At the end of January I ordered a nice shiny Lenovo Ideapad S10e from Buy.com. I managed to get a decent price that didn’t hurt the pocketbook, and it was a new toy that I could endlessly experiment with. I started to install a wide variety of operating systems to check for support and to put it through the paces.
Now, if you’re like me, you have a profound dislike for Windows Vista (especially on laptops). Of all the operating systems I’ve chosen to install on the 10e I decided to skip Vista because it takes forever to boot and nags you like a four year old for doing just about anything.
My interested was piqued when the beta for Windows 7 was released. During the time period that I was deciding to purchase the Ideapad, I managed to sign up for the Windows 7 test and downloaded the iso. I basically just had it lying around until my S10e arrived. What better a machine to install a brand new Windows operating system on than a shiny new netbook. I plunged…
Before this was possible, I had to get an external cdrom drive. I located a combo on NewEgg that included a 2GB stick of Kingston RAM and a highly portable, power adapter-less Samsung SE-S084 DVD Burner.
With that, the new specs are as follows:
10.1″ Screen (1024×576 remember this is the ‘e’ model)
2 GB Ram (2 gigs is the max the atom can see)
80GB Hard Drive
I went ahead, booted up with the Windows 7 install disk, and walked the paces. My first impressions were good since the install took about 30 minutes (enough time to make a cup of coffee and read the latest Slashdot). Boot up speed was okay, I eyeballed a little over a minute with my wrist watch, including the time it took to enter my password and log on.
Now, if you haven’t used Vista before, Windows 7 will look pretty different, and it will most definitely feel like the red headed, alien step child compared to Win2k or XP. Here is a little proof that it did actually install:
You might notice that the RAM registers at 2.5 GB. You might also notice that I said my machines specs are 2GB. I wasn’t lying. Unfortunately for me, the Atom chipset can only recognize and use 2GB of memory. That means that the standard (and soldered-on) 512MB is nothing more than a space hog internally disabled.
Gripes about the chipset aside, I really wanted to see how this little Ideapad would stack up so I started the benchmark tools that Windows 7 came with to see how it ranked. After a couple of minutes, the score came to 2.2, the lowest score achieved among all the tests. A screenshot can be seen below.
Not too surprised by the score (it IS a netbook), I decided to check Windows Update to make sure there weren’t any outstanding video, sound, or otherwise performance enhancing updates. Naturally, there were three. I went ahead and updated, rebooted, and started the test over. Nothing changed, I still managed a 2.2. Oh well.
The next big thing I wanted to test was Power Mangement, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the sleep/wake function (key for being able to be constantly on the run). Know that I am a Mac user half of the time (the other half an Ubuntu user), and know that Apple has spoiled me pretty bad as far as the Sleep/Wake capabilities of a laptop. Fanboy silenced, I’m impressed. The Lenovo takes a little bit longer than my Macbook to wake from sleep, but is usable in well under two seconds. The stock XP install took closer to 10 seconds to wake and ‘do it’s thing’.
Unfortunately, I did notice something a little odd after putting the Ideapad to sleep and then waking it. There seemed to be a high pitch sound that randomly starts within a couple seconds of waking up. I’ve whittled this down to a driver issue since the high pitch sound goes away when I increase or decrease the volume. I went straight to the RealTek site, grabbed the latest drivers for the sound card (2-24-09) and installed them. This seemed to do the trick.
Next up was battery life. I know the true purpose for these little machines isn’t to watch a DVD, but it is is something I’ll at least want to be doing at every now and again. I wasn’t going to be using wireless during this time, so I turned it off as well as decreased the screen brightness to half of its normal output. Next, I popped in a 16:9 DVD, and here is what I saw:
Using Windows Media Player, the DVD opened up in perfect widescreen mode with no black borders. This is thanks to the native 1024×576 resolution on the 10e (remember the .1″ difference in screen size compared to the S10). Normally, I wouldn’t have accepted the loss in prime 24 pixel real estate, but so far I haven’t found it a problem. In this case, it actually makes it the perfect screen for viewing widescreen dvds.
Sadly my viewing pleasure came to an end about 10 minutes too early. The battery power had been depleted and Windows started to hibernate the netbook at 6% battery life. I’m sure there was some sort of modification I could have made to prevent it, but in all honesty 6% wouldn’t have given me much to work with anyways. I was going for minimal tweaks so beyond changing the the screen brightness and the power saving setting I don’t think a normal user would think of anything else. In the end, the 1 hour 51 minute runtime is still a little unimpressive for the machine but it is okay. I have to give some credit to the S10e since the Samsung external DVD drive is completely USB powered.
That being said, I didn’t want to leave the experience with a crutch so I decided to help balance it out by rerunning the battery test with another movie imported to h.264 and on an SD card. This is the more ideal situation for me, since I will mostly be watching movies mostly from SD cards instead of a cumbersome external DVD setup.
Under an hour and a half into the movie I checked to see the time left on the battery. To my dismay, 26 minutes were left. Looks like the external DVD drive didn’t consume that much power after all. Again, Windows decided to hibernate at 6% and I was still missing about 5 minutes of the movie. As far as Windows 7 is concerned, battery life conservation when watching DVD or DVD quality movies is poor despite enabling ‘Power Saving’ and disabling wireless.
After the movie test I decided to ease up a bit and retest the ‘Power Saving’ setting in Windows 7. I managed to get about 2.5 hours of ‘normal use’ out of the netbook when web surfing, and writing emails. Nothing too spectacular, but on par with other netbooks running XP.
Since I did have the DVD Burner, I wanted to test out Windows 7′s support for burners. I downloaded the latest MythBuntu ISO, right clicked, and I had an option to burn the ISO. Very nice. I was able to burn the ISO without needing any extra software. I did run into a little problem though. Before I burned the ISO I selected the option to verify the disk when it completes. The verification pop up never completed, and left me with this on screen:
I almost preferred this to Firefox since the address bar didn’t take up as much screen real estate. It ran pretty nice making Gmail quite a bit zippier. I also ran some Sunspider benchmarks comparing IE and Safari and there wasn’t really much of a competition. Safari won hands down with final tests running 5x faster than IE. That just solidified my stance that my prefererence is not for IE and I don’t think Windows 7 will change it.
After spending a couple days with Windows 7 on the S10e, I feel that it was at least on par with the performance of Windows XP, and much better than the initial Vista release I had experienced on other, more powerful laptops. I was happy with the built in features: a new and clean interface, ability to burn ISOs without extra software, complete hardware support for the netbook, and okay power savings. As it has more time to mature, I’m sure Windows 7 might be a viable contender on these new Atom-based machines.
Windows 7 Screenshot Gallery