Obviously, other applications are also important to netbook users. Desktop systems are clearly better for running 3D games and professional rendering software. But image-handling is still important to netbook users. In this area, the Atom's performance is 11 to 15 per cent better than the Nano's. That advantage is reversed with the popular freeware tool Irfanview, with which the Nano resized 41 images in batch mode in 66 seconds, while the Atom took 87 seconds.
Compared with a typical netbook resolution of 1,024x600 pixels, the NC20's 1,280x800-pixel screen offers two-thirds more display area. That extra resolution is a significant advantage, especially when browsing and handling images, because it means you don't have to scroll up and down as much as you would otherwise have to.
Unfortunately, Samsung has gone for a reflective screen, so the impact of the higher-resolution display is greatly diminished. If a light source falls on the screen, its brightness has to be significantly adjusted to improve readability. This is a real drawback.
On a more positive note, the NC20's long battery life is a real plus. The 57Wh Li-ion battery runs for up to 6 hours. Even with Wi-Fi on, you can still expect to get a good 4 hours' of Web surfing.
Apart from the Nano processor, the NC20's specs are unremarkable. The installed 1GB of RAM is adequate for the preinstalled Windows XP Home Edition. The NC20 even ran a successful test installation of Windows 7 Beta 1, but it quickly became apparent that 1GB for Windows 7 is not enough.
Unlike many other netbooks, it's easy to expand the memory, up to 2GB. All you need do is remove four screws on the back of the machine and replace the SO-DIMM with a 2GB module. It would be good if Samsung offered this amount of RAM as an option. Graphics are handled by the Chrome9 HC3 module that's integrated in the Via VX800 chipset.
The Marvell Yukon 88E8040 Ethernet connection runs up to 100Mbps while the Atheros AR5007EG Wi-Fi module offers 54Mbps over 802.11b/g. The 160GB, 5,400rpm Samsung HM160HI hard drive is quick enough not to cause a significant bottleneck.
The NC20's 84-key keyboard, which is coated in a fine antibacterial powder using Samsung's Silver Nano Technology, is ergonomic and has a positive feel. A 1.3-megapixel webcam is located at the top of the screen. You can display photos at up to 1,280x1,024 pixels and video at 320x240 pixels. The NC20 comes with CyberLink YouCam installed, which can upload video directly to YouTube.