The 11.6 inch standard is one of those form factors that blur the boundaries between netbook and notebook and many users go for this standard because the respective machines usually pack much better hardware than the usual 10 inch netbooks and are not much bigger.
It’s the case with the Lenovo S205 11.6 inch notebook, which is part of the highly successful IdeaPad series, that over the years introduced devices which were usually productivity oriented, but were also pretty sweet to look at.
Stay tuned for a review of the Lenovo S205 and find out if it’s worth your while. At a first glance, you might be tempted to go yes, it does!, considering it packs next gen hardware and looks rather spectacular. Still, it’s better if you’ll join us in this in depth review of the machine, covering all aspects from design to heat and software features.
First, let’s take a look at the specs of the S205
- Display: 11.6 inch, wide screen display with a 1366 x 768 resolution
- Processor: AMD dual core AMD Fusion Zacate E-350
- Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD 6310 (up to 512 MB of system RAM), Direct X 11 compatible (integrated)
- System memory: up to 8 GB DDR3 RAM
- Hard drive: up to 750 GB 7.200 rpm
- Connectivity: WiFi, blue tooth, 3G (optional)
- Ports and web cam: HDMI, USB ports, 6 in 1 card reader, integrated web cam, audio, mic
- Battery: 6 cell battery (aprox 3 hours)
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium
- Weight: starting at 2.2 pounds (with less RAM and without the 3G module and the standard battery).
Although we can surely be impressed by the top notch processor and graphics and the good display, the problem of the battery is kind of a setback. But let’s see if this issue is passable by the sheer experience of working with the S205.
Design and construction
The S205 is made from plastic and it feels very sturdy when you pick it up or just check the hinges. Sure, it’s not the type of high end plastics Lenovo puts on their more expensive, corporate oriented machines, but for a mainstream notebook, so to say, it feels very good. The lid is fairly glossy and comes with an interesting pattern, something like bricks put together. It seems more like a drawing and it doesn’t bring too much of a utility except the aesthetic one.
As we said, the lid is kind of glossy and will be a fingerprint magnet to say the least. On the bottom there’s no easy to access latch for upgrading your RAM and HDD. Instead, you’ll have to open a bunch of screws (something like 20) if you want to do this on your own. There’s also a SIM slot under the battery, which will be usable if you go for the 3G version. It’s not the thinnest or lightest 11.6 inch notebook out there, but I guess Lenovo put in more medium quality plastic and components to make everything look a little tougher. And they kind of succeeded.
Keyboard and touch pad
The keyboard feels very good, as keys have this soft touch treatment, which makes them feel less like plastic (keep in mind they are, though). Keys are fairly spaced and we hardly had any typos while text sampling with the S205. The keys are also quite large and will suit most fingers. The keys on the sides are, as usual, kind of smaller than those you use the most and you might miss the caps lock button, for example.
The touch pad feels very good as well, as it has a smooth finish which makes the plastic feel a little classier. The two buttons are clearly separated and are easy to press and, very important, are really quiet. The cursor doesn’t go weird on its own and is quite precise. The palm rest is in tone with the overall plastic finish of the notebook and will be pretty comfy, as it has a decent dimension- not like some models, which almost only allow you to place your wrists on the rest.
The S205 has a 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 display, which is nothing too spectacular on devices above netbooks in terms of dimensions. It’s a fairly standard resolution for this class, but will deliver decent HD playback and can accommodate many items at once on the screen. Viewing angles are good when looking straight at the screen, but extreme angles come with weird or no colours.
And we should keep in mind this is a glossy screen; going out with it on a not so sunny day made the screen almost impossible to look at. But if you’re more of a night owl, this should fit the bill perfectly. The default colours were a little desaturated for my taste, but I guess it’s something you can tweak in the settings menus.
Hardware and performance
The S205 is powered by a dual core Zacate E-350 APU, which has integrated HD graphics, while the system memory of our unit was 4 GB (but you can go as far as 8). Just to give you some quick insight, the S205 scored 47820 on Crystal Mark, which is a decent score, but nothing to scare you away. It’s better than the Ontario C-50, but lower than a Core i5 processor- the thing that pulls the Zacate up is the good integrated video card.
In terms of performance, the S205 handles Windows 7 pretty well and common tasks like browsing, editing and even video playback run smooth. We even tried to edit some video with it and the notebook did largely well, but mostly on the 480p encoding. Of course, if you have an extra 4 GB of RAM available, things might be a tad smoother.
Gaming is an option, but not on high settings and not the latest and more pretentious titles. For a good LAN session of a graphically mediocre FPS, the S205 will work just fine, but something above that might choke the little fellow.
Connectivity and ports
The S205 has all the standard ports, including USB ports, a HDMI port for exporting video, 6 in 1 card reader and mic and phones jacks. There’s also this SIM slot on the back, but that will be usable only if you go for the optional 3G module. There’s no USB 3.0 port, which would have been nice, considering that the 500 GB HDD is pretty fast. In terms of connectivity, there’s the standard WIFi and blue tooth, and as we’ve mentioned before, there’s the option to go for a 3G module, which surely will come with some exceptional download speeds.
Heat, noise, speakers and others
The S205 doesn’t get too hot and even if it does, most of it is on the bottom and goes out through the fans. About those- they tend to go loud from time to time, not necessarily when you’re doing something more demanding with the notebook. The noise is not too much of a problem, but you will notice it, that’s for sure.
The speakers are kind of standard and, like all sound systems on portable computers, can hardly deliver good bass. But for the occasional video call or Youtube video, it will be just fine. There’s also a web cam above the screen, which was pretty good and delivered clear video, even in darker rooms. Also, the camera can be used for face recognition, which although it’s a fun thing to do, takes kind of long and if you’re in a hurry, it might be annoying.
The S205 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium and some bloatware to assist in the process. Of course, you should get rid of those as as soon as possible. The trial versions of all kinds of programs and anti viruses you’ll never use will just consume system resources for nothing. There are a couple of interesting Lenovo treats, like DirectShare, which allows you to synch with other notebooks without an internet connection and a one key recovery system.
This is the notebook’s main weakness, as in normal use the battery will be depleted in around 3 hours. Sure, you can go for higher capacity batteries, but those will occupy more space and you’ll have to pay extra for them. And if you’ll watch a HD video or play a game, the battery will be empty after about 2 hours (so choose your film carefully, as it’s the only one you’ll see on that train ride 😛 ). But considering that the notebook is also quite big, Lenovo probably thinks that most buyers will use this more at home and thus the autonomy is not very important.
Prices and availability
The S205 is available in Europe for around 399 euros for the 4 GB of RAM version, but there’s also a cheaper version, with 2 GB of RAM and no OS preloaded, going for just $299. The price for the US launch is not very clear, but the notebook will be available in early April.
The S205 is a decent entry for the mainstream notebook market, as it packs AMD’s latest Fusion CPU and had HD graphics. The build, although from plastic, is pretty good and the keyboard feels much better than the ones on more expensive machines. But the S205 has a major negative aspect- the battery won’t hold for more than 3 hours on a single charge! For an ultra portable device, this is indeed a problem, but if you intend to use it mostly at home, the decently priced 11.6 notebook is a good buy.