The Samsung NC110 is a great budget netbook, offering a classy design, excellent keyboard and a dual-core chip that ensures good performance when it comes to day-to-day tasks.
The 10.1-inch NC110 is the spiritual successor to Samsung's very first netbook, the popular NC10. Priced at around £280, it slots into the budget end of the market, but still has plenty of features tucked into its small frame, including a dual-core processor.
Since launching the NC10 in 2009, Samsung has consistently managed to come up with stylish designs for its netbooks, and the NC110 is just the latest example. Available in a range of colours, including the eye-catching purple version we had in for review, it's a great-looking laptop with a classy glossy finish on the lid that's complemented beautifully by the all-white keyboard and palm rest. Viewed from the side, it has a swooping, curved profile that really looks the business.
Flip the lid open and you're met with a 10.1-inch display that has a narrower bezel than many competing netbooks. The screen is slightly unusual for a netbook too in that it has a matte finish that helps to pretty much eliminate screen reflections. As a result, it's much less tiring on your eyes if used under bright overhead lighting.
The display has a pretty standard netbook resolution of 1,024x600 pixels, but its viewing angles are quite wide, so you won't find yourself having to adjust it too often. It's bright and colours are fairly punchy too.
On the keyboard, Samsung has opted for isolated keys, with a fair amount of space between them. Because of this, accidentally hitting an adjacent key when hammering away at speed just isn't an issue. The keys have more travel than you'd think and they feel very responsive, so they're comfortable to type on. The layout is good too, with only some of the more minor punctuation keys reduced to two-thirds size. We're also fans of the trackpad -- at three inches across, it provides you with plenty of room to sweep the cursor around the screen.
Like most budget netbooks, this one doesn't have an HDMI port, so instead you're limited to the VGA connector if you want to hook it up to a larger display. Nevertheless, it does have three USB ports and one of these supports 'sleep and charge'. This allows you to charge portable devices, such as digital cameras, while the laptop is turned off.
As you'd expect, there's an Ethernet jack and Wi-Fi built in, although, sadly, there's no Bluetooth support. Under the front lip, on the right-hand side, you'll find an SD card reader, and the 250GB hard drive provides a decent amount of space for storing documents and media files.
Like the vast majority of today's netbooks, the NC110 runs Microsoft's Windows 7 Starter operating system. Because of this, it has just 1GB of RAM, as Microsoft doesn't allow Starter to be sold on computers with any more memory than that. You can upgrade the RAM later if you want, but the NC110 only supports a maximum of 2GB. Adding an extra 1GB of memory is likely to improve performance considerably, especially when it comes to multitasking and switching between apps.
The NC110 uses a dual-core Intel Atom N550, clocked at 1.5GHz. In the PCMark05 benchmark test, it managed to post a score of 1,607, which is not far off the score of Toshiba's NB520, which uses the same processor. Day-to-day tasks like surfing the Web and word processing are handled well, but, as with all netbooks, the NC110 can be very sluggish when trying to multitask.
When it comes to 3D graphics, the NC110 is as hopeless as all other Atom-equipped machines we've seen. The integrated graphics only managed a limp 148 in the 3DMark06 benchmark test, and it's not great at high-definition video decoding either. It'll handle standard-definition YouTube videos without any problems, but HD videos play at an unacceptably low frame rate. For video playback, Toshiba's N550D, which uses an AMD C-50 chip, is a much better option.
The netbook's battery life is good. In the extremely intensive Battery Eater Classic test, it managed to keep running for 4 hours and 52 minutes, which puts it up there with some of the best-performing models. You should get much longer battery life with normal usage.
Overall, the Samsung NC110 is a fine budget netbook, and a worthy successor to the original NC10. It may not excel at video playback, but it offers a really stylish design, decent performance for day-to-day tasks, and a good screen and keyboard.
Edited by Charles Kloet