That's exactly where you find the Lenovo Ideapad 100S. Coming in at $170, it's a full Windows 10 laptop that provides the same basic experience as something more expensive, but at a fraction of the price.
Software experience that is. The hardware is a different matter, but then it should be for the price you're paying.
Whether a laptop like this is worth your time is an interesting question. Cheap Windows 10 tablets are plentiful, many of which also offer a keyboard attachment. So the Ideapad 100S has some stiff competition in an increasingly busy sub $200 arena.
So, what do you actually get?
Here's what's in our unit.
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home 32-bit|
|CPU||Quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F @ 1.34GHz|
|Display||11.6-inch 1366 x 768 LED backlit|
|Ports||Full-size USB 2.0 x 2, microSD card reader, 3.5mm headset jack, HDMI output|
|WiFi||802.11 b/g/n compatible|
|Battery||Up to 8 hours|
The hardware is pretty solid, as you'd expect from a Lenovo product. It's plastic all around, but none of it glossy, which is great. The red and black version we've got here looks pretty sleek, with its matte lid opening to reveal an all black interior.
The body feels great. Very sturdy, there's almost no screen flex and it seems, reassuringly, like it can take a little punishment. Which makes it a perfect choice to give to your kids for school work.
You get a full sized keyboard, two USB ports, a HDMI output, 3.5mm headset jack and a microSD card slot on the outside, covering the main bases. The keyboard is pretty good to type on, not at all surprising given the name on the lid. The chiclet-style keys have decent travel and the only real complaint is that there's a bit of flex in the body as you're pushing down on them. It's not massively noticeable, and for most won't be too much of an issue. But if you slam the keys you'll feel it.
But while the keyboard is pretty good, the trackpad, sadly, is not. Again, with this asking price we wouldn't be expecting too much, but the 100S just isn't that great at all. The trackpad is fairly small, which is acceptable given the size of the laptop, but it's not particularly responsive and is built on old-school resistive tech, meaning there's no support for gestures like two-finger zoom or scrolling.
The trackpad handles tapping to select okay, but most of the time you'll use the hardware buttons. They're alright, as far as they can be. They do what they need to do, but there's a lot of unnecessary movement. The buttons feel kind of flimsy, and it's at this point on the notebook you see the only real weak spot in the Ideapad's build. The plastic trim along the front edge by the trackpad buttons is very weak, flexes a lot and would probably pop off or snap under too much pressure. Not a deal breaker, but still something to be aware of.
The display is a 1366 x 768 TN panel, and as far as cheap displays go it's not bad. It's very bright, so you'll want to turn it down a little, and the viewing angles aren't as horrendous as is sometimes the case with this type of display. The Ideapad 100S can open completely flat, which helps a lot, since you really need to look at it directly head-on to get the best experience.
The outside, then, is largely very good for a product that costs as little as this does. What about under the hood, though? How does it perform. So long as you keep your expectations in check, just fine.
Even though you'll find 32GB of eMMC Flash storage inside the 100S instead of a speedier SSD, it still boots and loads apps pretty quickly. I've been using Opera as the web browser on it during the review and it seemed to handle things just fine with the half-dozen tabs I always keep open. It did begin to chug a little with a lot of tabs, but that's to be expected.
If you're interested, too, it scored 758 for single-core and 2157 for muti-core on Geekbench 3. But benchmark numbers don't really tell any of the story here. If you're the sort of laptop buyer interested in benchmarks and raw performance, this isn't the product for you. The Ideapad 100S is plenty capable in its own right.
The Ideapad 100S comes with a voucher in the box for 100GB of OneDrive storage free for two years, and with only 22GB or so free of the 32GB storage you'll probably want to use it, at least for a little while. There is at least a microSD card slot to give you some place to quickly expand your storage and store your larger files and media.
Using this cheap laptop for media consumption is a bit of a mixed bag. The speakers are quite loud, if flat sounding, and that display isn't the best for watching movies. It'll do, but you have to adjust the angle precisely to make sure you're looking dead on if you don't want things to get discolored and dark. Fortunately, with a 180-degree hinge, you've got a ton of flexibility with where you have the lid sitting.
Where I've been enjoying the Ideapad 100S a lot is with the battery life. My regular laptop is a Core i7 Dell XPS 13 (opens in new tab) and I can expect to be thinking about looking for a charger after using it for around six hours most days. The Ideapad 100S can last all day, a true eight hours, depending what you're doing. I took it on our recent trip to Mobile World Congress and left at 6am, using it throughout the day until getting to the apartment in the late afternoon, still with plenty of charge left.
Travelling with it was also a pretty good experience. It's small and light enough not to be troublesome in a bag and its form factor is usable even on the cramped confines of an airline seat in the coach, err, economy section.
You may also be wondering about the webcam. Well, it has one, but you won't want to use it for anything other than a Skype or Hangouts or other video calling services. I mean, it's a $170 laptop, if there's one place they're going to cut back it's the webcam. It'll do for basic video chat, but don't expect miracles out of it.
To sum up, Lenovo has a great product on its hands with the Ideapad 100S. It's inexpensive but not "cheap", it has everything you need from Windows 10 and is a perfect choice for someone who doesn't want to spend a lot while still getting a top shelf experience.
If your kids need a laptop to do school work on, this is perfect. They can even play Candy Crush on it when they're done with school work.
There are Windows 10 tablets out there that will have better displays for a similar price, some will even have a keyboard dock. But the tablet experience isn't for everyone. What Lenovo has here is a sub-$200 laptop that's just good all around. The Lenovo Ideapad 100S offers great battery life, a solid keyboard, and good build quality — all without emptying your wallet.
It also raises another question: With full Windows 10 laptops that are this good at this price, why would you buy a Chromebook?