Lenovo S10-3t Netbook

April 10, 2010 · 1 comment

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We have decided to look at a few netbook computers for our employees that do a lot of travelling.  While everyone currently has a notebook, the frequent flying executives and some others would prefer something smaller.  Knowing that most of them use Windows, but have iPhones, I thought our first test would be with a tablet PC.  In looking at some products, I selected the Lenovo S10-3t as my first device to evaluate.

Buy The Right One

I know this sounds obvious, but you really have to look at the specificatioins you are getting from your resellers.  I had read a number of other reviews like engadget and wired, which talked about this product using the Intel 1.83GHz Intel Atom N470.  However, when I talked with my reseller, he failed to mention that the unit he had in stock was using the Atom N450 processors at 1.66GHz and the larger 8-cell battery instead of the slimmer 4-cell battery that I expected.  Well, everything arrived the next day and I was a bit surprised by the configuration.  Oh well, I thought this to be an evaluation and I ould get a slimmer battery if and when I give a demo to potential users.  Given the comments at engadget, I am not sure the processor will make all that much difference.

When talking with my reseller again, I asked about the other model.  He checked with his distributors and I checked all over the web.  The mode with the N470 is nowhere to be found — except on Lenovo’s web site.  Are they going direct now?  Competing with their channel?  It is not clear.  The next thing I found out is that I cannot find replacement batteries for the S10-3t anywhere.  My reseller does not have it and I cannot even find batteries on the Lenovo site.  What is going on with that?  How does one find a replacement if needed?

First Impressions Out Of The Box

The unit came well packaged and included a user’s guide, a quick-start poster and a fully charged 8-cell battery.  It actually took me about 30 seconds or more to attach the battery, but eventually I got the hang of it.

When I powererd up the unit, it went through the usual first-time questions and executed the configuration.  When it eventually gave me the Windows login prompt, I decided to use it in tablet mode and enter things in that mode.  I swiveled the display and laid it down on the keyboard and it immediately changed the screen orientation and I tapped my finger on the username field.  I expected the Tablet PC Input Panel (TIP) options to show on the screen, but they did not.  Oh well, I thought it might need to initialize, so I put the computer back in PC-mode and typed in the username and password.  When Windows 7 came up, I touched the IE icon and started the browser.  After touching the address bar, I again expected the TIP to show up and allow me to write an address, but it was not visibile.  This was strange, since I have used a number of tabled PC’s in the pasts and was familiar with what to expect.  I decided to open notepad and expected to see the TIP on the left of the screen.  Again, nothing showed up.  I checked the Tablet PC services to make sure they were running and then I checked all of the settings in the control panel and still nothing seemed wrong.

By this time, my other system administrators had gathered round to see this thing.  They checed out the keyboard and the swivel display and commented about the size of the 8-cell battery, calling the latter a great carrying handle.  That is when I asked them about the TIP and what could be wrong.  For the next hour or so, three administrators and a couple of curious employees played around with it, trying everything the could to get it to work.  It was like a test as they all wanted to be the one to solve the mystery and prove themselves to be the hero.  They came back time and time again to try something new, but everything failed.  The day was over and we were all disappointed.

I took the system home for the weekend as planned, but I was feeling discouraged and angry with this product.  When I got home, I decided to do a fresh rebuild using the on-board Lenovo OneKey Recover system which has a button on the top left of the keyboard.  After the 13 minutes it took to rebuild, I again went through the setup very carefully to make sure that I did not miss something related to the TIP.  When it came up, it was exactly as before.  Time for some deeper research.

I watched a video of someone experimenting with different styli (Dagi and Pogo) for use with this device and noticed that the TIP was working as expected.  More research showed dfferent ways  to enable/disable the TIP.

Windows 7 Starter – NOT!

I knew that the applications were supposed to be in C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Ink and there were some supporting files, but not tabtip.exe and tipband.dll which are mandatory.  Looking around a bit more, I noticed that C:\Program Files\Windodws Journal was also missing.  Something was very wrong.  About this time, my frustration was high and I fired off an E-mail to my reseller about the problems and that I wanted some answers.

After a short break, I calmed down and went back to my research.  Then it came to me.  Perhaps this was a problem with the version of Windows that I was running.  I checked around some more and found the answer!  Tablet functionality is available in a ll editions of WInidows 7 with the exception nof the Starter edition.  What the heck!?!  Why in the world would Lenovo sell a tablet PC with an edition of Windows 7 that did not support tablet functionality?  This is absolutely ridiculous and I sent my findings to my reseller.  Surely, I cannot be the first person to complain about this kind of stupidity.

Oh, Lenovo Figured It Out On Newer Releases

Wait a minute.  Going back to the Lenovo website, there are three different versions of the S10-3t available.  They now have one with 2GB of RAM, the Atom N470 and Windows 7 Home Premium edition.  Well, that makes sense, but you have to watch what you are buying to get the one with the features you assume are in all tablet PC’s – the ability to use the tablet.  Strange but true.  And with Windows 7 Starter, there is a convenient “Windows Anytime Upgrade” application that can be used to upgrade the OS.  As an MSDN subscriber, I downloaded Windows 7 Home Premium and burned a DVD.  Mounting that across my network, I tried to just install the upgrade.  After copying the necessary files, I was told that this type of upgrade is not possible and that I must use the Windows Anytime Upgrade and my installation terminated.  So, I went through the Anytime upgrade which accepted my MSDN activation key and the OS upgraded in about 15 minutes.  Very quick and painless.  Kudos to Microsoft on that one.

Tablet Success At Last

With the proper version of Windows 7 running, I have been able to use all of the features and functions of the TIP and MIP (Math Input Panel) along with Windows Journal and Sticky Notes.

Using just my finger, I was able to get a lot of things to work on this device.  I could zoom in and out on webpages, pictures and drawings.  Using the Windows Journal and Sticky Notes, I could easily take quick notes and convert them to text with very few errors.  I was actually very surprised how well I could use the MIP to scrawl out equations and get them into Microsoft Word.

However, a stylus is a must for taking notes and inking, so I went back to the videos and reviews that I mentioned earlier and from what I can tell, the Dagi capacitive stylus seems to be the favorite.  You can purchase these on eBay for $11.99 which includes the $2.00 shipping and comes in five different colors.  I ordered mine today and will post some feedback on it when it arrives.

Using The S10-3t

The netbook comes with far too much junk software that needs to be deleted from the very beginning.  I really don’t like OEM’s putting all of this crap on new computers.  I would much prefer that they offer you the opportunity to install them rather than forcing you to uninstall everything because screwing up the order of uninstalling can cause serious problems.  Especially for applications like the evaluation copies of Microsoft Office 2007 and Trend Micro Internet Security.  Not only that, but Trend and ID Vault both start up and show you a lot of annoying popups that seem to never go away.  It takes a lot of your time to get rid of all this garbage and a lot of applications don’t really clean up after themselves.

Once I had a fairly clean computer, I started playing around.  I really like the fact that the screen can swivel in either direction  when convnerting from netbook to tablet mode.  If you cannot remember which way you did it, just be gentle when returning to netbook mode and if you feel a bit of resistence, try the other way.  In tablet mode, I found the orientation button to work easily and quickly.  All four orientations are possible, but if you fly through them, I found I could get the machine “hung” or busy for 10-15 seconds until I was able to use it again.  During that time, no input is possible but be patient and it will spring back to life.  A few times, I was able to lock up the computer and only a power reset was able to get it back to a functioning level.  I don’t have too much data on what happened, but it seems to be related to a lot of gestures being used that gets it confused.  I also noticed that coming out of suspend mode, the device takes a long time before it allows input and again appears to be “hung” or frozen for at least 15 seconds or more.

The power button is conveniently located to the right of the display so that it can be turned on and off while in tablet mode.  It also has a nice locking mechanism to prevent the device from being mistakenly turned off or suspended.  This is great when in tablet mode as it is very easy to grab or push the power button by mistake.  We did that at least 2-3 times before taking advantage of this feature.

When in netbook mode, I find the keyboard very easy and comfortable to use.  I know a lot of other reviewers were not so kind in this area, but I had no problems using this keyboard for extended periods of time.  Like a lot of netbooks, the touchpad is a bit temperamental.  It has two red dots on the touchpad for left and right click which work well, but it was far too easy to make mistakes and move the mouse unintentionally when trying to use these buttons. After awhile, you get used to this and take a bit more care, but it will cause you frustration until this sinks into your head.

I watched some videos on the device and played some sample music from the Windows Media Player and the sound quality was very poor as there was just not enough volume.

With all the junk software that was installed on the computer, I was a bit surprised not to see Skype there.  Seems to me an obvious piece of software for a mobile professional.

Using the Lenovo Natural Touch application was fun, but I was disappointed in some of the user interaction aspects.  For example, I scrolled over to music to play some of the preinstalled samples.  Attempting to adjust the volume was impossible.  I tried scrolling the volume up and down and it would not move with my finger.  But as soon as I pulled away from the screen, it would execute would looked like random movements and then just go back to 100%, so I gave up.  I also noticed that it was too sensitive when trying to scroll through the applications.  Far too many times I ended up clicking on something while I thought I was dragging something.

Next, I decided to play with the VeriFace application.  This seems like a fairly decent security postsure and I wanted to see what it would do.  After logging into the system, I launched the application and verified my password.  Much to my surprise, it said there was no camera device.  I checked with the operating system and sure enough, no camera was detected.  Checking the device manager, there were no cameras and no undefined devices.  So, is there a camera or not?  If I disable the camera from the keyboard (FN-Esc), I get the Lenovo icon for enable/disable of the camera, but Windows does not see anything here.  So, try another reboot and see what happens.  Again, I have to power-cycle the system to get it to reboot and sure enough.  WHen the system comes back on and I run the VeriFace application, it sees the camera (Lenovo EasyCamera) and scans my face.  Afterwards, I log off and was able to easily log in with VeriFace using different lighting conditions, angles and such.  I was also able to use the camera with Windows Live Messenger without a problem.  However, the camera is in an awkward location being to the right of the display, so images in Messenger were not getting much of my pretty face, lol.  In vertical orientation tablet mode, it was better.

Clicking on the “Lenovo Support” icon from t he Start Menu brings up a web page that says, “Our apologies… The page you requested cannot be displayed.”  Seems this site is up and down quite a bit and performance access is terrible.  Seems Lenovo/IBM should do something about this.  I add IBM since the URL starts with http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/

Networking Problems On LAN Adapter

I started with the wireless networking, which was easy to set up and configure as with any Windows 7 computer I’ve worked on.  The device had no problems with signal strength, quality or reliability.  I got excellent signal-to-noise ratios from distances that matched other wireless devices on our network.  There is a convenient button on t he right of the keyboard for enabling/disabling the wireless network.

However, the LAN connection has been a nightmare.  I wanted to move some files around, so I disconnected the wireless network and connected the machine to the LAN.  I do this a lot with computers and it has never been a problem.  In this case, the device did not get link.  No matter what we tried, it simply would not connect.  My first test was to disable and enable the NIC.  I went to the Network and Sharing Center and clicked on Change Adapter Settings.  Once there, I disable the Local Area Connection and then tried to enable it.  The computer never enabled the device and after waiting 30 minutes, I gave up and rebooted the system.  The reboot would not complete and I had to power cycle the netbook.

Once the computer came back up, the NIC was enabled and I saw link.  It connected at 1Gbps and things looked good.  I used the LAN connection for about 1/2 day and after some time, the computer went into suspend mode.  When I attempted to use the computer again, it came back up and I saw that link was established and background packets were moving across the switch.  Unfortunately, Windows was telling me that the LAN cable was unplugged.  How can that be?  I can see the green link light.  I can see a blinking amber light as packets are being received.  I tried disconnecting and reconnecting the cable.  No luck.  I tried disabling and enabling the port on the switch.  No luck.  Checked my switch and saw that I did not have a MAC address coming from the S10-3t.  So I had to try the old disable-enable trick to see if it would work this time.  The answer was a resounding no.  Again, I had to power cycle the netbook to recover the LAN connection.  This is a real significant problem with this device and one that I find very hard to overlook.  I am hoping that maybe I just got a lemon and this is not typical for this system.

Interestingly, I decided to take the netbook to my office and try out some things — especially my LAN experience.  Using a Cisco 6500 switch, I connected the S10-3t and waited for it to suspend, repeating my previous tests.  After three tries, I was unable to duplicate my results.  Could it be that there is something so radically different between my Netgear switch and the Cisco switch?  My network administrator suggested that it might be due to spanning tree protocol, but we have not been able to concretely identify why the tests failed on  Netgear and not on  Cisco.


The device seems to have a lot of quirks and missteps.  The flakely LAN and camera seem to be simple things to get right and their malfunction(s) always seem to cause the system some type of catastrophic condition in which it cannot reboot without a power-cycle.  The tablet sensitivity is annoying as is the fact it does not come with a stylus although I saw earlier reviews that had one.  After only two days with the device, I am not really a fan of this device as much as I wanted to be.  But then, I am no fan of the iPhone and it sells like hot cakes.  I will continue to work with the device and see what comes up.  Might even give it to some of the iPhone fans and see what they think.  It will be fun to put it up against the soon-to-be-released iPad and check out feature/functions.

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Article by Steve Van Domelen

Steve has written 47 awesome articles.

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