Want a great netbook for video, music, and light gaming? Or a machine with all-day battery life? Or maybe just a cool companion PC on the cheap? Look no further: We've uncovered suitable netbooks for all sorts of users.
Best design: Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3
Lenovo's IdeaPad S10-3 is designed for business users, with a great keyboard and a multitouch touchpad.
Everything Lenovo sells, including the £279 IdeaPad S10-3 netbook, appears to be intended for the boardroom or meeting room.
This business-oriented model is a bit pricier for its specs than the competition.
Most other 10.1in,1024x600-resolution netbooks with the same 1GB Intel N450 CPU and 3150 GPU combination sell for around £30 less; they also have a more-capacious 250GB hard drive (the S10-3's is 160GB).
While 160GB is more than enough for most users, you are still getting a little less of the basics and paying a bit extra for the business features and software.
Or is it the ergonomics you're paying for? The innovative multitouch combination of touchpad and rocker button on the S10-3 is a relief for anyone (including this writer) who hates inadvertently tapping while dragging or hunting for buttons.
Simply apply a little pressure to the bottom left or right corner of the device, and you have your click.
Another time-honoured Lenovo strength is the keyboard, and the S10-3 doesn't disappoint there either.
The typing feel is as good as you'll find on a netbook, with no scrunched or misplaced keys. Working with this netbook feels less like using a netbook than doing so with any other 10.1in netbook I've ever tried.
Lenovo also bundles some interesting software.
Most of it, such as the VeriFace facial recognition security, is aimed squarely at business users.
Lock down the system with a password, and VeriFace will log you on by scanning your mug using the webcam. It works rather well, and is fun. But logging on this way is slow and gets tiring after a while.
Additional apps include DirectShare, which syncs files and folders across your network, and OneKey Recovery, which images your hard drive for disaster recovery (though Windows can do this).
Unfortunately, you don't get even Microsoft Works.
No doubt Lenovo thought business users would have their own productivity suite, or would activate the Office 2007 trial.
Other specs are standard for netbooks.
You get three USB ports: one on the left with the VGA port and SDHC slot, and two on the right with the ethernet and audio input and output.
The AC port and a wireless switch are on the left.
The hard drive, memory, and free Mini PCI Express slot are easily accessible via a removable panel on the bottom.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 ran for 8 hours, 27 minutes in our battery tests, but its performance score of 31 on WorldBench 6 is subpar even for a netbook, and the Windows 7 Starter operating system feels sluggish.
Lenovo piles on background processes via software that duplicates Windows capabilities. Uninstalling unnecessary apps helps quite a bit.
Regrettably, 720p HD video played smoothly only when transcoded to the very efficient QuickTime MP4 codec.
WMV was a complete fail, and other MP4 implementations continually stuttered or stalled. On the other hand, audio through the S10-3's speakers sounded better than on most netbooks.
Though it's pricier, slightly less well-configured, and slower out of the box than much of its competition, Lenovo's IdeaPad S10-3 is a netbook that remains more than the sum of its parts.
Jon L. Jacobi
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