Samsung has just added to its burgeoning netbook range with the N210 -- not to be confused with the Samsung N120. This is a typical 10-incher with a 1.6GHz Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. Given the glut of machines that feature a near identical specification, is it another average face in the crowd, or is will its fashionably late appearance guarantee it some attention?
It might be a netbook, but the N210 isn't particularly cute. Its 265 x 189 x 35.6mm, 1.34Kg chassis is certainly small enough to draw admiring glances from passes by, but its grey lid gives it a more serious appearance than many of its rivals.
Although it's grey, the N210 isn't dull. The lid has an intricate miniature brickwork pattern (it's sexier than it sounds, honest) and is coated with a silky, translucent layer of plastic that easily helps this machine look more stylish than Samsung's first wave of netbooks. Anyone with a keen eye for design will be pleased to note that same pattern appears again just above the keyboard and again on the base of the machine.
Shiny's crappy, people
Open the N210's lid and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Its 10-inch display has a matte coating, which means you'll be able to use the N210 it in a variety of lighting conditions -- even outdoors -- without it turning into a £280 mirror. Despite its lack of a glossy coating, the screen delivers good image fidelity -- colours are punchy, there's decent contrast and viewing angles are good for a machine at this price.
The N210's keyboard is among the best keyboards we've seen on a netbook. Its keys, despite being relatively small, are isolated, so when your fat, meandering fingers go astray, they're less likely to accidentally strike an adjacent button. Unlike some netbook keyboards, important, but less frequently used, buttons -- such as the return key, left shift, return, and the cursor buttons -- are all of a good size. This means you never have to fish around too long looking for them. The mouse selector buttons are a little too small for our liking, but given that the mouse trackpad itself offers multi-touch navigation, this is a small gripe.
Not holier than thou
Connectivity on the N210 is fairly standard for a netbook. Wireless networking is present and correct thanks to a 802.11n Wi-Fi controller and it has Bluetooth 2.1. The right side of the machine has a couple of USB ports and a D-Sub VGA video output (sadly, HDMI isn't present) while the front edge gets an SD memory card slot and the power switch. The right side houses a 100Mbps Ethernet port, mic and headphone jacks and -- more unusually -- a USB port that can be used to charge your USB gadgets whether the laptop is on, in standby mode, or switched off completely.