Samsung N110 review
Superb build quality, battery life and usability - quite simply the best netbook around.
Samsung's NC10 was the netbook that finally got it right. Great battery life, a comfy keyboard and, best of all, looks that didn't require you to hang your head in shame every time you plucked it from your bag. It wasn't perfect though, and after a few months of toil in Samsung's R&D labs it has re-emerged in the form of the new and improved N110.
Take one long, hard look at the N110 and you'll notice a few differences right from the off. The chrome-effect trim reaching around the NC10's edge is the first to go, making way for a more subtle, curvy figure highlighted by a maroon red stripe. It might not sound like much, but the more rounded chassis and less eye-catching trim actually make the N110 look substantially slimmer than the NC10. It's just a trick of the light, however, as the dimensions of 261 x 186 x 37mm are in fact identical.
It has shed a few grams during its makeover, though, weighing in at 1.26kg to the NC10's 1.31kg. It feels a tad sturdier too; try as we might, we could barely get the base to twist or distort at all, and even the lid proved impressively flex-free. It might be significantly heavier than Asus' gorgeous 1008HA Seashell, but there's nary a hint of creaky plastic or undue flex anywhere to be found.
Another almost imperceptible difference between the N110 and its esteemed stablemate is the display. The familiar netbook resolution of 1,024 x 600 remains the same, but it's shrunk ever so slightly from 10.2in to 10.1in and gained a glossy finish.
In practice, the differences in image quality are fairly slight, too. The glossy finish gives a punchier image and colour reproduction seems just ever so slightly more natural on the N110. There's also no sign of the slightly mottled, grainy quality which beset the NC10's display.
General performance is typically unexciting - a score of 0.41 in our benchmarks is exactly what we'd expect - but the N110 has an ace up its sleeve. Faced with our usual light usage battery test - wireless off, screen brightness at 50% and CPU left to idle - our N110 ran dry after a gargantuan 11hrs 8mins, more than 3hrs longer than its already-impressive predecessor.
Know your strengths
Get past the slightly revamped looks and improved stamina, however, and there isn't a great deal of novelty to hold the attention. The specification is identical to that of the NC10, both inside and out. Internally, there are no surprises at all - a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor teams up with 1GB of DDR2 memory and a 160GB hard disk.
Externally, the three USB ports, card reader, 10/100 Ethernet socket, audio minijacks and VGA port are in exactly the same positions as they were on the NC10.
There's little point in making changes just for the sake of it, however, and we were relieved to see that Samsung hasn't tinkered with the 93% full-size keyboard of the NC10. The N110's keyboard is identical in every regard; the sensible layout, responsive-feeling keys and nice big Enter key are all present and correct.
The trackpad has received a welcome bit of attention; gaining a little height and a redesigned rocker button below. Unlike many of the competition, the NC10's button sat flush with the chassis: a trait which made it a little tricky to use on occasion, and especially if you're one of those used to resting your thumb on the button poised for action.
|Price ex VAT||£304|
|Price inc VAT||£350|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||4|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||261 x 186 x 37mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom N270|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,024|
|Resolution screen vertical||600|
|Resolution||1024 x 600|
|Graphics chipset||Intel GMA 950|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||145GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA|
|Optical disc technology||N/A|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||no|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||3|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3MP|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||545|
|Battery life, heavy use||139|
|Overall application benchmark score||0.41|
|Office application benchmark score||0.49|
|2D graphics application benchmark score||0.33|
|Encoding application benchmark score||0.38|
|Multitasking application benchmark score||0.42|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows XP Home|
|OS family||Windows XP|