A budget laptop with great battery life

There was a time, not too many years ago, when $999 was considered the cut-off price for a budget laptop. How times and expectations have changed. Today along with

$50 Amazon Fire tablets

and smartphones under $200, it's possible to get a reasonably functional PC experience for a lot less than you might think.

The latest example of this new low-cost computing trend is the Lenovo Ideapad 100S, an 11-inch clamshell laptop that retails for $199 in the US (£179 in UK, AUD299 in Australia). is among the most refined ultra-budget PCs, but it's not the first. Note that Lenovo has been selling the system online since December 2015 at a discounted price of $179 in the US.

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The $200 and under computer (based on US prices) has been growing in the category since mid-2014, anchored by products like the $200

HP stream 11

laptop and the

Intel Compute Stick

, a tiny desktop PC that's available for just $119. All run Windows 10 and Intel Atom or Celeron processors and are primarily intended for web browsing and cloud apps (note the very small onboard -Memory ranging from 8GB to 32GB).

The upside is that, unlike a similarly priced Chromebook (a basic laptop running Google's Chrome OS, which is essentially the Chrome web browser and little else), you can install and run regular Windows software like photo editing programs or alternative web browsers as long as they're on the tiny hard drives will fit. You won't be doing pro-level photo editing or playing PC games, but at these prices there's practically no good reason to go for a Chrome OS system instead if you're only spending $200 have to.

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With a colorful body (our model was bright red) that doesn't feel too flimsy, and a typically excellent Lenovo keyboard design, this could easily be the clear winner in the ultra-budget category, if not for one gripe. The touchpad is here not a simple clickpad-style model as seen on the HP Stream 11 and just about every other laptop available today. Instead, it's an older design with separate left and right mouse buttons. More importantly, the older touchpad design currently doesn't support common gestures like two-finger scrolling. This can be a deal breaker for someone who reads a lot online, but you'll have to judge for yourself if the excellent keyboard makes up for that.

Lenovo IdeaPad 100S

price as rated


Display size/resolution

11.6-inch 1366 x 768 screen


1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F

PC memory

2048MB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz


32MB (dedicated) Intel HD graphics




802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0

operating system

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (32-bit)

design and functions

The challenge of any ultra-budget laptop is to look and feel like it costs just a little bit more than it actually costs. Nobody expects a unibody aluminum chassis or smooth edge-to-edge glass above the display - but a flimsy hinge, a lid that bends and bends when you move it, or a creaking chassis that feels like it won't stand up to modest handling isn't worth it at all costs.

Lenovo avoids these missteps by housing the 100S in a chassis that's slightly larger and thicker than some other 11-inch laptops, giving the system some protective bulk. The sturdy hinges also swing back a full 180 degrees folds to lay flat, giving you plenty of useful viewing angles. The matte red exterior paint covering the lid's back and bottom is fingerprint resistant, and the darker red looks classier than that, even on so many budget laptops shiny black plastic.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Inside, the keyboard retains the same basic design as most other Lenovo laptops, with widely spaced, island-style keys that bulge out just a little at the bottom of each key, giving you a little more usable surface to hit .It's miles beyond the HP Stream 11's keyboard, for example.

The touchpad is the 100S' biggest stumbling block, however. The pad loses valuable surface area by splitting its left and right mouse click functions into separate physical buttons. It's a type of touchpad that's rarely seen anymore, and with good reason. Also here, the pad is not designed for multi-touch gestures. This is important to note, since standard two-finger scrolling does not work, and tapping the pad with two fingers for a right-click also does not work. It makes the system more difficult to use when scrolling on long websites and it's a flaw that should be seriously considered before buying.