The 10.1-inch Samsung NS310 netbook offers average performance for a fairly high price. The garish blue case will also make some people want to stab out their eyeballs.
Samsung's shockingly blue NS310 is about as bright and garish as a netbook could possibly be. With a 10.1-inch screen, it's also a good size if you spend plenty of time computing on the go, but you won't get much power from this machine. Packing a 1.5GHz, dual-core Intel Atom N550 processor and 1GB of RAM, the NS310 can be yours for a not inconsiderable £330.
The first thing you'll notice about the NS310 is its garish blue shell. It's the sort of colour you'd normally see on a souped-up Ford Fiesta with neon lights on its underside. Still, if you like gadgets that look like big, blue pebbles, you might like the NS310.
The netbook's appearance divided opinion among the CNET UK team, with some put off by the blue colour, and others admiring the sporty look. We couldn't come to a unanimous decision, so we asked you on our official Facebook page. You generally liked the bright colour but were less keen on the massive Samsung logo emblazoned on top. We can't argue with that. It's hardly subtle branding.
If the blue's too much for you, check out the attractive purple on Samsung's NC110netbook. It's colourful enough to be interesting, without being embarrassing. That netbook's also a smidgen lighter than the NS310, at about 1.2kg compared to 1.3kg, although you'll probably never notice the difference.
Thankfully, the garish lid colour hasn't made its way inside the NS310. Instead, there's just a whole lot of matte black plastic. The keys are of the isolated variety, which we usually prefer, but, in this case, Samsung has made them too small for accurate typing at speed. The left-hand shift key in particular has been made ludicrously tiny, which often resulted in us hitting its neighbour instead.
The trackpad is of an average size for a netbook. It has a pleasant coating that's easy to slide your finger across. It doesn't support multi-touch gestures, though, so you'll have to scroll through documents the old-fashioned way. The buttons beneath it are joined in the middle and easy to click. That's great news if you want to hurtle round the Intertubes, wildly clicking on as many images of cats as you could ever want.
As a 10.1-inch netbook, this chap is very small and bag-friendly. It's light too, so it's great for chucking into a small rucksack and heading out across town. You could pull this netbook out in confined areas and still be able to bang out a quick email, arms tucked neatly in at your sides.
The 10.1-inch screen is bright and displays colours well. Its native resolution of 1,024x600 pixels isn't fantastic, but it's about standard on a netbook of this size. The low vertical resolution means plenty of scrolling up and down is required when browsing the Web, so make sure you've got your fingers fit and ready to manage that trackpad.
There's a pretty standard set of ports on the NS310, including three USB 2.0 ports, VGA out, an Ethernet jack, mic in and headphone out, and an SD card slot. We'd like to have seen an HDMI port too, so that you could hook the NS310 up to a TV, as a 10.1-inch screen will never deliver a truly cinematic experience.
Stuffed inside the blue jacket of the NS310, you'll find a 1.5GHz, dual-core Intel Atom N550 processor paired up with a frankly measly 1GB of RAM. A few years ago, 1GB of RAM may have been enough to power Windows XP through the day and send your browser skimming through the Internet, but it really doesn't get you far now.
In the PCMark05 benchmark test, the NS310 produced a score of 1,571, which is pretty standard for a netbook. It will be able to handle emails, Facebook and some light Web browsing, but don't expect it to run more intensive programs, and don't dare ask it to do several things at once unless you want your face to become as blue as its shell.
The NS310 delivered similar performance to Toshiba's NB500, which packs a single-core, 1.66GHz Intel Atom N455 CPU. The NB500 costs about £100 less than the NS310 though, so the Samsung netbook doesn't seem much of a bargain.
We didn't expect for a second that the NS310 would be able to tackle games, but, even so, we hurled the 3DMark06 benchmark test at it. The netbook achieved a score of 148, so you can rule out playing anything more demanding than Solitaire.
For the money, we'd like to have seen more grunt from the NS310. Samsung's NC110 offers a similar level of performance -- albeit in a less snazzy shell -- for a more affordable £280, making the NS310 seem overpriced by comparison.
Netbooks are designed to accompany you as you gallivant around town, so you'd expect decent battery life. Sadly, though, the NS310 was only able to keep going for 2 hours and 18 minutes in our battery test. This demanding test runs the CPU at a constant 100 per cent, so you'll be able to get longer battery life with lighter use, but the test results still aren't great. By comparison, the Toshiba NB500 managed 4 hours and 23 minutes and Samsung's NF110 kept going for a marathon 5 hours.
The Samsung NS310 offers only average performance for a relatively high price. It may well appeal to those seeking a netbook that looks like it's wearing a shell suit, but your money will probably be better spent elsewhere.
Edited by Charles Kloet