First impressions Lenovo Ideapad S10 Netbook

The Levono Ideapad S10 Netbook

This a series of unorganized and occasionally helpful first impressions of the Lenovo Netbook – The one, the only, Lenovo Ideapad S10 review.

After salivating over Netbooks for over a year and watching the offerings closely I felt the market had matured enough to jump in. That said, there are some new Netbooks in the works that are due out in December that you might seriously consider such as the MSI Wind 2. Key among new offerings are on board high speed HSDPA mobile phone connectivity. My hopes for an Apple Netbook were dashed last Tuesday when Apple released their new MacBooks and MacBook Pros and no Netbook materialized. 

As I said in my intro, these are my first impressions of the Lenovo Ideapad S10 – one of the newest (or latest) Netbooks to join the Netbook fray. Lenovo was late to the Netbook game and my hope was that their quality laptop pedigree would trickle down to their Netbook offering.  So far, I think they’ve come close to doing just that.

First, let me call something important to your attention.

Most current reviews online of the Lenovo Ideapad S10 are based on a unit that is NOT shipping yet. The units available online from Lenovo and in some retail stores are the 512MB unit with 80GB hard disk drive and NO internal Bluetooth.  The base unit is $399 retail. I really wanted to try one in the flesh (mostly to test the keyboard) and after traveling to Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot and Staples I finally found a slew of models at CompUSA here in West Palm Beach, Florida. I never was able to test the MSI Wind in person but my Father, who has similar high standards in keyboards, tried one and felt the MSI WInd keyboard was excellent.

Getting back to the Lenovo Ideapad, if you’re patient, the newer unit that matches the specs of the reviews is due out soon. This newer unit will have integrated Bluetooth, 1GB of memory and a 160GB hard drive. This unit is $450.

For an additional $50 you get some GOOD stuff. I didn’t realize that the base unit did not have Bluetooth. This is not well documented on Lenovo’s site where you have to catch the * footnote that Bluetooth is only on select models. That was the only ‘gotcha’ I experienced. I really wasn’t worried about the memory because memory is dirt cheap and I just don’t need 160GB of hard drive in a Netbook. More on the memory later.

Other Netbooks I seriously considered:

  • All of them! From that lot I culled it down to the Lenovo Ideapad S10 and…
  • MSI Wind (great overall reviews and does well as a Hackintosh running Apple’s OSX Operating System)
  • Dell Mini 9 

I prefer the hard drive option in a Netbook over the SSD (solid state drive) because you can load up your Netbook with applications and music (why not!). The Dell gets steep on price and I also wanted the slightly larger form factor of the MSI and Lenovo. Reviews of the hard drive equiped MSI Wind are universally swell, and of particular interest to me, it runs a hacked Apple OS X install better than most Netbooks.

Other Netbooks were interesting but some combination of features or review critiques turned me off. I’ll mention the HP Netbook here only because it has the nicest keyboard that I tested. The fact that the HP 2133 Netbook is much pricier than other Netbooks and doesn’t use the new 1.6ghz Atom processor were big turnoffs.

I was drawn to both the Lenovo and Dell for the big brand support and service that they offer over some of the smaller or lesser known Netbook manufacturers. I think this is a minor point, but with very little to differentiate these units you have to pick some place to nit pick!

Other selling points of the Lenovo Ideapad S10 that stood out to me in the reviews:

  • big brand, low price $399
  • good keyboard
  • solid build quality
  • solid processor / system performance over competition
  • 10 inch format and screen (over small 8 and 9 inch units)
  • 4-in-1 Media card reader and ExpressCard slot
  • super easy memory and hard drive upgrades (this implies good build engineering, a necessary pre cursor to good build quality in my opinion)

The biggest negative of the Ideapad I’ve heard consistenly cited is ‘average’ batterly life. I’m getting a little over two hours right now surfing and writing with power settings at “Balance” a setting that, as its name suggests, takes the middle road for performance and battery life. 2+ hours suits me just fine. I can get more if I want to dim the screen and such. 

So what are my biggest gripes?

No deal breakers.

There are things to improve upon. The location of the right side shift key for example. It sucks. I’m constantly hitting the up arrow key instead. Otherwise spacing and feel are VERY solid and I’m having no problem getting up to good typing speed after only a day. I thought my extra use of the right side shift key might have to do with my left-handedness but my RH wife had the same issue and I purposefully didn’t mention my issue to her with the shift key. 

I sure would like it if they could make these units run cooler and quieter than they do. I don’t find either to be terrible on this unit but they’re not wonderful either. I’m picking a bit here.

I find the lid difficult to open as there is no latch and no indentation to slide your finger into.  

Memory. This isn’t really a gripe but more a realization about how I’m already using my Netbook. I orginally felt that the base memory of 512MB sounded great for surfing and other light application use – which it is. But, after finding the Atom processor so speedy my expectations changed almost immediately. This was a real computer! It has skillz. 

As such, I started loading more apps on the system like Skype and OpenOffice. As I loaded up more apps and more browser windows the 512MB started to get bogged down. That’s too be expected. So for a grand sum of $27.99 I picked up a Kingston 1GB DDR2 PC2-5300 SODIMM memory stick from Circuit City. With 1.5GB the system is now perfect. Here’s the memory upgrade installation guide I referenced. Their claim of a 5-minute install is legit – it actually took me less time. I got to appreciate Lenovo’s solid engineering design that provides easy access to memory and the hard drive for upgrades/repair. Something tells me I won’t be so lucky if I try to add Bluetooth…

What am I most impressed with?

The size and weight of course!

That’s the bloody point of these things after all. It’s brilliant. The 10 inch form factor really is perfect in my mind. My dad got the original Asus eee PC and I found it too slow and too small to use comfortably. Yet, the portability remained extremely compelling. The larger 10 inch means a usable screen and keyboard while still maintaining light weight and overall size. I can hold this unit in one hand as I walk around the house chasing my kids. That’s usability! It also fits perfectly in my compact man bag. Uh-huh, sweet.

The speed. I really expected a lot of compromise in speed and there really isn’t any. I run a Macbook I purchased in March this year with a nice 2.4ghz Core Duo processor and I just can’t say that it’s noticibly different when you’re surfing the web. Despite this common refrain, people don’t mention that your processor DOES in fact play a big part in your web surfing experience and the 1.6ghz Atom strikes me as a very capable chip in this respect.

What really surprises me is that it runs other heavier apps well – like Skype with video. No problem. In fact, I unexpectedly found myself loading more apps on the Lenovo because it seemed so capable. This is a good argument for waiting for the newer unit that has more memory and bigger hard drive. It’s also a good argument against the small storage size of the SSD Netbooks. I can see a ton of people getting these kinds of Netbooks simply because of the low price point and doing quite nicely with them as their main PC.  My biggest issue with the machine has nothing to do with the Machine. 

It’s having to go back to Windows after four years of Apple OS X. I’m no Apple fanboy and I’m a long time Windows user. I switched back to Mac’s about four years ago. I find myself very surprised by how much I miss OS X in everything I do on the Netbook.  I truly didn’t see this coming. After all, a web page is a web page whether you are on a Mac or a PC.

I did plenty of research on hacking the Lenovo with OS X and people DO have it working but with some gotchas that I’m not willing to live. The unit is very new though so I’m hopeful that people will figure out the remaining issues. The deal breaker for me is that you can’t get sound out of the machine on OS X and that means no notifications, music, YouTube and too many other things that one needs on a regular basis. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

In the mean time I’ve been searching out Apple equivalent applications to quench my OS X thirst.

I’ve turned up Colibri to do a quasi job of replicating OS X based QuickSilver. It does the basic work of a keyboard/text based quicklauncher well. I found the web site to work as a Photobooth replacement. I am using DarkRoom as an equivalent to the OS X based WriteRoom – a simple word processor that blocks out everything on your screen to keep you focused on your writing. 

Of course there are benefits to Windows XP over OS X! Really. I’m delighted to hit the delete key again and have it DO JUST THAT! Noooo, not like Apple OS X where you have to hold down the Fn key plus the Delete key. Apple, what are you thinking?

I’m also happy that I can now run a few apps that are on Windows and not Mac or are simply better on the PC. These include Skype – their new much improved version hasn’t made it to the Mac yet.  The other is Google Chrome which is a solid browser, especially for me since I’m a big consumer of Google products (I even pay for Google Premier for my business email). Finally, there’s a piece of memorization software that I can now use on the PC that will NEVER be ported to the Mac. Well, never say never.

Solid effort Lenovo!

Apple, get yo’ stuff together and build a $599 Netbook – I’ll pay a premium for it as long as you innovate. If you want to build a me too Netbook and charge $450 or $500 for it, I’m down with that as well since I’d be able to use OS X.

For now, this Lenovo Ideapad S10 has pulled me away from my Mac for at least a portion of my day. That wasn’t easy to do. I’m a Mac and I’m a PC even if Apple’s latest Mac/PC commercial is deadly funny.


9 Replies to “First impressions Lenovo Ideapad S10 Netbook”

  1. Gee the stuff you read on the Net – I never have used an MSI Wind keyboard, but I have seen them and that of the new 10 inch eeePC. I haven’t seen the Lenovo yet – don’t know if it is available here in Australia. Now – to be serious. I, if you haven’t realized it am Julian’s dad, and have been using an eee original PC for over 6 months. He’s right the keyboard is too small and the screen really is too. What I find really useful is that I can carry it in a large pocket. And I can read from it in bed or in my easy chair. Not quite as comfortable as a book, but it is near enough. I don’t know if the 10 inch models will be better for that or not. I guess I’ll have to buy one to find out. According to reviews here in Australia the new 10 inch Asus eee PC (9 out or 10) is slightly better than the MSI Wind (8/10)- but very close. They also rated the Acer Aspire the same as the MSI (8/10). I’ve wanted a really small computer for a long time and I am not sorry I bought this one. I suspect the bigger ones are a bit different experience. But if you can chase the kids and put one in your purse…er man bag…then they really are different than a traditional notebook.

  2. Oh dear Father, I’ve gone and misrepresented you! It must be all those years of me working in the Newspaper business that ruined my impartiality. 🙂

    To clarify, I was just talking with Dad on Skype and he clarified that he had *seen* the MSI Wind, he did not use the keyboard as I thought.

    Damn bloggers, we don’t fact check!

  3. Nice review.
    Just wanted to add that I just received my S10 on 10/22 and had OS X up and running in less than an hour. You’re right about the sound. Its the only downside right now about this setup. But, as I check daily, they continue to move ever closer to solving this problem. Based on what I’ve seen in the past, I can see this no longer being an issue in a matter of weeks. Be sure to keep your eyes and EARS open. You may be running OS X before you know it. :o)

  4. Hi…I have no idea what I am looking at when I looking for a laptop…I want something cheap, portable and durable. I have broken two lcd screens on laptops in the last 4 years, so I am looking for a new computer…again! I mostly use my laptop for the internet, but I also keep music, pics, calendars on it and few programs, mostly minor architecture programs like punch pro home architect, or home design programs. My question to you is can I load these programs on to this computer or is it just for the internet mainly? I appreciate you input. Thanks!

  5. Hi Michelle,

    There’s no limitation on putting regular applications on Netbook like the Lenovo other than the hard drive space and 80GB is plenty of room for most people.

    The applications won’t run as fast as a PC that costs $600 – $1,000 but it’s not a huge difference.

    If you like the smaller form factor of a Netbook like this Lenovo and don’t mind a bit of compromise on speed then this could be a good fit for you.

    You’ve got to like the price and portability!


  6. agree with everything you say about the S10 – we ad spookily similar experieces. I had an eeePC which as you say, just slightly too small and too poorly made. I miss OS X too, and agree that no audio on the hacked netbook version is a deal-breaker. My main gripe is lack of a system restore DVD, but aside from that I’m very happy with it. And I may not love WindowsXP, but as you say it has its uses for those odd apps that will never be ported to OS X. And I LOVE being able to highlight an icon, press return and have it launch. Rather than offering me the option to rename it. Doh!

  7. Hey Giles, these days OSX is getting MUCH better on the Lenovo S10. Working builds have sound, webcam, etc. I’m going to try a version soon as the Windows 7 beta I’ve been running on my s10 is about to expire. BTW: Windows 7 beta on the S10 is very usable though I’d still have to give XP the nod for speed.

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