About ten years ago we had the netbook – a word that the industry will still cringe at its use and nervously change the subject. Recently, OEMs started building basically the same product again only categorizing it under the same name as everything else, laptops, and just building low-end laptops for very cheap. The main difference between today and ten years ago is that thanks to Moore’s law, everything is exceptionally better now, even the low-end processors are pretty good. I’ve spent some time with Lenovo’s Ideapad 100s, a $200 laptop that in 2004 would have made you want to throw it into a river. Today, it’s almost everything you need.
Ideapad 100s Specifications
This laptop is a little beefier in the spec department than its Chrome OS brethren that Andrew Myrick reviewed last month and overall seems to be a much better value when you consider that both laptops come in at the exact same price of $179.
These aren’t the specs of a power horse by any means, but that’s not what the PC is meant to be. And at only 17.5mm thin and 292mm wide, you’re looking at an ultra-portable working machine.
The 100s is a pretty standard clamshell design with plastic exterior. That said, it’s pretty slick and its design reminded me a lot of the MacBook Air thanks to its tapered design and the fact that opening it is much like prying apart an actual clam.
Maybe I’m just used to the bottom half of the computer being heavy enough to stay on the table when I try to lift the lid, but I found it to be a little bit annoying that the hinge was a little tighter than that and I ended up lifting the whole computer. Overall, that’s my only complaint about the design, though, and that’s a rather small one.
The computer will also lay completely flat because the hinge swings 180 degrees. I’m not really sure why you would want/need that, but it’s a thing.
The display is nothing to write home about and as you’ll notice with my second picture above, it will catch a helluva glare if you shine the right light on it. The graphics can only push a maximum of 1366×768, which was a little bit of a pain point for me when I connected the laptop to my TV to watch a movie and it only took up about two-thirds of the screen. If you’re going to be presenting from this laptop in a meeting or classroom setting, that could be an issue, especially if you don’t have control over the scaler or display that you’ll be connecting to. Again, this is a $200 PC, so you’ll have to be making a few compromises and the display/graphics is going to be one of them.
Keyboard & Trackpad
Typing on the 100s was surprisingly comfortable given its size. The keys are well-spaced and there’s even a little room on the sides for more if they had decided that they needed to squeeze another column in there. Like any computer its size, there’s nowhere for you to rest your wrists, but that is something that you’re going to always deal with on an 11″ laptop and I don’t think that I can count that against the 100s, in particular.
That having been said, I very rarely come across a trackpad on a Windows PC that I don’t hate and this is no exception. It’s really disappointing, too, because overall it’s not a bad trackpad, it was almost always accurate and never stuttered, but because this is a low-end PC, Lenovo decided that you probably won’t be scrolling.
There is no gesture support and not even the usual section on the side that lets you slide to scroll. If you want to scroll, you need to manually point the cursor at the scrollbar and pull it down – or you can use the arrow keys (or the page buttons that I don’t think I’ve ever used in my life).
Lenovo claims that this laptop will get 8 hours of battery life and I think that they hit it right on the money. Though when I first opened it up, Windows told me that it had 10 hours of battery left, that turned out to be a lie but that doesn’t undercut how impressive it is to have a battery last that long on a Windows machine.
More importantly, the standby on this thing is absolutely stunning. I was able to close the lid (putting it into standby) for a few days and when I came back to it, it had only lost about 20% battery and instantly was ready to work when I opened the lid. When I say instantly, I mean like MacBook instant. I opened the lid and it was ready to go. I don’t know what Lenovo did to make this thing as battery efficient as they did (and maybe Intel is partly to thank for this) but it’s thoroughly impressive and easily the best feature of this machine.
My overall experience with the 100s was very positive and I give it a much higher rating than I was expecting to give to something at that price point. One other note of annoyance was that the 100s still depends on a proprietary charging cable – hopefully the power delivery standards in USB-C will do away with things like this over the next couple of years, but as proprietary chargers go it wasn’t bad, especially since I wasn’t tethered to it throughout my testing.
For $177, which is what it currently goes for on Amazon you really can’t go wrong with the Ideapad 100s from Lenovo. It is everything that you would need for taking notes in a meeting/in class and the battery lasts much longer than anything more powerful would be able to handle while delivering a minimal amount of bloat and a full operating system that comes with a free year of Office 365. It’s actually $3 cheaper than it would cost to just buy Windows 10 and a year of Office 365, plus you get a pretty decent laptop to use it on.
You may run into an issue with the 32GB eMMC storage, but at least it isn’t a spinning disk and I guess that’s what Microsoft OneDrive is for.