Handling, design and build: good but not perfect
The NF310 is generally pretty nice on the eye. No hard lines here, rather a nice rounded shell. Note the two shark-like fins on either side of the keyboard. Samsung has gone for a mix of plastics: glossy for the hood and around the screen and matte for the inside and bottom. It's well-finished, except for the wrist rest which gives too much when you press down on it too hard.
The keyboard with separated keys (14 x 14 mm) gives supple and quiet keying. Our main reproach is with the keys on the right hand side. The 'Shift' key is too small when touch typing and you might find yourself hitting the 'Alt' or 'Enter' keys instead of the arrow keys.
The 7.5 cm long metal-coloured multi-touch touchpad stands out nicely. The glide is fluid and precise. We would however have liked it to be slightly wider.
The webcam is ok for occasional use, with acceptable fluidity. Note however the weak contrast and a tendency towards overexposure of the light areas of the image.
The NF310's fan does well and the machine hardly heats up at all. It is pretty much inaudible when processing office documents and only really gets going during more demanding tasks (retouching photos, video editing). Even then, it's easily covered by the sound of a film or music.
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.
Hood (watch out for fingermarks)
Power in, USB 2.0, headphones, mic
Processing: mainly office docs and Internet
The N550 destins this laptop for mainly office and Internet usage. Although you can do some photo retouching and music or video encoding, you'll need to be patient as we're a long way behind what you get from your average notebook.
Windows 7 Starter takes 45 seconds to boot. It turns off in under fifteen seconds. Once the desktop has come up you can use it straight away, while in general you have to wait for a computer to launch various processes that run in the background.
You won't be able to play HD 1080p (Blu-ray equivalent) on this machine - too jumpy. You'll have to make do with DVD or DivX type compressed videos. The GMA 3150 graphics can play HD 720p but nothing much more.
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). As the NF310 Shark can't count on its integrated chipset, it isn't in this category.
Audio: headphones a must
Laptops with speakers under the shell are often criticised for their mediocre, sketchy sound. Unfortunately, here, the keyboard positioning is not what it could be. Fortunately, however, the headphones out does ok.
Mobility, battery life: a decent showing
The NF310 gave 5H15 video playback before giving up the ghost (wi-fi deactivated, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²). This is pretty decent, though it doesn't compete with the Wind U115's record of 9H52. This puts it on a par with the less powerful Samsung N140.
The NF310 slips easily into a small bag. It weighs a lightish 1.3 Kg.
- Matte panel
- Touchpad is nice to use
- Comfortable keyboard
- Poor quality screen
- No HD video playback
- No HDMI out
- Ctrl, Shift and arrow keys too small
In the netbook category, the NF310 gives decent battery life. It's a shame that Samsung has settled for such a poor quality screen however. The 1015PEM has the same configuration with a much better panel but lower battery life.