Yep, that’s an ExpressCard slot. Photo (CC) Ja-ae (Jarawee) – hello, Bangkok! (Know we have some readers out there.)

Tim Hanlon of recently got an IdeaPad S10 – Lenovo’s lovely, $400 “netbook” – to test. He didn’t just do the usual benchmarks, though. His review also included the unlikely choice of Ableton Live and, thanks to a free ExpressCard slot, a MOTU Traveler FireWire interface.


The inclusion of an ExpressCard/34 slot opens the IdeaPad up to a range of high-bandwidth applications. The most relevant for me as a musician was the possibility of using one on stage alongside a professional audio interface. Taking your expensive (and for some, irreplaceable) main rig out on tour and having to constantly keep an eye out for people putting their beer down on the stage next to it is a stressful affair, and the thought of using a relatively cheap, incredibly portable, and ultimately replaceable machine instead was always incredibly attractive – and I’m very glad to say, now possible.

We used a Silicon Memory ExpressCard/34 adapter that added an additional USB 2.0 port and two FireWire 400 ports, although any adapter based on a Texas Instruments FireWire chipset should work with a vast majority with audio interfaces. Windows XP Home recognized the adapter and installed the drivers automatically without needing a driver CD, and we quickly had the MOTU Traveler interface up and running.

My current Ableton Live set sat at a perfectly manageable 15% CPU usage for a majority of the time, however you will need to watch the CPU intensive plugs. One particularly long reverb tail using Ableton’s built-in reverb used up 25% of the CPU on its own.

Check out the full story on Gizmag:

Lenovo’s IdeaPad S10 Reviewed

One major catch, before you get too excited: Tim has the same problem I have universally with these ExpressCards. They just stick our awkwardly. They’re even worse on the full-sized slots on bigger laptops. Chancing an audio interface popping out while playing pretty much kill the appeal for me, especially when there are plenty of workable USB2 audio interfaces out there (including from MOTU). MacBook, you’re not off the hook yet, because this just means I want more USB slots, but I digress.

The bigger message here to me: software developers ought to pick up a couple of these machines and think about what will run on them. With zillions of these netbooks now shipping, why not? They’re not going to replace even standard laptops, but it’s an opportunity to sell more software by targeting these boxes, or even testing lighter-weight software on them. (Imagine notation or quick drum machines.) I don’t really miss the days when we ran Ableton Live on 400MHz G3s, but, well, we did.

And Tim has a point: next time you’re playing a frightening club with chicken wire and angry drunks, here’s your machine! Actually, that S10 is cute. Maybe just bring a tarp and some tazers.

  • I had trouble getting modern software working on my eeepc, until I slipped the biggest and brighest modern software aestehtic, and now run game emulators, and 1999 vsts like vaz modular in energyxt!

  • Yeah, totally — seems perfect for running some vintage software. (ReBirth, anyone?)

  • Jaime Munarriz

    Reaper is the perfect sequencer for this tiny machines, with its adaptable skinable interface, and really small use of hard disk space.
    or EnergyXT…

    I love these new tools!

  • jon

    I REALLY hope someone gets OS X on these things. I am very eager to cut my ties to apple other than OS X from now on. These can have firewire, but the macbooks can't. Ha!

  • jon

    shoulda googled first…

    looks like there still work to be done, but looks promising.

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  • i use an eeepc and it runs ableton lite like a charm. only drawback is is the small screen, virtual resolution hacks do a good job there, but i would want to gig that setup.
    i mainly use the eeepc for surfing and sampling stuff (the internal audio is quite ok!).
    also tried installing some linux music workstation, but im no linuxgeek and i gave up.
    and hey, the eee costs about as much as a big family dinner on ebay…totally worth the money

  • Tom

    i use my eee pc 901 for playing live. i used ableton live but it was only good (at this computer) for playing audio loops. audio loops was also a problm as i got limited storage.
    so i switched to reason and i must say it works like a charm. my set is made of 16 combinators with 4 synth (thor or others) inside each one. there are also 4 additional combinators that act as a drum machines. so it goes 20 loaded combinators in total + reverbs, delays, mastering suite devices. my songs use usualy 8 tracks so this setup is enough for my needs.

  • Danci100

    I would like to know, if its possible to run ableton with reason (rewire) on Lenovo s10.Somebody help 🙂

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  • al

    missed this post
    ive got an advent 4489
    512mb ram 80g harddisc

    i managed to get running
    ableton live 5
    traktor 2.6
    traktor 3
    maxmsp runtime

    gonna give reaktor 3 a go
    to get all of my old instruments running
    as i dont know how well reaktor 5 would run

    antbody tried reaktor on there netbook

  • nono


    Have anyone managed to make it work with the presonus firebox ??!

    Seems to have problems…

  • Hi everybody,


    I saw somewere that some versions of S10 provide a firewire plug natively. The one I saw in a store had not. Have you got informations on this ?

    I own a TC electronic konnect 24D firewire audio interface for doing direct multitraks recording (4 tracks) trough reaper. do you think it's possible to do this with this netbook (with or without the intégated firewire interface). Someone has do it?

    Bruno from France

  • I have been experimenting with using Ableton Live on my acer aspire one netbook and was surprised by how well it handles audio if teamed with an ASIO compatible sound card.

    Here are a couple of posts I put together about the subject:

  • Does this mean i cAN run ableton without a problem?
    i won't be running anything else but ableton and the time, i want to perform for some friends in some basement but i can't because i can't afford a laptop….is this worth geting if my main use for it is Ableton Live????

  • boondaburrah

    What are people's experiences using firewire under non-windows OSs? I've tried both linux and mac os x, and I can connect to my firepod, but as soon as I try to use it they both crash. I've tested this firepod and card on my friend's macbook pro, and it works fine. I'm wondering if my S10's PCI-E chipset is borked?

    Also, when I boot up the machine with the card installed (the only way to get it to recognize anything in that slot) the WIFI card gets disabled (though it still shows up under linux and mac as an installed device, it seems to have no power)

    The card I'm using was manufactured by BYTECC, it's Firewire 800 and has a TI-based Firewire chip behind a PCIe to PCI bridge.

  • i run ableton live 8.1.4 w/ max for live on my lenovo s10e, for the production of short electronic/hip hop/other compositions and "DJ"/Controllerist sets with my akai lpd8. definitely has it's limitations, but dammit, it works surprisingly well. mind you i'm running this massive program well below the minimum requirements (win xp home, 1.6ghz intel atom n270, 2gb ram, and 5400rpm hd). my version of live 7.0.4 runs even smoother, but i've grown attached to the new version.