Samsung has produced some of our favourite netbooks, including the NC10, which offers great battery life, and the N110, which boasts a top-notch keyboard and trackpad. The prices of the company's netbooks, however, have been steadily creeping upwards with each new launch, and the N310 continues the trend, clocking in at around £380. Samsung is obviously hoping this netbook's unique design will convince people that it's worth the extra outlay.
Netbooks are often so similar in terms of specification that the only room left for manufacturers to distinguish their offerings is design. And it's design that Samsung has focused on with the N310. This netbook is certainly rather striking when you first take it out of the box. Available in either orange, blue or black, what really makes it stand out from the crowd is its beautifully rounded corners. They not only look great but make the netbook easy to slide into a bag or case. Also, rather than a glossy finish on the lid, the N310 sports a type of rubberised plastic that really feels like it will last.
Inside the N310 looks very classy too. We love the borderless look on the 10.1-inch display, with the glossy cover running all the way to the edges of the lid. The display itself is also first-class. Colours look as good as or better than on any netbook screen we've seen. It's also very bright and, thanks to the 1,024x600-pixel resolution, text is rendered very crisply.
The keyboard is also excellent. Samsung has opted for a design that uses isolated keys -- rather like those of Apple's MacBook Air -- and, despite its small size, the keyboard is surprisingly comfortable to type on. The roomy trackpad is also top-class.
Rather than using a solid-state drive, Samsung has opted for a traditional hard drive with a 160GB capacity. That provides a decent amount of space for holding work files, music and videos.
In terms of connectivity, you get three USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks, an Ethernet jack, a memory-card reader and a VGA port for hooking the N310 up to an external display or projector. Wi-Fi is also included, as is Bluetooth support.
Besides its design, the N310 follows the usual netbook template quite closely. It's based on the commonly used Intel Atom N270 processor, clocked at 1.6GHz. The netbook refused to complete our PCMark05 benchmark test, but its day-to-day performance is in line with most other netbooks we've tested. That means it can handle most routine tasks, but will struggle if you run too many processor-intensive applications at the same time.
As usual with netbooks, the N310 has only 1GB of RAM -- just about enough to comfortably run the pre-loaded Windows XP operating system. Also as usual, 3D performance isn't a strong point. The N310 scored only 88 in 3DMark06, but you'd never buy a netbook as a gaming machine anyway.
Samsung has chosen to provide the N310 with a rather lightweight four-cell battery. That means the N310's battery life falls far short of that of similarly priced rivals like the MSI Wind U115 Hybrid and Asus Eee PC 1000HE. In Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, the N310 managed to keep running for just 2 hours and 30 minutes, compared to the U115's highly impressive 7 hours and the 1000HE's nearly 6 hours.
The Samsung N310 is a great-looking netbook, but, given the high price, we're disappointed that the battery life is so anaemic and that the specification is so run-of-the-mill.
Edited by Charles Kloet