Samsung N510 review

29 Sep 2009

The Atom and Ion netbook combination is a success, and this is a solid, though dear, first attempt

Price when reviewed: 
382(£382 inc VAT)
5

Netbooks might have been the big, or rather the endearingly tiny, new thing on the laptop scene for a time, but the initial excitement has all but evaporated. Now, with the Samsung N510, the company is seeking to reignite the passions of consumers by pairing Intel's Atom with Nvidia's much-touted Ion chipset.

The N510 doesn't impress right away, however, with a physique that's inoffensive rather than drop-dead gorgeous. But, resembling as it does the offspring of Samsung's NC10 and N110 netbooks, the N510 is certainly no ugly duckling. Blending a curvy, slimline physique with a silver strip that arcs around the edges, it's only once you set it against the sharply-tailored likes of the Asus Eee PC 1101HA that it begins to look ordinary.

Samsung N510 rear

But, underneath that Clark Kent exterior lays a superpower in the world of netbooks. We're not talking about the same old 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 processor, the gigabyte of memory, nor the 160GB hard disk, but rather the presence of Nvidia's Ion LE graphics chipset.

Before you get too excited, be aware that Nvidia's Ion LE is no miracle worker. It does, however, add gaming capabilities where there were previously next to none. It won't turn an Atom-powered netbook into a gaming behemoth capable of taking on the likes of Crysis - but, nevertheless, the Samsung manfully struggled to an average of 17fps at 1,024 x 768 and the lowest detail settings in Crysis.

Fire up the likes of Trackmania Nations Forever and the N510 is in its element. Even at the 11.6in display's native resolution of 1,366 x 768, the Ion LE helped the Samsung along to a smooth 27.1fps.

And, more importantly, there's even enough poke to decode 1080p video. Install a media player that supports hardware acceleration - such as the free Media Player Classic Home Cinema - and in addition to enjoying high-definition files on the 11.6in display, you can also hook the N510 up to a large-screen HDTV or projector courtesy of the HDMI port on its left-hand edge.

The one stumbling block at the moment is the lack of acceleration for high definition YouTube and iPlayer video, although we hope that will be rectified soon.

Details

Price ex VAT £332
Price inc VAT £382
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 289 x 200 x 31mm (WDH)
Weight 1.410kg
Travelling weight 1.7kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N280
Motherboard chipset Nvidia nForce 730i
RAM capacity 1.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 11.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Nvidia ION LE
Graphics card RAM 512MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Hard disk usable capacity 149GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/150
Hard disk Samsung HM160HI
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 5,900mAh
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 yes
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 no
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Front edge
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 6hr 30min
Battery life, heavy use 3hr 44min
Overall application benchmark score 0.42
Office application benchmark score 0.54
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.35
Encoding application benchmark score 0.38
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.42
3D performance (crysis) low settings 17fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows XP Home
OS family Windows XP
Recovery method Recovery partition