Intel GMA 950 graphics, a 160GB hard drive (Hitachi Travelstar 5K320, model number HTS543216L9SA00), Bluetooth, 802.11b/g wireless networking (Broadcom), 10/100 Ethernet (Broadcom), and a webcam.
In our tests, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e was slightly slower than the S10, taking 8min 22sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. This is far from the slowest time we've seen from a netbook. It's only slightly below the average time (8min 53sec) it takes a netbook to complete this task. In saying that, the netbook's general responsiveness when launching Firefox, browsing the Web and writing documents was good. Like other netbooks, the IdeaPad S10e isn't designed for demanding tasks such as media encoding. You can adjust the luminance and size of photos and crop them, browse the Web and chat online; you can also use this netbook for watching movies, listening to music and creating office documents.
It's not only the perfect notebook for students, but also for travellers who want something that's light but has relatively good battery life on which to document their adventures and dump their photos. The inclusion of an ExpressCard/34 slot means that business users might also fancy the IdeaPad S10e, as it allows a mobile data card to be installed. Of course, you could just plug in a USB-based device if you want mobile Internet access, but physically an ExpressCard is a little more secure and unobtrusive.
The ExpressCard/34 slot gives the IdeaPad S10e more expansion possibilities than a netbook that only has USB ports.
The inclusion of an ExpressCard/34 slot means that one USB port had to be sacrificed, so the S10e only comes with two USB 2.0 ports instead of the three most netbooks have. The S10e also has a D-Sub port, a webcam, built-in microphone, and a reasonably good speaker. You can easily watch a YouTube video without plugging in headphones.
Unlike the IdeaPad S10, which got noticeably warm when used in our lap, the S10e remains reasonably cool and can be used comfortably for a long period of time while resting on your thighs. However, typing on it can be very tiring as the keyboard is only 23.4cm wide and each key is only 16mm wide. The function, Tab, Alt, Control and bracket keys are even smaller. The touchpad, too, is very small (only 5.6x2.6cm) but it is very responsive and it's a multi-touch touchpad, which means you can use gestures to perform tasks such as magnifying or reducing the text in a Web browser. This is handy because of the 1024x576 native resolution of the screen.
The keys are 16mm wide, which means the IdeaPad S10e can be uncomfortable to type on for long periods of time.
Despite the reduced screen size and resolution, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e is one of the best netbooks on the market. It's very well built, it has an expansion slot and its battery lasts a long time. Its keyboard is hard to get used to, but some of the people we showed it to loved it.
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