Samsung N210: Attractive Best Buy-Exclusive Netbook Has Great Features, Middling Battery Life
At a Glance
The Samsung N210's matte screen is easy to see in various lighting conditions, but the colors are a little washed out.
The Samsung N210, a Best Buy exclusive, is one of the better-looking netbooks we've seen, with a shiny white top, sleek chrome accents, and a comfortable keyboard. Though it isn't great at playing video, it does have fairly decent speakers. It also features an instant-on capability that allows you to get online without having to wait for Windows to start up.
Our review model, priced at $379 (as of March 29, 2010), features a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive, and it runs Windows 7 Starter Edition. It also has a 10.1-inch matte display, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a built-in Webcam and microphone.
The Samsung N210 is housed in a pearl white chassis; the top has a subtle textured pattern underneath a glossy finish. The interior features a matte white finish, with a chrome accent band around the edges. Three USB 2.0 ports (two on the right and one on the left) are available; one of the ports is a sleep-and-charge plug, which allows you to charge USB devices even while the computer is in sleep mode. The N210 also has a VGA out-port, an ethernet connection, and microphone and headphone jacks. The power switch is located on the front, as is the three-in-one multiformat memory card slot.
Weighing 2.82 pounds including the battery, the Samsung N210 measures 10.5 by 7.4 by 1.15 inches. The six-cell battery--which is tucked under the chassis and sticks out only slightly--lasted about 6 hours, 43 minutes in our battery life tests, about an hour or two less than other netbooks with six-cell batteries. The instant-on option is not as attractive as it sounds, since it still takes a moment to start (you might as well just turn on the computer).
At 93 percent of the size of the keys on a normal keyboard, the white "island-style" (or Chiclet-style) keys are fairly easy to type on. The spacebar is a bit narrow, but the Shift keys are huge--practically the size of regular Shift keys--and the Tab key and Ctrl keys are also pretty big. A lot of netbook keyboards skimp on these non-letter keys, but I'm happy to say that typing on the N210's keyboard is almost like typing on a full-size Chiclet-style keyboard. Even the function keys are a fairly good size, considering.
The touchpad is also big for a netbook, and features a rocker instead of two distinct keys. It supports multitouch gestures (such as pinching to zoom in), and is reasonably sensitive and responsive to said gestures. The only issue I found with the touchpad was that its matte finish was almost exactly the same as the surrounding finish--making it a little hard for me to stay on the touchpad while I was flipping through Web pages. Fortunately, the touchpad is a good size, so my fingers didn't slide off of it frequently. The rocker button is somewhat slim, though, and I often found myself trying to press the table instead of the button.
The N210 features a 10.1-inch, widescreen, LED-backlit matte display with a native resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. The matte surface is a nice feature on a netbook, as it cuts down the chances of annoying reflections (and since netbooks are made to be ported about, you're unlikely to be working in ideal lighting conditions at all times). The matte finish does sacrifice a little color, though--a lot of the hues on our test machine were washed out to the point of looking pastel. Nevertheless, the clarity is still pretty decent. A function on the keyboard allows you to turn off the LED backlight; doing so would presumably conserve battery life, but then you could barely see the screen, of course.
Stereo speakers are located on the bottom of the chassis, and are actually quite loud for netbook speakers. I was able to hear an episode of Cougartown from Hulu pretty well in a midsize Starbucks with blasting speakers. The sound was a little tinny, as is the case for most small speakers, but the overall quality was good.
Video playback, on the other hand, was less than fantastic. We already know that the Atom N450 can't handle high-definition playback very well, but I found that even standard-definition playback on the N210 sometimes stuttered (only once or twice, though, in a full episode of Lost). Full-screen playback and high-def video were dismal.
The Samsung N210 runs Windows 7 Starter Edition (32-bit), the lesser version of Windows 7 that doesn't allow you to do any of the cool stuff--such as changing your desktop background or running Windows Media Player. Aside from CyberLink YouCam (for making videos) and Microsoft Works, the software bundle includes several useful Samsung applications: Easy Resolution Manager (for changing the display resolution from 1024 by 600 to 1024 by 768), Easy Network Manager, Samsung Support Center, and Samsung Casual Games. You'll find some trialware, too, including Microsoft Office 2007 (60 days) and the Phoenix FailSafe remote theft-recovery and drive-wipe service (60 days).
The Samsung N210 is one of the sleeker netbooks we've seen--the all-white design is professional-looking and attractive--and the keyboard is almost as good as a regular-size keyboard. Though this machine falls short in video performance, the included Samsung software is decent.