Samsung has just added to its burgeoning netbook range with the N210 -- not to be confused with the Samsung N120. This is a typical 10-incher with a 1.6GHz Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. Given the glut of machines that feature a near identical specification, is it another average face in the crowd, or is will its fashionably late appearance guarantee it some attention?
It might be a netbook, but the N210 isn't particularly cute. Its 265 x 189 x 35.6mm, 1.34Kg chassis is certainly small enough to draw admiring glances from passes by, but its grey lid gives it a more serious appearance than many of its rivals.
Although it's grey, the N210 isn't dull. The lid has an intricate miniature brickwork pattern (it's sexier than it sounds, honest) and is coated with a silky, translucent layer of plastic that easily helps this machine look more stylish than Samsung's first wave of netbooks. Anyone with a keen eye for design will be pleased to note that same pattern appears again just above the keyboard and again on the base of the machine.
Shiny's crappy, people
Open the N210's lid and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Its 10-inch display has a matte coating, which means you'll be able to use the N210 it in a variety of lighting conditions -- even outdoors -- without it turning into a £280 mirror. Despite its lack of a glossy coating, the screen delivers good image fidelity -- colours are punchy, there's decent contrast and viewing angles are good for a machine at this price.
The N210's keyboard is among the best keyboards we've seen on a netbook. Its keys, despite being relatively small, are isolated, so when your fat, meandering fingers go astray, they're less likely to accidentally strike an adjacent button. Unlike some netbook keyboards, important, but less frequently used, buttons -- such as the return key, left shift, return, and the cursor buttons -- are all of a good size. This means you never have to fish around too long looking for them. The mouse selector buttons are a little too small for our liking, but given that the mouse trackpad itself offers multi-touch navigation, this is a small gripe.
Not holier than thou
Connectivity on the N210 is fairly standard for a netbook. Wireless networking is present and correct thanks to a 802.11n Wi-Fi controller and it has Bluetooth 2.1. The right side of the machine has a couple of USB ports and a D-Sub VGA video output (sadly, HDMI isn't present) while the front edge gets an SD memory card slot and the power switch. The right side houses a 100Mbps Ethernet port, mic and headphone jacks and -- more unusually -- a USB port that can be used to charge your USB gadgets whether the laptop is on, in standby mode, or switched off completely.
The N210 comes with a wealth of, mostly useless, pre-installed software. Firstly, there's the Game Pack, from Oberon Media -- a collection of children's demo games that anyone over the age of 9 years old will probably never touch. The best we could find was Dairy Dash -- a game that involved a man feeding a goat, or something. It was rubbish.
Arguably the most interesting addition is Samsung Movies -- an online service -- that lets you rent movies for 99p or buy them outright for a fiver. The picture quality isn't particularly breathtaking, but it's on a par with similar services such as BBC iPlayer.
The Samsung N210 has the same internal gubbins as most netbooks, so it provides similar performance to most of its rivals. It returned a PCMark 2005 score of 1,350, which is about average, but it felt a little slow during day-to-day use -- possibly due to the amount of additional (read: pointless) software installed on our test machine.
Thankfully, its battery life was a little more impressive. The machine lasted a whopping 7 hours 20 minutes in our Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at full capacity until the battery is exhausted. With more frugal use, the machine can last in the region of 12 hours -- which is fantastic.
The N210 is an excellent netbook. It doesn't do anything particularly different to rivals such as the MSI Wind U135, but small touches, such as the matte display, isolated keyboard and extraordinary battery life mean it's definitely one to consider.