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Samsung N310 review: Samsung N310

Samsung N310

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 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
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

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.


Samsung N310

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?

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.

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.

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.

Samsung includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a toll-free phone line, available daily from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST. Web-based chat with a support tech is available 8a.m.-midnight, Monday through Friday. The online knowledge base and FAQ sections of Samsung's Web site seem well-stocked with useful guides and driver downloads.

Jalbum photo conversion test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Samsung N310
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Hitachi 5400rpm

HP Mini 5101
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Seagate 7200rpm

Dell Inspiron Mini 10v
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 120GB Western Digital 5400rpm

Hannspree Hannsnote SN10E11BUF
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Fujitsu 5400rpm

Lenovo Ideapad S10-2
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Western Digital 5400rpm

Asus Eee PC 1005HA
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Hitachi 5400rpm


Samsung N310

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Battery 8Support 6