Hands On Review: Lenovo Ideapad Tablet Netbook S10-3T Tweaks and Tips (Part 3)
Lenovo S10-3t Running NaturalTouch
S10-3t Hands On Review Parts 1 and 2:
S10-3t Tweaks and Tips Parts 1 and 2:
Netbook Accessories List
Improving on a Good Thing - The Ideapad S10-3t
Can you improve on perfection? Okay, that's hype. The S10-3t may be close to perfect, but it's not quite there. This whole article is all about getting it just a little bit closer to the perfect ideal netbook.
I recently purchased a Lenovo Ideapad S10-3t Tablet Netbook. Specifically, the 06517HU model. Spent about a month playing with it, learning what it can (and can't) do. In the course of all this discovered a lot of things can be done to enhance it. As much as I liked it straight out of the box, there are ways to make the S10-3t run better, faster, smoother; things to improve both large and small aspects of this excellent netbook.
When it arrived, it was like Christmas. I started playing around right off the bat. Took notes, jotted down what I did, kept records of things purchased, downloaded, and modified. The resulting review turned out to be way too long. The links in the sidebar are the best way I could find to break it into readable chunks:
Sources and Explanations
Below is a list of things I've done or used to make my Lenovo Ideapad S10-3T 06517HU Tablet Netbook run a little sweeter. Where possible, I'll include videos or step by step instructions. Once you get your S10-3t, I urge you to visit the site of Jesse B Anderson, who's like the holy man on the mountaintop when it comes to the S10-3t. I've included a lot of his instructional videos here. Some of his stuff is very simple, some is a bit technical.
After so much tinkering, I tend to mix up which ideas might have been mine. A lot of them came from Jesse, some from other sources, and even a little bit of my own. So if you run into anything that I didn't explain well enough, leave a comment and I'll try to clear it up. Specific "how to" instructions are bolded to draw your attention.
Memory is a great performance enhancer
Adding Ram is easy, getting the right Ram requires a little knowledge
My S10-3T uses an Atom N455 processor, which runs DDR3 Ram (204 pin sodimm). It comes with 1GB, expandable to 2 GB. The documentation was a little... lacking, so it took a couple of tries to get the right ram. Actually, it took 3 wrong orders and a phone call to Crucial. Should have done that in the first place. Crucial's tech didn't have much sense of humor, but she completely knew her stuff. Much thanks to Crucial's expertise for putting me back on track.
A good starting point for your memory
Got the right ram? Here's how to change it:
Regarding memory, Windows Premium (the version that came with my Ideapad) uses around 700 mb of the one gigabyte the S10-3t comes with. To me, getting the extra memory is really not an option. It's very affordable. The one I bought cost around $20.00, which is a great deal for the extra functionality. I've seen a visible improvement since installing my 2gb memory.
Again, the surest way to upgrade is to call Crucial, tell them the exact model and part number your computer is, and let them decide what to send. If, like me, you want to try it yourself first, here are some links from Amazon. Be sure and do your due diligence when ordering.
Below is a video by the great Jesse B Anderson, showing how easy it is to swap out the 1gb memory module for 2 gb of ram. Really, it's simple. My biggest fear was that I'd overtighten the back plate screws and strip them. Never happened, but I worried anyway. I'm good at worrying.
Be sure to unplug the power, and remove the battery!
Class 6 SD card installed with Readyboost
Here's another big improvement for the S10-3t: An SD card. It offers two very nice added features:
1st - Readyboost. Readyboost makes use of an SD card or USB thumb drive to enhance Windows operation. Readyboost is part of Windows 7 (and Vista). When an appropriate memory card is plugged in, it offers to speed up the system. If you accept, it dedicates a portion of the SD card to Windows. This memory is used to store small but often-accessed bits of data, and will improve load speed of files and programs. The more you use the system, the better it learns what you use and which data to store on the SD card. Use of an SD card is recommended over a USB thumb drive- the SD card slides in and doesn't get in the way. While a thumb drive sticks out like a… sore thumb. It just gets in the way, and if you bump it wrong can mess up your USB ports.
What you need to know about Readyboost
By default, Readyboost maxes at 4gb dedicated use. It's possible to raise this amount, but not recommended. The amount of ram recommended is 1 to 2 times system ram. If your S10-3t netbook has 2gb of ram, the most that would benefit Readyboost is 4gb. Use the rest for video playback, and extra storage.
When installing the SD card, set Readyboost to 'dedicate this device'. When it's finished, go to Control Panel, Device Manager. Under Disc Drives, select the SD card Properties. In the new window, choose the Policies tab. Set it to Better Performance. It may take a few seconds to save the new setting.
Remember, if you do this, the SD card must be left in. To remove it, be very careful to use the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in the system tray.
SD Card to Smooth out Video Playback
Smooth video playback on an SD card
2nd - video playback. The hard drive has the APS, Active Protection System, that stops it from spinning when the netbook is moved. This is very important, and you want that protection. But it means that if you're watching a movie from the hard drive, the S10-3T has to be absolutely stable to get a good playback. If the computer moves, the drive stops spinning, and the movie pauses until it's safe for the hard drive to start up again.
It means you get a lot of stutter if you're watching on the go. The cheap and easy fix is to use an SD card, and copy video files to it. Since it's solid state with no moving parts, you can play the video from the SD card with no pauses or stutter.
This is why it's best to get the largest card you can afford. I went with a 32gb SD card. It reserved space for readyboost, and left me plenty of room to store entire seasons of anime on it. For long-term storage, I keep everything on the hard drive. But when I'm actively watching a show, movie, or complete series, I copy it to the SD card.
For those with a lot of money to spend there's a better option which we'll discuss later (SSD)
A Permanent Solution
Are there any Cons to an SD card?
The only drawback to having an SD card, is that the plastic cover on the Lenovo Ideapad won't shut completely with the SD card installed. The best advice I've found is to trim the cover off with a blade or scissors. Lenovo claims, in their instruction manual, that the cover is only needed as a dust cover when there's no SD card installed, otherwise it's not necessary. The cover is not really in the way, I just don't like it hanging loose.
After much deliberation, I trimmed mine off with an exacto knife… very carefully.
While I'm pleased with the results, be very aware this is a permanent solution. No going back. Think very carefully before taking such a permanent step!
Get the right battery when you upgrade!
Upgrade the Battery
For my Ideapad S10-3T 06517HU, the correct battery model is L09M4T09, ordered directly from Lenovo. I mention this because the first battery I ordered was the wrong one. The website specifically said it was for the Lenovo S10 range, among other models. But apparently the S10-3t computer range comes with more than one style of battery. Mine has a depression vertically across the middle, to make room for the tablet hinge. The generic battery I got had the depression near one end. No way it would fit.
The best way to get the correct battery (in my opinion) is to read the part number of the one that came with your S10, go online to Lenovo, and use that part number to find an 8-cell battery. (UNLESS you got the S10 that is compatible with the generic!)
Of course, if your Ideapad is one that comes with an 8-cell battery included, then you're already set. When selecting an Ideapad, they seem to come in 2 basic flavors - With 4-cell battery and Windows 7 Premium, or 8-cell battery and Windows Starter. I chose 4 and Premium so that I'd have a decent version of Windows right off the bat, and in upgrading the battery, would wind up with a spare battery for longer trips.
Kensington Netbook Mouse
Even with Touchscreen and Touchpad... still want a mouse
One addition that may or may not appeal is a mouse. With a touchscreen that works wonderfully, and a touchpad that even I like, you might think a mouse is overkill. But there are times my big fat fingers are too big for touch-screen accuracy. I like using a mouse more than the touchpad. I wanted something smaller than average. Something appropriately sized for the S10-3t, but comfortable to use. Not to mention, something that will fit in the netbook carry case.
My first attempt was an oddball little mouse that straps to your index finger and uses the thumb to control. It was great in concept, but not really practical in actual use. It's only advantage was the $2.00 price tag.
I wound up getting the Kensington K72349US Wireless Mouse for Netbooks with a super-tiny Nano USB receiver. It's smaller than the average mouse, but still looks and works just like a normal mouse. The USB receiver is so small I can leave it permanently plugged in to the USB port without it getting in the way, even when slipping it in the case. I love the wireless aspect. With such a tiny computer, a wired mouse would just be a pain. This is the perfect mouse for the Lenovo Ideapad.
It even works well on uneven surfaces, like my pants leg. If you are considering this mouse, be sure to get the model number specified above (K72349US). By all accounts, it's a good bit better than the previous version.
SSD Drives at Amazon
SSD vs Hard Drive
I do not have an SSD. An SSD, or Solid State Drive, is like a hard drive, but instead of a a spinning disc, uses non-volatile ram. This means the memory won't disappear when it's powered off. For a portable computer like the Lenovo Ideapad S10-3t, it's a perfect solution. No moving parts, it provides rapid and stable data access. Whether you're moving or not, an SSD is capable of constantly reading and writing. So the 'stutter' I mentioned regarding video playback when the computer is moving no longer applies.
You might wonder why I don't have one, when it's such a perfect solution to the instabilities of a disc-based hard drive. The answer is cost. So far, SSDs are prohibitively expensive. The Ideapad S10-3t 06517HU comes with a 250gb hard drive. To get that much storage in an SSD currently costs more than the price of the actual S10-3t netbook! It's hard to justify spending that much, especially when the Ideapad comes with a perfectly useable hard drive already built in.
I decided to use the original hard drive until it wears out. By that time, there'll either be some new tablet netbook I want, or SSDs might be more affordable.
Choose your upgrade path
Windows Anytime Upgrade for me, Thank you!
I upgraded Windows 7 from Home Premium to Pro, but potentially made a mistake here. To save money, I got the Anytime Upgrade, which is an online download and does not offer a clean fresh install. What I should have done was buy an actual Windows 7 with a physical disc. It would have made sense, because I've already got an external dvd/cd drive. A clean install would clear out all the unnecessary processes that I'm afraid to manually get rid of. The way I did it, leaves a lot of processes running that the S10-3T may not need, but now I'm afraid to delete because I don't know what they are for.
Still, my upgrade improved system function, and I did go through my processes and google them one at a time. Some could be deleted in that fashion, but it's a tedious way to do so.
On the other hand, a clean install means a lot of work re-installing the extra drivers needed for the s10-3t to work right. My way was a lot less work, at the expense of some efficiency.
If you don't have an external dvd/cd drive, or if you're not comfortable finding and installing drivers, use the Windows Anytime upgrade.
If you have access to an external cd/dvd drive, and are not afraid of some work finding and installing drivers, (and don't mind spending a larger chunk of money!) buy Windows 7 Professional on disc.
Software worth considering
A Nod to Office
2007 gets installed, because I use Excel to track my hubs, and OneNote to write
hubs and blogs with. I already own
Office 2007, makes sense not to spend more.
You can always get by with Open Office, a freeware version of office,
and any basic text/word processing program you like. I
use Open Office upon occasion, it's free, but sometimes it hogs all the
processor power and leaves the system bogged down. That and a lack of total compatibility is the main reason I got Office, but when
I found out how incredible OneNote is, it turned out to be a no-brainer. Well worth it just for OneNote. All the other programs in Office are just bonus material. Good bonus... but still bonus.
Computer Security - Antivirus and Firewalls
This was a major tuneup - the S10-3t comes with Mcafee. As far as I can tell, nobody actually buys Mcafee. Instead, it's forced on hapless consumers as part of package deals. Mcafee might be effective at it's job, but it hogs the processor and severely tasks the system. That's bad enough on a high-powered desktop. On my tablet netbook, it's worthless. To have an effective netbook, you need a lightweight security system. Effective, up to date, and won't hog the computer.
Enter the scene with Panda Cloud antivirus. It has a reputation for being light and speedy without putting a strain on the system. Plus, it's free. Windows own built-in system will do for the firewall. That's all the protection my Lenovo has. I didn't want to drag it down with too many background processes. On the other hand, I'm very cautious about which websites I go to with the S10-3T. Pretty much stick to reliable sites I trust, so the risk is minimized as much as possible.
The trick is to have fast, lightweight protection, and to avoid putting your system at risk. If I'm going to visit an untried site, I'll do it on my desktop, where I use much stronger protective measures.
Cloanto - Amiga Forever
Just for Fun- Cloanto Amiga Emulator
I installed my beloved Cloanto Amiga Emulator. It's old, version 4, but what the heck, it's emulating a system that hasn't been modified for years anyway.
All I want it for is to play a few treasured games, like Elite or Bard's Tale, when I need a break! If you know and love Amiga, that's all that needs to be said. If you've never had the experience, you've missed working with an iconic ground-breaking 16-bit computer from the late 1980's to mid 1990's. If Commodore hadn't mismanaged what they had, we'd all be computing on Amigas today.
Amigas are still loved and used today; for 20-year old technology, Amigas have amazing staying power. Long Live Amiga!
So... does this improve, tweak, mod my Lenovo? Point of view. For me, it's part of the entertainment experience this all-round netbook is capable of.
Arbitrary Break Now
Here's where I make an arbitrary stopping point. You'll find the rest of the tweaks and tips at this link: