* Prices may differ from that shown
A while ago, I reviewed the Samsung N210, a great little netbook that, barring a few minor niggles really stood out in an increasingly over-crowded market. Less than six months after its release, Samsung has already updated it with theN210 Plus.
Now, I don't know about you, but I always thought that "Plus" indicated improved or better; an enhancement of what has gone before. That's not really the case with this machine. Many of the changes which have been made are more cosmetic than practical and bizarrely, where changes to the specification have been introduced, these actually make the machine a little worse than its predecessor, rather than better!
Like the N210, the Plus is a great little machine to look at, very sleek and compact which means it is very easy to take on your travels. Although it only has a 10.1 inch screen, this is perfectly serviceable for most tasks, The screen is sharp and crisp and large enough to minimise the need to scroll too much when viewing websites or long documents. Dimensions-wise, It is almost exactly the same as the N210 - approximately 26.5cm wide, 19cm deep and 2.9cm in height, so it's easy to slip into a bag.
he machine is made from moulded plastic and is available in either white or black. It is fairly sturdy and robust, so you don't need to be paranoid about treating it too gently, and the plastic finish on it also seems to be less of a fingerprint magnet than the N210. Annoyingly, the Plus doesn't come with the cloth carry case which was supplied with its predecessor, so you'll need to buy one of these to prevent your netbook getting damaged. T
It's in the dimensions that we come across the first significant change - it is slightly lighter, weighing 1.26kg, against the N210's 1.3kg. To be honest, though, this is such a small difference that you are hardly likely to notice it. Unfortunately, this lighter weight has been achieved by making changes to the battery, which has actually lowered battery life. In light usage tests (word processing, email, web surfing), the N210 was capably of running for around 10 hours. The Plus, on the other hand, only manages around 7-8. That's still pretty impressive and if (like me) you are rarely away from a power socket for too long, then it's not a major issue, but if you spend a lot of time on the road, then it's something you might want to consider.
Setting up the machine was very easy and straightforward. Switching it on for the first time starts the set-up routine, which requires the user to do little more than respond to occasional screen prompts. It does take a fair while (around 45-60 minutes) to do, though, and during that time, you can't switch the machine off, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time.
One area where there has been a definite improvement over the N210 is in the keyboard which is very well designed. It's a 95% sized keyboard, so really you will notice little difference between using that and a standard laptop. The keys are well spaced meaning that touch-typing is easily possible, although the smaller space bar and left shift key might cause some people a few issues.
The mouse track pad is highly responsive, although it's a slightly different story with the mouse buttons. These are very small and placed more or less at the very base of the netbook. This means that when you are typing quickly, you can sometimes find yourself missing the mouse button. This is only a minor quibble and doesn't detract from the overall quality of this machine, but it's an irritation which really should have been resolved at the design stage.
Specification-wise, apart from battery life, the Plus is identical to the N210 (again, making you wonder why Samsung bothered releasing it). It's powered by an Intel Atom 450 1.6Ghz chip, has 1GB RAM built in and a 250GB hard disk. In other words, it's pretty much the same specification as almost every other netbook out there. It comes with Windows 7 Starter Edition pre-installed, which is a good little operating system, easy for newcomers to pick up and use, but with enough in common with previous versions of Windows to make veteran computer users feel instantly at home.
Performance overall is exactly in line with what you would expect from a netbook. The specification is more than adequate for running common applications like word processing (it handles Office 2010 without any real issues), web surfing and email. You can also do some basic photo-editing and graphic manipulation but if you want to do anything clever with pictures, video or audio, then you're going to struggle. All but the most basic games are right out - but then the machine is not intended to be used for that. It's sufficiently powerful to handle basic multi-tasking, such as having a document and a couple of internet windows open at the same time. If you upgrade the memory to 2GB (the maximum the computer can support) then you will notice a quite significant improvement in performance and I'd definitely recommend going down this route.
As is pretty standard these days, wireless connectivity is built in and I've yet to experience the machine dropping a connection. There are 3 USB ports, an Ethernet port, and monitor connector around the edges and an SD card slot in the front, so most of your connectivity/multimedia needs are catered for. The machine also comes with Bluetooth (something some netbook owners omit to keep costs down). This is no big deal for me, as I don't really use Bluetooth, but it's good to have it available for the few times I do.
Having said performance is good, I confess that I was initially disappointed. Although the boot up and shut down times of the machine are very quick, the loading of programmes appeared to be a little sluggish. The main reason for this is that Samsung have pre-installed so much software on the machine. Much of this is unlikely to be of interest to the average user and is simply Samsung's way of keeping costs down by bundling other people's software onto their machine. This is a practice engaged in by all PC manufacturers, but Samsung have a strong claim to the title of Kings of the Pre-Installed Junk. This means that that an awful lot of the system's resources are being hogged by stuff that you simply don't need. I spent a couple of hours removing most of this junk and this led to a noticeable increase in the speed of the machine. It's annoying though, as some people won't possess the technical knowledge to do this and so will always have an under-performing machine.
The N210 Plus costs around £270-£300. This is towards the end of the higher end of the netbook price range and since most netbooks offer a very similar specification, it's hard to see what you are getting extra for that money. To be honest, I bought this model purely because I was able to cash in some vouchers that I had from a well-known supermarket, which meant I was able to get the machine massively reduced. Had I not been able to do that, I'd probably have been more tempted by the older, but superior N210.
So there we have it. Taken on its own merits, the N210 Plus is a great little machine and a worthy purchase. It's just a little expensive when set against its competitors and even against its own predecessor. It's hard to see what purpose it serves, since it is arguably worse than the machine it is supposedly updating. My advice would be if you can get it for under £240, then go for it; otherwise (assuming you can still find it), plump for the original N210 instead.
© Copyright SWSt 2010
2010 has definitely been my year of buying things - I'm enjoying it while it lasts as I'm going to have to be a lot more frugal next year! I decided to treat myself to a netbook recently, the reason being that I do quite a lot of travelling and a lightweight notebook would come in handy for train journeys. I decided against a tablet like the iPad, due to the cost and the fact that I do a lot of typing.
After reading a lot of reviews, I decided that the N210 Plus was my netbook of choice. Samsung can always be relied upon to produce attractive, high-quality products without the price tags of Apple, and I've never been let down by them. I have various other Samsung products including a notebook, TV and phone, so I'm confident it's a brand that provides value for money and longevity.
I was slightly concerned that this netbook appeared to have a few average/poor reviews, but a closer examination revealed that these reviews were comparing it to the previous model, the N210, and saying that it didn't prove to be much of an update. Since I didn't have the N210, this was a moot point because the N210 is now quite a bit more expensive than the N210 Plus due to being harder to get hold of.
- Appearance -
This netbook is available in black or white, and I went for the white option. The lid is slightly odd in that it's not plain white; close up it's got a strange brick-like pattern on it. I'm not sure why, and to be honest I'm not crazy about it but it's not massively noticeable so that's ok. It also says 'SAMSUNG' in silver across one side. It does feel of good quality; better than most netbooks I've seen. It's pretty durable, because it's handled being thrown around in my mine and my boyfriend's bags.
The keyboard has raised keys; the letter and number keys all seem to be standard size, and the space bar and backspace keys are a little shorter than average. I haven't found this a problem, and the keys are easy to clean between as well which is a bonus.
The look and feel of the N210 Plus is a particularly good one overall; it's smart and modern, the keys are tactile, the lid is pretty flexible and the only thing which looks slightly on the cheap side is the (matte) screen, although it does seem to be pretty durable and it's not noticeable unless the computer is off.
- Features & Set Up -
After I'd finished admiring it, I went about switching on the computer for the first time. The on/off switch is a slide one on the front right, and I initially mistook it for a slide switch to open the lid! Once I realised it was the on/off switch, I was a bit concerned that I would switch it off and on accidentally whilst lying in bed, but I've not had that problem.
The netbook took a surprisingly long time to perform its initial set up process; although I didn't really have to do much, I got very impatient as it took around 45 mins or so. After that I had to spend time getting rid of tons of pre-installed junk including trials of both Norton and McAfee, a game pack and various other useless things.
In normal use the netbook is pretty fast at booting up, shutting down and going in and out of sleep mode. Sleep mode is literally about 3-4 seconds, and starting up and shutting down probably takes about 45. Having said that I'm not storing much on it and purposely trying to avoid working it hard.
This netbook doesn't come with a CD/DVD drive, which may be an issue for some - however it does have Bluetooth, a multi-card reader and two USB ports so you can transfer anything you need across from another computer (although this is admittedly sometimes more of a hassle and occasionally requires some preparation). You can also buy a separate CD/DVD drive to plug in if needed.
Included in the box is an instruction manual and a small, lightweight charger which has a light to show whether it's plugged in or not and a good length of cord.
- Typical Use -
Netbooks aren't really designed to be your main computer, so if you're expecting to replace a regular laptop or desktop then you aren't going to be too impressed. Anything other than simple games provides a bit of a struggle, so don't buy this if you're a heavy gamer. Video can sometimes be a bit laggy as well, though it is watchable. I would recommend putting video on your hard drive and watching it from there rather than streaming it. It's good to take on long journeys - simply download a film or TV episodes (or transfer from another computer via a USB stick), and you've got what is essentially a 'portable DVD player' with a great battery life and lots more functionality. Because the hard drive is so big, you could store at least 300 full-length films on there so it's not like you've got to mess around with (or carry around) lots of discs. Train lines are starting to offer wi-fi connections as well, so it's a great little portable device. For web browsing it's also good, and of course for working with things like Word documents and spreadsheets.
- Battery Life -
The battery life is advertised as being 'up to eleven hours', and I find that I can comfortably get eight or nine hours use' with light browsing, basic games such as Solitaire, and a couple of documents open.
- Weight -
This netbook isn't the lightest I've ever come across, but it is considerably lighter than my 11" Samsung notebook. The fact that it doesn't have a CD/DVD drive helps matters. I can easily fit it into a regular sized shoulder bag (a large handbag really) and carry it around for a while with no problems.
- Operating System -
The N210 Plus is installed with Windows 7 Starter. This does have some limitations, including the fact that there's no hibernate mode and you can't change the desktop background without faffing with a workaround (there are various options on Google). Lack of hibernate mode is annoying because the netbook does tend to lose quite a bit of battery life even in sleep mode. However, there's the option to upgrade to Windows 7 Premium, which is only about £20, if this is a concern. Windows 7 Starter is a pretty standard operating system for netbooks to be fair, and if you're upgrading to Premium then you'll probably want to upgrade the RAM from 1GB to 2GB as well, which again will cost you around £20 and is apparently a very easy process.
- Price -
I was lucky enough to pick this up for just under £240, as Amazon's price was lower then and they did a 10% off promotion. The price for both black and white models now on Amazon is around £285-290, and to be honest I'd be reluctant to recommend it at that price as there's very little difference between technical specs of netbooks. You could easily pick up an Acer or a Toshiba with the same specs for £240 or less.
- Extras -
This netbook doesn't come with a sleeve, so I'd recommend buying one to protect it. You can buy them from lots of places, including Amazon, eBay and Etsy, the latter two of which are particularly good if you don't want to opt for a dark, plain sleeve.
I'd also recommend downloading OpenOffice, which is a free alternative to Microsoft Office, and worth downloading if, like me, the N210 Plus isn't your main computer and you don't want to fork out for MS Office again.
- Final Thoughts -
If you're thinking about going for a netbook and you're worried the keys will be too small or the screen won't be big enough, then the Samsung N210 Plus would be a good choice. If, however, you're looking for something extremely tiny and lightweight then you probably want to look elsewhere; there are many smaller sized netbooks on the market, although you will have to accept a shorter battery life as the trade-off.
I would definitely recommend this laptop (if you can get it under £250 or particularly like Samsung products) for:
* Students wanting a lightweight solution to take to lectures or the library
* People who spend a lot of time commuting or travelling on trains generally
* Parents who want to keep kids occupied on long car journeys
* People who are considering buying a portable DVD player
- Tech Specs -
RAM Size: 1 GB
Processor Speed: 1.66 GHz
Hard Drive Size: 250 GB
Operating System: Windows 7 Starter
Screen Size: 10.1 inches
More tech specs can be found for this product on Amazon.
- Overall -
A good buy if it can be found at the right price.