Lenovo's original S10 was a bit of a late arrival on the netbook scene. It was plain, functional, and did most things adequately, but it lacked pizzazz or anything to set it apart from the pack.
Since then, there have been two revisions, and the latest model, S10-3, has a few changes that are definitely worthwhile.
First up is the new design. The older S10's were, dare we say it, a little on the chunky side. But gone is the slab-like appearance in favour of a slim, chequered pattern lid, slender brushed metal chassis, and a 6-cell battery to raise the laptop for comfortable typing on its full size keyboard.
|The checker-board pattern is one of several lid options for the new S10.
The keyboard is a standout, and a departure from the usual look of Lenovo - isolated keys are used, but they aren't square, as in other models we've seen. Instead, Lenovo has rounded the bottom edge, and the whole key is slightly concave, making it comfortable for fingers.
|Concave keys and spacious design make the full-size keyboard a pleasure to type on.
The design is very similar, overall, to the Thinkpad X100e, which we've praised for its ergonomics, but the exception is the trackpad.
The trackpad on the S10-3 is a little less stellar: the one piece design can feel imprecise - it's hard to know where right-click ends, and left click begins, and the tracking over the surface isn't crisp.
|One of the few downsides of the S10-3 -- a less than stellar trackpad; but we like the brushed metal look.
The 10.1 LED-backlit LCD is only capable of 1024 x 600 resolution, and it feels a little poky in use with Windows 7 Starter Edition. Text is readable, and the screen brightness is handy, but it is noticeably heavier on blue tones.
Its performance it better than average for a PineView processor - the new Atoms haven't been setting any records alight with their speed. But the 1.66GHz Atom N450 scores a creditable 0.32, comparable to early netbooks. At the very least, it doesn't feel sluggish in your hands, as some other netbooks are prone to.
In our heavy use battery test, where we run multiple demanding applications simultaneously until the battery keels over, it managed a very handy 4hrs 26mins. On light use, which involves the laptop just sitting there, at half brightness, until it runs out of juice, it managed 7hrs 12mins. These aren't the best times we've seen, it must be admitted, and they're well behind the top netbooks, but they are perfectly suited to a full day of computing for most people.
As for features, you get the standard 1GB RAM, 3 USB, 250GB hard drive, ExpressCard/34, Bluetooth, 10/100 ethernet and 3G. At $522, the price is good, too - it's not as competitive as the low-end Eee PC or Aspire models, but it's no slouch when it comes to value.
The clean looks, impressive keyboard and overall battery life make this a neat little netbook, and while its shortcomings are primarily battery life, they aren't the death knell they could be, given the excellent ergonomics.
Ever wondered what the SysRq key on your keyboard does? Lenovo has decided it's so rarely used that it has started removing the key from some of its new keyboards.