The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t is a 10 inch convertible tablet style netbook. Like a typical netbook it features a nearly full-sized QWERTY keyboard. But like a tablet PC (or iPad), it has a touchscreen display. What makes it somewhat special is the fact that you can rotate the display 180 degrees and fold it down over the keyboard to hold the computer like a tablet. Or you can place the computer on a desk or lap and use it like a notebook.
Lenovo sent me a demo unit to test and you can check out my unboxing video after the break. In the meantime, my first impressions are… mixed.
On the one hand, the form factor is quite nice. The netbook really does offer some of the best features of a netbook and tablet thanks to the light weight and large keyboard. On the other hand, it’s hampered by a few major issues:
- My demo unit ships with Windows 7 Starter Edition
- The capacitive touchscreen isn’t very comfortable (compared with an iPhone or Google Nexus One)
- The touchpad is tiny and features integrated buttons
- The netbook feels sluggish
By and large, the operating system is probably the biggest problem I have so far. While you can tap at the screen with your fingertip to click on items, drag and drop icons, or manipulate scrollbars, you don’t get most of the touchscreen optimizations that come with Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional. For instance, there’s no simulated right-click option. In Windows 7 Home Premium you can tap and hold the screen to emulate a right-click. That doesn’t work with this netbook.
Update: OK, for some reason the simulated right click feature did just start working. When you tap and hold on the screen for a moment and then let go, a right-click context menu will appear. I don’t know why that wasn’t working before.
You also can’t scroll through web pages by flipping your finger across the screen in Internet Explorer. Instead you have to pinpoint the small scrollbar on the edge of the screen — which is much harder than it sounds when using a fingertip instead of a stylus or mouse.
While Windows 7 Starter does have an on-screen keyboard that you can use to enter text in tablet mode, it doesn’t come up automatically when you tap on a text input box. That means you have to launch the keyboard manually every time you want to enter text. I’d recommend pinning the keyboard to your taskbar, because the first time I put the computer into tablet mode, it took me a few minutes to figure out how to enter text — at which point I had to return the computer to laptop mode and use the touchpad to launch the on-screen keyboard.
The Lenovo Ideapad S10-3t does automatically rotate the display between portrait and landscape mode. And the screen automatically adjusts when you switch from notebook to tablet mode. But it takes a few seconds for the screen to rotate. I get the feeling that while the 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor is more than fast enough to power a typical netbook, it might take a faster processor to adequately power a Windows 7 touchscreen tablet.
But I also noticed that if you launch the on-screen keyboard application while you’re in landscape mode, it will not automatically resize itself when you shift to tablet mode — which means the keyboard extends beyond the edge of the screen. The only way to fix this is to close the keyboard app and reopen it.
Some of these issues can be addressed by upgrading the operating system or purchasing the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t with Windows 7 Home Premium. Lenovo does offer that option, although the Windows 7 Starter version sells for $549 while the Windows 7 Home Premium model costs an extra $100 thanks to the addition of a larger hard drive, additional RAM, and Bluetooth 2.1 as well as the operating system upgrade.
Bear in mind, these are just my first impressions. I’ll have a detailed review of the laptop soon. And I do like the overall build quality. The keyboard seems decent and while the screen wobbles a little bit, the swivel feels pretty sturdy, as does the rest of the laptop.