A few people have asked me if netbooks had come to a point where they were useful to photographers. I had some extra cash and a discount coupon for Amazon so I picked one up
First, I should say that this is not a standard S10. I have upgraded it to 2GB RAM and added a 320GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache Hitachi HDD. It should be noted that there is already 512MB onboard which means if you buy a 2GB stick you are going to loose some memory (though I have seen some people reporting 2.5GB). Secondly, this is not a general review; there are tons of those on the net. This is how a Lenovo S10 can help photographers. And third, I ditched Windows XP Home Edition (& HDD) and installed - on three different partitions - Windows 7 32-bit (Build 7100), Windows XP Professional SP3 32-bit and Xubuntu. All OSes have been tweaked to run quickly, but without excessive feature kills. The Window’s installs are also loaded with Avast! which does eat away some CPU performance.
I would like to say that I was impressed with the overall speed and ‘snappiness’ of this notebook. That said, I don’t much care for the keyboard or track pad. I think Apple has spoiled me and the S10 comes no where near the MBP’s eloquence – but what do you expect for $300. By the way, the Lenovo was neither the most powerful nor the most affordable. What sold me was the fact it was the least expensive netbook that came with an Express Card slot – a must for me since I already have SATA, Network and multi function Express Cards.
Windows 7 – What can I say, it works and works well. As long as you keep the open programs to a minimum everything should be fine. I tried 1080p video (H.264 & WMV) and it was too jerky to view. 720p had issues, but overall worked – the key is a nice clean recording under 6Mb/s. Office 2003, Firefox and all Windows apps ran quickly and reliably.
Xubuntu – A streamlined version of Ubuntu, this version is very lite. Everything ran quickly and without issue. I haven’t used Linux in a while and most of my time has been spent in Windows 7 (which is a testament of in itself).
Lightroom 2.3 – I tested my 40D and Nikon D300 along with a Powershot. Importing was fast since it is not very processor intensive. People would assume the first limiter editing photos on a netbook would be the CPU. Well, it wasn’t. With hundreds of photos imported I found myself constantly waiting for the GPU to finish rendering the thumbnails and photos (I was set to 1:4 as the default editing photo size). Once all the images were in (and cached) I began to see the limitations of the Atom CPU. All the edits were in real time and re-renders were smooth, but very noticeable (denoted by big text “Rendering” at the bottom of the image). The Powershot images were the smallest and posed very little issue for LR. The 40D RAW files started to tax LR but the really issues began with the D300 RAW files which were of course the largest of the three (12MP). The S10 really started huffing and puffing with these files.
Conclusion – I was pleasantly surprised at how powerful these little computers are. Would I use it to edit photos? Maybe, but not more than a few photos at a time and I wouldn’t buy LR just to use on this little computer (I’m also hooked on Aperture).
Last year when I went to Disney World I didn’t take my MBP, instead taking my daughters less expensive HP laptop which she used to watch movies on the flight there and back. I think this little guy will fill the need of the traveling photographer as a backup, viewing and temporary work machine. It will fit just about anywhere, can use external drives, is versatile and if lost will only set you back around $400 (upgraded) vs $2,000+ for a pro laptop. The wireless range is impressive too – more than most laptops I’ve used (HP, Dell and Apple). It runs pretty warm, like most notebooks. Battery life under heavy use was about 2.3 hours with the 3-cell battery (using Lenovo’s energy conservation software).
The Lenovo S10 is definitely coming with me this summer on my photo trip along with my iPod Classic 160GB.
Feel free to ask any questions…
Here are some screen captures: