But the computer also suffers from a small, cramped keyboard and touchpad.
The unit featured in this review has a 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive. It supports 802.11b/g WiFi. The laptop can also be configured with a 1.66GHz Atom N280 processor and Bluetooth.
Design and Display
In a lot of ways the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 looks like a smaller version of the 12.1 inch IdeaPad S12 which I reviewed a few months ago. Both machines feature the same basic keyboard layout and, a touchpad with two distinct buttons, a few quick start buttons above the keyboard, and the usual array ports around the edges.
But the IdeaPad S10-2 is much smaller. Not only does it have a smaller, 10.1 inch display, but it also has a smaller keyboard and touchpad. And it has fewer quick launch buttons above the keyboard (although there’s certainly room for a few more).
As you can clearly see from the photos, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 features a glossy display. When the computer is turned off, the screen can easily double as a mirror in brightly lit settings. When it’s on, you have a fair bit of control over the screen brightness, and the display is usable in a variety of situations, although I wouldn’t really recommend this netbook for outdoor use.
There are still 3 USB ports, a VGA port, Ethernet, headphone, and mic jacks, as well as an SD card reader. But the positions have been shuffled around a bit and the SD card slot is on actually on the front of the device just below the keyboard instead of on the left or right side. This is unusual in netbooks, but not entirely unheard of. There’s also a switch on the right side of the computer which you can use to toggle the wireless on and off. Again, that’s unusual, but not unique.
The S10-2 loses the angular edges found on the IdeaPad S10, and instead has curved corners.
On the bottom of netbook you’ll find a few access panels which you can remove to replace or upgrade the RAM or hard drive. You’ll also find the speakers, which are toward the front of the laptop just below the keyboard.
Above the keyboard is the power button and two other keys. One launches Lenovo’s OneKey recovery software which you can use to backup and restore your data or restore the computer to its factory default conditions. The other, which is marked QS will launch the QuickStart operating system which lets you get online in just a few seconds without waiting for Windows to load. You can find more about these features in the software section of the review.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The IdeaPad S10-2 has a keyboard which Asus describes as 89% full sized. While that might not sound that bad, it’s one of the smallest keyboards I’ve found on any netbook with a 10 inch display. There’s a bit of room around the edges which makes me wonder why Lenovo couldn’t have sprung for a 92% or larger keyboard.
Making matters worse, there’s a fair bit of space between each key which makes the area that you actually tap with your fingers fairly small. Lenovo also has the Fn key placed at the far left of the bottom row, with the Ctrl key placed to its right. While Lenovo isn’t the only company to use this keyboard layout, most other laptops I’ve used have the Ctrl key on the far left, and the Fn key to its right. The long and short of it is that I often wound up hitting Fn when I meant to hit Ctrl. I’m sure you’d get used to it if you only used the S10-2 and/or other Lenovo laptops for a while, but I found this Fn/Ctrl key placement to be frustrating.
Overall, I found the experience of typing on the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 to be less than pleasant.
That said, I found I was able to type reasonably quickly. A few weeks ago I posted a roundup of typing tests I’d take on TypingTest.com using the S10-2 and several other netbooks. At the time, I scored about 84 words per minute. But earlier today I took another test and clocked in at 97 words per minute, which is about as fast as I can type on any keyboard. Clearly, there are a variety of factors that come into play in any typing test, including the length of the test and the type and frequency of characters you’re expected to type. But while I don’t find the IdeaPad S10-2 keyboard to be particularly comfortable, it is possible to get some serious work done using it.
The TouchPad below the keyboard features two distinct buttons and scrolling areas at the right and bottom which you can use to scroll up, down, left, and right in some software applications. But the touchpad is quite small, and I found I was much more productive with this computer when I had a USB mouse plugged in.
The netbook is available with either a 3 cell or 6 cell battery. The model featured in this review has a 6 cell, 47WHr battery which Lenovo says should last for up to 6 hours. In my tests, I found it was good for about 5 and a half hours with the screen set to about 50% brightness and the WiFi turned on. I’m fairly certain that if you turned off the wireless you would be able to squeeze 6 or more hours of battery life out of the IdeaPad S10-2 as long as you didn’t watch videos or perform other CPU-heavy tasks.
The 3 cell battery sits just about flush with the base of the laptop. The 6 cell version does not. It kind of sticks out like a sore thumb, jutting out of the back of the of netbook. That said, it does provide a pleasant tilt to the keyboard, which makes typing a little more comfortable. And since the battery has a curve to it, and locks firmly into place, you can actually grab the battery and use it as a sort of handle for carrying the netbook from place to place.
The computer currently ships with Windows XP. It’s possible that Lenovo may begin offering Windows 7 in a couple of weeks once the operating system is officially launched. Or the company could phase this model out and replace it with a new Windows 7 model.
Lenovo includes a number of applications with the IdeaPad S10-2 including a trial version of Microsoft Office 2007 and a battery management suite that lets you adjust your system settings to either extend your battery life or boost your computer’s performance.
But there are three free utilities that really make this netbook stand out. First, there’s the OneKey Recovery software. You can use this program to backup and restore your data from within Windows by selecting the OneKey application from the Start Menu. Or, if you hit the arrow button above the keyboard when your computer is powered off, the system will start up OneKey Recovery and give you the option of restoring your computer to its factory default settings.
Lenovo also bundles the S10-2 with QuickStart, a quick-boot software environment based on DeviceVM’s Splashtop software. You can trigger the QuickStart environment by hitting the QS button above the keyboard instead of the power button. QuickStart loads in about 10-20 seconds, which is less than half the time it takes to boot Windows. From this environment, you can use a handful of applications including a web browser based on Firefox, Skype, and and instant messaging software.
The 12.1 inch Lenovo IdeaPad S12 also ships with both of these applications. And just like with the IdeaPad S12, I could not for the life of me get the IdeaPad S10-2 to connect to my secure home network in QuickStart mode. I had no problem connecting to insecure networks.
Lenovo also throws in its VeriFace facial recognition software that lets you login to the computer by gazing into the webcam. Once you’ve registered your face with the software, it should just take a few seconds to recognize your image and log you in. The facial recognition software doesn’t work well in dimly lit rooms, but you can always login to Windows the old fashioned way by using the keyboard to type in a password.
Like most Intel Atom powered netbooks, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 performs reasonably well at light weight tasks such as surfing the web using Firefox with multiple windows open or watching videos at 720p or lower resolutions. The computer isn’t really up to the task of displaying 1080p HD video or high quality Flash video, which requires a fair amount of CPU power.
One odd thing I noticed was that the demo unit Lenovo sent me to review had a way of waking up from sleep mode. A lot. I would close the lid and put the computer to sleep and walk away for a while. When I’d come back, the computer would be hot to the touch and when I opened the lid I saw that it had been running for a while. This happened to me repeatedly, and I decided it might have something to do with the VeriFace software, so I uninstalled it and that seemed to help… sometimes. But the computer still seems to get insomnia from time to time and wakes up unexpectedly.
I’ve had this problem with two different IdeaPad S10-2 units, although I never experienced a problem with sleep mode on the IdeaPad S12. If you have the same problem, the easiest way to fix it may just be to enable hibernation and use that instead of sleep mode, or just make sure to fully shut down your netbook when it’s not in use.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 is a compact 10 inch netbook that gets reasonably good battery life and offers decent performance. Lenovo includes a handful of utilities including facial recognition software, backup and restore software, and QuickBoot which may be appealing to some users. Personally, I really like the OneKey Recovery software but don’t have much use for the other two applications. Your results (and opinions) may vary.
Starting at $299, the Ideapad S10-2 is certainly competitively priced, and Lenovo offers a number of customization options, including the choice of a slightly faster Intel Atom N280 processor, optional Bluetooth, and a choice of a 3 or 6 cell battery. The laptop is also available in a range of colors including black, white, pink, and grey.
You can read more about the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 in the Liliputing Product Database.