Samsung N210 Netbook Review

Are netbooks like the N210 just a flash in the pan or do they have something tangible to contribute to the computing world. Michael O'Connell finds out...

Samsung have a plethora of products. Over the years they have become one of those instantly recognizable brands but their success hasn't just been down to flooding the market and slick advertising. They tend to have a reputation for creating products that have been well thought out and provide the end user with more bang for their buck than they'd normally get from some others. At the moment the computing world is alight with talk and images of where the next giant leap in mobile computing is going to take place (tablets) but people will undoubtedly want to work on something that is either as near or equally as light yet provides a more conventional and potentially more expansive experience. And this is where netbooks such as Samsung's N210 come in...

First Impressions
The Samsung N210 is a fairly simply styled netbook. it utilizes a style that is both rather generic yet unoffensive. The keyboard is of course small given the netbooks form factor but is none the less quite easy to type on, in fact it doesn't feel that much smaller than those found on larger notebooks. On inspection it is obvious that Samsung have reduced some of the lesser used keys to provide this comfortable feel, unfortunately this does make the keyboard appear cramped in places and if your typing in full flight can throw you off a little bit as you quickly brush the wrong key. The keyboard itself is a fairly average low profile, flat keyed affair, so nothing special and unlike some other netbooks that I've come across doesn't have any nice texture or rubberisation to soften the impact on your fingers pads.

The sample version I received of the N210 runs Windows 7 Starter, this operating system is well suited to a notebook like this and carries a similar styling to the bigger brother versions of Windows 7 so if you move from one to the other you won't feel lost. Microsoft have done a good job overall with Windows 7 and have produced an OS that has proven itself to be stable, reliable and adaptable to a series of different products and has been responsive on every device I've used it on, including the N210. I'm in the minority in being somebody that actually liked Windows Vista but it did have a tendency to be rather slow and unwieldy at times. I'd have hated to have seen it loaded on a netbook such as the N210 as it would have just reduced it to something as useful as a paperweight. Likewise, XP would have been a stable and relatively lightweight OS to put on a netbook - and many have - but it probably is a good idea to move on with the technology as it's the only way we can progress. Unfortunately though, if you are a user that relies on using XP programs you are going to find yourself out of luck with the N210 as Windows 7 Starter won't support them. So be warned. But at the end of the day I'd say that this is a good call on Samsung's part.

Whats in the box?
Lets face it, netbooks aren’t renowned for the accessories they ship with and the N210 is no different, other than the netbook itself all you’ll find it ships with is a power cable and brick and a nice little pouch to slide it into when you’re traveling. Anything else you may want to add to it you'll have to buy yourself.

Connectivity & Mobility
The N210 is a netbook so it’s not going to be swamped with ports, that would be a huge mistake on Samsungs part and I’m pleased to say that they haven’t. The netbook does hold three USB ports, split between the two sides of the device (two on the right and one on the left), the reason for this is fairly clear, if you require a wired mouse or other accessory then you can decide which side you want it on. Also, most add on’s for PC’s these days are USB based so it’s most likely that you will require these ports more than any other sort. In addition to these there is an ethernet port for a wired net connection, which sits alongside the built in wifi support, which itself covers the b, g and n wireless protocols – this sits next to the power input port and there’s also a vga monitor connection to the right, which means that an external monitor can be used with the N210. What this means is that Samsung have created an amazingly expansive system here, you could work on the N210 on the train, putting together that all important word document, spreadsheet or essay and then settle into an office scenario where an external keyboard, mouse and monitor can be plugged in and provides you with what is, in all extents and purposes is a fully featured – albeit not powerful – PC. I know many a professional that would be more than happy working with a system like this.

Samsung really have thought about the user on the go with the N210. Not only does it ship with the usual notebook niceties such as a built in live cam for video conferencing and general chit-chat, it also comes with a couple of other features that are potentially very useful. For instance, if you have the N210 turned off and need to quickly browse a webpage then there’s a function called ‘instant on’, what this is in essence is a separate linux based browser system that sits alongside Windows, to access it you turn the N210 as normal then press the F6 key at the boot up screen. You’re then pretty well instantly on the web and able to access all the wonders that it holds. Samsung say that this is quicker then waiting for Windows to boot up – and they’re correct, it is. It’s also going to be easier on the N210’s battery life as it’s not a fully blown OS and therefore doesn’t come with all the resource hungry habits that they come with. The only downsides to this feature is that there is no smooth way of swapping between the systems, it’s an old fashioned method of turning off and on again. Also, what’s with the two button method of launching into the Instant On environment, it would have been nice to see a dedicated button to launch this and is something that I think Samsung should have included, and I hope they do in future models.

Other handy features include the ability to charge up devices such as mobile/cell phones via the usb port (the one on the left by the power cable input). An excellent idea really and the bonus is that the N210 doesn’t need to be turned on for this to work either. Samsung’s N210 also comes with a 60 day trial of AnyPC software, what is essentially a remote desktop utility that lets you take control of a remote PC and basically do what you like with it – you get the drift here.

Something else worth mentioning is the N210's screen while there's nothing particularly special about it, it's just a fairly standard 1024 x 600 pixel WSVGA screen but it does sport a matte finish, this is extremely handy if your using the netbook whilst out and about as it helps combat any annoying screen glare or reflections.

Verdict: 
Samsung's N210 is an excellent netbook and sits right up there with the best of them. With a great feature set, excellent battery life and just good all round, well thought out design this is the netbook for anybody that needs one, the only things I could find to grumble about were so small to hardly be worth mentioning so I have no hesitation in suggesting this to family and friends and likewise no hestitation in awarding the N210 with both our editors choice and best buy badges.