IdeaPad S10 mini-notebook comes with some big-boy features

Lenovo keeps thinking small. Recently the company delivered slim ultraportables such as the ThinkPad X200 and Text

Now it’s jumping into the mini-notebook scene with the impressive IdeaPad S10. Despite its “mini” status, the S10 manages to house some big-boy features.

The S10’s tiny, 9.8-by-7.3-by-0.9-inch frame is roughly the size of Acer’s Aspire One. But while the Aspire One’s screen measures only 8.9 inches, the S10 offers a relatively roomy 10.2-inch, 1024-by-600-resolution display. It’s crisp and easily viewable at various angles, even though it isn’t necessarily the brightest screen around.

A round-up of this summer’s mini-laptop offerings.

Recently, Lenovo took a different approach targeting heavy graphics users with a17-inch-screen laptop.

This micro machine also houses the largest hard drive we’ve seen on a mini-notebook to date: Our model came with a 5400-rpm, 160GB platter-based hard disk. That’s more than enough storage to accommodate Windows XP Home and the unit’s minimal preinstalled software. The hard drive, though, is the most likely reason the S10 weighs a somewhat hefty 3.6 pounds–almost as much as a ThinkPad X200.

More impressive is how this model performs under pressure. The S10 has the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM as most of the other mini-notebooks we’ve seen (such as the Acer Aspire One and Asus Eee 1000H 80G XP), yet it beats them all in performance. The IdeaPad S10 earned a score of 41 on the PC World Test Center’s WorldBench 6 suite; it’s hardly a speed demon, but it’s fairly fast when you consider that the nearest competitor, with the same guts, received only a 37.

The S10 falls short in battery life, though. Its three-cell battery lasts only 2.5 hours before giving out. Although it does a little better than Acer’s Aspire One, both lag behind other Atom-based mini-notebooks we’ve recently tested.

Even though this model’s good-size keyboard doesn’t match the luxurious tactile response of a ThinkPad, the S10’s keys deliver one of the better experiences among the mini-notebooks we’ve seen. Put the S10 side by side with the MSI Wind and Eee 1000H, however, and you’ll see that the S10’s keys are a little scrunched by comparison. Regrettably, the mouse buttons are the clacky, tacky type; each button sinks too much and feels a little too loose.

The S10’s speaker fares no better than those on most mini-notebooks: It delivers substandard sound that’s barely audible since the maximum audio setting is fairly low. That’s a slight disappointment since this model’s sizable hard drive and satisfactory screen make it a good potential video and music player.

Lenovo wins some points for providing a bloat-free machine, and for supplying a handy recovery application, Cyberlink OneKey Recovery 6.0. That app allows you to create backups, as well as to set partitions and restore points–a more flexible backup option than simply restoring the PC to factory-fresh condition. Lenovo even goes so far as to place a OneKey panic button at the top of the keyboard. It’s a nice touch, and it’s a nod to ThinkPad loyalists, who might consider it a “lite” version of the ThinkVantage button.

If you’re looking for a big, beefy hard drive and surprisingly sprightly performance from a mini-notebook, the IdeaPad S10 is a solid pick. If the S10’s slightly cramped keyboard and loose mouse buttons are deal breakers for you, Asus’s Eee 1000H would suit you much better. Though the Eee 1000H has a little more girth, it will definitely get you through your next business trip.

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