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Lenovo Ideapad S10-3

Tom's Definitive 10.1" Netbook Buyer's Guide: Fall 2010

Born from Lenovo’s Ideapad line, the S10-3 follows in the general Ideapad mantra: business form factor with a consumer flare. However, the S10-3 is actually the only netbook in the pure sense of the phrase from Lenovo.

Lenovo also carries the S10-3t, a tablet version of the S10-3, which costs $200 more than the S10-3’s market price, but we’ll get to that in another review. If you are thinking about netbooks and Lenovo, the S10-3 is really the only model you need to consider. Like the HP Minis, the S10-3 comes in the two versions: DDR2 and DDR3. Priced at $299.99, the S10-3 runs a strong race against other netbook offerings.

Once in your hands, the S10-3’s outer casing stands out among the pack. Similar to the Asus 1001P, Lenovo’s checkered texture on the display lid feels oddly reminiscent of those micro-texture lines on a hologram mousepad. The lack of a fingerprint magnet design feels appropriate for a notebook maker who prides itself on a closer association with the business community. Any direct light doesn’t show fingerprints, and very little is reflected back.

The bottom casing feels like the generic hard ABS plastic seen in many notebooks. However, open up the S10-3, and you see something different. The casing around the island keyboard, including the touchpad, seems to be polycarbonate that has been given the look of brushed aluminum (but not the feel). Meanwhile, the casing around the display is in that high-gloss piano black, which makes it somewhat distracting for all the fingerprint accumulation. Personally, we kind of wonder if continuing the brushed aluminum look might actually make everything look better.

The S10-3's keyboard and touchpad are particularly different. The keyboard is probably the closest you are going to get to a full-sized keyboard on a netbook, coming in at 98%. As a space trade-off, the power button, Quick Start, and recovery keys have all been relocated to the display bezel, but this seems like a logical and well-reasoned move. It certainly is reflected in general feel. Everything about the S10-3 feels less constrained. It doesn't feel like you are being forced to work with a “micro-keyboard.”

As a result, we are consistently hitting about 85% to 90% of our typical desktop typing speed. Compare this to 75% on other netbooks, and it is easily see why the larger keyboard helps. Remember that Lenovo still has the Fn key in the lower left-hand corner, so this may take some getting use to if you are moving from a non-Lenovo notebook or desktop system.

While the keyboard seems well-rounded, the touchpad is real letdown. The touchpad is similar to the Mini 210 in that it is continuous with the buttons and suffers from the one-click phenomenon, and this is where the similarities seem to start.

We understand the design here. The touchpad is almost chiclet in design to match the keyboard. While this makes it easy to clean, it is basically fails in function. It is all but impossible to perform any operation that requires clicking and dragging/selecting. In order to be certain of clicks, you need to go to the far left and right-hand edge of the touchpad button regions. For example, if we select multiple items on the desktop, our clicker finger has to be in the right spot, otherwise the selection box goes haywire. This is because the multi-gesture touchpad perceives this as possibly two fingers. Disable all multi-gesture function and you still need to be careful. You literally need to be touching the edges of the touchpad and nothing more for dragging and selecting operations so the cursor doesn’t behave in an erratic manner.

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