Samsung N310 review: Samsung N310

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MSRP: $479.00

The Good Unique, rugged design; excellent battery life.

The Bad High-end Netbook price, without the high-end extras.

The Bottom Line Samsung brings a different look to a generic Netbook build with the N310, but is there any good reason this costs almost $500?

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7.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 8
  • Support 6

We've gotten to the point where mainstream Netbooks are a fairly rigid format. Slap together an Intel Atom N270 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, and a copy of Windows XP, and you've got your hands on essentially the same product sold by PC makers such as Dell, HP, and Acer.

The Samsung Go N310 doesn't stray far from that territory, but it at least manages to pack those familiar parts into a fun, colorful plastic shell. We dug the unique design that reminded us of vintage retro-modern home electronics, but at $479, it's way overpriced for a system that lacks high-end extras such as an HD display or 3G antenna.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $479
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory 1GB, 800MHz DDR2
Hard drive 250GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel 945GSE
Graphics Intel GMA 950 (integrated)
Operating system Windows XP Home SP3
Dimensions (WD) 10.3 x 7.3 inches
Height 1.1 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.0 / 3.7 pounds
Category Netbook

Samsung says the N310's unique look was, "designed by award-winning Japanese artist Naoto Fukasawa and features smoothly rounded edges that resemble a pebble that's been worn down by wind and waterfall." We think it looks like a nicely self-contained package, with a rounded clamshell case that feels hermetically sealed when folded shut. Some of our colleagues, however, thought it looked somewhat toylike.

Our system was sunset orange, but midnight blue, jet black, and mint blue are also available. The interior keyboard tray and screen bezel are jet black and contrast nicely with the deep orange exterior.

The keyboard has flat-topped, widely spaced keys that are very similar to what you'd find on a Sony Vaio Netbook. We've seen wider key surfaces on other Netbooks, but typing was a comfortable, easy experience, and important keys, such as the Shift, Control, and Tab, are reasonably sized.

The generous touchpad is unfortunately combined with a thin, cheap-feeling rocker-bar style mouse button. We much prefer separate left and right mouse buttons, which are practically a necessity if you do a lot of right-clicking.

The 10.1-inch wide-screen LED display offers a 1,024x600 native resolution, which is standard for a Netbook, although Netbooks this expensive often have better 1,366x768 screens. While it may be a bit of a glare-magnet, we're fond of the sharp-looking edge-to-edge glass over the display.

  Samsung Go N310 Average for category [Netbook]
Video VGA-out VGA
Audio Stereo speakers, 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 DVD burner None

While the collection of ports and connections on the N310 isn't surprising, they are integrated in a somewhat unusual way. The USB and audio jacks are slightly recessed into the chassis, while the Ethernet jack is hidden behind a plastic tab. The VGA video output extends out, rather than being recessed, and is covered with a small rubber sheath--it seems like a Band-Aid approach to a design flaw, and something you'll probably lose right away.

As one might expect, the Intel Atom N270 processor and 1GB of RAM performed on par with other similarly configured Netbooks, and we found the N310 to fall well within Netbook performance parameters in anecdotal use. Our standard Netbook admonitions apply: they're very useful machines, as long as one keeps expectations modest, and sticks mostly to Web surfing, e-mail, and working on office docs.

Juice box
Samsung Go N310 Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.38
Sleep (10 percent) 0.67
Idle (25 percent) 9.85
Load (5 percent) 16.9
Raw kWh 31.56
Annual energy cost $3.58

The Samsung Go N310 ran for 5 hours and 51 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 6-cell battery. That big battery adds a little weight and bulk to the system, but doesn't stick out too noticeably, so it seems like a fair trade-off. Our battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

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