Hardware: a scratch resistant hood
The hard plastic coating used for the hood is very resistant to scratches, which is important on a product that's likely to spend much of its life in a rucksack. In spite of its glossy finish, finger marks aren’t too visible. We had feared a lot worse.
Once you’ve opened it, you’ll notice a slightly glossy black panel around the screen. The rest is in matte grey and the design is harmonious overall.
We were impressed with the keyboard. Samsung has used almost all the available width (there’s a band of less than 5 mm on the sides). The chiclet style keys are a decent size and are positioned in the standard way, giving nice quiet keying.
The glide on the multitouch touchpad is fluid. It occupies all the available height on the palm rest. Samsung has put the available space to good use, though the noise made by the clicks does take away from the positive overall impression.
The webcam is pretty standard. Bright environments are correctly displayed but there’s a big loss in detail in darker rooms. It’ll do as a fallback solution for videoconferencing but that’s about it.
The connectivity hasn’t evolved since the netbooks of 2010. The NC210 has a power supply socket, three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA out, headphones and mic sockets and an RJ45 port. At the front, there’s also an SD card reader.
Given the sales price, which has no bearing on the rating, a USB 3.0 port, either in addition to the USB 2.0 ports or as a replacement for one of them, wouldn't have gone amiss.
Neither noise nor heat levels are an issue here. When pushing the components hard – demanding applications – it’s best to avoid sitting the NC210 on your knees. You’ll also want to be somewhere where there’s a slight background noise to cover the sound of the fan. With office document work there’s no problem however. It stays cool and quiet.
Hood from the side
Power supply, RJ45 and USB 2.0 port
Headphones socket, mic, USB 2.0 (X2) and VGA
Processor power: netbook-like performance
The Intel Atom N550 used here with 1 GB of RAM means this netbook won’t stand out from the competition. A standard netbook configuration, then, which allows you to process office document work and browse the Internet. If this isn’t enough for you, you’ll have to move up the range to an ultraportable.
It handles HD video decoding up to 720p, but at 1080p videos are jumpy. Once again, here, the NC210 is on a par with the great majority of competitor models.
Samsung has however added a little in-house feature with ‘Fast Start’. This allows the NC210 to come out of prolonged standby in under seven seconds (our reading). This gains you time on the standard standby setting and will extend battery life.
Gaming: retro only
Netbooks and gaming never marry all that well. You won’t be able to run any recent titles, just a few undemanding or older ones.
Audio: okay for a netbook
While it won't shake the walls, the NC210 is equipped with speakers that do okay for a netbook. The sound is clean and controlled.
The ins/outs are rather variable. The headphones out offers a very honourable performance, with dynamics of around 90 dB and crosstalk that allows you to enjoy all the detail. The dynamics drop to 60 dB on the mic in: we’ve seen better.
Battery life and portability: 4H45 video playback
The NC210 isn’t among the smallest or lightest but will slip into your bag no problem and won’t strain your spine. Nor is its battery life going to break any records. During testing, this 10.1-inch gave 4H45 (video playback, screen at 100 cd/m², headphones plugged in, wi-fi and Bluetooth off). This is almost 30 minutes down on the NC110 – also from Samsung – which has an identical (or almost) configuration but which costs less.