What's hot: Stylish and slim. Runs very cool and quiet.
What's not: Bluetooth costs extra, keyboard has limited travel.
Reviewed August 28, 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The Lenovo IdeaPad S series of netbooks come in two screen sizes: 12" and 10", and they currently offer 3 models lines. The Lenovo S12 has a 12.1" screen while the S10 has a 10.2" screen and the newer S10-2 has 10.1" screen. Though the screen is 0.1-inch smaller, the new Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 improves on many fronts compared to the IdeaPad S10. It's thinner and lighter with more styling and polish thanks to the ring pattern cover design. It has longer battery life with the standard 6-cell battery but it loses the S10's ExpressCard slot.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 runs on the 1.60GHz Intel Atom N270 processor with a 533MHz system bus and 512KB L3 cache. Lenovo now offers an upgrade to the N280 processor running at 1.66GHz for $15 extra via their build-to-order web site. The standard configuration has 1GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 memory at 667MHz and a 160GB SATA hard drive. The 10.1-inch display runs at the usual netbook 1024 x 600 WSVGA resolution and it has a 16:9 aspect ratio and 300:1 contrast ratio. The IdeaPad S10-2 runs on the integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics, and offers Lenovo's Quick Start utility for instant-on access to multimedia, the web and Skype. The netbook has a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera, integrated Wi-Fi but no Bluetooth. The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has Windows XP Home Edition pre-installed and currently comes in 4 standard colors: grey, pink, white and black, and a special Nature cover that currently costs a good bit more.
AT&T offers the S10 with an embedded 3G HSDPA module at a subsidized price with a 2 year contract. AT&T's version has a 3 cell rather than 6 cell battery and is available in black.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 is one of the lighter and thinner netbooks on the market. Measuring 10.2 x 7.6 x 0.7 inches (with the standard 6-cell battery which we highly recommend) and weighing 2.65 pounds, the IdeaPad S10-2 is slim despite the protruding 6 cell battery. We like the lid's shiny ring pattern that adds a touch of designer-style that gives the Toshiba mini NB205 a run for its money. While we risk committing conformity, we must admit that the S10-2 in pink looks the best. Lenovo is currently charging $10 more for the pink S10-2 as that's the most popular color. Though our editor-in-chief who goes more for the stately Sony Vaio W design says the pink Lenovo looks a little Hello Kitty. Manly men and business users can opt for the very staid black or low-key gray models. The 6-cell battery clips on the back of the notebook, and creates a handle and stand for the netbook that makes typing easier on the wrists and gives the netbook room for heat dissipation and bottom-firing speaker sound distribution.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has a mid-sized netbook keyboard that doesn't feel as comfortable as the Toshiba Mini NB205 or as spacious as the HP Mini 2140. The keyboard is nearly 89% the size of a standard notebook keyboard with same sized Shift keys on either side. The keys are a decent size but they don't have much travel. The touchpad is larger than the original S10. It has chromed mouse buttons below the touchpad, and both the touchpad and mouse buttons are easy to use. Three dedicated buttons live above the keyboard along with an LED light strip. The dedicated buttons include the power button, Quick Start launcher and Lenovo's OneKey Recover utility launch button.
The 10.1-inch LED backlit display has native 1024 x 600 resolution and it looks brighter than the Toshiba Mini NB205's screen but dimmer than the Sony VAIO W's display. The viewing angle is quite good on the S10-2, and Lenovo includes its own Energy Management software for adjusting screen brightness based on battery settings.
Like most recent netbooks, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has stereo speakers that live on the bottom and fire downward. Thanks to the large air space created by the 6-cell battery, the speakers are easier to hear than on the Toshiba Mini NB205 and Sony Vaio W, but the volume is still not that loud. The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has Dolby Surround sound 5.1-channel audio for headphones, and when working with nice 3.5mm stereo cans, the audio sounds full with very decent bass and good volume.
Cellstores price for the AT&T version (2 yr. contract):
Our review unit came with the Intel Atom N270 processor, but you can now choose the N280 in built-to-order. The N270 processor however didn't perform badly in our benchmarks and real world experience showed that the machine wasn't that much slower than the Toshiba Mini NB205 which does have the N280. One thing that many netbook users will love is that the Lenovo runs super cool and quiet. The Atom N270 runs at 1.60GHz (vs. 1.66GHz for the N280), and the benchmarks are slightly lower than the Toshiba Mini NB205 and N280-equiped Sony Vaio W, but not by much. The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has 1GB of DDR2 memory and the single SO-DIMM socket can take 2GB max. The memory slot is very easy to access under a door on the netbook's bottom. Likewise, the hard drive is easy to get to. We tested the Lenovo with a 128 Patriot Warp drive (a fairly fast SSD drive) and Windows 7 RC but we didn't notice huge improvements in performance other than application launch speed. But if you let kids use the netbook and worry about HDD head damage from shaking or bumping, then swapping an SSD drive isn't a bad idea now that they're coming down in price. The standard 160GB SATA drive (5400 rpm) on the Lenovo is reasonably fast (ours was a Western Digital) and decently quiet. As with all netbooks, there's no built-in optical drive.
The drive bay, RAM bay and PCI slot are all accessible via removable doors on the Lenovo's bottom.
We put the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 through PCMark05 benchmark tests and the scores are below. We also included the scores from the same tests for the Toshiba Mini NB205 and Sony Vaio W, each with the Atom N280 processor for comparison. The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 was plugged in and running on the default balanced energy management setting, and we used an external monitor (setting at 1280 x 1024 resolution) for the benchmark tests as the netbook's display resolution is too low to meet PCMark's resolution requirements. We ran the Toshiba tests with the same external monitor and the Sony with no external monitor since its built-in panel had sufficient resolution.
As you can see, the numbers aren't drastically different between the N270 and the N280 with the same Intel GMA950 graphics chipset. The low graphics score means the Lenovo will work for very simple casual games that don't require higher resolutions. The S10-2 can run Aero in Windows 7 as well, but obviously it won't be as fast as a full-sized current notebook with a newer and faster GPU. We tested Microsoft Office, Windows Media Player and several productivity applications, and all ran smoothly. Internet Explorer 8 however is surprisingly slow; as a result web pages load a lot slower than in Firefox. We tested Hulu video playback over Wi-Fi with videos running at 480p in full screen mode. Using Firefox, the videos played at very reasonably speeds and were watchable even though it dropped some frames. Using IE 8 to play Hulu videos, the speed was noticeably slower, and there were a lot more buffering delays and frame drops. YouTube videos played smoothly over Wi-Fi 802.11g with modest frame drops at standard resolution. Both YouTube and Hulu use Flash player which uses the CPU for video playback rather than the graphics chip, so the Atom runs at full bore to keep up. Even so, the Lenovo's CPU temp never went above 60 degrees centigrade during Flash video playback and tended to hover around 55 degrees, which is relatively cool, especially since the fan ran only at low throttle. When not playing Flash video the CPU runs at an average of 32 degrees centigrade with little fan action--nice.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has 3 USB ports, a VGA out, an Ethernet (RJ-45) and a 4-in-1 card reader. For audio, the IdeaPad S10-2 has built-in mic, mic input jack and stereo headphone out jack. These are the standard sets of netbook ports (netbooks have fairly uniform specs). There is also a Wi-Fi slider switch to turn on/off the wireless radio. Lenovo eliminated the regular PCI ExpressCard slot, but it does have an internal Mini PCI Express slot (that's where the 3G modem lives in the AT&T model). The heat vent blows out on the left side, and the fan runs very quietly when it does come on (not all that often unless you're playing video or installing software).
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has Windows XP Home Edition 2002 SP3 pre-loaded but no MS Works suite. It does come with a 60-day trial version of Microsoft Office 2007. The IdeaPad S10-2 comes with Internet Explorer 8 which runs slow and Windows Media Player 11. Lenovo includes utility software such as VeriFace for facial recognition at login which works fine, and the Linux-based Lenovo Quick Start for 10-second boot-up and one click launching of the web browser, music player, online games, photo viewer (flash based), IM and Skype. Lenovo Energy Management and Lenovo OneKey Recovery are also included. The netbook has a system restore partition on the hard drive and running OneKey Recovery while the system is off will start the recovery and restore process. The netbook also comes with Norton Internet Security trial software (90 days) as well as Adobe Reader for PDFs.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 has a standard 6-cell Lithium Ion rechargeable battery that's 47Wh. The battery can't compete with the Toshiba Mini NB205's leader of the pack battery, but it's quite good with up to 6 hours of usage time. With light to moderate document editing, web surfing and checking email, the IdeaPad lasted us over 5 hours. Watching Hulu video over Wi-Fi on the Balanced power setting lasted us 2 hours. The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 comes with a small charger that's light and compact.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 is one of the better looking netbooks and one of the thinnest (not counting the battery hump). The system runs cool and quiet, and the hard drive and memory slots are very easy to access, making it ideal for those who want to swap hard drives or upgrade RAM. The AT&T version of the S10 adds 3G wireless for those who wish to unchain themselves from local Wi-Fi networks. Though the base Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 still runs on the N270, performance is good in most tasks, and now you can upgrade to N280 in built-to-order for $15. It has most of the essential ports and a 6-cell battery, but on the other hand no unique feature that sets it apart from other brands. That said, color selection, looks and thinness are the main differentiators among netbooks and the IdeaPad does well on that front. We're a little skeptical at the price hike for the pink model, though Lenovo's color upcharge is at least more modest than HP and Dell's.
Pro: Good looking and slim. Runs very quite and cool.
Con: Keyboard doesn't have good travel. No Bluetooth on standard configuration.
Price: $349 for black, white and grey, $359 for pink, $429 for Nature.
Display: 10.1" widescreen WSVGA VibrantView (glossy) backlit LED. 1024 x 600 native resolution. Intel Graphics Media Accelerator GMA 950 graphics engine, in 945GSE. RGB monitor output port integrated.
Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, 47Wh. Ships with a small 100-240V AC charger.
Performance: Intel Atom N270 processor running at 1.60GHz. Intel Atom N280 1.66GHz for built-to-order with extra $15 charge. 1GB DDR2 533MHz RAM with 2GB max in 1 slot.
Audio: Built-in stereo speakers. Has mic input and headphone output.
Communications: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, gigabit Ethernet but no modem. 3 USB v2.0 ports. Bluetooth available for built-to-order at $22.50 extra.
Drive: 160GB 5400rpm Serial ATA hard drive. No optical drive built-in.
Camera: 1.3 megapixel camera with built-in mic.
Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot that works with SDHC cards, Memory Stick, Memory Stick pro and MMC cards.
Size: 10.2 x 7.6 x 0.7-1.8 inches. Weight: 2.65 lbs. (All measured with 6-cell battery)
Software: Windows XP Home Edition SP3. Microsoft IE 8, Windows Media Player 11, Office 2007 trial included. Lenovo software includes Quick Start, OneKey Recovery, VeriFace and Energy Management. Adobe Reader 9 included. 90-day Norton Internet Security 2009 included.