Lenovo S10-2As the novelty of netbooks wears off and they become commodities with market-dictated standard features, the focus shifts from whether a particular machine is innovative or affordable to whether it does a good job of just being a netbook.  I’m happy to report that Lenovo’s S10-2 is a good choice for a traveler’s netbook.

I found this out first hand by traveling with the S10-2 on a six week trip that took me from the urban center of Amman, through the Sinai desert, cruising up the Nile on a felucca, and then through various rural and urban parts of Morocco, Turkey, and Croatia, among more common destinations like Budapest and London.  The S10-2 not only survived the trip, it excelled.  Its small form factor, long battery life, and durability convinced me that my days of deciding between traveling with a full fledged laptop or relying on Internet cafes are over.  Netbooks are it, from here on out.

The S10-2 that I traveled with had the optional 6 cell battery pack, which provided more than enough longevity for watching movies on planes or blogging about the day from boats, airports, or hotel rooms (or, in the Sinai, from the most comfortable patch of dirt we could find).   On average, I saw about five hours of battery life when writing, and about four hours when playing video.  Not bad at all, especially when paired with the iGo universal wall/car/air charging kit, which allowed me to keep the S10-2 fully charged when there was any sort of outlet at all.

Netbook keyboards are naturally smaller than laptop or desktop keyboards, and short of moving to a 12″ form factor, there’s not a lot to be done there.  I found the S10-2′s keyboard to be about typical for netbooks — a decent but not geat key feel, and a little cramped but totally manageable, especially after using it for a while.

The S10-2′s screen is a glossy finish, like most netbooks, which is a mixed blessing.   Watching video or composing text in lighting-controlled environments, it gives a nice sharp image quality and good color definition.  Outdoors, the glossy finish does make the screen less readable, though I was still able to use the machine as long as I found shade and was careful to keep the sun in front of me.

The machine itself also has a glossy plastic finish, which looks great new but which makes inevitable scratches and scrapes more evident.  Still, that’s an entirely cosmetic issue, and if you subject your gear to tough environments, the S10-2 will weather them at least as well as most other electronic equipment.

Other than the occasional inconvenience of the glossy screen, my only complaint with the S10-2 was with the unfortunate layout of the trackpad and select buttons — unlike most laptops, there is no separation between the buttons and the pad itself, so I frequently found myself inadvertantly tapping the bottom of the trackpad when trying to left click, which would cause the cursor to jump downwards from the spot I was trying to click.  It’s a small annoyance, but it happened enough that it bears mentioning.

On the whole, I was really impressed with the S10-2′s no-nonsense sturdiness, reliability, and battery life, and the next time I’m figuring out what stays and what goes, the S10-2 will be one of the first things I reach for.

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