With companies like Fujitsu and HP introducing new products in the convertible PC category, Lenovo has joined the bandwagon and launched the IdeaPad S10-3t. A convertible PC is essentially a laptop with a LED touch screen which rotates 180 degrees, to fit on top of the keyboard and doubles up to function as a slate.
The S10-3t has a really impressive ergonomic design. It features a screen that is 10.1-inches wide, and the lid is a smart black colour, with an attractive embossed geometric design, which can also be seen on the lower panel, just below the keyboard.
The power button is unconventionally located on the top panel, near the screen, which means you can power on even in slate mode. Underneath this is a lock button that locks all the other buttons. There are three buttons on the left side of the screen, the first opens up the Lenovo NaturalTouch software, the second changes the view between portrait and landscape and the third is a mute button.
The keyboard, like in all netbooks, is small and cramped, and takes a while to get used to, after which it is easy to touch-type. However one feature Lenovo missed out on here is the ergonomical chiclet-key design, which could have made typing a better experience, as well as helped increase the aesthetics of this already stunning tablet.
In terms of connectivity options, the tablet offers two USB 2.0 ports, a 6x1 card reader, a 3.5mm stereo headphone and 3.5 mm microphone slots and a VGA port.
The IdeaPad S10-3t's trackpad was too small for comfort and made navigating troublesome. It was also unresponsive at the best of times, especially when it came to scrolling up and down. There is also the hard-felt lack of physical left and right mouse buttons, which left users feeling more cramped.
Weight was also an issue, at nearly three pounds, it isn't exactly light by netbook standards, nowhere close to some of the Vaio models we've seen.
The touch interface was a delight to use with the S10-3t's capacitive touch screen. It recognised gestures responsively and smoothly, requiring minimum effort. While we didn't see a downside for the touch screen from Lenovo's point of view, this is where the Windows 7 OS came to disappoint. The OS is basically Windows with touch control – which just doesn't do the trick. Controls are small and difficult to operate, which leads to a lot of jabbing at the screen. At times you get fed up and just use the trackpad. This is also where you see the limitations of capacitive touch – pointing at small controls with the edge of the finger or your nail just won't open up programs.
Another downside is that in full slate mode, i.e. when the screen is directly above the keyboard, Lenovo hasn't made provision for an onscreen keyboard. Which means you can't browse the net or use any word documents in slate mode. All you can do is occasionally use the touch controls for the most basic functions, watch videos or indulge in a fun game of Solitaire.
Lenovo has tried to compensate for Windows by including the app NaturalTouch. While this does make using the touch functions of the tablet a little easier, it still fails to be a good enough reason to opt for a convertible PC.
The stereo speakers are located towards the bottom of the top panel, below the screen. While this does mean that you can direct sound depending on which way you rotate the screen, we were disappointed with the volume. Sound was barely audible in a crowded room, irrespective of whether we played a YouTube video or music loaded on Windows Media Player. The sound quality was also bad – tinny at most times and what seemed like a complete absence of bass. This means that if you do want to watch a movie or listen to music, you'll have to plug in a pair of headphones, after which the reproduction quality is fine.
Movies and videos played without stuttering and were quite crisp and clear. However we did feel that colour reproduction could have been better – saturation was minimal and colours just weren't vivid enough.
The S10-3t comes with 220GB of storage, which is substantial for all your files.
The webcam is located on the right-hand side of the screen, which often cuts out your face, so you constantly have to position yourself in front of it.
The S10-3t scored quite high when it came to performance. It is powered by the single-core Intel Atom N450 processor, seen on a lot of netbooks including the Dell Inspiron Mini. Although it is known for its slightly sluggish performance, especially when it comes to multi-tasking, we found that the S10-3t performed quite well. We tried it using multiple browser windows, plugged in an external hard drive and played music, and it executed all these tasks smoothly and without much lag.
Although the Atom N450 processor is supposed to extend battery life, we didn't see much evidence of that here – it was poor – what you would expect from a 4-cell battery. We got close to three hours with a couple of hours of browsing and about an hour of video playback. You can choose to upgrade to an eight cell battery which would give you a couple of more hours of juice.
Using it on just video mode would give you just enough time to watch a movie and if you're lucky, get in a wee bit of browsing time. Considering that netbooks and tablets are meant to be portable, Lenovo could have improved on the battery life – in this segment, the iPad's 10 hours of battery power is the benchmark.
The Lenovo convertible tablet took about two minutes to start up. When we connected an USB drive or memory card, it took a little longer than usual to read before showing up on the icon tray.
All in all, the tablet functioned quite well as a netbook. Whether the swivelling touch screen can function independently as a slate looks doubtful – especially when using a Windows OS, and considering new entrants in the market like the Dell Streak. Until then, we would recommend the S10-3t if you're looking for a netbook for basic computing needs, along with the novelty of a convertible touch screen.
Love: Smooth touch interface, sleek looks
Hate: Poor sound quality and battery life