Previously published in Business & Finance, 15th-29th January 2009. Information correct at the time of going to print.
The â€˜netbookâ€™ market is more than just saturated â€“ it is flooded. Every major computer manufacturer bar Apple now has at least one ultra-portable, ultra-cheap laptop on the market and some â€“ such as Asus â€“ seem to be building their entire business plan around them.
Lenovo has been a quiet manufacturer generally speaking, not just in the world of netbooks. That is not to say that they are a small or insignificant player, they just tend to release very functional machines that may not garner the attention a more stylish release would.
Their reputation is strong, however, and the IdeaPad S10e shows that they want to maintain that in a market where some are willing to cut corners.
Housing an impressive 10.1â€ display, a huge 160GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM and a 1.6GHz Intel processor the machine packs a punch that some year-old full-scale laptops might not. It runs on Windows XP and features a built-in webcam and microphone, two USB ports an SD card reader, Bluetooth and WiFi functionality and an express card slot.
The â€˜eâ€™ in the product name signals that the device is designed for the education market and it will certainly appeal there. Just like other Lenovo releases it may not be the prettiest of machines but it does exactly what it needs to do at a good price.
The keyboard takes a little bit of getting used to but even on first attempt typing was relatively easy. Its screen is more than adequate for what it is designed and XP was the perfect choice for fast and functional operations.
Another feature that will appeal to students is its quick start-up speed, which took about 35 seconds to get from power-on to the familiar XP start music; perfect for travelling from lecture to lecture.
Shut-down did not seem to be quite as prompt which is a let down, of course closing the laptop will put it into standby mode anyway.
A nice feature Lenovo have added to the keyboard of the S10e is the shortcut buttons, which are given very specific functions. One opens a quick-start menu which can be customised by the user, meaning you can specify up to nine programmes which you will have quicker access to.
The other is a broadcast button which switches the laptopâ€™s various signals â€“ be they WiFi or Bluetooth â€“ on and off when pressed. This is a simply idea that could be vital in saving limited battery power during use.
Sadly it is in the area of battery life that the Lenovo falls down. Housing a 3-cell battery, users will be lucky to get three hours use out of the machine before it powers down and that is assuming all the various power-saving features are in use.
This kind of limitation is not unique to the S10e, on the contrary it is a common problem with netbooks of any creed. However recent releases from companies like Samsung have seen dramatic improvements in battery performance and in such a fast-moving and profit-light market a marginal advantage like this can make all the difference.
Despite this the S10e is one of the better netbooks out there. It is amazingly light, slim and powerful and most importantly it is functional. Lenovo could have done slightly better with this but they certainly could have done a lot worse.