Careful! Don't read too hard, or you might break the Samsung N150 netbook I'm writing this review on. From the flex in its Chiclet-style keyboard to screen distortions when you press lightly on the glossy black back of the backlit LCD, the machine feels fragile. Still, its Atom N450 CPU chugs along, delivering 6.25 hours of life on a single battery charge--not great, but reasonable. Call it the Little Engine that just barely can--and might break on the way there--but won't give up for a reasonable time anyway. Which isn't bad for a netbook priced at $350 (as of April 22, 2010).
The N150's Intel Atom N450 runs at 1.66GHz, and is bolstered by integrated Intel GMA 3150, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, a 1024-by-600-resolution screen, and 802.11b/g/n support, plus three USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100 LAN port, a three-in-one memory card slot, headphone and microphone jacks, and an RCA video-out jack scattered along the sides of the machine. As the specs indicate, this netbook is totally typical.
The N150 just doesn't surprise in performance, either. Its score of 37 on our World Bench 6 tests was middle-of-the-road for an inexpensive netbook. Typing a Word document while listening to music on iTunes is hunky-dory; trying the same feat with a few browser windows open adds a few seconds of meditation time to every switch from one window to another. Standard-definition streaming video from Netflix plays smoothly, aside from an occasional stutter; videos on iTunes degenerate into a long series of stutters. You won't be able to do video encoding or serious gaming on this machine. The included Windows 7 Starter Edition runs reasonably well, but it omits the Aero peeks and doesn't support dual-view monitors.
The Chiclet-style keys on the N150's keyboard are comfortable to type on, thanks to their short return distance, their standard layout, and the kinesthetic gaps between buttons. And the touchpad is better still. The netbook lacks a Lenovo-style little red stick, but its touchpad is superbly responsive and smooth, and has full multitouch support.
The machine's nonglossy, 10.1-inch screen (which I much prefer to glossy ones) and its Webcam are simple but functional. The resolution can be shifted to a stretched-out 1024 by 768 pixels with the help of some of the included OEM software, giving the N150 a little more flexibility than its native resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels provides.
The Webcam ships with some great software for putting Clipart-quality images into your home movies, but that's about it. The picture is reasonably clear but suffers from too-bright whites throughout. It should come as no surprise that the speakers are mediocre.
Ultimately, no sane person buys a netbook for the power. But you can throw one in a bag and use it for note taking or to browse the Web--and the N150 handles those tasks as successfully as most of its low-cost competitors.
This middle-of-the-road product delivers your money's worth, and not a dime more.
- Responsive multitouch touchpad
- Decent battery life
- Feels cheap and fragile
- Middling netbook performance