A Shiny New Lenovo Ideapad S10-3s

Well, I did it again. I got the chance to pick up a new Lenovo Ideapad S10-3s for a very good price (just under 450 Swiss Francs, roughly £280).

Well, I did it again. I got the chance to pick up a new Lenovo Ideapad S10-3s for a very good price (just under 450 Swiss Francs, roughly £280). I was particularly interested in this model for two reasons - it has the latest Atom N475 CPU, which runs at 1.83 GHz, and it has a 10,1", 1280x720 resolution display, rather than the typical netbook 1024x600. Other noteworthy specifications for this model: 1 GB DDR2 memory (Intel says the N475 will take DDR3, but Lenovo chose not to use it), 250 GB SATA disk drive, Broadcom wired and wireless networking (!), Bluetooth. "buttonless" touchpad.

First Impressions:

- The display is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. It's wonderful. - The "buttonless" touchpad is bizarre, to say the least. - The keyboard is excellent, but has one or two strange quirks. For example, there is no F12 key, but you need F12 to get the Boot selection menu - you produce F12 with Fn-F11. Nothing tragic about the keyboard, though, and I really love the feel and performance of it. - All of the USB/Audio/Network/Flashcard ports have covers on them, which gives the netbook an overall very smooth appearance. Unfortunately, the shape and recess of the case and covers make it too small for my Huawei USB 3G modem to fit it. Ugh. - The entire case seems to be closed, there is no possibility that I can see to access/change the disk drive, memory or whatever. Again, this makes for a nice external appearance, but it is sub-optimal for someone like me who often likes to stick their fingers in the back... - The power brick is nice, small and light.

First Experiences with Operating Systems:

- It came loaded with Windows 7 Stunted Edition. Bletch. I have not loaded or activated it, I am going to have a discussion with Lenovo and/or the distributor about getting my money back for that. I'm not holding my breath for success. - There was something strange that I have not seen before about the way that the disk was partitioned. Besides having the typical "all four primary partitions used" layout (200 MB for the bootloader, 180 GB for Win7S, 60 GB for Recovery and 14 GB for something else), I found that Gparted was unable to reduce the size of the 180 GB partition. I couldn't understand why, but I eventually gave up. I'm not ever going to load Windows on this thing anyway, under any circumstances, so I just wiped all four partitions (I could delete the partition even though I couldn't change it), and started over from scratch.

- Linux Mint 10 (Julia): The LiveUSB stick booted normally - It doesn't read the "buttons" on the touchpad, so I had to "tap". I hate tapping. - Bluetooth works just fine (thankfully), so I just used a Bluetooth mouse, which I prefer to a touchpad anyway. - The default installation doesn't include the driver for the Broadcom WiFi adapter, but the Hardware Drivers utility pops up and offers to install it on the first boot. As long as you have a wired connection (or Mobile Broadband), all is well. - WiFi throughput sucks, varying between 250k-750k on a connection that should do 2.5M. This is the same symptom that I have on my HP 2133 and Samsung N150 systems that have Broadcom WiFi adapters. It works, but there is clearly something wrong. - Wireless networking is always disabled when Mint is booted, and I have to go into the Network Manager and enable it. Once I do that everything comes up and it automatically connects to my wireless router, but it's pretty irritating to have to enable it every time. Oddly, Bluetooth is not disabled on boot, and the Bluetooth mouse connects and works just fine every time.

- PCLinuxOS 2010.10: Everything works! Hooray, La-la-la-la, it just works, everything from top to bottom, right out of the box! - The buttons on the "buttonless" touchpad work just fine. - The driver for the Broadcom WiFi adapter is included in the 2010.10 distribution. If you are still installing from the 2010.7 distribution, you'll need to pick up the latest updates to get it installed and working, but then all is well too. (But you really need to get the 2010.10 distribution to make your life easier.) - Wireless network is enabled on boot, so everything comes up and connects as you would expect. - The screen looks wonderful, having the size of the Samsung N150 screen with the resolution of the HP 2133 (approximately) makes a big difference.

There's plenty more to do, see and learn about this new Lenovo - it's a good thing there is a weekend coming up! I'll load up a variety of other Linux distributions, try the rest of the hardware bits, and see how it all comes out.

jw 19/11/2010

P.S. One other potentially nice feature of the Atom N475 - it uses the 64-bit Intel instruction set. I have the 64-bit Linux Mint distribution loaded on it, no problem.