Samsung, buoyed by the success of its first wave of netbooks, has wasted no time in releasing a second-generation device. The N150, rather excitingly, ditches the stalwart Intel Atom N270 CPU for a newer, faster, more efficient processor known as the Atom N450. The N150 is available from PC World for £280.
The N150's biggest selling point is its Atom N450 CPU -- a next-generation Intel chip that promises to breathe new life into netbooks by draining their batteries less. On the surface, it's not too dissimilar to the current Atom N280 -- it's a single-core part, it runs at 1.66GHz, and it has a 667MHz front-side bus and 512KB of L2 cache. Unlike previous Atoms, however, it comes with a memory controller and graphics processor integrated directly onto the chip.
Integrating the aforementioned items onto the CPU eliminates the need for a separate, power-hungry chip housing these elements. Instead, they're taken care of by the N450 itself, with everything else handled by Intel's new NM10 Express chipset. This architecture leads to a total power draw of just 7.6W. This is approximately a 40 per cent reduction in power consumption over the previous Atom architecture, which drew around 11.8W.
What else is new?
Not much, really. The N150's innards are interesting and original, but its chassis isn't particularly ground-breaking. The glossy black lid and its off-centre Samsung logo are pleasant enough -- provided you don't mind having to clean fingerprint smudges off regularly -- and the anodised red stripe around the sides adds charm.
Lift the lid up, though, and there's absolutely nothing to distinguish this machine from the thousands of other netbooks on the market. We'd wager Samsung got a cheap deal on a massive shipment of dull black plastic, and it's obviously not afraid to use it.
The N150's keyboard is a real disappointment. Its keys are too small and tightly packed for our liking, so typing without mistakes requires real precision. This is a shame, as rivals, like the machines in the Eee PC Seashell series, have far better keyboards, despite having a smaller chassis.
Thankfully, the N150's trackpad is a joy to use. It has a smooth surface, tracks accurately and is compatible with multi-touch gestures, so you can pinch and stretch your fingers to zoom in and out of photos, or use a three-fingered horizontal swiping motion to navigate back and forth between documents.
Hook up, line in and sync her
The N150's connectivity is pretty standard. Physical connectors include three USB ports, whose whereabouts are denoted by icons along the edge of the keyboard. You also get mic and headphone jacks, an Ethernet port, a VGA video output and a Kensington lock for tethering the machine to a desk. Also present are 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, although integrated 3G is conspicuous by its absence.
As seen on screen
The N150's 10-inch display isn't vastly different to those on other machines in its class, save for the fact that its coating is non-glossy. This means it can be used outdoors without becoming too reflective, so it's ideal for road barbarians. It has a pretty standard, 1,024x600-pixel resolution. That's fine in most cases, but users may need to dock the Windows taskbar to the far right or enable the 'auto hide' feature when using applications that are too tall to fit within the 600-pixel screen height.
What performance boost?
Despite Intel claiming a performance improvement, users will notice very little difference between the N450 chip and its N270 predecessor in day-to-day use. In other words, it's not very powerful and is best suited to simple tasks such as checking emails, watching standard-definition video or stalking people on Facebook. It scored 1,355 in the PCMark05 benchmark test and 155 in 3DMark06. Both results are in line with those of older models.
The most impressive aspect of the N150's performance is its battery life. The device lasted for 5 hours and 2 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, which is impressive, considering its battery is a relatively modest, 4,400mAh unit. Older netbooks can last this length of time too, but, generally speaking, they require much larger, heavier batteries to do so. The Eee PC 1000HE, for example, lasted 5 hours and 48 minutes in the same test, but had an 8,700mAh battery pack. This speaks volumes about Intel's work with the Atom N450 CPU.
The Samsung N150 will appeal to anyone who puts battery life at the top of their list of priorities, but it's not massively different to previous-generation machines and its keyboard isn't quite as good as those on rivals such as the Eee PC 1000HE.
Edited by Charles Kloet