With a super-portable design and a ridiculously affordable price point, Lenovo's IdeaPad 100s is a solid secondary work laptop. Business users will also appreciate its long battery life and the fact that it comes with a free one-year subscription to Microsoft's Office 365 service. Just don't expect fast performance or a great keyboard from this budget-priced 11-inch system.
Starting at $199, the IdeaPad 100s is a capable travel companion that's great for email and light document editing. But are there better low-cost options?
Don't worry if the bright red laptop pictured in this review isn't your style; the 100s also comes in gray, white and blue. Whichever color you prefer, you'll likely appreciate the machine's sleek profile and svelte dimensions. At 2.2 lbs. and 0.69 inches thick, the IdeaPad 100s is lighter and thinner than most competing laptops, including the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11(2.4 lbs. and 0.7 inches) and the Lenovo 100s Chromebook (2.52 lbs. and 0.78 inches). The Asus EeeBook X205TA is more portable still, at 2.16 lbs. and 0.6 inches thick.
The 100s is reasonably sturdy, compared with other notebooks in its price range, but its plastic construction still doesn't feel very durable, and I noticed a fair bit of flex in both the lid and keyboard deck. Workers who want a machine that's built to last will have to shell out for a pricier computer.
The 100s comes with an 11.6-inch display that produces pretty nice images for a budget system. The 1,366 x 768-pixel screen delivers crisp text, accurate colors and generous viewing angles. And topping out at 243 nits of brightness, it's brighter than rival systems like the Asus X205TA (217) and Aspire Cloudbook 11 (250 nits.) That makes it easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.
But can you work on an 11.6-inch screen? Workers used to larger displays will likely feel cramped by the small dimensions. It's fine for basic productivity tasks like managing your email inbox, but split-screen multitasking feels claustrophobic.
Keyboard and touchpad
Budget laptops aren't known for their quality keyboards, so I wasn't surprised by the flimsy feel of the 100s' layout. With just 1.2 mm of travel (1.5 to 2mm is average), the keys aren't deep enough to provide an especially comfortable typing experience. At least the keys are large and well-spaced, and provide snappy feedback on each key press.
Overall, the keyboard here is similar to what you'll find on other budget offerings such as the EeeBook X205TA, which means it's fine for light productivity but not cut out for all-day typing.
The touchpad is also a mixed bag. Instead of having a clickable pad, the 100s offers discrete buttons below the pad. That's a perk, since all-in-one touchpads tend to be jumpy for basic cursor navigation, especially on budget laptops.
There's one big downside, though. The 100s doesn't support touch gestures, which means no pinch-to-zoom or two-finger scrolling. While gestures often feel erratic on budget machines such as the EeeBook X205TA, I still consider the lack of two-finger scrolling in particular to be a serious annoyance.
The IdeaPad 100s has enough ports to get you by, but there are some disappointing omissions. The left edge includes an HDMI out port for linking the notebook to a monitor or projector, and a microSD card reader for expanding the notebook's meager 32GB of external storage.
The right edge gives you two USB 2.0 ports, which will let you attach accessories like a mouse or an external hard drive. The lack of a single USB 3.0 port, which allows for faster data transfer, is pretty surprising for a 2015 laptop.
Of course, you also won't find an Ethernet jack or a VGA video out port on this machine, but that's typical for laptops of this size and price range.
Performance and hardware
Like other laptops in its price bracket, the 100s is good enough for basic productivity, but not much else. It runs on a low-power 1.33-GHz Intel Atom processor with 2GB of ram, which is more than good enough for managing your email inbox, surfing the Web and editing documents. Light multitasking was also pretty smooth, though I did notice a bit of slowdown while I edited a spreadsheet with more than a dozen tabs open in my Firefox Web browser, including one streaming HD video from YouTube.
On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, we got a decent score of 2,195 out of the 100s. That's just about on a par with the EeeBook X205TA (2,212).
And we found a similar result on our data-crunching test, which tasks laptops with matching 20,000 names with their addresses in the OpenOffice Spreadsheet app. The IdeaPad 100s finished in 22 minutes and 5 seconds, about the same as the X205TA's mark of 21 minutes and 36 seconds. The differences between the two laptops were small enough to be mostly insignificant.
If you need a notebook that will last through the end of a long business flight, the IdeaPad 100s is a pretty good pick. The machine ran for a very impressive 9 hours and 48 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That easily beats out most competitors, including the Acer Cloudbook 11's runtime of 8 hours and 4 minutes. The 100s was far from the longest lasting machine in its category, though; that distinction goes to the EeeBook X205TA, which ran for a whopping 12 hours and 5 minutes.
The IdeaPad 100s comes with a free one-year subscription to Microsoft's Office 365 service, which includes Web-connected versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint with 1TB of online storage. It's a $60 value, and a really nice perk that helps the 100s stand out from the competition as a work machine.
Otherwise, the 100s runs on a fairly clean installation of Windows 10, without much useless, pre-loaded software. A few Lenovo apps did make the cut, including One Key recovery, which lets you back up or restore your system in case of failure. It can be accessed in an emergency by pressing a small button located just above the F2 key.
It's worth pointing out that the IdeaPad 100s is one of just a few Windows-based laptops available for under $200. There are also a handful of Chromebooks in the same price range, including the Lenovo 100s Chromebook and the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11. But since Chromebooks run on the Web-based Chrome OS operating system, and can't run PC applications, I generally consider them inferior options for most workers.
Lenovo's IdeaPad 100s is a very good laptop for the money. For just $199 you get a highly portable work machine with a bright 11.6-inch display, solid battery life and a free year of Microsoft Office 365. If you can deal with its small display and middling performance, it could serve you well on business trips.
On the other hand, the Asus EeeBook X205TA is an equally impressive Windows notebook that offers even longer battery life, as well as support for touchpad gestures. Its display isn't as nice as what you get on the 100s, though, and it doesn't come with the free Office subscription. It also runs on the Windows 8.1 operating system out of the box, and while a free upgrade to Windows 10 is available for the X205TA, the 100s is ready to go with the latest Windows operating system from the moment you switch it on. That's enough to make it our favorite Windows laptop under $200.