Samsung N110 Netbook
At a Glance
Take everything that we liked about the Samsung NC10, but fix the mouse. That's what the N110 is all about.
I'm going to lay this out to you straight: The Samsung N110 is, at its core, a slightly revamped take on the company's NC10. A bit of streamlining (better plastics and a slimmer profile) here and a couple tweaks (immense improvement on the mouse button) there...it all adds up to polishing away blemishes found on the original version. So if you find some echoes between the two reviews, they're entirely intentional.
Samsung has made an interesting decision to switch from the matte screen on the NC10 to the glossy side of the force. It doesn't matter all that much: The 10.1-inch, 1024-by-600-pixel panel works reasonably in all sorts of lighting conditions. What's notable is that, in a side-by-side comparison, the glossy finish didn't really make the screen on the N110 pop that much more--but it did introduce a bit of glare. I'd almost prefer sticking with the matte screen of the NC10.
Thank goodness Samsung has addressed the troublesome touchpad buttons of its older netbook. On that machine you have to push the button down below the surface in order for the action to register. As a result, if you press the left side of the single-button bar, the right side of the bar juts up. On the N110, the company has fixed the problem quickly and easily by changing the molding on the casing. Even though the dimensions haven't changed from those of the NC10 (10.3 by 7.3 by 1.5 inches), the N110 feels a little more slender. And since Samsung built this mouse button into the curved bottom, it hits the hands more naturally. Generally it seems more secure.
What hasn't changed a whole lot is the keyboard. The buttons satisfy, and the firm, solid keys give a little as you press down. The feel is reminiscent of what you find on the Lenovo IdeaPad S10. Lacking any extra shortcut buttons (like the S10), the N110 comes across as a semi-stylish but bland netbook on the surface. Of course, it all comes down to personal taste. For instance, I think the HP Mini 1000 makes better use of that same amount of space with its wide, flat keyboard.
Otherwise, you're getting the standard-issue layout for a netbook: an SD card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, ethernet, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, headphone and microphone jacks, and a Webcam. And don't forget the tinny speakers--the curse of most netbooks.
If you're familiar with netbooks at all, you know not to expect them to be speed demons. No exception here: The 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 1GB of RAM in the N110 motored through our WorldBench 6 tests with the same verve we saw from the initial pack of netbooks using the same processor. It scored a hair higher than Samsung's previous model, earning a middle-of-the-road mark of 36. Also unremarkable is the fact that the machine comes with a 160GB hard drive. Where it does shine, though, is in the battery-life department: The N110 ran for a staggering 8 hours, 23 minutes. That's long by any stretch--and by netbook standards, it outdoes the competition without having to use an overly meaty battery. The system weighs only 2.7 pounds.
The feature attractions, in my humble opinion, lie in the bundled software package. Samsung Recovery Solution III is a handy backup and system-restore program that even throws in a couple of suggestions regarding the possible causes of your machine's problems, giving you a recommended course of backup action to resolve the matter. Easy Network Manager lets you quickly and effortlessly connect to networks; it's a superfluous bit of software for anyone remotely savvy enough, but it puts a pretty face on the standard Windows XP option. I even like the well-annotated and easily navigable digital user guide. I'm not kidding--I wish every netbook came this well prepared for battle.
Offering an improved mouse button and impressive battery life, the Samsung N110 would make a great choice for your next road trip. At $470, it isn't by any means the cheapest netbook on the block, but it certainly is a handsome, functional one. While I salute Samsung for correcting design flaws present in the NC10, I'd have preferred to see this the first time around.