Ah, netbooks. In just a few short years, these popular and portable mini laptops have firmly established themselves in the modern computing hierarchy, and yet we still haven't found one with the perfect blend of battery life, a comfortable trackpad and a display that makes us cry tears of joy. Next up in our netbook auditions is the Samsung N220, available now for around £300.
Love and gloss
The N220 makes a good first impression, thanks to its highly attractive glossy red lid, which is embossed with a Samsung logo, and finished with a tasteful chrome stripe around the edge. We reckon extracting this little beauty from your satchel will turn a few heads in the coffee shop. The machine's build quality is also excellent -- the whole package feels solid.
On the inside, everything looks very... matte. There's a matte black plastic frame surrounding a matte black trackpad and keyboard, and a 10.1-inch matte display to top it all off.
The display sports a maximum resolution of 1,024x600 pixels, which isn't as high as that of some similar devices. That means Web pages will render larger than they would on other displays, which in turn means you'll have to do plenty of scrolling to see the entire page. On the bright side, the matte coating on the screen really does keep reflections at bay, allowing you to keep your eyes on the action without the pesky sun spoiling your nerdy fun when you're outside.
The N220 rocks an isolated keyboard. The keys themselves are on the petite side, but the wide gaps between each button mean you're unlikely to hit the wrong one too frequently. We found typing at speed to be a perfectly pleasant experience.
The trackpad is the real pièce de résistance. After handling a slew of netbooks with tiny, unresponsive, cramp-inducing trackpads, the N220's offering seemed a vision of loveliness. We appreciated the broad dimensions and sensitive surface of the trackpad, as well as its super-comfortable click buttons. It's a long time since we've used a trackpad this pleasant on a netbook.
The N220's port selection includes an Ethernet jack, three USB ports, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a microphone, a VGA output and a multi-format memory-card slot.
This netbook comes pre-loaded with Windows 7 Starter. A 250GB hard drive provides plenty of storage considering the kind of light tasks this netbook is suited to.
So far, so good. Beneath the surface, however, things are considerably more boring. The N220 runs on a netbook-standard Intel Atom N450 CPU, clocked at 1.66GHz. Backed up by the customary 1GB of RAM, there's very little going on inside this machine that we haven't seen a dozen times before in similar devices.
That's not a huge drawback, though. The N220 will capably keep up with your Web-browsing and document-editing escapades, even if tasks such as playing games or watching high-definition video are beyond its capabilities. There's just nothing on offer that makes the N220 stand out above the hoard of similar machines. As it stands, the N220 achieved a thoroughly average score of 1,312 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, and a disappointing score of 155 when we ran 3DMark06.
Assault on battery
Samsung makes some very bold claims about the N220's battery life, boasting that you'll manage a competition-beating 12 hours of usage time away from the mains. We didn't get a chance to run our full suite of benchmark tests, but we'd be very surprised if its battery life wasn't similar to that of the Samsung N210, which lasted a whopping 7 hours and 20 minutes with the CPU running at full pelt.
The Samsung N220 isn't a particularly ambitious netbook, but it's a good machine nevertheless. You'll find better displays on other netbooks, but a supremely comfortable keyboard and trackpad, excellent battery life and a highly stylish appearance help the N220 stand out from the crowd. It's reasonably priced too.
If you require a higher-resolution display, check out the similarly priced and equally stylish, but decidedly glossy, Dell Mini 1012.
Edited by Charles Kloet