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Samsung N110 review: Samsung N110

Samsung N110

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a semi-regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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Samsung, long an international laptop player, re-entered the U.S. computer market last year with a functional (if not exactly exciting) slate of systems, including the NC10 Netbook. Despite its generic looks, we liked its long battery life, and the follow-up N110 model is similarly impressive.

OVR
7.3

Samsung N110

The Good

Good keyboard and touch pad for a Netbook; excellent battery life.

The Bad

At the higher end of the Netbook price range; uninspired design.

The Bottom Line

Samsung's second-generation Netbook, the N110, offers extended life without adding too much battery bulk.

The $469 N110 manages to cram a 6-cell battery into a fairly slim frame, and also fixes the original's too-small touch pad. But, at almost $500, it's more expensive than the competition, despite offering the same Intel Atom/160GB HDD/1GB RAM components. The N110 remains a solid example of the form, but there are several sub-$400 Netbooks (such as the Lenovo S10) that do the same job for less.

The Samsung N110 is a fairly anonymous-looking Netbook, with a matte black interior (accented by a very subtle maroon stripe around the outer edge), and a glossy, black lid. Unfortunately, the glossy surface of the lid was among the more smudge and fingerprint-friendly we've encountered, and keeping it looking clean for even a single day was a struggle. While not as thin as something like the HP Mini 1000, Samsung gets points for making a Netbook with a 6-cell battery that doesn't look like it has a kickstand.

The keyboard is of the more traditional tapered key design, with individual keys that are wider at the base, and narrower at the top. We've seen many more PC makers, including Dell, HP, and Asus, move to a flat-key design. Still, the keys were large and we were especially pleased to see a big right Shift key; that's one that sometimes gets butchered on compact keyboard layouts. The touch pad on the N110 is slightly larger than on the original, and is about as good as we've seen on a Netbook--it even includes a specially demarcated scroll zone.

The 10.1-inch LCD display has a native resolution of 1,024x600, which is standard for Netbooks. That's generally fine for most Web surfing, but long, vertical pages and Word documents can require a lot of scrolling to read. We were, however, disappointed to see the matte screen finish of the original NC10 replaced with a glossy one. Most consumer laptops have glossy screens, but we generally find that the glare on the overly reflective glossy surface outweighs advantages, which include more vibrant colors and better overall brightness.

While it lacks the ExpressCard readers found on several other Netbooks in this price range, we were pleased to see three USB ports; many Netbooks have only two.

With Intel's 1.6GHz Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM, there aren't a lot of surprises with the N110's performance. We've found that systems with AMD's Neo processor and Via Nano CPU--both aimed at a similar Netbook audience--are slightly better at single-app tests, while the Atom performs faster in our multitasking test. For basic tasks such as word processing, Web surfing, and e-mail, an Atom-powered Netbook is more than adequate, as long as you keep your expectations modest. Opening too many browser windows at once, or running several apps simultaneously, for example, can lead to slowdown and stuttering.

The N110 ran for 6 hours and 8 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 6-cell battery. That's fantastic, especially considering that our battery drain test is especially grueling. Only the Acer Aspire One AOD150 did better among Netbooks, and even then only by about 10 minutes.

Samsung includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and the Samsung Web site offers an online knowledge base, driver downloads, troubleshooting, and live chat with a support rep.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Samsung N110
3,782 
Samsung NC20
7,218 

Jalbum photo conversion test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Samsung N110
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Samsung 5400rpm

HP Pavilion dv2
Windows Vista Home Edition SP1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo Processor MV-40; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3140; 320GB Western Digital 5400rpm

Samsung NC20
Windows XP Professional SP3; 1.3GHz VIA Nano U2250; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB VIA/SG3 Chrome9 HC3 IGP; 160GB TK 5400rpm

Acer Aspire One AOD150
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Lenovo Ideapad S10 (6-cell battery)
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 64MB Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Western Digital 5400rpm

OVR
7.3

Samsung N110

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6Battery 9Support 7