Samsung N110 review

13 May 2009

Superb build quality, battery life and usability - quite simply the best netbook around.

Price when reviewed: 
350(£350 inc VAT)
5

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.

Different strokes

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £304
Price inc VAT £350
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 261 x 186 x 37mm (WDH)
Weight 1.250kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N270
RAM capacity 1.00GB
Memory type DDR2

Screen and video

Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 600
Resolution 1024 x 600
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 950
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Hard disk usable capacity 145GB
Internal disk interface SATA
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support no
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel 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
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3MP
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no

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