Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t Multi-Touch Tablet/Netbook Review

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User Experience

Our experience with the S10-3t was mixed. As pretty as the S10-3t is, and as portable as the form factor is, we're of the opinion that spending $549 or more on a netbook should mean the user experience is next to flawless. Unfortunately for Lenovo, it's not. Using the S10-3t has its ups and downs, but as we used it more and more, we found it to be more frustrating than fun, particularly when considering its relatively high MSRP.

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We had high hopes for the machine in terms of performance. We know it's a netbook, so we didn't expect it to run Adobe Premiere or anything, but the 1.83GHz Atom N470 is more powerful than the Atom CPUs of last year, and the inclusion of 2GB of RAM and Windows 7, should have resulted in somewhat better real-world performance. Unfortunately, little has changed. The Atom platform still feels slow, and even doing simple tasks requires far too much time. We tried to open Firefox, and it took 5 to 10 seconds to load. We tried to load Microsoft Paint (one of the lightest apps out there) and it took around 3 seconds to load. These exact same tasks were loaded nearly instantly on the ThinkPad X100e, which has a lower clocked 1.6GHz Athlon Neo CPU.

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The slowness permeated throughout the machine. The only thing that responded well was the touch inputs, but all of our tinkering felt like we were using an older machine from years back, not a brand new machine. Even switching the screen orientation took 5 to 10 seconds; on a far less powerful iPhone, this transition happens almost instantly. We've seen Windows 7 run great on other netbooks that cost far less, so we expected more. Put side-by-side with the (less expensive) X100e, the S10-3t simply felt slow.

We couldn't look past this machine's speed issues, but if you are able to, there's the issue of the lackluster keyboard. It feels large enough, but the key travel wasn't ideal and the keys didn't exude the typical Lenovo quality. Again, this would be fine on a $199 bargain-bin netbook, but Lenovo is asking over $600 for this machine. The trackpad may as well not even be on the machine; it's about as large as two postage stamps, and there's no dedicated left/right click. You're supposed to mash the corners down (like Apple's trackpad on the MacBook Pro), but the issue is that this pad cannot accurately support one finger pressing down a corner while another drags an icon. You're left with a pad that supports just one action at a time, which is a productivity killer.

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On a positive note, the 10.1" panel responds very well to touch inputs. We found that input was very natural, but we're still wondering why someone would invest so much money in a machine with a touch panel when these touch-based UIs don't really save you that much time. Throw in the fact that no stylus is included for taking manual notes, and you're left wondering what Lenovo actually intends you to do with the touch panel. Using your finger to open IE is cute the first time, but is it really worth the multi-hundred dollar investment in the touch panel upgrade over a non-touch netbook elsewhere? The panel, however, is extremely glossy. This means that it's very difficult to view outdoors--next to impossible, really. It gets washed out very quickly, so you'll need to use this machine primarily in indoors/shaded environments.

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We did think that the swivel function worked well, and the form factor was perfect for using as a vertical tablet. This has a few uses, but most are negated by the inability to use the screen outdoors and the fact that no stylus is included. If you'd like to load up a photo slideshow to show clients outside (think realtor), you won't be able to due to the panel choice. If you'd like to use this machine as a note-taking device in class, you'll have to find your own stylus.

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We also noticed the machine getting rather warm after a few hours of use, and that's without forcing it to do any heavy lifting. It definitely got hotter than we expected, and having just two USB 2.0 ports could also be a deal-breaking limit for some. A killer inclusion would've been Intel's Wireless High-Definition link, enabling it to beam presentations and the like wirelessly; unfortunately, nothing of the sort is included, which is a real shame. This tablet could've become a lot more useful with wireless display capabilities built in.

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