When we looked at the Samsung N210 model back in May, we were so impressed that we gave it an Editors' Choice Award, so this Plus model has a great deal to live up to. Priced at around £280, the Samsung N210 Plus is a little cheaper than the N210 was at launch.
Shiny new netbook
Like its predecessor, the N210 Plus has a more grown-up feel than many of the other 10-inch netbooks on the market at the moment. The glossy grey finish on the lid, combined with the chrome trim that runs around the edge of the screen and keyboard, make it look much more like a business-focused ultra-portable than a consumer netbook. Like most netbooks, the N210 Plus is very light at 1.28kg (in fact it's lighter than the previous model) and, as it measures just 265 by 189 by 36mm, it's certainly small enough to chuck in a backpack without weighing you down.
Interestingly, Samsung has used a matte rather than glossy finish on the screen. This helps to cut down hugely on reflections and makes the N210 Plus more suitable for use outdoors under direct sunlight. However, the matte finish also means colours don't look quite as punchy as they do on some glossy screens. Also, while the display's resolution of 1,024x600 pixels is reasonably good for a 10-inch netbook, its horizontal viewing angles are a little narrow for our tastes.
In contrast, the keyboard is one of the best we've come across on a netbook. It uses quite large isolated keys and, because there's a decent amount of space between them, you're much less likely to accidentally hit an adjacent key when you're tapping out emails at speed. The layout is good, too. Even the 'shift' and 'return' keys are a decent size. Although the trackpad isn't the largest we've seen on a netbook, its matte surface feels fast and smooth under your fingertip. The pad supports multi-touch, which is great, but the buttons are a little on the small side.
By netbook standards, the N210 Plus is reasonably well endowed when it comes to connectivity. On the wireless networking front, it packs in 802.11n Wi-Fi as well as the new high-speed Bluetooth 3.0. There are also three USB ports. One of these is a sleep-and-charge port, so you can use it to charge peripherals like MP3 players and cameras even when the netbook is switched off. There's an SD card reader, too, which may come in handy for transferring pictures from your digital camera's memory card. While the netbook does have a VGA port, there's no HDMI socket to be seen. Nevertheless, the 250GB hard drive provides plenty of space for storing work documents as well as fun, extracurricular stuff like movies, music tracks and photos.
Samsung hasn't wandered off the path when it comes to the laptop's core specification. Like many of today's netbooks, the Plus is built around a single-core Intel Atom N450 CPU that's clocked at 1.66GHz. This is helped along by 1GB of RAM, which is just enough to run the Windows 7 Starter operating system. In PCMark05, this configuration managed to post a score of 1,321, which is pretty much in line with the previous model and on par with most other netbooks. This is no surprise, really, as the majority of netbooks are built around the same processor and have exactly the same amount of RAM.
Since the Plus uses standard Intel integrated graphics, we weren't expecting it to shine when it came to 3D performance, and it didn't defy expectations. In the 3DMark06 benchmark test it scored a measly 157. This means it just hasn't got the grunt to be cope with recent 3D titles, even with the graphics level turned way down.
The biggest change between the N210 and the N210 Plus is that Samsung has kitted this newer model out with a smaller battery. Whereas the N210 had a 5,900mAh battery, this younger model uses a 4,400mAh power pack. The downgrade made its presence felt in our Battery Eater test. Whereas the N210 managed to keep running for seven hours, the Plus had run out of puff after just five.
In truth, the Samsung N210 Plus is something of a disappointment. While it is lighter and now includes Bluetooth 3.0, the most significant divergence from its predecessor is its shorter battery life. While the N210 Plus is still a decent netbook, we don't think it represents as good a value for money as its forebear.
Edited by Emma Bayly