Review: Samsung N210

 
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Published: February 18, 2010 11:00 PM
By Fabien Pionneau
After the success of the N140, Samsung took another step towards creating the ultimate netbook with the NC10.  The N210 takes all of the elements that contributed to the success of the previous two models: matte plastic for the screen and the inside of the case, a comfortable keyboard and, most importantly, battery life, which has surged forward again thanks with Intel's new Pine Trail platform.

Handling, design and build: the most comfortable netbook

Showing its family pedigree, the N210 has the same refined, elegant design that appeals to as wide a range of users as its predecessors.  The N210 is a great example of an attractive product that doesn't rely on acres of glossy plastic.  The inside is made up entirely of matte surfaces, which is great as it avoids both unwanted reflections and the appearance of dust and greasy fingerprints.  The outside is no less attractive, with a gorgeous grey plexiglass cover.  Fingerprints are of course more obvious here, but it's only fair to acknowledge the progress Samsung has made: the exterior of the N210 is much harder to get dirty than the glossy black found on the N140. 

Samsung N210 keyboard

The keyboard uses small flat chiclet keys measuring 13.5 x 13 mm and they're pretty responsive.  Some people will like the look and feel, but others won't.  Samsung has struck a good compromise between robust keys and quiet typing.  We're glad to see that some keys, like Ctrl, Alt and Shift are larger than normal, which makes using them for keyboard shortcuts much easier.

The multitouch touchpad doesn't get left behind either.  It's one of the best we've ever seen on a netbook.  Moving your finger across it is smooth, fast and accurate, and using it is an excellent experience.  You can easily do without your mouse most of the time.  Multitouch makes things like zooming or scrolling (with two fingers) easier, and is very handy.

Samsung N210 webcamThe webcam produces a decent quality image, despite only having a resolution of 0.3 Megapixels.  We've certainly seen worse.  The brightness is acceptable, although overexposed areas end up burned out.  It's still a shame that movements were't smoother, as well as the lack of detail.

In general, the N210 reassigns quiet, and the fan is barely audible when you're using it for typing or browsing.  It gets louder when it's working harder--editing photos or videos for instance--but without becoming irritating.  The netbook remains cool to the touch, which is a sign of effective cooling and limited heat dissipation.  No doubt the new Pine Trail technology from Intel has something to do with that.

The range of inputs and outputs is pretty basic, with three USB 2.0 ports (one of which you can still use for charging other devices even if the netbook is switched off); an Ethernet port; a line in and line out; VGA and a three-in-one memory card reader.  Bluetooth and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi are also available.

Underneath, a single flap opens to give access to the RAM, the only internal component you can change yourself.

Samsung N210 Samsung N210
Power block, RJ45, USB 2.0 port and line in and out

2 USB 2.0 and VGA

Samsung N210 Samsung N210
Webcam

Touchpad


Processor Power: office use mostly
Windows 7 index: 2.4. Details: CPU 2.4 - Memory 4.5 - Graphics 3.1 - Gaming graphics 3.0 - Main hard drive 5.9.

Intel's Pine Trail platform is supposed to breathe new life into notebooks.  With graphics integrated into the same chip as the CPU, at the very least it should help reduce energy consumption.  We weren't, however, expecting any revolutionary improvements in performance, and if you are looking for a more powerful computer, you might well be disappointed. 

The N210, which has an Intel Atom N450, generally performed worse than its predecessors the N140 and NC10 which used the N270, and more significantly, ran Windows XP.  The move to Windows 7 doesn't seem to have improved performance, and the N210 was indexed at 19, compared to 20 for the N140.  An index of 100 is equivalent to the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi 3650, our standard reference, which has an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor.  That's still good enough for surfing the web and using office software, as well as more complicated tasks like editing photos or encoding video, as long as you're patient: some tasks can take three to six times longer than on a faster machine.

You can't play 1080p HD (Blu-ray equivalent) content on this machine, so you'll have to make do with DVD quality or compressed DivX videos.  The graphics are limited to 720p HD, which is a real shame as we know that the Poulsbo platform is capable of handling 1080p.

3D Gaming: only the simplest titles

Gaming on a netbook is something best attempted by dedicated fans.  You can only really use laptops with ATI or Nvidia ION graphics cards to be able to enjoy the most recent games, as long as the processor doesn't hold them back; a single core Intel Atom processor just isn't enough. 

Audio Quality: not much better: stick to headphones

We were hoping that the Samsung N210 would offer better quality audio.  Unfortunately, though, audio remains a weakness for this netbook, like it does for so many others.  Treble dominates, but with no bass, the result is a dry, flat sound that isn't much fun to listen to.  Fortunately, the headphone jack is much better, and allows you to enjoy your music in much better conditions.

Portability & Battery Life: Samsung takes second place!

A combination of the low-consumption Pine Trail platform and a new six-cell 5900 mAh battery allow the N210 to really do well here, with a battery life of 7 hours 6 minutes in our stand test (video playback with WiFi turned off, headphones plugged in and brightness set to 100 cd/m²).  That's 1 h 33 longer than the Samsung N140, and 2 h 17 longer than the NC10!  The MSI Wind U115 is still up there at the front with 7 - 9 h 52 of battery life.

The N210 is still pretty portable despite its large battery, and weighs in at 1.31 kg overall.  The power adaptor isn't too big, although we have definitely seen better.
5/5 Samsung N210 DigitalVersus 2010-02-19 00:00:00

Pros

  • Matte finish and display
  • Battery life: 7 h 6!
  • Incredibly comfortable to use
  • Well made
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Poor quality screen
  • Default colours aren't accurate
  • Still can't handle HD video
  • Performance still limited

Conclusion

We weren't surprised to see the N210 sail past Samsung's previous netbooks. It is one of the best of the current crop, with great battery life and a comfortable user experience. It's a very solid performer, and only let down by the quality of its screen and speakers. All that the NC10 has left on its side is its price tag: the N210 beats it hands down in every other area.

OUR SCORE 5/5
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