Taking the IdeaPad S10-3t for a Spin

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The race to get tablets to market has hit the lowly netbook sector, with several models already available and more likely on the way. I love me some slate goodness, and was delighted when Lenovo sent the IdeaPad S10-3t over for a test drive. The S10-3t is the third generation of the Lenovo netbook I tested a while back, and while it’s available in a “normal” netbook configuration the unit I am testing has the convertible multitouch option.

The S10-3t is a 10-inch netbook with some unusual features due to the swivel screen option. It is as small as can be and still fit a screen that size into the case. Lenovo had to make some concessions to keep the netbook this small; it has a multitouch trackpad with no buttons. The two buttons are incorporated into the trackpad itself, something that has been done with varying results by other OEMs. The implementation on the S10-3t works surprisingly well; I normally don’t like this approach but don’t mind this on as implemented here.

The unit I am evaluating has the following configuration:

  • CPU: Intel Atom N470, 1.83 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB
  • Storage: 250 GB, 5,400 rpm
  • Display: 10.1-inch, 1024×600, capacitive multitouch-enabled
  • Ports: 2xUSB 2.0, VGA out, audio in, audio out, power, RJ-45, SD/MMC slot
  • Communications: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
  • Webcam: yes (resolution unspecified)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Battery: 4-cell
  • Dimensions and weight: 11.0 x 6.9 x 1.1 inches, 2.8 lbs.

The keyboard on the S10-3t has low profile keys, and it yields a decent typing experience. The aforementioned trackpad is small but works nicely due to the rippled surface. There are two tiny dots on the trackpad, one in each lower corner, to demonstrate where each mouse button lives. Simply click the trackpad in the lower corners to perform left and right mouse clicks.

Lenovo has leveraged its experience making convertible Tablet PCs for years into the design of the convertible function on the S10-3t. The screen will swivel around in either direction, a nice feature as it is not necessary to remember which way it rotates. It swivels around to slate mode smoothly, and while there is no latch to secure it in that mode the screen does not wiggle around.

The bezel around the screen is populated with indicators and buttons to make using the S10-3t easy in slate configuration. There is a large power button that lights up, coupled with a lock slider. The lock slider allows throwing the netbook into a bag while in slate mode without the risk of a button accidentally powering up the device. Underneath the screen (notebook configuration) are 6 LED indicators that show power, battery, wireless radio, HDD activity, caps lock and number lock. On the left side of the screen are three buttons: one to fire up the Lenovo Natural Touch interface, a screen rotation button and a mute button.

The web cam is on the right of the screen, and while it is toward the top of the screen (notebook configuration), it’s lower than those located above the display. This puts the camera off to the side slightly, something that must be taken into account when using Skype.

Using the S10-3t in notebook mode works much like any netbook. The glossy screen is bright and vivid, and the device gives a good notebook experience. The display orientation auto-rotates when it is swiveled around into portrait configuration, although it rotates into upside-down landscape orientation. That is probably configurable and I’ll have to adjust that.

The S10-3t makes for a nice slate tablet, albeit without true inking capability due to the capacitive digitizer. The multitouch functions well, although it can lag at times due to typical Atom processor behavior. Some may find the 600 pixels to be very narrow in portrait mode, especially when surfing the web.

The IdeaPad S10-3t is as good a convertible netbook as you will find, but that comes at a price. The unit as reviewed will cost you $649 on the Lenovo web site, so you’d better have a driving need for the tablet functions.

 

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

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