The netbook is thin and light, and comes with a choice of a black or red cover featuring a textured, fingerprint-resistant cover. But in order to keep the laptop as small as possible while providing a nearly full sized keyboard, Lenovo chose to build left and right buttons into the touchpad, making it difficult to use.
The demo unit Lenovo sent me to review features a 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, Windows 7 Starter Edition, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, 6 cell battery, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 2.1.
At 10.6″ x 6.6″ 1″ the IdeaPad S10-3 is one of the smallest 10 inch netbooks I’ve tested. It weighs 2.8 pounds with a 6 cell battery, which is about par for the course.
But it’s not the size or weight that make the IdePad S10-3 stand out. It’s the distinctive design element such as the textured pattern on the black or red lids that gives the laptop an almost carbon fiber coated look. At a time when many netbook makers are putting glossy, fingerprint magnet lids on their netbooks, this attractive matte finish is a nice touch.
The palm rest area below the keyboard has a brushed metal look which even extends onto the touchpad. And the keyboard features flat, island-style keys with rounded edges on the bottom. In fact, the keyboard is very similar to the one designed for the new Lenovo ThinkPad X100e thin and light business notebook.
In order to reduce the size of the netbook, Lenovo made two interesting design decisions. The mouse buttons have been integrated with the touchpad. And the power, Quick Start, and recovery keys have been integrated into the bezel around the display. Normally these buttons are placed in a row just above the Fn keys on the keyboard. The first few times I used the notebook, it took me a second to remember where the power button was located, but it didn’t take long to get used to.
The 6 cell battery juts out a little bit from the bottom of the netbook, which means the back of the keboard is tilted up a little bit when you place the S10-3 on a tablet. But the battery is definitely less of an eyesore than the batteries on previous IdeaPad S10 netbooks.
On the bottom of the computer there’s a single large access panel which you can open to replace or upgrade the hard drive and memory.
Around the sides of the laptop you’ll find 3 USB ports, an flash card reader, and VGA, mic, headphone and Ethernet ports. There’s also a switch you can use to toggle the WiFi on and off.
Despite the matte finish on the lid and palm rest, the display and screen bezel are both glossy, which means the laptop casts a decent amount of glare when used in direct sunlight.
Keyboard and TouchPad
Lenovo says the IdeaPad S10-3t keyboard is 98% full sized. The isolation-style keyboard features flat keys with a small space between each key making it easy to find the correct key without looking at your fingers.
Like all Lenovo keyboards, the Fn key is located in the bottom left corner, to the left of the Ctrl key. If you’re used to using computers from virtually any other company, it might take you a little while to get used to this. But having tested a number of Lenovo laptops recently, I find that this key placement doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.
While the keyboard is attractive and hits all the right buttons for me (chiclet style keys, nearly full sized), I found that I was a little more likely to make mistakes when typing on the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 than on some other netbook keyboars. I scored about 90 words per minute in an online typing test. That’s not bad, but it’s about 5 to 10 words per minute slower than my typical score.
The touchpad, on the other hand, may be one of the worst that I’ve ever used.
I get that Lenovo was looking to save space by eliminating the right and left buttons. But I found it incredibly difficult to use the click sections of the touchpad. You have to press the touchpad in exactly the right location, or the left and right clicks won’t register at all. And since you can use the right side of the keyboard as a scroll-wheel, I often accidentally wound up scrolling when I meant to right-click.
It’s also incredibly difficult to perform any action that requires clicking and dragging at the same time. For instance, when trying to crop an image using Irfanview, I typically click the left mouse button and drag a box around the area I want to select. When trying this on the IdeaPad S10-3, the shape of that box kept shifting in an almost spontaneous fashion that had little to do with the direction I was dragging my finger in.
After a while I did start to get the hang of using the touchpad, but I still find the laptop much easier to use with a USB mouse. While I’m not a fan of the HP Mini 110-style buttons on the left and right side of a touchpad instead of below it, I think Lenovo would have been better off saving space by moving the buttons to the sides of the touchpad rather than integrating them. As far as touchpads go, physical buttons are much better than integrated buttons.
It’s probably worth pointing out that I’ve used three other laptops with integrated touchpad buttons: The Dell Inspiron Mini 10v, Inspiron Mini 10, and Inspiron 11z. While I wasn’t a fan of the integrated buttons on those models either, I found them all easier to use than the touchpad on Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3.
Performance and Battery Life
In terms of day to day performance, the Lenovo Ideapad S10-3 felt a lot like other netbooks with Intel Atom Pine Trail netbooks I’ve tested — which is to say it feels a lot like most of the netbooks I’ve tested over the past 2 years. The 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor gives the netbook enough power to handle most everday tasks such as surfing the web, chatting, listening to music, or watching some movies.
What you shouldn’t expect is great support for HD video playback, resource-intensive apps, or 3D video games. While the notebook can handle 720p HD video playback in some formats, 1080p video is just out of reach (although it’s possible that you might be able to enable 1080p support by installing the Jolicloud Linux operating system or other software that should enable HD video playback using the integrated GMA 3150 graphics).
Windows 7 gives the Ideapad S10-3 an Experience Index of 2.3, with the lowest score going to the Intel Atom processor. The graphics scores aren’t much higher. The computer gets 3.0 scores for both gaming and standard graphics. But the hard drive and memory get respectable scores of 5.7 and 4.4 respectively.
Lenovo claims you should be able to get about 7 hours from the 6 cell, 48Whr battery. In my tests, I came pretty close, getting about 6:45 of run time while doing some light web browsing and document editing over WiFi.
The S10-3 comes with Lenovo’s typical netbook software suite, including the Lenovo QuickStart software that lets you boot into a light weight, Linux-based operating system for web browsing, instant messaging, listening to music, and performing some other tasks without waiting for Windows to boot.
The computer also comes with Lenovo’s OneKey recovery software which lets you backup and restore your computer’s settings. You can also restore your computer to its factory default state by shutting down your PC and then hitting the OneKey button on the display instead of the power or QuickStart buttons.
There’s a lot to like about the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3. It’s attractive, small, and light. And it offers decent performance and battery life (while falling far short of the 10+ hours of run time offered by some of its competitors).
But there’s one major problem with the S10-3, and that’s the awful touchpad. If you’re a USB mouse kind of person, or if you don’t have a problem with integrated mouse buttons, then the Lenovo ideaPad S10-3 is definitely worth checking out. But if you have the opportunity, I’d recommend spending a few minutes playing with the touchpad before purchasing this netbook.