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Lenovo S10-3t tablet PC netbook review

Here’s a quick review of the Lenovo S10-3t multi-touch tablet PC. It’s not a brand new tablet PC but there aren’t too many reviews out there and I think it deserves bit more attention. Since price is excellent and at around $500 you get a netbook with rotating multi-touch capacitive 10.1” display (tablet), 2 USB ports, flash card slot, built-in webcam and optional auto-rotate detection (accelerometer). If you’re looking for a netbook with smooth multi-touch capabilities like the hyped iPad but with full windows 7 functionality, USB ports then this is a great deal.

Other reviews: http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptops/ideapad-s10-3t.aspx

Overview

The Lenovo S10-3t is a 10” netbook but with multi-touch capabilities and rotating screen to allow tablet mode as well. The model reviewed has a 1.83 GHz Intel N470 with 2GB memory. This model also has larger 250GB disk drive and blue-tooth. The price was around $500 (with $25 coupon from Logicbuy.com at that time). The Lenovo is sold directly be Lenovo and several other online retailers. Look for coupons if you plan to buy one online (e.g. Logicbuy.com).

Display

The contrast of the screen is pretty good and black looks like black (which is not always the case with tablet PC’s). Also I don’t see grain or other pixilated effects that often occur with tablet PC’s. For that matter the display looks to me same as a typical non-tablet PC.

Maximum brightness is about average and for sunny outdoor use it’s not quite bright enough and the display is glossy so reflections make it harder to see. UPDATE: I did a test outdoors in the sun and it’s better than I expected (lot better than Viliv S5). It’s definitely viewable if sun is not directly on display or in little bit of shade.

The viewing angles are fairly decent horizontally but not good vertically. In tablet portrait mode the viewing angles are limited and best results are to slightly move it off center vertically.

The S10-3t has an accelerometer built-in which means it can automatically switch and rotate between portrait and landscape. However this can also cause inadvertent screen rotation so I’d turn it off and use the button to switch manually. Speaking of buttons there are 3 buttons on the side of the display: application start button, rotate button and a volume mute button. Lenovo doesn’t give you an option to change the buttons however you can with custom software. E.g. see http://www.lenovos103t.com/2010/05/alternative-rotation-program-with.html. Also the volume mute button can be reprogrammed using autohotkey. E.g. this will remap the button to page down if in Adobe reader:

; remove this for remap to be global
#IfWinActive,ahk_class AcrobatSDIWindow
SC120:PgDn ; remap mute button to page down

The touch-screen features multi-touch and you can zoom using pinch gesture, swipe finger to scroll up/down. Also rotate works with 2 fingers for pictures.

Keyboard and touchpad

Keyboard is pretty good and slightly smaller than an average size notebook but I had no problems typing accurately and fast on this keyboard. The touchpad is responsive but the small buttons at the bottom overlap with the touch area so it can happen often that while clicking the button you go too high and the mouse will jump. You get used to this little bit but tapping on the touchpad seems more reliable to left click.

Audio and webcam

The sound of the speakers are pretty poor and sound is very thin with almost no bass. On the other hand the headphones out quality was very good and better than most notebooks I have used. I haven’t tested webcam much but laptopmag.com tested the webcam so take a look at that review (see link above).

Performance

I did remove all programs that I didn’t use to increase perf a bit. I also disabled custom flicks to get slightly smoother multi-touch. From hibernate to startup takes about 25 seconds. Full boot takes about 1 minute. Standby is almost instant and the battery does appear to last almost a week in this mode. See battery section for more details.

Software & video performance

Software Works out of the box? Comments  / workarounds
Video
Youtube.com regular 480p works but 720p stutters 720p will work fine if you download video first… (keepvid or browser plug-in).
Vimeo.com Stutters in default HD mode, turning off HD work also in full screen Non-HD still looks fairly decent but obviously not HD.
Hulu.com Stutters in all modes except the new 288p
720p MPEG2
1080p MPEG2
Yes I found even 1080p at 6MB works fluid and CPU usage is around 20%
720p MP4
1080p MP4
No (yes with corecodec) No Installing CoreCodec will make 720p MP4 fluid. 1080p just can’t be played regardless
720p WMV depends Older 720p WMV and higher bit rates will be jerky.
Browsers / Readers
Internet Explorer 8/9 Smooth 1 finger scrolling and pinch zoom is ok (slightly slow) Turn off hardware acceleration in IE9. Otherwise it won’t scroll fast.
FireFox Similar to IE8. Zoom not quite as fast but scrolling slightly smoother for some more complex sites Recommendation: download the youtube plugin
Adobe Reader (PDF) and Digital Edition (ebook reader) Yes You can move around using finger when zoomed in, otherwise you can’t swipe to go to next page but you tape left/right to do that
Microsoft Reader Works including activation Gives warning at startup for screen resolution but works otherwise ok
CDisplay Works
GAMES
Stella 2600 emulator works 100% Note USB joysticks like the StellaAdapter works great
Winston Atari ST works 100% Audio is slightly distorted I noticed
Atari Lynx Handy works 100%
VisualBoyAdvance works 100% for most games
Project64 ? Haven’t tested it but other people reported it works
iDeas doesn’t really work Too slow…

Screenshot CDisplay and VisualBoyAdvance:

Battery

There is a 4 cell and a 8 cell available. Lenovo ships typically the 4 cell with the S10-3t and most other sites the 8 cell. The 8 cell is strongly recommended since it double battery life but it does makes the S10-3t bit heaver and the battery does stick out. I had one issues that I couldn’t figure out when the battery was fully charged and finally discovered then it blinks periodically (like every 2 seconds or so) when it’s charging. It’s steady when it doesn’t blink.

Expect about 2-4 hours with the 4 cell and twice of that with the 8 cell. Here are some numbers for balanced mode with display brightness at about 80%:

Software -% per hour 4 cell -% per hour 8 cell
Gameboy Advance 36%   (2hrs 47min) 18%  (5hrs 33min)
Video MPEG2 40%   (2hrs 30min) 20%  (5hrs)
IE Browsing 32%   (3hrs 8min) 16%  (6hrs 15min)
Reading pdf (WiFi off) 20%   (5hrs) 10%  (10hrs)

UPDATE: I also tested the battery drain in standby mode. The stand by almost consumes no battery power and seems that stand by will work for at least several days or even a week:-). Here are results:

Time -% per hour 8 cell
after 2 hours -1%
after 4 hours -2%

Summary

If you’re looking for a netbook tablet pc then there are very few choices (see http://lucienk.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!A4AE3FB12A26635!1934.entry for overview of touch screen mobile devices). For around $500 this is a great netbook with decent multi-touch capabilities. You may need to invest some time to tweak performance to get best results (use msconfig32 to remove unnecessary programs).

For some reason tablet PC are sometimes compared to iPad (e.g. LapTopMag who should know better). An iPad is not a notebook and is more like a multi-media device. It doesn’t have flexibility of a PC which may or may not be an issue. It’s not a coincidence that the iPad doesn’t have USB ports or a SD slot and it can’t process several common formats out of the box (PDF,DIVX/AVI,FLASH,WMV,DOCX,DIVX/AVI , …). Here are some things you can do with S10-3t and not easily with iPad if at all:

  • Install variety USB devices: printer, game controllers, backup drive, GPS
  • Install free game emulators (Atari, C64, Nintendo, Arcade emulators)
  • Use it as a backup device for your flash media (camcorder or camera)
  • Get USB or blue-tooth GPS and install Garmin or Street&Trips as GPS device
  • Install reader like CDisplay or Adobe reader and read any pdf
  • Connect to PC or XBOX 360 hooked up to your TV wirelessly and access audio/video/pictures
  • Tons of freeware available

Summary Pro/cons S10-3t:

+ Display: good contrast and relatively bright
+ Decent Windows 7 performance with 1.8GHz CPU and 2GB memory
+ Great price and comes with built-in webcam
+ Good headphones audio quality
+ 720p MPEG2/MPEG4 playback
+ Good multi-touch performance for zooming & scrolling
o 4 cell Battery could last longer and 8 cell is bit heavy
– Poor quality built-in speakers and not very loud
– Viewing angles could be little bit better
– Not enough performance to playback 720p HD flash
– No HDMI port
– Screen could be bit higher resolution
– flash card slot is tough to open and cover sticks out when card is inserted

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One response

  1. Now this is a great review!

    March 17, 2011 at 9:24 am

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