Friday, December 11, 2009

Lenovo S12 Netbook

This photo was taken outdoors in afternoon sunlight. The Dell on the left is a mighty ATG D630, which has a 500-nit outdoor screen, so bright it can warm a bowl of soup at 5 meters.

After looking at Netbooks for a long time, I finally ordered up a Lenovo S12 with the VIA Nano chipset.

It's pretty cool. Wouldn't want it as my primary development machine, but it'll come in handy at events, and will be a fine alternative to a real laptop during a week away for checking e-mail, SKYPEing, etc.

In short, it's a fun little toy.

No horsepower problems. The VIA NANO chipset is considerably more powerful than the ubiquitous ATOM chipset on most netbooks, even though the VIA clock rate is slower than the latest ATOMs(1.3 vs 1.6). Even with only 1 gig RAM, it rocks. I've got another gig of RAM ordered.

The chassis comes with a 1 Gig SODIMM soldered in, and another empty slot. The hardware will only recognize 2 Gigs, so I ordered an additional SODIMM. Had I known it worked this well with 1 gig, I might not have ordered that additional SODIMM. But then again, for $60, WTF.

The S12's full-sized kbd is much better than other netbooks I've tried. However Lenovo made a few poor choices on their "combi" keys, in my opinion. For example, HOME and END require a combi; two keys I use a shitload.

Another thing I like far better than most other netbooks is it's got two Touchpad buttons rather than one. Thus, right-clicking is solid, not an adventure in guesswork.

Screen is 1280 x 800. The extra real estate over the ubiquitous 1024 x 576 on other Netbooks is a huge improvement. 576 is just not enough real estate for me, especially when I'm browsing or using a compiler IDE such as Visual Studio.

The screen is relatively bright, but it is also very shiny. It reflects a ton of glare. It's way brighter than the previous-gen laptops (T30), but I'd not be too psyched to try to use it outdoors. However, under normal lighting, it's great. I don't see that well any more, so screens are very important to me. This one is fine in any indoor situation.

The integrated SD card slot on the left side is really convenient.

Another thing I thought was weird is in addition to a hard wireless LAN on/off switch (left side), there is also a soft wireless LAN switch (FN->F5). When I first fired the little guy up, I couldn't see any SSIDs, despite the fact that Windows told me the WL card was on and operating. I feared I might have a dud. But a little Googling revealed that a few zillion other people initially thought the same thing. I turned the soft switch on and away I went, wirelessly. Kind of goofy to have both a hard and a soft WL switch.

It came with Windows XP Home. I will probably replace that with W7 at some point.

The integrated webcam isn't any great shakes, but it's good enough for Skype and it's, well, integrated.

One irksome detail I just discovered is the HDD isn't easily swappable. You've got to spring the keyboard off the chassis to get at the HDD. Not the most convenient thing for a guy like me, who incessantly fiddles with HDDs.

So, in this little thang worth $420? You betcha. It'll come in handy in a lot of situations. I'm glad I waited. The ASUS, SANYO, and Dell netbooks that preceded it were cool little toys too, but this one has way fewer compromises. It won't fit in my jacket pocket like one of the 9" netbooks, but it's much closer to being a real PC. I can type on it and I can see the screen just fine.


Gadgethound said...

I've got a Via S12 too and agree with your input...plenty of horsepower for what it does.

Mistaken on one thing though, with the newest bios (probably shipped on yours if you just got it) it will recognize 3 total gigs ram, so you could add a 2 gig chip. Makes a difference on Windows 7, it runs 64bit fine.

The Mighty Skunk said...

Gadgethound was spot on. With a 1G SODIMM, Win XP shows about 750 Megs of RAM on the S12. The missing 250M is usurped for video tricks, I'm guessing. I stuck a 2G SODIMM in the empty slot last night, and Win XP now shows 2.75G of RAM.