Samsung N120 review: Samsung N120

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MSRP: $399.00

The Good Giant keyboard (for a Netbook) and 2.1 speaker system.

The Bad More expensive than most Netbooks.

The Bottom Line Part of Samsung's second generation of Netbooks, the N120 offers a generous keyboard and some unexpected audio power.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Battery 9
  • Support 7

In additional to the fairly generic N110 Netbook, Samsung also offers a slightly tweaked version for those who find Netbook keyboards too small and Netbook speakers too wimpy. The Samsung N120 takes the N110's basic component sent and jams in a keyboard of the sort we'd normally find on a larger 12-inch laptop, along with a 2.1-speaker sound system, that offers at least a modest amount of thump (if you keep your expectations realistic).

Both the N110 and N120 models are $469, which puts them $100-$120 above comparably equipped systems from Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and others. While we thought that was too hefty a premium for the N110, the N120's keyboard and speakers at least provide a few points of differentiation from the rest of the Intel Atom/160GB HDD/1GB RAM crowd. If it was $399, we'd heartily recommend it; as-is, it's worth a serious look if you crave a more traditional keyboard experience from your Netbook.

Price as reviewed $469
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory 1GB, 533MHz DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel 945GM Express
Graphics Mobile Intel GMA 950 (integrated)
Operating System Windows XP
Dimensions (WD) 10.7x7.4 inches
Height 1.2 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.8 / 3.6 pounds
Category Netbook

The Samsung N120 is about half an inch wider than the N110 model, but almost identical in depth and height. This gives the system a slightly bigger footprint than most Netbooks, closer in size to a slim 12-inch ultraportable. We much prefer the matte black finish on the N120 to the glossy design of the N110, which was especially prone to fingerprints and smudges.

The keyboard has a traditional tapered key design, with individual keys that are wider at the base, and narrower at the top, instead of the flat-key design used by many Netbook makers, including Dell, HP, and Asus. However, the larger footprint allows Samsung to fit in a larger keyboard, equivalent to what we'd typically find on a 12-inch laptop. Using the keyboard on the N120 was a great experience, on par with our favorite, the HP Mini 1000, and arguably better, depending on your typing style. The touch pad was also excellent (for a small Netbook touch pad), and the specially demarcated scroll zone made it easy to vertically move up and down on long pages.

The system's 2.1 speakers, a main selling point, certainly provide better audio than your average Netbook (or even some mainstream laptops we've heard), but we'd still only use them for Web video viewing or presentations--you're not going to be DJing through the N120 at your next house party. The two main speakers are on either side of the display, while the subwoofer is on the left side edge of the body, and seems to add more volume than low frequencies.

The 10.1-inch LCD screen has a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, 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.

  Samsung N120 Average for category [Netbook]
Audio headphone/microphone jacks headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion None None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

Like the Samsung N110, this model lacks the ExpressCard readers found on several other Netbooks in this price range, but we were pleased to see three USB ports--many Netbooks have only two--as well as Bluetooth.

It won't come as a surprise, but with identical internal components, the Samsung N110 and N120 Netbooks has virtual identical performance scores in our benchmark tests, and were substantially similar to other Netbooks with Intel's 1.6GHz Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM. For basic tasks such as world 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 applications simultaneously, for example, can lead to slowdown and stuttering.

The N120 ran for 5 hours and 14 minutes on our video playback battery drain test using the included six-cell battery. That's excellent, but about an hour less than the N110 version, which lacks the more powerful speakers.

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 representative.

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