Samsung may not have been paying attention when MSI, ASUS, and Acer first ignited the flame of the netbook industry, but it has certainly caught up quickly. The Japanese company hasn’t released nearly as many netbooks as the aforementioned companies, but the ones it has released have been competitive to say the least.
With no further ado, allow us to introduce to you the venerable Samsung NC10.
If the NC10 looks a touch bland, it manages the low-key look in a clean, classy way. It takes after the original MSI Wind U100 and Aspire One, whose white designs embodied the spirit of netbooks – they’re simple, cheap, efficient, and small. Samsung put a mirrored logo in there for some flash, but otherwise the NC10 is as minimal as it gets.
The look works, though. This netbook looks professional and smooth, with rounded square edges and silver trim. When you boot it up, the blue and orange status lights give it a nice glow. Combined with the glowing blue power button, the NC10 looks a lot like a Dell XPS or Sony VAIO TT.
It weighs in at 2.8 pounds, but that’s hardly anything to complain about considering the added weight of the 6-cell battery. The NC10 is a 10-inch machine, and is nearly the same size as both the ASUS Eee PC 1000H and the Lenovo IdeaPad S10. If anything it’s a tad longer, but not to the extent that it matters.
The Samsung NC10 also comes in a navy version in the US.
Keyboard and Trackpad
If there’s anything netbookers like to whine about, it’s cramped keyboards. Unfortunately, most of the time manufacturers rationalize their miniscule setups as tradeoffs necessary for portability and efficiency.
Samsung didn’t take this route, however. With a keyboard that’s 93% of the size of a full keyboard, the NC10 netbook manages a remarkably comfortable typing experience. Its keys are raised and feel nice to the touch, with an inflexible panel and near-perfect key positioning. As with the Lenovo IdeaPad S10, the right Shift got moved under the Enter key, but the NC10 has made no concessions otherwise.
The netbook in the pictures has Korean characters, because the pictures we jacked from LaptopMag looked the best and the netbook they reviewed happened to be Korean. In other words, don’t freak out if you noticed the lack of the backslash key – the US versions of the netbook include it.
The touchpad, to contrast with the keyboard, is something of a dissapointment. It’s quite narrow vertically, which means that scrolling long pages is going to require a lot of movement that wouldn’t otherwise be necessary. Generally netbookers and laptop-users alike tend to prefer dedicated left and right buttons, but the NC10 has a rocker bar. The rocker isn’t as problematic as those of similar machines, however, and the NC10 netbook clicks easily.
Samsung also added a scrolling bar, which eliminates some of the annoyance of the smallish touchpad. You also get the fun of multi-touch supported by Synaptics, meaning you can pinch the touchpad to zoom and reorient pictures and similar things. The netbook’s multi-touch works with a number of different gestures.
The Samsung NC10 has a 10.2-inch, 1024 x 600 matte screen. You can easily keep a Word document or a web page open simultaneously. Colors are clear and sharp, so watching videos on the go is certainly managable, if not downright rewarding. View angles are nothing to worry about, as the NC10 will work with up to a 45 degree tilt backwards and has enough range to allow at least two people to watch the screen.
Features and Audio
The Samsung netbook has what ports you’d expect – mic and headphone jacks, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, VGA, and Ethernet. It has 3 USBs, which is far preferable to the two sported by the IdeaPad S10. That extra USB opens the door to all kinds of interesting device uses, like Dell’s upcoming Wasabi handheld printer or the MIMO touchscreens we covered a few days back. Unfortunately, unlike the S10, the Samsung netbook has no ExpressCard.
The machine also packs a 1.3-megapixel webcam, which has gotten great ratings all around. It offers clear video, hinting that Samsung may have intentionally put a little extra love into the netbook’s webcam. I’m definitely not complaining – better video on a mobile device is a fantastic prospect. Unfortunately there’s no word of 3G for the Samsung NC10, but the combo could have been amazing.
The microphone leaves only a few minor things to complain about: namely, a bit of echo and background noise. Otherwise it works well and offers nice, clear sound to anyone you video chat with.
You can find the speakers on the bottom of the netbook, another weird feature the NC10 shares with the Ideapad S10. For some reason, this seems to be a relatively normal thing for manufacturers to pull off. Though you could probably get more sound with better-placed speakers, the Samsung netbook does a remarkable job of cranking the audio.
The Samsung netbook also comes with the Samsung Enhanced Digital Sound function, which you can switch on or off. It noticably boosts the sound quality, which flattened music a bit otherwise.
Performance and Battery Life
The Samsung NC10 isn’t a juggernaut – it manages the same basic netbook setup as most other machines on the market. The 1.6-GHz Intel Atom CPU and 1 GB of RAM have proven a cheap and effective (if boring) solution for netbook performance. It definitely works – the NC10 can run a few Web tabs and Skype at the same time with no lag at all.
It uses an Intel 945GSE Express integrated graphics chip with 64 MB of shared memory. It’s a better-than-average netbook in that respect, though the graphics still fall below those of the Eee PC 1000H.
Windows XP boosts in an iffy 45 seconds in the 120 GB HDD. A 160 GB version is also available in the US.
Where the NC10 netbook truly shines, however, is battery life. Other netbook makers should take a hint from Samsung and make 6-cell batteries come standard. Three-cell batteries just don’t cut it!
Not only does the Samsung netbook use a 6-cell battery – it gets a lot out of it too. The NC10 runs for a grueling 6 hours and 34 minutes, as compared with the fatally inefficient 3 hours of the otherwise excellent MSI Wind U120H, which also has a 6-cell. With Samsung’s Battery Manager 2.0 turned on, the netbook makes some concessions to screen brightness and can run for as long as 7 and a half hours. At 100 percent, it dies after 4 hours and 48 minutes.
The 802.11b/g Wi-Fi on the Samsung netbook is also commendable, providing 20.8 Mbps from 15 feet away, and 16.9 Mbps from 50 feet.
- Simple yet professional design
- Big, tactile keyboard
- Great display
- Amazing battery life
- Remarkably good webcam
- 3 USBs
- Solid Wi-fi
- Cool multi-touch functionality
- Annoyingly small trackpad
- Longish load times for XP
- No 3G
- Costs $450
At first, the Samsung NC10 netbook might seem a bit expensive. Most of the extra money probably pays for the 6-cell battery, and 6.5 hours of battery life is definitely worth it. To compare, an MSI Wind with a 6-cell battery costs you at least $50 more, and still won’t run for as long.
The netbook also has a bigger keyboard than most others out there, leaving netbook keyboard critics little to complain about. We also love that Samsung threw in some minor but extremely appreciated bonuses: a great webcam, a third USB port, and multi-touch capability. The small trackpad probably can’t take full advantage of the multi-touch, but it’s a minor flaw.
It boils down to a simple fact – the Samsung NC10 is awesome. It will tax your wallet a tad more than its competitors, but it uses that extra cash for some great features, a few nice upgrades, and a sorely-needed 6-cell battery. The combination isn’t flawless, but it’s close, and that’s what matters.
Samsung’s entrance to the market was taken with bold strides and the NC10 netbook is evidence. Go buy one!
UPDATE 2/10/09: Amazon just announced a $40 upgrade to the Samsung NC10, which will get you 9.4 hours of battery life and expands the trackpad. Check it out.