Friday 25 September 2009

Samsung NC10 Netbook

Some years ago I gave up a permanent job and started doing some freelance consulting.

Being in IT and moving around I needed a laptop, but I'd spent a number of years lugging heavy laptops around and fancied something compact and light.

I liked Sony's tiny notebook PCs, but I didn't like the prices they came with and I settled, back then, on a used Dell C400 - A laptop with a 12" (Square) screen, no CD Rom or floppy disk, which weighs just 1.7Kg without its power supply.

It was good, except for two problems - Firstly the battery life was abysmal (an hour if I was lucky even with a brand new battery) and secondly it wasn't really that quick.

Back in full time employment, the C400 was passed onto my daughter (I like them so much I bought another for my son) and I had a heavy HP laptop to lug around again.

However, when ASUS released their first EEPCs and other Netbooks started to appear I got interested.

Sometimes I don't need a big laptop, I just want something that I can write or review documents on, surf the web or edit and review photos.

I knew what I wanted and it was :

1) Small, lightweight notebook.
2) Windows XP OS - for full compatibility with my home and work machines
3) Good battery life - 3 hours +
4) Decent resolution screen
5) Ability to surf the net remotely.
6) Able to run a couple of applications (eg Outlook, Word, Excel, at a time.
7) Fast start up (from standby, at least).

The Netbook (at around a kilo) seemed a great idea, but playing with the 7 and 9 inch models showed the keyboards were hard to use, but that changed as 10" screen models appeared and after some consideration I decided to purchase a Samsung NC10.

The NC10 (now supplanted by the similar N110) features a 10.1" screen, with 1024x600 pixel resolution and the ubiquitous Intel Atom processor.

There's a 120GB hard disk built in, but no CD Rom (as with most Netbooks - although it will boot off of a USB device).

By default it comes with just 1GB of RAM, but for £20 I purchased a 2GB RAM module and replaced it (there's only room for one module) almost as soon as it arrived (a very easy task as there's a door under the netbook with direct access to the RAM).

Some reviews complain about the small touchpad, but I never really found it that much of a problem. I may be unusual in that I actually find touchpads quite easy to use and I got on with the NC10's with no problem.

The keyboard is generally very good. The size is close enough to a full sized to be at ease instantly and the feel and weight of the keys is high quality. The only downside here is the short right shift key on the UK market version, which still leads me to starting sentences with the \ character. NC10s in other markets have a wide right shift key, like most other keyboards.

The NC10 was one of the first Netbooks to run Windows XP rather than a Linux of some form. Whilst I'm not a Microsoft fanboy, the 100% compatibility with my other PCs was something I wasn't prepared to compromise on.

The NC10 (especially compared to others when I bought it) is a handsome Netbook - It didn't look as 'built down to a price' as many of its competitors, with a 'piano black' finish and a silver edge that lent it the look of a quality bound notebook from a distance.

Little features like the blue LEDs (including the neat power switch built into the right side screen hinge) added to the feel of quality build.

There's a semi-decent quality webcam built into the top edge of the screen, but I've never used it myself. There's also a built in mic (again, I've not used it) and the ability to plug in an external mic, which I have done a few times and records reasonably decent voice recordings, ideal for recording meetings.

I installed Office 2007 and it runs Excel, Word and Powerpoint quite happily. I've also run the Windows 7 Beta on it and seen good performance.

The screen is exceptionally bright and clear (this was the deciding feature over another netbook when I bought) and this makes running photo software relatively pleasurable too, although the small screen size prevents some software installing and it's not a match for the 19" widescreen LCD on my home PC. It is plenty good enough for initial sorting, etc on a trip, though, which is exactly what I wanted.

The wi-fi works very well, with performance around my house (on the 20MB Virgin Media Broadband) on web based speed testers a match for my wired in desktops. I've used it all over the place (in Europe and America too) with similarly good performance.

There are 3 USB Ports and a VGA Output, so you could use this as a primary PC if you were feeling so inclined, but that's not really the point of netbooks.

There are built in speakers, but they're not really that good except for bleeping an alert - Even playing back Radio 4's "New Quiz" isn't very enjoyable, let alone music, but with earphones plugged in, the sound quality output from the NC10 is pretty decent.

The battery life is excellent for a laptop of any sort. I've seen 6 hours+ of web browsing on a single charge - and the power supply is relatively lightweight, so not a great problem to take on trips with you. Booting from totally off to Outlook running takes under 2 minutes even with a number of startup apps (Anti-Virus, etc) loaded and it's up and running in under 20 seconds from Standby.

Bad points? Well, I've never got mine to play DVD rips at a decent speed. I found MPEG4 conversions for my PSP run well and look acceptable at the limited resolution the screen delivers, though.

That short right shift key still bugs me repeatedly and that's it.

Generally, the NC10 is a lovely netbook. It performs well enough (although inevitably not a match for a full spec desktop or laptop), is very light and compact, has a great screen and lasts hours on a single battery charge.

I would buy another in an instant if I needed to.

Link to Samsung UK Product Page

Samsung Netbook User Forum - Who I bought my NC10 from.

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