People have been wanting something like a netbook ever since we can remember, even way back in the last millennium. But hardware costs made them unattractive. Now we're tripping over netbooks every time we turn around, and have a wealth of attractive choices.
Netbooks are all the rage right now with Linux as one of the
primary operating system (OS) options. The Eee PC from ASUS got things started
and originally only shipped with a Linux OS. This year's Consumer Electronics
Show was overrun with the little laptops from a wide variety of vendors. It was
only a matter of time before the big guys rolled out their own mini-laptop
offerings. Now you can find a netbook from just about every major laptop
manufacturer, with the exception of Apple.
Cost is, without a doubt, a big driver in the success of
these machines. You can find any number of models for something around the $300
price point. These are fully capable machines with typically a screen size in
the 7" range. Newer models have hit the market recently with larger screens and
somewhat higher prices. While the 7" screen is OK for reading, it drives a
smaller total footprint that tends to make the keyboard smaller than is
conducive to touch typing. With a 10" screen there is more room for a larger
keyboard and other nice features such as bigger batteries.
The Lenovo S10e we tested came with an Intel N270 Single
Core Atom processor clocked at 1.6 GHz. With 1 GB of ram and a 120 GB hard
drive, there's plenty of room to run just about any application you would want
to on a machine this size. The 10.1" screen is driven by an Intel Graphics
Media Accelerator 950 and is topped off with an integrated web cam. A Broadcom
802.11 b/g wifi card and Bluetooth round out the communication options quite
Some time back
we tested the HP 2133 which was their first foray into the mini-laptop or
netbook world. It was obviously a first try type of product and wasn't without
a few kinks. It did come with the same OS, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise
Desktop (SLED), as the Lenovo S10e comes with so the comparisons there were
similar. The screen on the HP 2133 is 8.9", giving an edge to the S10e in
One definite advantage the HP 2133 has over the Lenovo S10e
is the keyboard. HP boasts that the 2133 has a 92% of full-size keyboard, and
it really does work well for most typing intensive tasks such as editing a
document. The HP 2133 didn't come with Bluetooth so advantage S10e in that
department. Using an external Bluetooth mouse sure beats the tiny mouse pad and
buttons you get on most of the netbooks. The HP 2133 also ran quite hot at
times, and we found the s10e to be considerably cooler. The fan is a little
noticeable when you're in a quiet room, but you'll never hear it otherwise.
Although we didn't actually weigh the two devices, the S10e
seemed a bit lighter. We tested a unit with a black molded plastic case that
seemed durable enough but not the same as the rugged-feeling metal case of the
HP 2133. Battery life was a little better than the HP unit but not
significantly more as they had the same number of cells (3). The S10e is
available with a 6-cell battery, providing roughly twice the life.
We did have to do a little command line magic to get the
unit to recognize the Bluetooth mouse. First try with the included utilities
didn't work but a quick Google search turned up just the fix in the form of the
hidd command as follows:
$ sudo hidd --search
With the mouse set in discover mode the command found it and
connected it straight away. It even worked after closing the lid and letting
the machine go to sleep. It only took a few seconds for it to start working
again after opening the lid, turning on the Bluetooth mouse and giving it a
wiggle. We did manage to get the S10e into a strange video mode a few times
after bringing it out of sleep mode. Closing the lid and letting it go back to
sleep seem to fix the issue when we opened it back up again.
Another configuration step we needed to accomplish was to
change the network interface to allow browsing of Windows networks. Our test
network has several different file servers including a Linux-based network
attached storage (NAS) box, a Windows Home Server and multiple desktops and
laptops running a wide range of OSes. Once the wireless interface was set as
internal we were able to see all files on all servers.
Installed software on the S10e is impressive including Open
Office 2.4 Novell edition, The GIMP, Firefox 3.0, Evolution, Helix Banshee, the
F-Spot photo manager and Tomboy for note taking. If you don't find what you
need, there's an easy-to-use software update tool to help you find it. You will
have to go through a registration process to connect to the Novell-sponsored
repositories, but it doesn't take long.
From a cost perspective you get lots of bang for your buck
with the S10e. MSRP for the unit we tested is $379 and you can find it cheaper
if you look around. There's also a version with a 4GB solid state disk (SSD)
for the exact same price if you'd prefer that. The SSD version comes with the
6-cell battery as well.
HP has released the successor to the HP2133 in the form of
the HP 2140. It keeps much of the good parts of the original design including
the keyboard but fixes many of the original complaints including the heat
issues and a more powerful Intel Atom processor. The 2140 has the same 10.1"
screen and similar specs to the Lenovo S10e. It also comes with a higher price
tag with models starting in the $499 price range.
Both HP and Lenovo have jumped head long into the netbook
market with multiple offerings. At CES both companies showed off a variety of
models targeted at different buyers. HP even has a Vivienne Tam edition you can
buy for that special someone for Valentine's day. ASUS hasn't slowed down their
pace of releasing new models either.
With all these manufacturers vying for a chunk of the market
that ASUS created, it should prove to be a very interesting year from a buyer's
perspective. Newer models with faster processors, more memory and other twists
like the mini Tablet-PC convertible model from ASUS will only make the buying
decision more difficult. From the consumer's side of the table it all looks
For more information on the various S10 models, visit the Lenovo site.
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.