Samsung N210 review
A welcome redesign and impressive battery life should continue Samsung's run of netbook success
Rather than build on the excellence of both the original NC10 and its successor, the N110, Samsung's latest netbook wipes the slate clean and starts afresh. Rather than another identikit netbook, the Samsung N210 dares to be different.
The transformation sees it put on a few grams to tip the scales at a chunky 1.33kg, but it emerges from the redesign looking more sharply tailored and businesslike than before. The lid gleams with a glossy grey pinstripe and, while it's no slimline waif, its classy, finely-honed figure is framed by a pretty chrome strip skirting its edge. For just £253 exc VAT, the N210 is a fine-looking netbook.
As with all the netbooks currently being refreshed, the N210 adopts Intel's latest Pine Trail platform. The specification is almost identical to its competitors: there's 1GB of memory, 250GB of storage, and the sparkly chrome trim houses three USB ports, a 10/100 Ethernet socket and an SD/MMC card reader. Wireless networking stretches up to 802.11n speeds, and there's Bluetooth thrown into the mix, but nothing really lifts the N210 above the crowd.
Performance is also in line with its rivals, as you'd expect given the identikit hardware. A score of 0.3 in our benchmarks is no faster than the original NC10, which is a little disappointing given the newer components and the length of time that's passed.
Thanks to the large 5,900mAh battery, though, the Samsung has enough stamina on tap to comfortably best much of the competition. It finally expired after more than nine hours of light use. Push it to its modest limits and Pine Trail's efficiency really shines through: even toiling away at full pelt with the display brightness set to maximum, the N210 kept going for just short of six hours.
Samsung's decision to replace the excellent keyboards of previous models with a new-fangled Scrabble-tile effort pays off. There's a positive action at the end of every keystroke, and the broad spacing between keys reduces the risk of typos. In fact, the only thing we hankered after was a slightly bigger right Shift key; we frequently found ourselves hitting Backslash by mistake.
The Samsung's appeal slips a little when it comes to the 10.1in screen, however. Its matte finish reduces reflectivity, but it adds a grainy quality to images. Combined with muted colour reproduction, it's enough to leave the N210 lagging a little behind the best.
The inclusion of an instant-on OS, HyperSpace, also seems entirely pointless given the inclusion of Windows 7 Starter. With Windows 7 rousing from slumber within seconds, it begs the question why anyone would bother using, let alone need, an instant-on environment at all.
Despite its minor shortcomings, though, Samsung's latest has what it takes to make a more than worthy successor to the superb N110. Deciding between this and Toshiba's NB305 is now almost purely a matter of taste, but the N210's combination of gargantuan battery life, slick new looks and good ergonomics make it one of the best netbooks around.
|Price ex VAT||£261|
|Price inc VAT||£307|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||6|
|Warranty||1yr collect and return|
|Dimensions||265 x 189 x 29mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom N450|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel NM10|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||1|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,024|
|Resolution screen vertical||600|
|Resolution||1024 x 600|
|Graphics chipset||Intel GMA 3150|
|Graphics card RAM||64MB|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||233GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Hard disk||Samsung HM250HI|
|Optical disc technology||None|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|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||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Speaker location||Front edge|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||9hr 9min|
|Battery life, heavy use||5hr 50min|
|Overall application benchmark score||0.30|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Starter|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs|