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Lenovo IdeaPad S10 4231 review: Lenovo IdeaPad S10 4231

Lenovo IdeaPad S10 4231

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 Netbook has been a popular entry in the minilaptop sweepstakes for several reasons. It was one of the first Netbooks to offer an ExpressCard slot (albeit the smaller 34mm variety), it was an early proponent of standard hard-disk drives instead of small solid-state drives (a position that is now the industry standard), and it was one of the only Netbook options for button-down business users, even though the system is technically part of Lenovo's IdeaPad "consumer" line.


Lenovo IdeaPad S10 4231

The Good

Improved battery life, includes quick-start interface.

The Bad

New battery adds thickness and weight; some awkward keyboard compromises.

The Bottom Line

Lenovo fixes our main issue with the S10 Netbook by adding a larger six-cell battery.

Our main knock against the original S10 was its anemic three-cell battery, which barely passed the 2-hour mark in our battery drain test--which is not exactly great for a system designed for easy travel. The Lenovo S10 is now available with a six-cell battery, and while it adds a bit of weight and bulk to the system, the battery life is now much more in line with our Netbook recommendations.

Battery aside, this is a fairly standard Intel Atom Netbook, with 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Windows XP, and a new quick-launch environment from Splashtop. Systems such as HP's Mini 2140 may have made some additional strides in design with a bigger keyboard and full ExpressCard/54 slot, but the Lenovo's bargain $399 price makes it an attractive option in a crowded field.

Price as reviewed $399
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory 1GB, DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz
Hard drive 160GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel 945 Express;
Graphics Intel GMA 950
Operating system Windows XP Home Edition SP3
Dimensions (WD) 9.9x7.5 inches
Height 1.0 - 1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.2 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.0 - 3.7 pounds
Category Netbook

With the exception of the extended battery that sticks out from the rear of the system, the system is physically identical to the Lenovo S10 we reviewed in 2008. We liked the chunky, squared-off design, and the IdeaPad S10's chassis is a little thinner than many of the heftier Netbooks out there--although counting the extended battery, it maxes out at 1.5-inches thick--the same as Asus' 10-inch Eee PC 1000HE.

There's a decent-sized keyboard (for a Netbook), but we're troubled by the right Shift key, which is shrunk down and awkwardly placed directly to the right of the up-arrow key. The touch pad is small but usable, with a similar (but less extreme) wide design to the HP Mini 1000, although in this case, the mouse buttons are below the touch pad, not on either side. The included ExpressCard/34 slot, which is rare on smaller systems, is useful for adding aftermarket extras, such as a mobile broadband modem.

Another new feature is the Splashtop-powered quick-start environment, which gives you access to a Web browser, media files, and other applications before you boot into Windows. These secondary operating systems can be good for saving battery life and quickly getting online without waiting for XP to boot up, but functionality is limited, some configuration options (such as wireless networking) use menus that may be unfamiliar to Windows users, and, in the long run, they usually don't boot up that much faster than just going into Windows.

The 10.2-inch wide-screen display has a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, which is standard for 10-inch Netbooks. The matte screen is good for avoiding glare, although some more design-oriented Netbooks now offer edge-to-edge screen glass for a slicker look.

  Lenovo IdeaPad S10 Average for category (Netbook)
Video VGA-out VGA-out
Audio Headphone/microphone jacks Headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/34 None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

With Intel's now-standard 1.6GHz Atom N270 CPU, specifically designed for low-power Netbooks, the Lenovo S10 performed on par with other Atom-powered Netbooks, although it had an edge in our multitasking test. Systems with newer Netbook-style CPUs, such as the HP Pavilion dv2 and Samsung NC20 (with the AMD Neo and Via Nano CPUs, respectively), were faster in single-application tests, such as iTunes.

For Web surfing, e-mail, and working on office documents, which is 90 percent of what most people do on their laptops anyway, Netbooks such as the S10 perform adequately, as long as one's expectations are kept modest.

The original Lenovo S10 offered a disappointing 2 hours and 13 minutes of battery life on our video playback battery drain test, using its three-cell battery. This new six-cell version was much better, scoring 4 hours and 1 minute on the same test. That's a big improvement, and addresses our main problem with the S10. Still, some Netbooks, such as the Acer Aspire One AOD150, can run for even longer.

Lenovo includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor mail-in warranty with the system. A variety of extension options are available and upgrading to a second year of mail-in service costs an extra $49, while three total years of service is $129.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (six-cell battery)
Samsung NC20

Jalbum photo conversion test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (six-cell battery)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (six-cell battery)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (six-cell battery)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (six-cell battery)
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 64MB Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (three-cell battery)
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 64MB Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

HP Pavilion dv2
Windows Vista Home Edition SP1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo Processor MV-40; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3140; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Samsung NC20
Windows XP Professional SP3; 1.3GHz VIA Nano U2250; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB VIA/SG3 Chrome9 HC3 IGP; 160GB TK 5,400rpm.

Acer Aspire One AOD150
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Hitachi 5,400rpm.


Lenovo IdeaPad S10 4231

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Battery 8Support 6