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First Impressions: Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t Netbook-Tablet Hybrid

Let's do some simple math, shall we? For $499 you can buy Apple's entry-level iPad tablet, which, let's face it, has limited business value. For $50 less, you can buy Lenovo's new IdeaPad S10-3t, which looks like an everyday netbook until you swivel its screen around and turn it into tablet!

That's right, the IdeaPad is one of a new breed of convertible netbooks. That means you get all the functionality of a traditional portable PC, plus the advantages of a touchscreen tablet, for a sub-iPad price.

Okay, but how does the IdeaPad actually compare with the iPad? I haven't tried the latter yet, obviously, but after spending a few hours poking and prodding the former, I have some thoughts:

  • The S10-3t feels surprisingly solid and sturdy for such an inexpensive hybrid device. And it looks gorgeous, with its glossy black bezel/lid and white keyboard. (Too bad its glossy screen shows fingerprints like crazy.)
  • The touchpad is -- interesting. Unlike most, it has a rough surface, which I actually came to prefer to slippery, smooth ones. But its buttons are embedded, meaning you actually press the pad when you need a left or right mouse-click. How do you click-and-drag that way? Couldn't figure it out.
  • The IdeaPad boots quickly, but then McAfee Security Center drags it down. I uninstalled it and presto: much faster booting and overall operation. Typical.
  • The touchscreen works well, but you have to manually enable the system's tilt sensor so Windows automatically changes image orientation when you turn the screen. Otherwise it requires a button press.
  • This tablet is no Kindle-killer. For one thing, at just under 3 pounds it's too heavy to use comfortably as an e-book reader. What's more, the Kindle for PC software inexplicably lacks a full-screen option, so in portrait mode the text gets shoehorned into an annoyingly narrow column. Dumb.
  • Because this is a capacitive touchscreen, you can't take notes on it using a plastic stylus like with tablets of yesteryear. Rather, you have to use your finger, and that's just not the same.
  • Like most netbooks, this one's a slowpoke.
Ultimately, the IdeaPad S10-3t leaves me with the same question I get from the iPad: Why do I want it? At the moment I can't see any real advantage to having a tablet mode, especially on a PC as slow, heavy, and handwriting-unfriendly as this one.

That said, you're getting a pretty incredible piece of hardware for an even more incredible price. (One note about that: Best Buy is currently out of stock on the $449 configuration with the 8-cell battery. Curiously, Lenovo's price on the 4-cell model is $100 higher. Weird.)

What do you think? Does a convertible netbook like this one hold any appeal to you? Do you think this whole tablet thing is just a fad? Share your thoughts in the comments.