Introducing the Samsung N210

While Samsung has been a strong retail presence in the states for time immemorial, it may be surprising to note that they only made their push into retail computing within the last year or so. Samsung computers were big in the rest of the world (obviously huge in Korea), but out here there had been nary a peep from them.

Then the floodgates quietly opened, and Samsung dipped their toe into the highly competitive waters of the American mainstream notebook market. One of their entries is a Best Buy exclusive netbook that we review here today, the N210. The N210 may be on its way out; it's since been consigned to Best Buy's "outlet store" online and its retail presence is limited. What we have on hand is a factory refurb'ed model; I had purchased it for personal use and the way I figured it was that sure, I could get a brand new one for a little more, but odds were good I'd pop open the casing and void the warranty anyhow, so why pay an extra $30 for months of warranty I'll never see?

The specifications are commonplace given Atom-powered netbooks:

Samsung N210 Specifications
Processor Intel Atom N450
(1.66GHz + SMT, 45nm, 512KB L2, 533FSB, 5.5W)
Chipset Intel NM10
Memory 1x1024MB DDR2-667
Graphics Intel Integrated GMA 3150
Display 10.1" LED Matte 16:9 WSVGA (1024x600)
Hard Drive(s) 2.5" 250GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 10/100 Fast Ethernet
Atheros 802.11bgn WiFi
Audio HD Audio (2 speakers headphone and mic jacks)
Battery 6-cell, 11.1V, 4400mAh, 48Whr
Front Side SD reader
Power switch
Left Side AC power jack
RJ-45 ethernet jack
Exhaust vent
USB 2.0
Mic jack
Headphone jack
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
VGA port
Kensington lock
Back Side Battery
Operating System Windows 7 Starter
Dimensions 10.5" x 7.4" x 1.2" (WxDxH)
Weight 2.8 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $329

As you can see, there isn't a whole lot of action in the N210 that isn't common to modern netbooks at large. There's the anemic Intel Atom N450 processor and the requisite 1GB of DDR2, but at least Samsung was kind enough to outfit the N210 with a 250GB drive.

Going with 10/100 ethernet instead of gigabit is disappointing but not a game-breaker; the Atom is so slow and the 5400RPM hard drive does nothing to remedy that, so it's not a huge loss. Not having bluetooth is a major loss, though. When the N210 was making the review rounds, bluetooth was an option being touted for it. Yet finding a bluetooth-enabled unit in our neck of the woods is an onerous task at best.

But since netbooks are by and large the same these days, does Samsung at least bring any secret sauce to the table?

Inside and Outside the Samsung N210
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  • 7Enigma - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    USB boot drive with OS on it. One of the best/fastest ways to do a clean install, especially when you don't have a built-in dvd drive. I'm probably going to do a fresh install of Win7 by the end of the year on my desktop system and even though I have the dvd my 8GB flash drive should be a much faster way and allows me to keep my dvd scratch-free.
  • popej - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I assume that non of your test shows netbook performance when running on battery? When on battery, performance could be lower to increase battery life. If you shows battery life, than would be nice to know, what kind of performance loss is included in this results.

    For example it could be like that:
    Asus 1001p internet performance on AC: 894
    Asus 1001p internet performance on battery: 720
    Asus 1001p battery life internet: 455

    Samsung N210 internet performance on AC: 843
    Samsung N210 internet performance on battery: 840
    Samsung N210 battery life internet: 354

    I don't know real numbers for this netbooks, but would gladly see it in review. The way it is presented now can lead to wrong conclusions when comparing devices which use some power savings tricks.
  • evident - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Netbooks are the biggest scam. If this was $150 or $200 it would make sense. Netbooks are almost always overpriced for what they are and everyone i've known who's bought them are always complaining about how miserable their experience is.
  • Taft12 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    They're only SUPPOSED to be $150-200.

    They early eeePC and other first-gen netbooks were $299 max. Intel and the hardware OEM's saw that most users could in fact get by just fine with this hardware along with Windows XP or (especially) a slimmed-down Linux distribution and got the bejeezus scared out of them. I got this information personally from someone in sales at one of the world's largest hardware resellers.

    Since then, even the lowest-end models have had features and size creep up to push the price up to $300 minimum and many into $400-500 range. This is an intentional move to push down the netbook market numbers.
  • synaesthetic - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Yeah. Intel freaked, realizing they made the Atom N270 too powerful and that's why the newer Atom development has been focused on power efficiency with a less-than-10% speed increase over previous generations.

    Intel did the same thing in the CULV market, too. Why do you think they killed the Celeron SU2300? It was too fast and too cheap, 90% of the much more expensive C2D SU7300 for a lot less than 90% of its price. Those Acer AS1410 with the SU2300 for $399 were an absolute steal, an amazing deal for a small computer with serious price-performance chops.

    Intel didn't like that too much, though, and the new Arrandale replacement for the SU2300 isn't as good price-performance wise.
  • Taft12 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I'm disappointed one of the most tech-savvy hardware review sites would have a writer who thinks he is an arbiter of what is and isn't an OS worth using. MS claimed Windows 7 would be trimmed down enough to run on a netbook, but that was a half-truth at best as you have discovered. MS and Intel don't want you to have a fulfilling experience running on Atom-class hardware. The Linux community does.

    Your comments about unnecessary bundled software further reinforce this. We all know software company kickbacks from the likes of McAfee and Microsoft partly subsidise the cost of these devices. Most users who buy this netbook won't be capable of reinstalling a clean version of ANY OS and will be stuck running this preinstalled pig. Another reason netbook Linux distros (such as Ubuntu Netbook Remix) are the right choice for netbooks.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Nowhere did I use the phrase "proper OS." In fact the only place I said anything remotely close was when I mentioned that their instant-on environment didn't take the place of a full Windows installation, because it doesn't. Would you have felt better if I'd been more politically correct and just said "full operating system installation?"

    If you want to evangelize Linux that's your prerogative, but don't go looking for fights with us. We take our work seriously and personally I take a lot of pride in what I do here. And as a sidenote, as a writer reviewing kit for a wide audience it's basically in my job description TO be an arbiter of what works and what doesn't. If I'm not speaking from some position of authority, why should anyone listen to what I have to say?

    And finally, sorry to tell you, but Linux distros presently produce substantially reduced battery life:

    The hardware is different but the results are the same. In searching online for Atom-based results I was only able to produce anecdotal evidence, but I also couldn't produce any anecdotal or academic evidence suggesting otherwise either.
  • Taft12 - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    First off, thanks for replying Dustin! One of the great aspects of Anandtech and Dailytech are that the writers and editors engage the audience and you did not disappoint.

    I feel like I touched a nerve a bit... I'm not looking for a fight - just debate. Indeed I am a Linux evangelist, and netbooks are a great platform for spreading the word. As I pointed out, your experience running Windows 7 on this hardware was disappointing compared to desktops and laptops you are used to. This is due to 2 things:
    - unlike Vista, Windows 7 will install on a netbook, but truly it doesn't really scale down enough to be usable. Better luck next time on something Windows-mobile derived?
    - a fairly big problem in this industry of excessive trial software factory installed on any OEM PC
    Both of these problems go away on a Linux distro intended for netbooks.

    Thanks for the link. Indeed Linux generally has poorer battery life on Linux, but this is mitigated by trimming down the install and having more appropriate power settings (and even hardware-specific optimizations) in netbook distros. Note the review you linked was running the full-blown Ubuntu on an eeePC and his Linux knowledge was novice-level at best.

    Finally, you most certainly did use the phrase "proper OS" (or I wouldn't have posted in the first place). I guess my whole post can be boiled down to "A full typical desktop or laptop OS install is not appropriate for these devices -- especially a crapware-laden OEM Windows install! But that doesn't mean netbooks don't have their place". Sorry for the excess wordiness :)

    Even web surfing performance leaves a little something to be desired, and the fact that you can put a proper operating system on a netbook only continues the illusion that the Atom is somehow capable of doing anything other than making you wait while your program loads.
  • dmjazzijeff - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I tried UNR (9.10 & 10.04) on my Toshiba NB205, but the number of 'issues'i had to solve in order to get it mostly working wouldn't make me think that netbooks are better suited, as a whole, than Windows XP, say. I threw an OEM install of XP Pro on it, and it works like a champ. Where the performance of OpenOffice underUNR was abysmal, Office 2003 runs like greased lightning on the thing. It even runs Office 2010 very well.

    I'm no MS fanboy, but putting Pro on it made me stop thinking of the Toshiba as a toy, and makes me consider it a really portable computer that's lacking a little oomph, but still has enough balls to get work done in a timely fashion. I have 2GB installed in mine, and I usually use it connected to a 22" display through the VGA port, and it works as well my older Lenovo T61 for most things that aren't CPU-bound. If I could put more than 2 GB in it, I'd consider giving Windows 7 a shot.

    I'd seriously like to consider an ION2-based netbook with Windows 7, but i like the solid 8 hour battery life with the crap Intel graphics under XP so i think i'll leave well-enough alone.

    I thought the Samsung and the Toshiba shared innards, but apparently not; my HD is as easy to remove as a conventional laptop (unscrew the cover for the drive bay, and swap).
  • stephenbrooks - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    I'm glad I got my Samsung NC10 while they shipped with Windows XP as standard. It's a great machine (only things you can't do are demanding graphics and HD video stuff).

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