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.


What is a Netbook? And why should you care?

In some of my previous posts, I dropped the term “Netbook” a couple of times, but an email from one of our readers made me realize I never really explained what a Netbook is.

Of course, since this is Gadling, I’ll not only explain what it is, but I’ll also explain how a Netbook can help you on the road, or how it can help you travel lighter.

The short version of the “Netbook” description is that it is a small portable computer, designed mainly with Internet access in mind. Netbooks are low power, low weight and (usually) low cost.

So, what makes the Netbook special, and why should you care?
The first (current generation) Netbook was introduced in 2007 by Asus and was called the “Eee PC”. Asus claimed that the Eee was Easy to learn, Easy to work and Easy to play, hence the slightly silly name.

The first Eee was an instant success, and forced every other major manufacturer to design their own little machine.

Anyone who has been around computers for more than 8 or 9 years will have a weird sense of déjà vu, as this sudden comeback of small computers is nothing new. Back in 1998 most companies had at least one small computer in their lineup, including one from British PDA designer Psion, called the Netbook.

What can a Netbook do?

Essentially, everything about the Netbook is perfect for people who travel. The machines are lightweight, they use fairly low power components which increases battery life, they are small enough to be used in a cramped coach seat. Most of them are also very affordable.

A Netbook can be found from most major retailers for as little as $299. In fact, the Netbook craze has taken off so well, that they make up 9 of the top 10 selling computer products at at the moment.

As a computer geek, I took an instant liking to Netbooks, and have to admit that my small machine has pretty much replaced my trusty (and bulky) laptop on the road. My Netbook has a 160GB hard drive, a 10″ screen, and can run any application I need, including some heavy multimedia applications like Slingplayer. With the built in webcam, I can make video calls.

Most Netbooks have at least one card reader slot, making them perfect for copying photos off your digital camera, and keeping them safe.

What can’t a Netbook do?

With their huge popularity, you’d expect Netbooks to be the perfect solution for every computer task. There are however still some things you can’t really do with a Netbook.

Gaming – Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to play Solitaire and Minesweeper on a Netbook. Just don’t expect to be able to run graphics intensive games. Many games will also run into problems with the relatively low resolution of the Netbook screen.

Multimedia – almost everything you can do on a “normal” computer will still work just fine on a Netbook. This includes iTunes, Windows Media player and most other media playing applications. A Netbook will have no problems playing large video files, but files in HD quality may be a tad too demanding for the graphics chip inside the machine. Because Netbooks are small, you won’t find a DVD player in them, so if you need to watch DVD’s, you’ll need to “rip” the movie to your hard disc, or purchase an external DVD drive (which pretty much defeats the purpose of a small machine).

There are plenty of other things Netbooks are not very good at – depending on the brand and model of Netbook you purchase, you may get a machine with a fairly small keyboard, so don’t plan to write your next bestseller on it. Also, folks with poor eyesight may find the small screens to be a bit too small, it is just another price you pay for having a light machine.

Picking a Netbook

When you start considering the purchase of a Netbook, you need to ask yourself whether you can live with the limitations the machine presents.

Most Netbooks are often in the same price range of a regular notebook, and that regular notebook has a much larger screen, a DVD drive, full size keyboard and more.

Let me give you a closer look at one of the most popular Netbooks on the market at the moment, the $349 Acer Aspire One:

This machine weighs just 2.3lbs and has an 8.9″ screen with a resolution of 1024×600 pixels. The Aspire One runs on an Intel Atom processor, at 1.6GHz.

The Aspire One is available in several “flavors”; with a solid state hard drive, or with a standard hard drive.

When you start shopping for a Netbook, your first choice will be whether you want a Linux based machine, or Windows. My personal opinion is that while Linux may be a cheap option, it really does not make sense to learn an entirely new operating system when the Windows XP option is just a few bucks more.

The second choice you’ll need to make involves the hard drive. The cheapest options usually involve solid state drives (referred to as SSD). SSD drives are pretty new in the consumer market, and their size is usually limited to about 8 or 16GB. If you plan to use your machine for nothing more than some basic web browsing and email, then the SSD drive will be just fine. If you need to store large files like movies or music, then you will most certainly want to consider a regular hard drive. These drives usually start around 80GB up to 160GB in most Netbooks.

One other advantage of SSD drives is that they are more shockproof than conventional hard drives, since they don’t use any moving parts.

Finally, but just as important; you will need to carefully select a battery. Most machines come with a three cell battery pack, which is good enough for about 2-3 hours of work. If you are often stuck in coach without a power port, then that may not be long enough. If you need more power, you’ll have to find yourself a Netbook with a 6 cell battery. This power source should last up to 5 hours, but there is a trade off; the battery pack adds a lot of weight and bulk to the machine, and these 6 cell packs often stick out the back by an inch or more. Another solution is to carry an external battery pack, like those offered by APC. Of course, with a larger battery, you once again lose a lot of the benefits of a nice small machine.

So there you have it; a Netbook is a small laptop, nothing more and nothing less. But it is without a doubt the biggest thing to happen in computers all year. In just 12 months, we went from one model Netbook, to well over 50. If you travel a lot, and you’d like to shave a couple of pounds off your carry-on bag, then a Netbook may be the perfect solution for you.

Gadling’s Top 25 travel technology products of 2008

Welcome to the Gadling top 25 travel technology products of 2008.

It has been a great year for gadget loving travelers, and I have come across some really fantastic products that have helped make my own trips much more enjoyable.

It was not easy keeping the list to just 25 products, and there should be something for everyone in this lineup. So, without any further delay, I present (in no particular order), the 25 best travel technology products of 2008.


Boingo is the only thing listed in the top 25 that isn’t a physical product.

Boingo provides a service that lets you pay a single monthly fee to get access to over 103,000 different Wi-Fi hotspot locations around the world.

For $59 you get their global traveler plan, which offers unlimited access to any of the locations in the Boingo network.

If you have traveled the world, you’ll have probably stayed at one of the many hotels using Wi-Fi as another source of income. Think of Wi-Fi as the new minibar. With daily rates as high as $30, using Boingo makes perfect sense. Business travelers will certainly appreciate the ability to use a single logon and not have to worry about a different expense for each connection they setup on a trip.

Why it matters to travelers: Saves money and makes getting online around the globe much easier.
Price: From $7.95 for a US only PDA plan, $59 for a global plan
Gadling review: Coming soon.

T-Mobile Blackberry Curve

With all of the mobile phones popping up this year, you’d probably expect me to pick the new 3G iPhone as the most travel friendly phone. Sadly for Apple, it’s actually a Blackberry that is still my favorite pick. The Blackberry Curve on T-Mobile has one very important feature that makes it the perfect pick for global travelers; Wi-Fi calling. The technology is called UMA, and it allows the Blackberry to roam onto a Wi-Fi hotspot signal and behave just like it would on a regular cell tower.

You could be in Japan on a Wi-Fi signal in your hotel, and your Blackberry will be able to make and receive phone calls and text messages just like back home. Of course, because you are not roaming on an international network, you can even make these calls for the same rate as a normal call back home, without the insane roaming rates involved.

Why it matters to travelers: Cheap calls, email, Internet browsing and travel applications.
Price: $99.99
Where: or any T-Mobile authorized dealer
Gadling review: October 15th 2008

Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Several years ago the big development in wireless technology was the availability of broadband 3G wireless access. If you keep your eyes open next time you are at an airport lounge, you’ll see loads of people working on their laptop with a little antenna sticking out the side of the machine.

To me, the biggest development in wireless data this year, came from the Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot.

The PHS300 turns your 3G modem into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The battery powered device creates a wireless signal ready to use by one person, or an entire conference room. By moving your wireless card out of your laptop, you also save battery life, plus you can move the Cradlepoint router closer to a window to pick up a better wireless signal.

Why it matters to travelers: One modem card can be shared with others, reduces the load on your laptop.
Price: $179.99
Gadling review: August 25th 2008

Eye-Fi wireless enabled SD memory card

Nothing in the photography world has made life easier for me than the Eye-Fi wireless memory card. The Eye-Fi card is a regular SD card, with a built in Wireless adapter.

What this means to anyone taking photos is that they can take a photo and within seconds it will be uploaded to their computer or a photo sharing site of their choice (as long as you are in range of a wireless network).

The card was released last year, but 2008 brought several major updates to their lineup including the Eye-Fi Explore. The Explore adds hotspot access to any Wayport locations, as well as basic Geotagging of your photos.

I’ve become so used to offloading my photos using the Eye-Fi card that I actually lost the USB cable of my previous camera.

Why it matters to travelers: Send your photos home before you leave your destination.
Price: From $79.99
Gadling review: Coming soon

Panasonic Lumix TZ5

In picking my favorite digital camera for 2008, I went through almost 15 different models. When it comes to a camera that is suitable for travelers I looked for several things; it had to be small enough for traveling light, and it had to offer something invaluable for making decent shots.

I’ll admit right away that I am a horrible photographer, I’ve played with digital SLR cameras, but never managed to quite master the art. Since I’m convinced the same applies to many other traveling consumers, I’ve picked the small Lumix TZ5 for this lineup.

The TZ5 is a 9.1 megapixel camera like many other point and shooters on the market. What makes the TZ5 different is its 10x optical zoom and the ability to shoot basic HD video clips.

Why it matters to trav
10x wide angle optical zoom, HD video clips, special “travel” mode for sorting your photos.
Price: $329.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Lenovo Ideapad S10

Every several years something big happens in the computer world. 3 years ago we saw a big shift from desktop PC purchases to notebooks. 2008 was the big year for the Netbook.

This new generation of ultra portable (and ultra affordable) computers has forced every major manufacturer to bring at least one machine to the market. What started with a single design from Asus has now morphed into about 30 different machines. I’ve tried almost every single one of them, but eventually there was just one clear winner for me; the Lenovo Ideapad S10.

This 10″ Intel Atom powered Netbook is perfect for business travelers as it is available with Bluetooth and it has an Expresscard slot (for expansion cards). The Lenovo S10 has a very sleek design, and incorporates the reliability Lenovo is known for. In my personal opinion, the S10 is also the best looking Netbook of the year.

Why it matters to travelers: Size, looks and performance.
Price: From $399
Gadling review: coming soon

SeV Quantum jacket

When you are on the road a lot, you learn to value the importance of pockets. It sounds pretty quirky, but the combination of travel and carrying too many gadgets means you always need more ways to carry them. The SeV Quantum jacket is a stylish jacket made of breathable material. Hidden away all around this garment are 28 separate pockets, including some large enough to carry a water bottle or even a small laptop!

Almost every pocket is linked to the others using the SeV patented “personal area network” which allows you to route cords inside the jacket. The Quantum even features 2 special pockets with clear plastic which allow you to have easy access to your iPod or mobile phone.

Why it matters to travelers: Pockets, lots and lots of pockets.
Price: $250
Gadling review: September 29th 2008

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

After years of making our lives miserable, the TSA actually used 2008 to help bring some common sense back to the checkpoint. One of their accomplishments was the creation of some better rules for how they treat your laptop. In the past, they were so scared of laptop computers that they wanted every laptop on its own going through the X-Ray conveyor. The new rules allow you to keep it inside an approved bag.

The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer was one of the first checkpoint friendly bags to ship. The bag is made in the USA and features an ingenious folding laptop portion. The bag is very well made, and is full of great little touches like waterproof zippers.

Why it matters to travelers: Every minute saved at the checkpoint is valuable.
Price: $225
Gadling review: October 7th 2008

Altec-Lansing iM237 Orbit MP3 portable speaker

The Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 speaker is the perfect companion for your iPod, iPhone or other music player.

The speaker works off three AAA batteries and allows you to store the audio cord in the bottom.

The Orbit MP3 produces an amazing amount of sound, and despite its tiny size, you’ll easily be able to fill a decent size hotel room with your tunes.

Why it matters to travelers: Room filling audio from a pint sized speaker.
Price: $39.95
Gadling review: October 29th 2008

Creative Labs Aurvana headphones

I’ve had the Creative Labs Aurvana X-Fi headphones lined up for a review for some time, but I’ve been using them so often that I never got around to giving you a full review. The Aurvana X-Fi headphones feature the highly rated Creative X-Fi system for improving the sound quality of your digital music as well as a special mode for creating virtual surround sound when you listen to a movie.

The headphones are even $50 cheaper than that “other” brand of popular noise canceling headphones.

The Creative Labs Auravna X-Fi headphones are quite simply the best noise canceling headphones I have ever used. Included in the package is a sturdy carrying case, adapters for most headphone jacks and an extension cord.

Why it matters to travelers: Combines amazing sound quality with amazing noise canceling features.
Price: $249.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Duracell PowerSource mini battery pack

I like power. Sadly I don’t have much of the influential kind, so I compensate by collecting gadgets that can keep my other gadgets working. The Duracell Portable Power Pack is such a device.

This small rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack features a folding USB connector, a second female USB connector and a battery life indicator. A fully charged Duracell battery pack holds enough juice to recharge most of my gadgets at l
east three times.

Why it matters to travelers: Because a gadget without power can be really depressing.
Price: $39.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Peek Email device

Back in September we posted the first ever review of this personal email device.

Peek is a handheld wireless emailer which runs off the nationwide T-Mobile network. For $99 (priced at $79.99 till the end of the year) and a monthly service charge of $19.99, you get unlimited access to your email on the go. There is no contract, and no paperwork involved. You simply give Peek a credit card number, and you are all set.

I like Peek because it delivers on its promise; it does email, and only email, but it does that one thing quite well. Peek was recently voted “best gadget of 2008” by Time magazine.

Why it matters to travelers: Provides simple and affordable email on the go for anyone.
Price: $99.95 ($79.99 till December 31st)
Gadling review: August 26th 2008


The Chargepod by Callpod has completely changed the way I charge my gadgets on the road. In the past I had a complicated array of chargers, cables and splitters. The Chargepod powers off one AC adapter, and can power 6 gadgets at the same time.

Chargepod offers an impressive list of power adapter tips for anything from your Bluetooth headset to the latest portable gaming console. I have yet to run into a gadget that can’t be powered off the Chargepod.

Why it matters: One charger instead of 6
Price: $39.95 for the base unit, or $79.99 for the bundle pack with a selection of power tips
Gadling review: August 28th 2008

Otterbox cases

As gadget prices go up, so does the disappointment when a gadget breaks. Anyone who is on the road a lot will subject their gadgets to all kinds of abuse.

Otterbox produces a lineup of cases that provide several levels of protection. They vary from basic bump and scratch protection, to full water and shockproof protection.

Otterbox cases are available for all iPods as well as most Blackberry smartphones including the recently released Blackberry Bold.

Why it matters to travelers: Take your gadget to the beach, or up a mountain.
Price: From $19.95
Gadling review: September 10th 2008

Amazon Kindle

It’s almost impossible to list “best gadgets” without mentioning the Amazon Kindle. This electronic book reader launched in November of 2007 and has been one of the top selling electronic devices on ever since.

The Kindle was not the first electronic book on the market, but it does something no other eBook can do; wireless downloads of books.

No longer will you have to jump into the book store at the airport to buy another overpriced book, nor do you need to stock your carry-on with magazines and newspapers.

The Amazon Kindle offers it all, in a slick and easy to use package. The usability is slightly questionable, and the page changing buttons are a nightmare to use, but at the end of the day, nothing beats the ability to download a book right before takeoff. In addition to books, the Kindle also offers wireless access to select newspapers, magazines and RSS feeds.

Why it matters to travelers: Never worry about running out of something to read on the road, reduce the weight of your carry-on.
Price: $359 + the price of your reading materials
Gadling review: coming soon

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