GUEST ARTICLE: Lenovo Australia loaned me a black IdeaPad S10e netbook to use during my recent trip through Tanzania for ActionAid Australia‘s Project TOTO. While I knew it’d be a step down from working on my usual MacBook Pro, with its 2.5GHz Core Duo and 4GB of RAM, it still seemed just a little too much of a step down for working on the road.
The IdeaPad is clearly aimed at the consumer market with a AUD $649 price tag and these specifications:
- Windows XP Home Edition, not Professional
- 10.2-inch glossy screen – remarkably readable even with the brightness turned way down to save power.
- Broadcom 11b/g Wi-Fi wireless card + Bluetooth 2.1 support
- Multi-touch 2 button touchpad
- Return-to-depot warranties only, not on-site
- VeriFace Recognition III software for biometric login, i.e. show-off gadgetry rather than proper security
- SD/SHC card reader for your camera (tested upto 16Gb)
- Funky 1960s-style desktop graphics
- 90-day trial of Norton Internet Security and the usual 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 2007
Physically it’s a solid, chunky design – unlike some flimsy-feeling netbooks. I threw it in my backpack with confidence. There’s also 2 x USB ports, Cardbus, VGA out, and robust-looking microphone and headphone sockets. Yes, there is a webcam, and it did seem better in low light than my Mac Book Pro’s – though it was no side-by-side test.
Energy efficiency seems good. On “Low Power”, the 6-cell battery lasted more than five hours on simple reading, writing and email tasks. Presumably on “Super Energy Saver” it’d last even longer. Lenovo loaned me a second 6-cell battery (AUD 149 rrp), but it was never needed.
But the trade-off is sluggishness. Even upgraded to 2GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM (1GB is standard) it seems slower than I’d expected. That’d be the 1.GHz Atom N270 single core processor combined with a slow 5400rpm hard drive. Oh, it’s 160GB. You’re welcome.
Once the computer was loaded with Nokia PC Suite so I could tether it to my N96, from power-on to the desktop appearing took 55 seconds. It’s another minute or so until everything’s loaded and you’re hourglass-free.
It’s a shame Lenovo Australia aren’t selling the Ubuntu Linux version here, because a speed comparison would be worthwhile.
Lenovo’s ThinkVantage tools continue to irritate rather than help. In my experience, they simply don’t play well with XP’s own tools for things like wireless and screen settings – something that continually generates confused support calls from my ThinkPad-equipped clients.
On every boot, the S10e displayed “Your computer’s screen resolution and colour depth are currently set to a very low level”, despite both Windows XP and ThinkVantage set at the correct 1024 x 576 pixels at 32 bits resolution.
Like most netbooks, the IdeaPad S10e would be fine for a traveller needing occasional access to their data and who doesn’t mind having a coffee while waiting for everything to load. As the publicity says, “Enjoy videos, check email, connect to the internet, video message family and friends and even get a little work done.”
If you need to get serious work done, though, bring a full-sized laptop. The S10e’s cramped keypad, trackpad and screen will drive you mad. And if you handle a lot of email in Outlook 2007, be prepared for plenty of scrolling and waiting.
There’s nothing really wrong with the IdeaPad S10e. Indeed, I daresay it’s a more solid option than most netbooks. But even given Lenovo’s quality brand, I’d have expected just a little more grunt for the price. Find it on special, and maybe it’s your next travelling companion.
EDITOR: PS Lenovo kindly donated 2 Thinkpad notebook computers to ActionAid Australia’s Tanzania office.
Other People’s Reviews of Lenovo IdeaPad S10e Netbook Computer
Despite its reduced size and screen resolution, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e is one of the best netbooks on the market. It’s very well built, it has an ExpressCard/34 slot expansion slot and its battery lasts a long time. Its keyboard is hard to get used to, but some of the people we showed it to loved it.
– PC World Australia
Lenovo’s IdeaPad S10e isn’t just the S10 rebranded for the education market, it’s a good netbook that combines an attractive design and relatively fast hard drive with a compelling instant-on OS. We could do with less noise and a higher screen resolution, but otherwise we were happy with its performance
This guest technology review has been written by my friend Stilgherrian. He’s an opinionated and irreverent writer, broadcaster and IT consultant based in Sydney, Australia (warning: he can be entertaining, mercurial, quick-witted, sometimes offensive, often insightful).
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