Saturday, December 27, 2008

Complaints about the Lenovo S10

My affair with the Lenovo S10 is now into the third week and I have nothing to complain so far. Meanwhile, I've been following the posts in the independent Lenovo Ideapad S series Forum which focus on the S10. This is a good Forum if you want to learn more about the S10. There is another Forum, Lenovo Forum for the Ideapad , that is run by Lenovo where the S10 belongs but since this covers all the Ideapad models and not just the S10, it is less focused but you can also find some additional information about the S10 if you do some searching.

There are some complaints raised in the former Forum so you may want to check out these areas and test your unit if you intend to buy the S10 to see if any of these is a problem for you. Here's the summary.

1. The fan noise. Some find the fan noisy and disturbing but to me it is OK so this is very much a personal thing. The fan in my desktop is definitely more noisy! However, I tend to notice the fan noise more on the Lenovo S10 than on my Dell Inspiron laptop so it is not the quietest one out there.

2. Keyboard. The arrangement is not the best and one must bear in mind the limited space that is available to fit in the keyboard. You have to sacrifice something if you want portability. The size of your hands (and fingers) will determine if you're comfortable typing for long periods. Once you're used to the arrangement, you can touch type quite normally. Do test out each key individually to see if any is defective. Also test the Function key combinations to see if they work as intended.

3. Touch pad. Again small because of the space limitations and need some time to get used to it. The click buttons are rather stiff and need some force before they are activated. Do test out both the left and right buttons since there were some reported cases of defective buttons.

4. Battery. There are many posts on the 6 cell battery not charging properly and low capacity compared to what is advertised but these generally refer to the 3rd party replacement battery. If you buy the S10 currently (in Malaysia, at least) you should definitely get the one that comes with the original 6 cell battery so you should not have any problem. Some of the problem arose because the user insert or remove the battery while the set is still plugged into AC power. Not sure if the original will suffer the same fate so never, never inset or remove your battery while you S10 is till plugged into AC power. This is really common sense since we were always taught to power off before we meddle with any electrical items.

5. The Lenovo logo on the cover. Some found the letters dropping out, especially the letter "e". Not a major issue but may be of concern to ladies who must have the perfect look!

So it seems Lenovo need to tighten their quality control but there may be similar complains about the other netbooks and certainly, the Lenovo S10 is not the worst. It is one of the easiest netbook to upgrade the RAM or the HDD, if not the easiest. It serves its purpose well as an ultra portable laptop for Internet usage and minor office task.

If you did not get a S10 as a Christmas gift, there's still hope yet; you may still get one as a 2009 New Year's gift. Just drop some hints to your girlfriend or boyfriend or simply refer them to this post!

Happy New Year!

Ronald Kwok

Friday, December 19, 2008

External Monitor and WiFi

Well, I had my Lenovo S10 (actually my wife had) for exactly one week now and it is so far so good with no malfunctions (touch wood!) There was one major scare two days back when my wife complained that nothing comes on after she switched on the S10. Thinking it was the display toggled off, I tried Function+F3, still nothing. Maybe it went into hibernation so I pressed the power key, also nothing. The power LCD, the battery LCD and the Wifi LCD were all on so the unit is not dead. Finally I did the usual CPR which is to hold down the power key to kill the unit and then press the power key again to tun it back on. Thank goodness, the unit came on with the message that Windows had experienced a problem, blah, blah, blah and then I heard the reassuring Windows welcome music. For a moment I thought I had a lemon and luckily it was only the Windows XP and not some hardware failure.

Today, I tried the external monitor connection, hooking up to my desktop monitor, an Acer X173W LCD display. When both the S10 display and the LCD were on, the LCD image was out of proportion as it was using the S10 native 1024x600 mode.

When the S10 display was toggled off using Function+F3, the S10 went automatically to the maximum resolution (for this LCD display) of 1440x900. The image was sharp and bright so no problem here.

One of the reasons why I chose the S10 over other netbooks was that I read in one of the reviews that the Wifi connection of the S10 was among the best compared with other netbooks. So I was disappointed when I found that my S10 was always one bar behind my Dell Inspiron laptop when I checked the signal strength. I felt better when I found that this was similar to my desk top WiFi. In fact, the WiFi of my Dell also performs better than my daughter's NEC laptop. I suppose it is not that the WiFi in the S10 is no good, it is just that the Dell Inspiron is better and this depends on the WiFi card that they are using in the machine. (BTW, my Dell uses the Intel Proset Wireless while the S10 uses one by Broadcom; wonder what was used in the review machine.)

Therein lies the problem when we user choose a particular brand based on reviews that we read. As a netbook/laptop is made up of many third party components, the brand of these components may vary according to the production batch so what you get may not be exactly the same as what has been reviewed. I remembered the HDD in one of the S10 reviews was Western Digital but when I checked mine, it is a Hitachi. This could perform better, the same or worse. Luckily some of these components do not differ so much in their performance in the real world as oppose to lab measurements but one should be wary if a particular area of the performance is critical in your selection. Good luck in your choice and we can only plug and pray.

Ronald Kwok

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Changing FAT32 to NTFS

In the Lenovo S10, the HDD is partitioned into C: drive and D: drive (plus another hidden partition). To cater for the One Key Recovery (OKR) process, the C: drive is formatted in FAT32 while D: drive is in NTFS. Not to worry, it is very easy to convert the C: drive to the more efficient NTFS file system. Details are below, this is retrived from the Lenovo Ideapad S Wiki.

"The S10 is shipped by default with the C: partition formatted with FAT32 file system as opposed to the NTFS file system. This can be changed by using Windows XP's built in converter.
Keep in mind the following:
*This process will only convert C: from FAT32 to NTFS. It will NOT resize the partitions.
*Converting the C: partition from FAT32 to NTFS will not affect the One Key Recovery program.
*Windows XP does not include a program to convert NTFS back to FAT32
*If you do wish to return to FAT32, One Key Recovery can replace the C: partition with a factory fresh image, including FAT32. The One Key Recovery process removes ALL data, including non-factory installed software, stored on the C: partition.

Back up your data first and use these instructions at your own risk:

1. Start by opening the command prompt. Click Start, then Run. Type cmd then press enter.
2. At the command prompt type: convert C: /fs:ntfs and press enter.
3. You will be presented with the following: Would you like to force a dismount on this volume? (Y/N)
4. Type N and press enter.
5. You will then see the following: Would you like to schedule it to be converted the next time the system restarts (Y/N)?
6. Type Y and press enter.
7. Close the command prompt and reboot your computer.
8. Windows will perform a disk check followed by the partition conversion from FAT32 to NTFS. "

That's it. I did mine yesterday and it took about 7 minutes. The time will depend on the size and number of files on your S10 so it's better to do it in the early days to save some time.

Ronald Kwok

Saturday, December 13, 2008

6-cell battery for Lenovo S10

Judging from the posts in the Lenovo S10 Forum, there are plenty of interests shown on the 6-cell battery so I'll give more details and photos on this item in this post.

Here are shots of the 6-cell battery itself. This is the original Lenovo 6-cell battery that came with my S10. First is the overall view and next is the side view that shows it is like two cylinders joined on the side. Note the rail on the straight part of the battery.

The next two photos show the S10 without the battery, one a side view and the other the back view.

The next photo is a close-up on the back of the S10 that shows the "guide rail" for the battery. There is a similar one on the other side. Besides being a guide for inserting the battery in the correct angle, it also helps to relief the stress on the battery connection as part of the weight of the S10 will be resting on the battery itself once it is installed.

The next photo shows the S10 with the battery installed. Note that the battery comes with two rubber feet and this takes over the function of the two back rubber feet on the S10 itself (which is used if the 3-cell battery is installed) to provide support since the battery now lifts up the back of the unit.

This also gives the keyboard a certain slant (sloping towards the user which is good for the wrist if you type a lot) and it also increases the space between the bottom of the unit and the resting surface and improves the air circulation and aids heat dissipation. On actual usage, the unit doesn't wobble and feels very steady indeed. These are very good reasons to opt for the 6-cell battery, not to mention the extended battery life. The additional weight is minimal; my S10 weighs in at 1.3kg with the battery installed.

I noticed in some photos of 3rd party battery, there are no rubber feet and the weight will be on the front 2 rubber feet and the battery body itself and it also reduces the air circulation. Not sure if it has the rail that fits the guide rails mentioned earlier.

So much for the battery. Here are some other comments on the S10. I'm happy that it is very easy to upgrade the memory as well as the HDD if you wish to do so. Just remove 2 screws and lift out the back panel cover. See photo below. I heard it is pretty messy to do the same in some other netbooks.

There are a few cons as nothing is perfect. The click buttons on the touch-pad is very stiff and needs great effort to click. Thinking positively, it means you will never click in error.

The SD card sticks out and the slot is not spring loaded (like in most other devices but not sure about other similar netbooks) so you're not certain if you have fully inserted the card. On the positive side, you can see if you have removed your card or not. See photo below.
Finally, most other netbooks have 3 USB ports while the S10 has only 2. Granted the S10 comes with Bluetooth and an Express card slot which others may not have but such devices are expensive and nothing like the el cheapo USB stuff that is available. In fact there is a perfect space for adding another USB port just next to the LAN port. With this in place, the S10 will thump the competition, hands down.

Did somebody say S11?

Ronald Kwok

Friday, December 12, 2008

My new Lenovo S10

Tis the season to be giving, tra-la-la-la-la..........but before I can give, I need to buy something. So there I was yesterday at our favourite IT mall looking for a netbook which is the current craze as my wife has indicated that she wants to surf the net and work on her own e-mails as I was always slow to respond on her behalf. This will be a perfect gift for her and actually I can also borrow the netbook from her when the need arises!

I have googled all the current popular crop of netbooks - Acer Aspire One, Asus EEE PC 1000, HP mini 1000, MSI Wind U100, Samsung NC10, the Lenovo S10 and read all the major reviews. The best comments seems to be for the Samsung NC10 but alas, this model is not for release here until next year. So the next best thing is the Lenovo S10.

One of the negative point about this netbook is the low battery life of about 2 hours for the 3-cell version currently in the market so I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered a 6-cell version for almost the same price at Win Chance. Though this added some weight to the package, it gives about 4-5 hours of usage which is double that of the normal battery so I surrendered my credit card and took the plunge.

I have also been following the Lenovo S series
forum so here I will address what most users were concerned about and not the other stuff that can be found elsewhere. My unit has 1G Ram, 160 HDD and yes, Bluetooth is included. The 6-cell battery is what has been shown elsewhere before and it is twice the size of the 3-cell (and cannot be anything less as 6=2 x 3, got it?); imagine two cylinders joined on the side like siamese twins. When installed, it hangs down from the back and is not obtrusive. In fact it provides added stability since it also has two rubber feet and lifts the back a bit higher. See photo below. Yes it comes in black and matches the black body of the S10 (the colour that I opted for; it looks more professional and less toyish.)

This also act as a stop that prevents the screen from opening too low behind and it stops about 135 degrees which is far enough for normal usage. See photo below.

Also something unusual; the battery came fully charged and I was able to get about 4-5 hours of normal usage. This took about 3 hours to fully charge after it was exhausted. The AC adapter was also of handy size, like a normal cell-phone (not the slim type). It also comes in black so everthing is colour coordinated nicely. See photo below.

My S10 comes with 2 years extended warranty (1 + 1) that you need to register online and also comes with a free slip case. This feels spongey and smells rubbery and the tag says it is made from neoprene. Sure fits the S10 like a gloove especially with the 6-cell battery. It is grey on the outside and pink on the inside or is it the other way round? So you change to the colour of your choice by turning it inside out (or outside in). See photo below.

Norton Internet Security 2008 is preinstalled as a free 90 days trial. You can also get McAfee Security Suite free for 6 months if you visit the Lenovo local site. Not sure if you can start after the Norton has expired; you'll then get a total of 9 months free trial.

That's all folks for this post. I'll be happy to answer any queries or comments on the S10 here or in the Forum.

Ronald Kwok