Product review – Lenovo Ideapad S10

In this product review, I’m going to give you a (long overdue) review of the Lenovo Ideapad S10. The S10 was featured as one of the top 25 travel technology product of 2008 here on Gadling.

2008 was without a doubt the year of the netbook. These smaller computers have completely overtaken most computer sales charts, and have been the best selling style computer on for almost 7 months.

In a previous article, I’ve described what a netbook is, and how it can help you on the road, so check out that article if the term “netbook” is foreign to you.

I’ve picked the Lenovo S10 out of all the other netbooks on the market because of a couple of features that help it stand out in the busy crowd. So, why the Lenovo S10? Design may be a very personal thing, but I personally find it to be one of the best looking machines in the market.

Every part of the machine has been extremely well designed, and it’s quite simply great to look at. From the nice speaker grill on the front to the well positioned ports and buttons, it is obvious that Lenovo took their experience in making other notebooks, and put that into designing the S10. For those not up to date on the computer market, Lenovo purchased the IBM desktop/notebook division in 2005, so they have a very rich heritage.

Inside the Ideapad S10 is an Intel Atom CPU running at 1.6GHz, the version on review here also features 1GB of memory, a 160GB hard drive, a webcam, 802.11b/g WiFi, Bluetooth and Windows XP. The various available versions of the Ideapad S10 offer different amounts of memory and hard drive space. The machine is available in black, white, pink, blue and red.


On the outside of the Ideapad S10 is of course where you’ll find the various ports. The S10 offers you 2 USB ports, an Ethernet (network) connector, audio in/out, a 4-in-1 memory card slot and an Expresscard/34 expansion slot.

That last feature is unique to most machines in this class. Expresscard slots allow you to add a large variety of expansion cards to the device, from memory card readers to 3G broadband access cards. Business users will most certainly appreciate the availability of this slot if they travel with a suitable 3G card. One minor beef I have with the Expresscard slot is that cards do not fully slide into it, this means you will always have to remove the card when you stow your machine to prevent damage.

On the inside of the machine, you’ll find a well designed keyboard, a fairly large trackpad and dedicated buttons for power and wireless control.

Keyboards have always been a very strong part of most Lenovo machines, and this one does not disappoint. The buttons are of course smaller than your home PC, but they are all very well positioned, and I rarely found myself reaching for the wrong button.

The trackpad has a slightly rough texture, making it much easier to navigate precisely, the 2 buttons for the trackpad are below the pad itself, much easier than on some other machines (like the Acer Aspire One).

Display and performance

The 10.2″ display has a 1024×600 resolution and is powered by an Intel 945G video chip. Of course, if none of this means anything to you, don’t worry. What it means in real life is that the screen has a decent resolution, without getting too small (or too big). Web pages fit the screen just fine, and the video performance is perfectly sufficient for most on-the-road entertainment purposes. Of course, with no internal DVD player, you’ll have to resort to video files to get your movie fix.

The screen is nice and bright, and even during some direct sunlight on a recent flight, I was able to read it. It also works from a fairly wide angle, so if you plan to get some private work done in public, you’ll need to consider getting a privacy screen.

Application performance is equally impressive, at least if you limit yourself to the kind of applications you’d use on the road. Web browsing, email, music and video all work just fine, but don’t expect to pull it out of your bag to play the latest and greatest 3D shooting game.

Travel with the Lenovo Ideapad S10 is quite comfortable – the machine is light, powerful enough for most tasks and with its built in webcam you can use chat applications like Skype or AIM.

It’s small size makes it perfect for using in-flight, and you won’t run the risk of snapping it in half when your fellow passenger decides to recline his or her seat in front of you.

Other machines often include a (very) basic case, but you’ll have to find one of those yourself for the S10. I recommend the Solo Netbook Messenger pictured here on the right.

Power and battery life

Power for the S10 comes from a 3 cell Lithium-Ion battery pack, which brings me to the only real complaint I have about the machine – battery life is pretty limited. In its defense, no other 3 cell powered netbook is any better.

With the 3 cell battery I was able to squeeze about 2 hours and 32 minutes out of the machine, before it shut down. If you need more than this, you’ll have to find a power source or outfit the machine with a $129 6 cell battery pack. The biggest drawback of the 6-cell pack is that it sticks out the back of the machine, adding quite a bit of bulk. The 6-cell pack doubles battery life to a respectable 5 hours.

Final thoughts

All in all, a very impressive machine, and of all the netbook machines I’ve tested in this price range, it is the most well equipped. Battery life is always going to be an issue on 3-cell computers, but there are options out there to increase it.

The Lenovo Ideapad S10 is priced between $349 and $409 depending on the version and color you select. This puts it well in line with most other netbook brands, despite offering some features not found in the competition.

To me, the price and Lenovo quality make it the best pick. The machine comes in a fairly basic package – you get the netbook, battery, AC charger and a manual/CD kit.