Samsung – N230 review

stylish netbook with decent battery life and an excellent keyboard
Photo of Samsung – N230
£349

Thanks to their well-designed keyboards and stylish good looks, Samsung’s netbooks have impressed in the past. The new N230 continues this trend, and makes a great first impression with its sleek chassis.

At 1.2kg, it’s similar in terms of weight to other 10.1-inch netbooks, while the dimensions of 264 x 188 x 34mm mean it’s also compact. The core specifications are in line with its rivals, with an N450 processor running at 1.66GHz, 1GB of memory and Intel’s GMA 3150 graphics. Windows 7 Starter is the chosen operating system. Those after enhanced netbook performance will be interested to hear Intel has just launched its new dual-core Atom N550 processor, but at the time of writing there were no N550-powered netbooks available to buy.

Flip the lid open and the N230′s excellent keyboard comes into view. With such little room to play with, netbook manufacturers have to be very careful when it comes to squeezing in all the keys. Thankfully, Samsung’s excelled itself with the N230′s keyboard. It follows the chiclet design that’s become so popular and the keys are well-spaced. There’s also very little flexing, which is always good to see, and the keys have just the right amount of travel.

Although the main keys are of a good size, the ones at the far right of the keyboard have been thinned slightly. It’s not a huge concern, but it does take a while to get used to. On the plus side, the left Shift and Alt keys are elongated, making them easy to locate when touch typing.

As with most netbooks, the trackpad is pretty small. It feels good, though, as do the buttons below it. Our only criticism would be that the buttons sit right at the very edge of the chassis, making them a little awkward to use. That said, moving them away from the edge would impact on the size of the trackpad.

Where the N230 differs from the majority of netbooks is with its display. There’s nothing unusual about its 10.1-inch size and native resolution of 1024 x 600, but its matte finish is something of a rarity these days. Whether the lack of a glossy coating is a good or bad feature depends on your point of view. On the downside, movies and photos don’t look quite as striking, but reflections are minimised. With glossy displays often acting like impromptu mirrors, they can play havoc when using a netbook outdoors or near overhead lighting. However, the N230′s display performs admirably both indoors and outside, with barely a reflection to be seen.

The N230 also has the latest Bluetooth 3.0 built in, which allows for faster transfer speeds compared to Bluetooth 2.1. This is joined by 802.11n wireless and a 10/100 Lan port. Considering the relatively high price of the N230, it’s a shame Samsung couldn’t find room in the budget for a built-in 3G module; if you want mobile broadband, you’ll need to attach an ungainly 3G dongle.

A pair of 1.5W stereo speakers provides adequate audio, while the usual mic-in and headphone-out sockets are found on the side of the chassis. Three USB, a VGA-out port and an SD card reader are also included, while storage comes in the form of a 250GB hard drive with a spin speed of 5,400rpm.

When it comes to battery life, the N230 doesn’t disappoint. It ships with a 66Wh battery as standard and, in our tests, this managed to power the netbook for six-and-a-half hours. This test involved running the netbook pretty much at full pelt, so with careful use you should be able to get a full day’s use out of it.

After extended use, we found the netbook got slightly warm towards the left side of the keyboard, but it never became uncomfortable. The fan is also quiet and you’re unlikely to hear it whirring away.

Company: Samsung

Contact: 0845 726 7864


Verdict
A decent netbook needs long battery life, a well-designed keyboard and low price-tag. Samsung certainly succeeds in terms of keyboard and battery, although the price tag of £349 is on the high side. However, you're always going to pay a bit more for a stylish and well thought-out design, and in our minds it's worth the extra money. Although the N230 thoroughly deserves its Recommended award, prospective buyers may do well to hold off for a few weeks until judgement is passed on the new wave of dual-core Atom N550 netbooks.