Samsung – N310 Mini-Notebook review

Intel Atom-based netbook with 10.1-inch screen
Photo of Samsung – N310 Mini-Notebook

The netbook market continues to grow and be the driving force behind PC sales. Samsung already has a range of mini-notebooks, and the N310 extends this with a 10.1-inch screen model, built around an Intel Atom processor.

The Samsung machine looks a bit more funky than most, with large-radius corners and its maker’s name in inch-high letters embossed on the lid. You can also get the whole machine in light blue and orangey-red, as well as a more corporate black.

The screen is flush-mounted, as are the touchpad and mouse-button bar and the keyboard is described as a ‘pebble’ keyboard, for no other reason than that the keys poke individually through the single top plate. It looks good, if a bit retro, and the key action is light and positive.

Around the sides are three USB sockets, as well as Ethernet, external monitor and audio jacks. 802.11g and Bluetooth connections are also built in, though Bluetooth is switched off by default. The N310 spots wireless networks easily and links in with a minimum of fuss, making it a good tool on the move. There’s an SD card slot in the front edge, which can handle SDHC cards, too.

Samsung claims the battery life is good, because it uses a four-cell battery, when a three-cell is more usual. Running a repeating video had the battery running low in under three hours, though, and although you could expect to get longer when typing or browsing, particularly if you keep the screen brightness down, we’d be surprised if you got much more than four and a half hours.

With the standard four-cell battery the N310 weighs just over 1kg, which makes it very portable for a Windows XP netbook. An Intel Atom N270 processor, running at 1.6GHz with 1GB of memory and a 160GB SATA hard drive, gives the machine a very similar performance to many similarly-specced new mini-notebooks, though this iteration of the Atom isn’t the fastest available. Coupling it to an Intel GMA 950 graphics chipset, while it may be the easy-to-implement choice, doesn’t give it the video performance an Nvidia Ion would.

There’s no office application software supplied, like a copy of OpenOffice, though it does come with McAfee anti-virus and a CyberLink applet called YouCam, which works with the built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam to enable video conferencing or cheap and cheerful video creation. This is easy to use and picture quality is fine for day-to-day use.

Company: Samsung

Contact: 0845 717100

Overall, this is a good take on the near-standard netbook specification for mid-2009. It's a touch more stylish than some business models, but you pay up to £50 extra when going for the Samsung option. Performance is as good as most of the rest, but battery life isn't as impressive as we'd have liked.