It seems like just yesterday that if you wanted a sub-$300 notebook, you'd have to settle for a Chromebook running Google's simple but limited operating system. These days you can find a Windows 10 portable for the price of a microwave oven, thanks to aggressive pricing by Microsoft and PC hardware vendors. Lenovo is the latest to compete in the most aggressive price band, today unveiling its $189 Ideapad 100S, an 11.6-inch laptop that weighs just 2.2 pounds.
We had a chance to spend a few minutes with the 100S and were impressed with its light weight and solid build quality. The 100S's svelte black chassis is just 0.69-inches thick, which makes it thin enough to fit into a narrow bag but wide enough to accommodate a full suite of ports including two USB 2.0 connectors, an HDMI out jack and a microSD card slot. The 100S's 1366 x 768 display seemed surprisingly good during our brief demo as the blues and greens of the Windows 10 desktop looked fairly accurate though not particularly vibrant. The keyboard had a reasonably bouncy feel and the touchpad, which sports two discrete buttons, appears to be quite wide.
On the inside, the 100S sports an Intel Atom Z3735F, the same low-power, quad-core processor found in Intel's Compute Stick, which won't win any speed contests but was more than adequate for basic productivity and surfing the web. Lenovo's notebook also packs 2GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage, which you can supplement via the aforementioned microSD card slot. The company promises 8 hours of battery life with the screen set to 150 nits of brightness.
Consumers who like the simplicity of Google's Chrome OS can buy the Ideapad 100S Chromebook for $179. The Chrome OS version of the laptop feels equally light but has a few subtle differences, employing a a buttonless touchpad and a full-size SD card slot.
Those who want a notebook that's a little larger than the 100S but still really inexpensive may be more intrigued by the Ideapad 300S and Ideapad 500S, both of which come in a varity of screen sizes. The 300S starts at $249 for the 11-inch model and is also available with 13- and 14-inch displays, a Core i7 CPU and Nvdia GeForce graphics. It starts at 3.9 pounds with 0.77 inches of thickness.
The 500S starts at $499 for the 13-inch model; it's also available in 14 and 15-inch sizes with up to a Core i7 CPU, 256GB of storage and discrete Nvidia graphics.The different models range in weight from 3.4 pounds to 4.6 pounds and 0.76 to 0.81 inches thick.
The company is also rolling out the Ideapad 300 and 500 (no S), which are a little bit heavier and thicker but cost a little less. The Ideapad 300 starts at $399 for the 14-inch model with 15- and 17-inch versions available. The Ideapad 300 ranges in weight from 4.63 pounds to 6.61 pounds and from 0.92 inches to 0.99 inches of thickness. Configurations will be available with Intel's 6th Generation Core Series or low-power Braswell N3700 CPUs, discrete Nvidia or AMD graphics and 1920 x 1080 or 1600 x 900 resolution display panels.
The Ideapad 500 starts at $499 for the 14-inch, 4.6-pound model and is also available in a 15-inch, 5.1-pound version The two sizes are 0.96 and 0.97 inches thick respectively and come with up to a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and optional AMD Radeon graphics.
All of the new Ideapads will start shipping in October.