The IdeaPad S10e stands out from the netbook crowd thanks to its build quality, and some useful extras such as Quick Start and Rescue and Recovery to help users get their system up and running again if problems should occur. However, the standard three-cell battery pack will typically provide only a couple of hours' use so, although the IdeaPad is capable of running Office applications, buyers will probably need to add a larger battery pack to make it a serious mobile tool.
£ 299 inc VAT
Pretty much every PC vendor has now introduced a mini laptop 'netbook' model, but the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e is not just a me-too product. The system has inherited the quality feel of the firm's corporate ThinkPad laptops, as well as borrowing some of their more useful features.
Available since late 2008, the IdeaPad S10e follows the now familiar netbook specifications of a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, Windows XP, up to 1Gb memory, a footprint smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, and a low starting weight of just 1.1kg.
Like most netbooks, the S10e has the advantage of being affordable and highly portable. It also shares the same failings of other models, such as a less-than-impressive battery life and a slightly cramped keyboard.
However, unlike most others, Lenovo has equipped its mini laptop with a standard 160GB 2.5in SATA hard drive rather than a Flash solid state drive, and an ExpressCard slot allowing users to plug in extra devices such as wireless modems or FireWire adapters.
Lenovo has also configured the system with two pre-boot environments in addition to the main operating system: Quick Start lets you surf the web, play music or make Skype phone calls without having to boot into Windows; while the ThinkVantage rescue and recovery tool lets you restore the system to its factory settings if Windows becomes unusable.
Our first impression of the IdeaPad is that it looks like a smaller ThinkPa d, in that it has the characteristic clean lines and black casing, although it's also available in other colours. It feels well made and robust enough to take a few knocks, another attribute it shares with the ThinkPad line.
In use, we found that the IdeaPad handled office applications with little difficulty. We tested our review unit with a trial version of Office 2007, which ran perfectly well with no issues. One minor criticism is that it is only possible to push the laptop lid back to an angle of about 120 degrees, which means that, when used on your lap, the screen points towards your chest rather than your face.
The screen is 10.1in across the diagonal, an improvement on the tiny screens of earlier netbooks but still a little small compared to mainstream laptops. It also operates at a rather odd native resolution of 1,024 x 576 pixels, instead of the 1,024 x 600 you would expect on a wide-screen display.
This should not cause too many problems, but we found that dialogue boxes in some applications were too large to fit inside the display area, making it impossible to click the OK or cancel buttons as they were off the bottom of the screen. This is a problem we've encountered on other small portables with low resolution displays.
Lenovo's keyboard is one of the best we've seen on a netbook, with a comfortable and pleasant typing action from the keys. The keycaps are about three-quarters the size of those on a full-sized laptop, with the exception of the minuscule function keys across the top of the keyboard. We could manage a reasonable typing speed, but still hit the wrong keys a few times because of the close spacing between them.
The touchpad controller is inevitably rather small, but the Synaptics driver makes life easier by letting you scroll quickly through long documents by swiping the right hand edge of the touchpad or by making rapid circular motions on it with a fingertip.