The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 netbook delivers great input ergonomics - at a premium price.

The third-generation, 10.1-inch Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 is a 1.5kg business-oriented netbook that's a bit pricier per spec than the competition. Most other 10.1-inch, 1024-by-600-resolution netbooks sell for marginally less with the same 1GB Intel N450/3150 CPU/GPU combination, although you do get a capacious 250GB hard drive.

Or is it the ergonomics you're paying for? Whoever is in charge of Lenovo's input devices deserves a raise and/or high praise. The innovative multitouch combination touchpad/rocker button on the Lenovo IdeaPad 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 corners of the device, and you have your click.

Another time-honoured Lenovo strength is the keyboard, and the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 doesn't disappoint in this area either. The typing feel is as good as you'll find on a netbook, and there are no scrunched or misplaced keys à la Fujitsu and Asus. Using the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 netbook feels less like using a netbook than any other 10.1-incher we've ever tried.

Lenovo also bundles some interesting software with the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3. 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 seeing your eyes twinkle onscreen while VeriFace creates your profile... we don't care who you are, that's fun right there. But, alas, logging on this way gets tiring after a while and is considerably slower than simply typing in a password.

Other titles include DirectShare, which syncs files and folders across your network, and OneKey Recovery, which images your hard drive for disaster recovery - comparatively boring, but useful, utilities, though the latter program duplicates Windows functionality. Unfortunately, you don't get even Microsoft Works to perform basic office tasks with. Most likely, Lenovo feels the intended business audience will have its own productivity suite, or will activate the included 60-day Office 2007 trial.

The rest of the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 specs are netbook-standard. 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's on the left, along with a wireless switch. The hard drive, memory, and free miniPCI Express slot are easily accessible via a single removable panel on the bottom of the machine. Not only that, but the screws are captive - so if you're trying to roll out a fleet of these puppies and want to upgrade them, you don't have to worry about tiny screws flying all over the place. Nice touch.

The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 ran for 8 hours, 27 minutes in our battery tests, but its performance was drab to say the least. Its score of 31 on WorldBench 6 is subpar even for a netbook, and the overall feel to the Windows 7 Starter operating system is rather sluggish. Part of the problem is that Lenovo has a habit of piling on background processes via software that does little more than duplicate existing Windows capabilities. The ReadyComm 5 networking utility is one example. A few minutes with msconfig.exe and uninstalling unnecessary apps perked the machine up quite a bit.

Sadly, this tweaking didn't help the video performance much: 720 HD video, one of our standard hands-on tests, 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 speakers sounded better than on most netbooks.

NEXT: our expert verdict >

Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3: Specs

  • Intel Atom (N450) 1.66GHz 0.512MB (L2 Cache)
  • 1024MB PC2-5300 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • 250GB 5400RPM
  • 10.1in TFT WSVGA
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Starter Edition
  • Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
  • 280x174x20mm
  • 1.5kg
  • Intel Atom (N450) 1.66GHz 0.512MB (L2 Cache)
  • 1024MB PC2-5300 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • 250GB 5400RPM
  • 10.1in TFT WSVGA
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Starter Edition
  • Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
  • 280x174x20mm
  • 1.5kg

OUR VERDICT

The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 10in netbook is much more than the sum of its parts. Type and point with one before you grab something else.

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