Model: Samsung N210 netbook
Price: $AUD699
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Samsung’s new N210 netbook looks pretty much like every other 10.2-inch widescreen netbook on the surface. However, underneath, it’s one of the better models on the market.

It’s built around the latest 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor and includes 1GB of DDR2-667 memory and runs Intel’s GMA3150 integrated graphics engine.

That 10.2-inch widescreen LCD panel offers 1024×600-pixel resolution, so it’s wide enough for standard web pages to view without requiring slidebars. It’s also LED backlit – more on that in a moment.

Storage is a 250GB Samsung HM250HI SATA2 hard drive and it’s running the 32-bit version of Microsoft’s Windows 7 Starter operating system.

So far, it sounds pretty much par for the course for this sort of thing.

The difference comes in the battery life. Samsung has included a 11.3V/5900mAh Lithium-ion battery – 66-watt-hours all up – and in combination with the N450 processor, we managed a test battery life of 7hrs13mins – that’s with power management set to “balanced” but the screen brightness cranked up all the way. From our testing, it’s actually the screen brightness that makes far more of a difference to battery life than fiddling around with power management, especially with a low-power chip such as the N450. However, the fact this panel is LED backlit will contribute greatly to the improved battery life as well. LED (light-emitting diodes) consume less power than the cold-cathode fluroscent tubes used in older models.

Our test figure is getting towards a “worst case” figure – drop the screen brightness down and it should improve.

Application performance is not going to break any records and it’s pretty much on a par with most Atom N270/N280-based models. Technically, there’s little difference between the N280 and N450 processors, each having the same clock speed, front-side bus speed and L2 cache memory. The one difference about the N450 is that it comes with the graphics engine and memory controller on the chip itself and as the controller is good for up to 2GB, you should have little trouble expanding the memory and giving Windows 7 Starter some more room to play in. Other than the integration, you won’t see any speed performance gains over older N270/N280 models.

As for ports, there’s no HDMI output here or optical drive but you get three USB ports, VGA output and built-in Fast Ethernet port.

The unit’s weight at 1.333kgs isn’t too bad given you’ve got a larger-than-normal Lithium-ion battery.

At $AUD699, it is one of the more expensive 10.2-inch netbooks on the market but the key difference here is battery life. We’ve seen very few netbooks reach beyond the five-hour mark, let alone hit seven hours. The majority of sub-$AUD500 ($US350) netbooks with similar specs will only offer you a three-cell battery that typically will barely last you three hours downhill with a tailwind.

If you want a netbook that is going to last you all but the dregs of a full working day, few are going to give you the legs the N210 will.

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