When we visited Samsung's Korean HQ, the company assured us it wasn't working on a netbook, and wasn't particularly interested in the market. Fast-forward a few months and it's not only made a netbook but it's made one that's among the finest on the market -- obviously someone was paying attention. The NC10 is available to buy now from all good outlets for around £320.
The NC10 isn't the flashiest netbook we've seen, but we're big fans of its contemporary, functional design. Both the black and white versions are attractive, although we're more partial to the black model, as that colour better complements the metallic strip running across the side and front edges. Both versions are finished in a non-glossy coating, which means they're less prone to picking up fingerprint smudges.
The dimensions of the NC10's chassis aren't very different to that of other netbooks sporting a 10-inch display. It measures 261 by 30 by 185mm and weighs 1.3kg, so it's only slightly smaller and lighter than the Asus Eee PC 1000HE, which clocks in at 1.4kg and measures 266 by 38 by 191mm. As you'd expect from a device of this type, the NC10 is very easy to slip into a small bag and can be carried almost anywhere.
Connectivity on the NC10 is standard netbook fare. The left side houses two USB ports and one Ethernet port, while the right side is home to yet another USB port, mic and headphone jacks, a VGA output, and a Kensington lock for securing it to a desk. Each of the ports has a label above it on the same level as the keyboard, so you needn't crane your neck or lift the machine from the table to see which port you're jamming a device into.
The NC10's large-ish chassis means Samsung has been able to install a relatively big keyboard. This, like the keyboards on most 10-inch netbooks, is comfortable to use and, with some skill, even allows users to touch-type without sacrificing much speed. The mouse trackpad is very good, too. It lacks multitouch, as you get on some Eee PCs, but has a dedicated vertical scroll strip that makes browsing Web pages simple.
The NC10 comes from the same mould as the majority of its netbook brethren. It uses an Intel Atom N270 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz, and 1GB of DDR2 533MHz RAM, plus graphics provided by the Intel 945GS chipset -- all of which is standard fare on devices of this type.
Storage comes in the form of a 160GB hard drive. That's nowhere near the Asus N10's maximum storage capacity of 320GB, but it gives you enough room for a couple of hundred DivX movies, about 40,000 MP3 files and more images than the average human being should probably own.
The NC10 has a very good screen, but that's hardly surprising, given Samsung's experience in the display market. Its 10.2-inch screen has a fairly typical 1,280x600-pixel resolution, which isn't much room to manoeuvre many application windows, but it's wide enough to comfortably accommodate most Web pages, and its viewing angle is wide enough so that two kids can watch a movie side by side in the back of a car. They'll need to share headphones or buy a headphone splitter, though -- the NC10 only has a single headphone socket.
The NC10's networking capabilities aren't much to write home about. It packs 802.11b/g Wi-Fi so you can connect to home, office or public Wi-Fi networks, 10/100 Ethernet and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. Unfortunately, it lacks integrated 3G, so those who require go-anywhere Internet access will need to buy a bulky USB dongle. There's also no 802.11n high-speed Wi-Fi, as you get on the 1000HE.
The NC10's performance is generally very impressive. Its specification is nearly identical to that of most rivals, but it runs coolly, quietly and goes about its business with little fuss. It scored 1,510 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, which is in line with most machines of its ilk.
Battery life is also impressive. Its 5,200mAh battery pack is a sizeable unit, so its no surprise that the NC10 lasted for 5 hours and 37 minutes in intensive usage at 60 per cent brightness. It will last as long as 7 hours if you perform simple reading tasks and are willing to reduce the brightness further.
The Samsung NC10 is definitely one of the better netbooks on the market. It's fantastically well designed, easy to use, has great battery life and is affordable. The Eee PC 1000HE can last longer away from the mains, but the NC10 is definitely not a machine to be sniffed at.
Edited by Charles Kloet