Riding the wave of affordable AMD-powered ultraportables, the IdeaPad S205 aims to charm shoppers by pairing a stylish design with a lot more muscle than a netbook. For $579, this 11.6-inch notebook also offers a spacious keyboard and cool temperatures.
The S205 gives off a subtle but sophisticated vibe. We like that the glossy plastic lid has a subtle artistic pattern to it (dubbed a "cityscape finish") and that the brown dominates the entire notebook. The deck has a striated pattern, which makes a cool record-scratch sound when you rub your fingernails over it. This not only keeps fingerprints away, but also feels good to touch.
Weighing just 3.3 pounds, the S205 is the kind of notebook you can carry around all day without feeling weighed down. It measures 11.4 x 7.6 x 1.0 inches, so it'll slip into a small bag or briefcase and still leave room for your smartphone or tablet.
Thanks to the low-power APU inside, the IdeaPad S205 stays relatively cool. After we played a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the hottest area was the underside, where we measured 91 degrees Fahrenheit at the center. This reading is still below the 95-degree threshold of what we consider uncomfortable. Even the area near the vent didn't get hot enough to notice while we used it. On top, the touchpad and keyboard only reached 88 and 89 degrees, respectively.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the S205 has the familiar Lenovo AccuType design with a chiclet-style layout. Overall, the typing experience was comfortable, but the Backspace key and some other keys are shrunken.
The touchpad on the S205 is small even for a netbook, nevermind an 11.6-inch notebook. Still, the lightly dimpled 2.4 x 1.4-inch surface made navigating the desktop pretty easy. Because of the limited real estate, we had to be more deliberate than we'd like when performing pinch-to-zoom and three-finger flicks on the Synaptics touchpad, but they worked well.
We're definitely not fans of the two mouse buttons underneath the touchpad; they have a mushy feel, and there's a weird lip underneath them that's just plastic. We had to train ourselves to hit the buttons instead of just dead plastic.
Display and Audio
The 11.6-inch display on the IdeaPad S205 has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. The glossy panel produced vibrant colors when we streamed an episode of The Cleveland Show on Fox.com, though the viewing angles were narrow due to reflections.
The small speaker grilles just under the front lip of the notebook produced relatively clean audio for an 11.6-inch laptop. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Californication" was nearly loud enough to fill a medium-size office. However, the audio quality sounded somewhat muffled when we placed the system on our lap.
Ports and Webcam
The IdeaPad S205 features most of its ports on the right side of the laptop. From front to back, you'll find the headphone and mic jacks, HDMI, and two USB 2.0 ports. The left side of the notebook houses a 6-in-1 memory card reader, a third USB port, VGA connector, and power jack.
The 1.3-megapixel webcam above the display captured images that looked a little washed out, especially under fluorescent light. Colors weren't deep enough, but they were at least recognizable. There wasn't too much blur when we moved around while recording video in CycberLink YouCam 3 or chatting on Skype, and the mic picked us up at over 4 feet from the notebook.
Inside the Lenovo IdeaPad S205 is a 1.6-GHz AMD Fusion E350 APU and 4GB of RAM. Like other low-cost notebooks with this chip, the S205 delivers better performance than netbooks but not as much oopmh as higher-end ultraportables. The S205 scored 2,347 on PCMark Vantage, beating the HP Pavilion dm1z (2,198), Sony VAIO YB Series (2,112), and the ASUS Eee PC 1215B (2,245). Still, the average ultraportable scores 4,484.
Though the benchmarks point to a good performer, the S205 didn't feel as fast during our hands-on time. We noticed system hang when we worked with multiple types of files. And when we purposefully taxed the notebook by working with a dozen tabs in Chrome alongside other programs such as Microsoft Word and Windows Media Player, the system slowed even further.
The IdeaPad booted into Windows 7 Home Premium in 55 seconds, a little ahead of the category average (60 seconds). Lenovo includes a Boot Optimizer utility to keep your system speedy even as you add more software. The 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive completed the LAPTOP File Transfer Test in 3 minutes and 11 seconds for a score of 26.6 MBps. Once again, it proved speedier than the competition, with the Aspire One coming closest at 25 MBps. The category average is 33.1 MBps.
You're not likely to do much video editing on this machine, but it can certainly handle the task. On our Oxelon transcode test, the S205 compeleted the transcode in 2 minutes and 56 seconds. This isn't quite as fast as the Pavilion dm1z (2:45), the VAIO YB Series (2:47), or the Eee PC 1215B (2:44).
With ATI Mobility Radeon 6310 graphics embedded on the AMD APU, the S205 earned a score of 2,269 in 3DMark06. This score scoots above the category average (2,208), and it narrowly beats the HP dm1z (2,217). The VAIO YB Series (2,490) and the Eee PC 1215B (2,250) scored a bit higher.
We saw similar results in 3DMark11, where the S205 scored 283 and the VAIO and Eee PC scored 297 and 285, respectively.
The IdeaPad S205 isn't built for gaming, but we were able to achieve respectable frame rates in World of Warcraft. With graphics set to good and the resolution at its native 1366 x 768, the S205 averaged 28 fps, well short of the category average (42 fps). Don't bump it up higher than that, though. At max, the frame rate dropped to 11 fps.
The S205 comes with a six-cell battery that lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes on our battery test. The S205 outlasted the AMD Fusion-powered ASUS Eee PC 1215B (5:26) and the Sony VAIO YB (4:58), but fell short of the ultraportable average (6:03). The Pavilion dm1z (6:37) also offered longer endurance.
The Active Protection System utility inside the IdeaPad S205 helps protect the hard drive from minor shocks that cause damage. Users can configure the settings to be more or less sensitive depending on their use. And in the Realtime Status window you can get an idea of what kind of movement causes the system alarm. It's also a lot of fun to watch the laptop move on screen as you move the real thing.
Lenovo-branded utilities include DirectShare for pushing and receiving files from other devices on a local network; Energy Management, which doubles up on the power options already found in Windows; One-Key Recovery for backing up and restoring data (pictured above); and Lenovo Games Console.
Then there's the awkwardly named Lenovo Smile Dock, which ties into the Software Recourse Center. This portal provides special software offers to IdeaPad users. A trial of McAfee Antivirus Plus will annoy you until you register the program or uninstall it.
Lenovo covers the IdeaPad S205 with a one-year limited waranty with customer carry-in service. See how Lenovo fared in our Tech Support Showdown and Best & Worst Brands report.
The IdeaPad S205 comes in three configurations in the U.S. Our review unit is the 103829U and comes with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and no Bluetooth for $629, though it's usually $579 at retail. A less expensive configuration (103827U) is available for $599 ($499 at retail) with 3GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. A configuration with 4GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR sells for $649 (currently on sale for just $499).
In the low-cost ultraportable space, the Lenovo IdeaPad S205 is a solid middle-of-the-road pick. For more than $400 less than the latest 11-inch MacBook Air, you get a handsome design, spacious keyboard, and cool-running temperatures. However, the S205's small touchpad and tiny and mushy touchpad buttons give us pause. This laptop performs pretty well, but we prefer the HP Pavilion dm1z, which offers better ergonomics and longer battery life for $100 less.