Great design; bright screen; good touch pad.
Son of Sam
Bloated Win7 Starter install; no Bluetooth; middling battery life.
By now, if you’re buying a netbook, you know what you’re getting: All the models of a given generation are the same on the inside. So with the internals out of the decision tree, how do you choose which of dozens of near-identical netbooks is worthy of your purchase? Sure, the old standby differentiator of battery life still applies. But how about aesthetics? Can you actually choose a netbook based on design?
The N210 is pretty on the outside but bloated on the inside. Be prepared to uninstall some nagware.
We think so. The Samsung N210’s internals could be those of any current-gen non-Ion netbook—a 1.66GHz Atom N450 Pine Trail processor, 1GB RAM, a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive—but it’s what’s on the outside that counts. The device has an embossed cream-color lid covered with a clear plastic coating. The interior is all matte white; and with its chrome edge trim and crisp gray lettering, it’s almost retro-futuristic. The keyboard puts every other netbook keyboard to shame—the chiclet-style keys aren’t cramped at all and the keyboard doesn’t feel mushy. We could type on it all day. The track pad’s multitouch capabilities help make up for its small size, and the LED-backlit screen is readable even at low brightness levels. Cranked up, the backlighting is quite bright for an office environment.
Beyond the excellent aesthetics of the case, we have a few complaints. Though the RAM is easily accessible, the hard drive is not, and the N210 has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, but no Bluetooth.
But we’re more perturbed about the N210’s software loadout. The Windows 7 Starter desktop contains more than a dozen icons for software trials, nagware, and bloatware. Useful shortcuts, like the one that turns on the N210’s sleep-and-charge USB port, are lost in the clutter. Even more annoying: The installer for the FailSafe trial (a LoJack-like theft-prevention tool) kept auto-launching when we were trying to run benchmark tests and wouldn’t stop until we uninstalled the application.
One useful feature included with the N210 is the Linux-based Hyperspace instant-on OS. Though “instant-on” may be a misnomer, the OS does boot to a usable state in just 20 seconds (the Win7 boot, by contrast, takes more than a minute). Hyperspace offers an office suite, Twitter and Gmail integration, web browsing, and a list of app buttons, though some of them are misleading—the Photoshop button leads to Photoshop.com, and the Bloggers button, which uses the icon for Google’s Blogger, links to the unrelated Bloggers.com. Despite these quirks, Hyper-space is useful, though we didn’t find ourselves using it much.
The N210’s performance in our benchmarks was almost indistinguishable from the other Pine Trail netbooks we’ve tested, like the Acer Aspire One we reviewed in April and the Toshiba NB305 we reviewed in May. The only benchmark where the N210 lagged behind was battery life—it lasted just five hours on our video-rundown test, while both the Acer and Toshiba netbooks topped seven hours on similar 6-cell batteries.
We expect any Maximum PC reader to be able to strip out the bloatware and nagware that comes with a new PC (and may we suggest PC Decrapifier to help with that?). But we don’t appreciate Samsung’s cluttering up the OS install. On the one hand, the N210’s design is fantastic and its performance is exactly what we’d expect. And we appreciate the (albeit quirky) Hyperspace instant-on OS. But the less-than-stellar battery life and bloated Win7 Starter desktop lose the N210 some points in our book.