The Mobile Office, Part 1: Lenovo IdeaPad S10

In this era of increasing miniaturization, the truly mobile office has arrived. It's now possible to travel with a computer and printer that have a combined weight of under 5 pounds, and that fit easily into a briefcase or even a large purse. This week, I review the Lenovo IdeaPad S10. Next week I look at the ultraportable Brother PocketJet 3 Plus printer (formerly known and still sold as the Pentax PocketJet 3 Plus), along with ideas for other micro office equipment.

Lenovo's Netbook

Netbooks, also called mini-notebooks, are ultra-light, compact, affordable laptops. They're specifically designed for e-mail, Web browsing, and light computing tasks. And in this lousy economy, they're a growing segment of the portable computer market.

To date, I've had face time with three netbooks, listed in order of my preference: Lenovo's IdeaPad S10, Acer's Aspire One, and Hewlett-Packard's Mini-Note 2133.

Of these three netbooks, I give the nod to the IdeaPad S10 for several reasons: It has the biggest screen--10.2 inches compared to 8.9 inches for the others. (A 10.2-inch screen is an option for HP's Mini 1000 netbooks.) The IdeaPad's LED backlit matte finish screen is antireflective and a bit easier on the eyes than the Aspire One and Mini-Note 2133 screens. And after running for a while, the IdeaPad S10 stays relatively cool to the touch, while the Mini-Note 2133 gets too warm; the Aspire One lands somewhere in between the two netbooks in terms of heat.

Specs and Features

The IdeaPad S10 I reviewed has an Intel Atom N270 processor, a 160GB hard drive, 1GB of memory, a 1.3-megapixel Webcam, 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth wireless networking, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Lenovo's OneKey Recovery software for backup and system recovery, a three-cell battery, an ExpressCard/34 slot (a rarity among mini-notebooks and potentially useful for mobile broadband), a Secure Digital card slot, and two USB ports.

As of this writing, the white IdeaPad S10 configuration I tested wasn't available for purchase yet on Lenovo's Web site. (A Lenovo spokesperson said the configuration would be available online soon for $469.) But a black model with the same specs was available for $450 at CircuitCity.com.

On its own, the IdeaPad S10 weighs 2.65 pounds. Its AC adapter is about 12 ounces. Though it's a bit bigger than the Aspire One and HP 2133, the IdeaPad is easily portable and slips comfortably into a small bag.

In my informal tests, the IdeaPad's three-cell battery lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes with the screen at full brightness and wireless networking on. While that's not stupendous, it beats the Aspire One's anemic 1 hour and 45 minutes under the same conditions. (I tested the HP 2133 with a six-cell battery, which lasted for a little over 3 hours on one charge.)

Typing on the IdeaPad S10's almost-full-sized keyboard was reasonably comfortable. The mouse buttons are located under the trackpad--not on either side, as with the Aspire One and HP 2133. They make a loud clicking noise when pressed, but that's par for the netbook course.

The Wrap-Up

While I like the IdeaPad S10 more than the Acer Aspire One and HP 2133, it's not by much. Also, it's worth pointing out that netbooks aren't the same as laptops. Netbooks lack internal optical drives, so installing software requires buying an external DVD drive or downloading drivers and executable files from the Internet. A netbook's performance can't compare to laptops, either; the screens and keyboards are smaller; and so on.

Plus, you can buy a full-fledged laptop like the Acer AS5735-4624 for $500 from Best Buy. That's just a little more expensive than the IdeaPad S10 I tested. (Note: A recent check of BestBuy.com found the laptop had been removed from its inventory.)

Of course, the Acerr AS5735-4624 and most other laptops don't offer the light weight and compact form factor of a netbook. And full-fledged laptops that do offer those qualities often cost $1500 or more. So if you're in the market for a low-cost ultraportable as a secondary computer for basic tasks, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 is a good choice.

Keep on Clicking

Mini-Notebook Mania, Part 1

Mini-Notebook Mania, Part 2

Video: Toshiba Starts Selling Small "Netbook PC"

Review: MSI Wind NB U100

Review: Dell Inspiron Mini 9

LG Unveils Netbook PC With Embedded 3G at IFA

Fujitsu Siemens Shows Its First Netbook

Why Netbooks Will Soon Cost $99

Atom Could Challenge Intel's Higher-end Processors

TeleNav Introduces GPS Device: TeleNav, which has been making GPS software for cell phones and other devices, recently introduced its first GPS hardware, the TeleNav Shotgun ($299). The device comes with optional, cellular-based Internet service, designed to continually update its points-of-interest database and real-time traffic and gas pricing info. The Shotgun's introduction comes shortly after Dash Navigation announced it was discontinuing its Dash Express, the first portable GPS device with built-in cellular Internet connectivity.

Affordable NYC Hotel With Free Wi-Fi: On a recent visit to New York, I stayed at The Hotel at Times Square. Along with free Wi-Fi and a continental breakfast, the hotel offers a great midtown location. My corner room on the sixth floor was comfortable, clean, and reasonably sized. The room had a safe large enough to accommodate my Apple MacBook Air laptop, as well as a flat-screen TV. My only complaints: The window partially faced another building, making the room a bit dark. Also, one morning, I was awakened at 7 a.m. by extremely loud construction noise. (It was the only morning on my trip I could have slept late.) This isn't the hotel's fault, of course; and most business travelers will be up by 7 anyhow. A recent check of rates shows a room at the Hotel at Times Square with one queen bed for $140 per night (with AAA or AARP discount). That's an extremely competitive rate for midtown Manhattan. For other suggestions of hotels offering wireless networks and other business amenities, read "Hotel Chairs With Internet Access" and "High-Tech Hyatt Place."

Holiday Head Start, Gifts for Geeks: Thanksgiving--the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season--isn't far away. Our "Gifts for the Discerning Geek" gallery will help you get started, with pictures and opinions on such products as the Jawbone 2 Bluetooth headset, iPhone 3G, and Amazon Kindle.

Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.

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