Product Type: Samsung Netbook
Newest Review: ... very good battery life (not quite the twelve hours promised, but then it as always relevant to whatever programs you are running and how ma... more
Green and Black But Better Than Chocolate
Member Name: Hishyeness
Date: 11/05/10, updated on 11/05/10 (1163 review reads)
Advantages: Stunning good looks with substance under the bonnet to match the style
Disadvantages: Unnecessary bloatware pre-installed, but otherwise nothing to speak of.
BOYS AND THEIR TOYS
Seduced by the idea of the ability to read, write and surf on the go, I have been hankering after an ultraportable netbook for ages. The catalyst that turned wishing for one into actually buying one was twofold. Firstly, after a long, hard interview process, I landed a plum job in the City, so, feeling flush, I decided a retail reward was in order. Secondly, my new responsibilities at work require me to manage and maximise my time more effectively, or risk falling off the face of the reviewing world forever.
My new job requires a fair bit of travel and some late nights, so being able to write on the go was a huge draw - as was the opportunity to Skype my family from foreign shores, so I could at least see my kids off to bed, if not tuck them in physically. After a bit of due diligence and a lot of agonising, I settled on the Samsung N220, the slightly better endowed sibling of the well-received N210, and a generation on from the market-leading N10, which set the benchmark that other manufacturers desperately tried to follow.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
The Netbook arrived in a solid, bijou looking cardboard box containing the main unit, a power cable in two parts, the battery, a fitted, zipped black cover, an installation guide, warranty information - and not a lot else. By force of habit, I scrabbled around the darker corners of the little box, looking for the host of back-up discs that usually come with a PC (which are provided even if the software is pre-loaded on to the machine), but these were nowhere to be found. A quick read of the installation guide confirmed that none are provided.
SET-UP & WALK AROUND
Physical set-up is easy enough. The battery clicks in to the Netbook securely and with minimum fuss. The power cable comes in two parts. The plug end is separate from the transformer, ostensibly to allow you to exchange a UK plug fitting for a continental or US one - but neither of these are provided. The cover does not have a catch and opens easily enough. The small, discreet and almost invisible sliding power switch is at the front of the unit next to a covered memory card slot (which supports SD, SDHC and MMC formats).
The right side of the unit offers a 15 pin VGA monitor connection, two USB 2.0 ports and a security lock port suitable for a Kensington lock and cable. There is an additional USB port on the left hand side next to two 3.5mm jacks - one for headphones and the other for an external microphone - a LAN port and a power plug socket.
The USB ports remain powered even if the Netbook is turned off, allowing you to charge mobile phones and iPods without having to open it. There are no connections at the back, and in keeping with other similarly sized netbooks, there is no integral DVD or CD-ROM drive. The speakers, including (impressively for a netbook) the sub-woofer, are located on the bottom of the unit.
There is also a removable panel, secured by a small screw offering easy access to the memory module if you fancy swapping out the 1GB it ships with for the maximum 2GB Samsung have allowed. At current prices, a 2GB memory module will set you back around £30, and given the boost to performance, is a worthwhile investment for what equates to around 10% of the Netbook's RRP.
On opening the lid, you get a 10.1 inch widescreen with an integrated webcam sitting on top of it. The screen can be pushed back to a maximum of about 45 degrees. The touchpad with its right and left click buttons is slightly offset to the left with the small but bright blue status lights arrayed alongside, next to the pinhole microphone.
The keyboard is in what Samsung call "a low profile island" design. The keys are square and slightly raised, offering a slightly spongy typing experience which takes some getting used to. Although the layout is slightly more compressed and compact than a standard PC keyboard, it is comfortable to use and after a while, you don't really notice it.
PRE-LOADED or PRE-BLOATED?
The Netbook comes pre-installed with the starter edition of the new Windows 7 operating system. When first running the machine out of the box, you will need to allow a good hour or so before you can do anything with the Netbook.
The PC runs you through several set-up procedures, updates and programmes, which require a few reboots before you are allowed to log on and get on to your desktop. Once you do, you will find a whole host of applications you will never have heard of, all ready to insistently announce their presence as you try and get on with things.
These seem to be trial versions of software which require paid for upgrades or subscriptions, so I spent a good couple of hours hunting down and uninstalling all of the components of these unwanted "gifts" from Samsung. You will also find the more useful, pre-installed shortcuts to the Samsung Recovery utility, the user guide for the Netbook and Samsung Support Center (sic) all of which are on the hard drive.
Of the other pre-installed software, the most useful (if you want them) are McAfee, HyperSpace, FailSafe, Microsoft Office Home/Student 2007 Trial Edition and Microsoft Works. The McAfee Internet Security package is free for the first 30 days, but requires a subscription thereafter. As a committed BullGuard user, I uninstalled it straight away and installed my preferred software.
HyperSpace allows you to turn on the Netbook more or less instantly, without waiting for Windows to fully boot up, which, for the trade-off of limited functionality allows you quick web access to e-mail. To be frank, given the excellent battery life, I leave the unit in sleep mode most of the time and find this feature annoying and totally unnecessary - fortunately it is easily turned off.
Phoenix Failsafe is essentially a subscription service that allows you secure remote access to your laptop if it is stolen or lost, giving you the power to disable it, retrieve and erase data, and monitor usage. I wasn't interested so it was promptly uninstalled.
I use MS Office a great deal, so immediately upgraded the Trial Edition - which allows you limited functionality for a set number of sessions - for the real thing, for an additional cost of around £45. It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that with the full MS Office suite on board, Microsoft Works is almost entirely redundant.
LOOK & FEEL
The Netbook is an impressively slick looking piece of kit. It has a classy, patterned glossy top cover that is best described as black with a very dark green tint. However, its glass-like sheen also makes it a magnet for fingerprints, and I find myself constantly wiping it down to keep it looking good. It is also prone to scratches, so the cover Samsung provide in the box is a godsend. The bottom half of the machine is finished in a much more practical matte black, but the chrome effect edging around the screen and keyboard gives the whole unit a seriously classy finish.
At around 26cm x 15cm and a very modest 1.3kg, the Netbook is not much bigger or heavier than a decent sized hardback book. It certainly lives up to the expectation of ultra-portability. It is easy to hold in one hand and type in the other. Most importantly for me, its compact size makes it an ideal travelling companion that works perfectly in the close confines of a crowded suburban train, the tube or on flights.
However, looking and feeling nice is one thing - but does the N220 add substance to its undoubted style? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes.
For me, the most important specification, when looking for a netbook, was battery life, and this is where the N220 delivers in spades. Samsung have done some clever things under the bonnet to minimise power consumption and maximise battery life, giving this unit astonishing stamina away from the mains. Actual power consumption will, of course depend on what you are running. For instance, if you have anything drawing power from the USB ports (such as an external hard drive, a USB stick, or an iPod) you are going to use power much quicker.
However, that said, without any peripherals attached, I get around eight or nine hours out of the six cell battery while surfing the internet, listening to music, using Office applications or watching pre-loaded movies. That's pretty impressive (although, to be fair, nowhere near the 11 hours originally advertised)
The N220 uses an N450 1.66 GHz Intel Atom processor, features a 250GB hard drive and has 1GB memory as standard, which is more than good enough for most of the applications you are likely to run on a netbook. As mentioned, an upgrade to 2GB memory is a worthwhile investment and generally speeds things up, especially when you have several windows open at once. That said, it's important to realise the limitations of this machine. It's not going to handle graphics heavy and memory hungry programmes particularly well, and you can forget about resource intensive gaming as well.
This machine, as with most netbooks, has a particular niche and is simply brilliant for internet use and running basic office type applications on the go. As a for instance, I regularly have MS Word, several windows in Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype and iTunes running at the same time without any problems (the only caveat being that I upgraded to 2GB of memory instantly, so I am not sure the same holds true if you stick with the 1GB provided). Internet connectivity is handled by the on-board 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN card.
The dedicated on-board sound card and speakers are the main difference between this model and the N210 and in my view at least, definitely worth the £20 premium on its less well endowed stable mate. Sound quality is surprisingly rich, with the addition of sub-woofer putting paid to the tinny sound so often associated with laptop and netbook speakers.
The lack of an integrated DVD drive originally worried me, to the extent that I felt compelled to buy one at the same time as this machine. However, I have not needed it nearly as much as I thought I would and I do not find the lack of a drive a handicap. The reduction in both size and weight is a worthwhile trade off. I find my portable 500GB Seagate external hard drive a much more useful peripheral.
The other limiting factor that gave me pause was the screen size. I am used to working on 19" and 21" monitors, so I wasn't sure how I would adapt to the vastly reduced 10.1" screen. However, in this era of iPhones and Blackberries, we have already been conditioned to read tiny screens, so downsizing to the more bijou dimensions of this Netbook was no great hardship. The matte, non-reflective screen, which offers a resolution of 1024x600 (for the less technically minded, think widescreen format) has a good viewing angle and is easy to see and use in bright environments. Provided you don't add too many toolbars to your web browser, is not nearly as limiting as I thought it might be.
Another highlight on a long list of positives is the near silent running of the machine. The same science that permits the excellent battery life (i.e. extremely efficient power consumption) is also responsible for the cool running of the Netbook. The bottom of the unit gets ever so slightly warm after prolonged use, and, because of the little heat that is generated, there is no need for noisy fans to cool things down.
COST & ACCESSORIES
At full RRP, the Samsung N220 will set you back £329, however, at the time of writing (May 2010) it is available on Amazon and various other reputable e-tailers at around £290. That's toward the higher end of the netbook market, even starting to encroach on the price point for basic, low end laptops. However, the N220, when taking its target market and specific purpose into account, certainly delivers excellent bang for the buck. The unit comes in two styles - the green/black one which I have, and a red/black one which is available at the same price.
Of course, the cost of running the N220 can stop with the purchase of the unit, but in reality, you should also factor in the cost of accessories. To give you an idea, I shelled out: £35 for the extra memory, £45 for upgraded Office, £35 for an external USB DVD drive, £55 for a 500GB external portable hard disk and £12 for a netbook carry case, adding up to an additional spend of around £180. None of these are what could be deemed "essentials", and memory and case aside, all are transferrable and useable on other PC's, but the cost of extras is certainly worth bearing in mind.
I am extremely pleased with the style, performance, versatility and functionality of this little beauty. To be honest, I was originally seduced by its stunning good looks, but rather like finding out that your head-turning girlfriend is also a rocket scientist, the aesthetics are more than matched by its actual day to day performance.
The mobile computing market is moving at a very fast pace and I was keen to get decent bang for buck in an attempt to future-proof my investment as much as possible. Given the "father" of the N220 - the venerable Samsung N10 - still holds its own in the second hand market more than two years after its initial release, is testament to the durability of Samsung's products in this niche market. At just under £290, this Netbook may be at the high end of the market, but it still represents excellent value at the price.
Note: I have covered most of the technical specs in the context of the review, but you can find the full picture here: www.samsung.com
© Hishyeness 2010
Summary: Another corker of a netbook from Samsung
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