Handling, design and build: discreet and comfortable to use
Very standard looking, the Samsung N230 Slim plays the sobriety card. Samsung have gone for black matte plastics pretty much all over - they don't pick up marks too quickly. Only the hood is glossy and won't stay clean for long. The overall quality and look of the N230 doesn't diappoint but it is however a little down on the new generations of competitor netbooks (Asus and HP for example) Some elements, such as the screen hinge with its plastic chrome material, seem a little substandard. Generally speaking, now in 2010, we expect to see a better finish with nicer looking plastics.
The keyboard with separated keys (14 x 13 mm) gives comfortable and quiet keying. The keys are supple and typing is rapid. We like the fact that any resizing has been done thoughtfully.
The touchpad (multi-touch) has a matte surface, which gives a very good glide. It's precise and pleasant to use. It's comfortably enough sized (72 x 36,5 mm) and its 16:9 format corresponds well to the screen.
Webcam quality is just about fine. The colours tend slightly towards yellow and there is also some overexposure of the light areas of the image. Fluidity is acceptable and the overall image fine for occasional instant messaging use.
The Samsung N230 Slim is very quiet and its fan effective. You have to strain a bit to hear it. During heavy calculations (photo retouching, video editing), the speed of the fan increases a bit, without however making the PC noisy.
Connectivity is as standard as it comes. a VGA, 3 USB 2.0 posts, an RJ45, a headphones socket, a microphone and a 4-in-1 memory card reader. Wi-Fi b/g/n is of course included and is accompanied by Bluetooth 3.0.
A small panel opens under the PC to give access to the RAM. Apart from that and the removable battery, there's no access to any of the other components.
|Samsung N230 Slim
||Power, USB 2.0, mic, headphones
|Touchpad and clicks
||2 USB 2.0s, VGA, anti-theft
Processing: mainly office docs and internet
No surprises here, the Intel Atom N450 - omnipresent with netbooks - is mainly for office document processing and the internet. You can extend this to photo retouching and video editing as long as you've plenty of patience and time, as such processing will take between 3 and 6 times as long as on a standard laptop.
Our test protocol is now based on the one used for processors. It's no surprise that the Atom N450 used here scores 19 on our index, compared to 100 for our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400).
You won't be able to play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on this machine. You'll have to make do with DVD or DivX type compressed videos. The new GMA 3150 graphics part is limited to HD 720p video, which is really a shame when you know that the older Poulsbo platform (Intel Atom Z series processors) is able to give 1080p video playback.
3D gaming: a few old titles no more
Generally speaking, gaming on netbooks is only for real enthusiasts willing to put up with highly compromised quality. Only models with ATI or NVIDIA ION graphics chips can handle a few recent games and even then as long as the CPU doesn't cut down performance too much (a single core Intel Atom is insufficient).
Audio: headphones a must
The audio is always the poor relation when it comes to netbooks. Without being terrible here, the sound is nevertheless bad: lack of bass, dry, no depth, dominance of top end. No miracles here, you have to use the headphones out, which is thankfully clean with no hiss.
Mobility, battery life: limited by its 3-cell battery
A slim line and light weight come at a cost to battery life. Here Samsung has chosen a 3-cell 2950 mAh battery for its N230 Slim. Battery life is therefore half what you get with the Samsung N210 (7h06 with its 5900 mAh battery). The Samsung N230 Slim gives 3h44 video playback time (Wi-Fi deactived, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²), which is good for such a slim and light netbook.
Of course, compared to the Asus Eee PC 1015PE (8h03) and the MSI Wind U115 (from 7 to 9H52 on SSD), the N230 doesn't look good. We would have liked to see a version of the N230 with an SSD as this would lighten it still more and allow Samsung to fit in a larger battery to improve battery life.
Size is the N230 Slim's strong point - it weighs just one kg and doesn't exceed 23.2 mm in thickness! Ideal for carrying around, the charger that comes with this nebook is also very slim (88 x 35 x 26 mm).