Just how much laptop can you buy these days for under $200? Starting at $199, the Lenovo Ideapad 100S is a lightweight, long-lasting Windows 10-powered laptop with a touch of style, good viewing angles and over 9 hours of battery life. Like other systems in this price range, the 11.6-inch 100S offers very modest performance and cuts some corners when it comes to keyboard and touchpad quality. However, if you're willing to live with a few compromises, you can get a very capable secondary computer or child's laptop for a great price.
For a laptop this inexpensive, the Lenovo Ideapad 100S looks anything but cheap. Available in red, blue, gray or white, Lenovo's low-cost laptop has a classy matte finish that carries the accent color and persists from the lid to the system's bottom. The rubber feet match the color, but the sides and deck are a subtle black color with a similar matte texture, which did a good job of resisting fingerprints.
At 11.5 x 7.95 x .69 inches and 2.2 pounds, the Lenovo Ideapad 100S felt incredibly light and portable, both in my hands and my bag. The Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is nearly the same size (11.5 x 7.95 x .7 inches), but weighs -.2 pounds more, while the Lenovo 100S Chromebook -- the Chrome OS version of this laptop -- is slightly larger and heavier (11.81 x 8.23 x 0.78 inches, 2.52 pounds). The Asus EeeBook X205TA (11.2 x 7.6 x 0.6, 2.16 pounds) is ever so slightly smaller and lighter, however.
While most Windows PCs come with hard drives or SSDs that have hundreds of gigabytes of capacity, ultralow-cost laptops such as the Ideapad 100S, HP Stream and Acer One Cloudbook series typically come with 16, 32 or 64GB of eMMC storage memory. The Ideapad 100S comes with 32GB; 17GB of that is free, with the rest taken up by Windows 10. You can expand the storage by purchasing an inexpensive microSD card, which gives you another 64GB for just $20, or you can use some of the 1TB of cloud storage that comes with the included Office 365 subscription.
Display and Audio
The 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display for the Ideapad 100S isn't as colorful or sharp as those on expensive laptops, but it provides surprisingly good image quality with wide viewing angles. When I watched a trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I could easily make out fine details like the beads of sweat on Finn's brow. Most colors, including the red in a First Order flag, seemed mostly accurate, though a bit muted. However, even at a full 90 degrees to the left or right, the colors barely faded.
According to our tests, the screen on the Ideapad 100S can reproduce 62 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which doesn't allow for the richest shades. However, this showing is a bit better than the Aspire Cloudbook 11 (59 percent) and the 100S Chromebook (58 percent) and a tiny bit worse than the Asus X205TA (68 percent).
The100S's brightness rating of 243 nits is better than the Asus EeeBook X205TA's mark of 217 and about on par with the Acer Aspire Cloudbook 11's rating of 250 nits.
The Ideapad 100S's bottom-facing speakers provided sound that was loud enough to fill a living room but not exactly high fidelity. When I listened to Styx's guitar and drum-heavy "Blue Collar Man," the percussion was very tinny, but surprisingly, there was a good separation of sound between the left and right sides. Major Lazer's synth-laden "Lean On" was clearer, but still a bit distorted. The audio fidelity and volume on both songs was much better when I placed the laptop on a flat surface rather than balancing it on my lap.
MORE: Best Lenovo Laptops
Keyboard and Touchpad
With only 1.2 mm of vertical travel (1.5 to 2 mm is typical) and a flimsy base that flexes like a trampoline as you type, the Ideapad 100S's keyboard is a mixed bag. However, the scallop-shaped keys are fairly large, easy to target and have a snappy feel, thanks to a solid 60 grams of actuation force. On the 10FastFingers typing test, I scored 92 words per minute with a 2 percent error rate, which is on the low side of my typical 92- to 95-wpm time.
Despite the flaws, the Ideapad 100S offers a far better typing experience than the Acer Cloudbook One 11, which has keys that are .5 mm narrower, 2 mm shorter and cramped together with .5 mm less pitch. We just wish Lenovo had avoided flex, like it does on the 100S Chromebook, which is $20 less.
In our tests, the 3.3 x 1.75-inch touchpad offered highly accurate navigation around the desktop, but it does not support pinch-to-zoom, two-finger scrolling or other gestures. On the bright side, the pad has two discrete buttons for left and right clicking -- a rare but very useful feature that helps it avoid the jumpiness we see on so many clickpads.
By contrast, the Cloudbook 11 has a buttonless touchpad and supports gestures, but suffers from a lot of lag; pinch zooms occurred a second or more after we performed them. The Asus EeeBook X205TA's pad also supports gestures, but also performed erratically when we used them.
The Ideapad 100S stayed cool at most touch points. After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the touchpad and keyboard reached a reasonable 90 and 89.5 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, which is below our 95-degree comfort threshold. However, the bottom reached a full 103.5 degrees after streaming.
Ports and Webcam
The Lenovo Ideapad 100S crams a number of useful ports onto its small frame. On the left side, you'll find a proprietary power port, HDMI-out, an audio jack and a microSD card reader, which you can use to add to the laptop's meager 32GB of internal storage.
The right side houses two USB 2.0 ports, which are more than good enough for most peripherals you might attach, but we wish at least one of these were USB 3.0 so we could take advantage of the fastest external hard drives.
The 0.3-megapixel webcam took blurry, dark images of my face in every lighting condition I tested. The pictures were a bit more detailed and easier to see under direct light.
Considering that it's powered by a low-cost, 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3735F CPU and 2GB of RAM, the Lenovo Ideapad 100S offers really solid performance that's good enough for Web surfing, editing documents, viewing movies and multitasking. When I had a dozen Chrome browser tabs open, I was able to watch a YouTube trailer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in one window while editing a Google doc in another, without a hint of lag. Performance was equally smooth when 100S was playing an offline clip in Windows Media Player.
The Ideapad 100S scored a solid 2,195 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That's on par with the Asus EeeBook X205TA (2,212), which has the same CPU as the 100S, but nearly double the Celeron N3050-powered Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11's mark of 1,285.
The Ideapad 100S's 32GB of eMMC storage memory took 2 minutes and 24 seconds to complete the Laptop File Transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed-media files. That's a rate of 31 MBps, which is a little less than you'd get with most mechanical hard drives, and also slower than the Cloudbook 11 (34.6 MBps) and the X205TA (41.4 MBps).
Forget about crunching large sets of data on this low-cost laptop. The Ideapad 100S took a glacial 22 minutes and 5 seconds to complete the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses. The X205TA took a similar 21 minutes and 36 seconds, but the Cloudbook 11, which is slower on other benchmarks, finished in just 11 minutes and 54 seconds.
You can watch movies on the Ideapad 100S, but forget about gaming. Lenovo's low-cost laptop scored 15,081 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics benchmark. That's about the same as the X205TA (15,111), but a bit behind the Cloudbook 11 (18,314).
The Ideapad 100S lasted a strong 9 hours and 48 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness. That's well ahead of the Acer Cloudbook 11's time of 8 hours and 4 minutes. However, the Asus EeeBook X205TA lasted a full 12:05, while Lenovo's 100 Chromebook endured for 11:19.
Software and Warranty
The Ideapad 100S comes with a free, one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, which you can activate simply by opening a preloaded Office install app and signing in to your Microsoft account. The subscription, which would cost around $60 if you bought it on your own, entitles you to install and use the latest (2016) versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote for 365 days and includes 1TB of cloud storage.
Perhaps because of its limited storage space, Lenovo puts almost no preloaded software on the Ideapad 100S. In addition to standard Windows 10 apps, the laptop comes with One Key recovery, an emergency restore program which launches when you hit a small button above the F2 key. There's also a Manage Account app, which lets you sign up for a Lenovo account, and a PDF of the instruction manual and Lenovo Solution Center, which does hardware scans and links to Lenovo's support forum. You can also download helpful Lenovo apps such as Reachit, which helps you manage your cloud storage accounts, and Shareit, which allows you to share files with other PCs.
Lenovo backs the Ideapad 100S with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. See our Tech Support Showdown to find out how the company's phone and Web help resources stack up to the competition.
The Lenovo Ideapad 100S offers a ton of value, combining long battery life, an attractive design, solid performance and free Office 365. This laptop would be an even more compelling choice if its keyboard, which generally feels good, did not flex and its touchpad supported gestures. If you want even better endurance in this price range, consider the Asus EeeBook X205TA, which lasted a full 12 hours on a charge, but has a dimmer display and comes with Windows 8 instead of Windows 10. However, if you want the best overall Windows laptop under $200, get the Lenovo Ideapad 100S.