* Prices may differ from that shown
When our house was flooded last summer, life turned into a bit of a nightmare. We were forced to move into rental accommodation for three months. We were lucky in the fact that a friend was able to rent a newly renovated barn to us (many who were flooded in our area had to make do with caravans in their front gardens due to a distinct lack of local rental property such was the demand). However, although our new accommodation was very, very nice....it had no phone line and therefore no broadband. Despite promises from BT that the phone and broadband were about to be installed/switched on a week after we moved in...they lied! Three months later when we moved out, BT still hadn't managed to get their act together, and we were no closer to being connected to the 21st century.
The thought of spending even a week, let alone three months without my beloved PC and an internet connection was more upsetting than having my house flooded in the first place. My partner knew he needed to act fast to remedy the situation or he was going to have one very unhappy me in my new home. Hence he surprised me with a brand new netbook, and totally saved the day. Having had no previous experience of netbooks, this is my review on my thoughts and experiences with my brand new Samsung Netbook NC110-P. Apologies in advance if the language and descriptions are a bit less techy than they should be, but I'm no IT expert - never have been, and I suspect never will be :o).
~~ PRICE AND AVAILABILITY ~~
My partner bought my netbook from the dreaded PC World late last summer. The staff there were evidently rather reluctant to sell him this model, or indeed any other netbook in the store. They were in the process of clearing most of their existing netbook stock as tablets are now the order of the day. At the time he rather cynically thought that it might be a load of old sales baloney, and that perhaps the PC World staff got more commission from selling tablets rather than netbooks. However, he has since been proved to be rather too cynical and should have taken them at their word...tablets have indeed taken over and netbooks have mostly quietly retired from the scene.
At the time, he paid £229.99 for my netbook. A quick search on Kelkoo reveals you cannot buy this model anywhere new at the moment, so it seems PC World did not lie, and the NC110-P has now been discontinued by Samsung. You can still buy Samsung Netbooks but the range is limited as everyone seems to wants tablets now. No matter, I'm quite happy with my netbook and I don't want a tablet. I tried one of those Ultrabook Convertibles (tablets with detachable keyboards) in Currys last month, and had great trouble both removing and replacing the keyboard, so I'll stick with what I know for the time-being.
However, you can still buy this netbook second hand on Amazon Marketplace and it will cost you from £150. A fully refurbished model on the same site will set you back about £250.
~~ HOW MUCH BANG DO YOU GET FOR YOUR BUCK? ~~
My netbook is very, very portable. It weighs in at just over 1 kilo and is small enough to fit easily inside my handbag (25.9cm x 18cm with a width of only 2.5cm). Yes, I do have a rather commodious handbag, but once the netbook is inside you certainly wouldn't know it was there.
The netbook looks very sleek and rather smart, and I'm rather glad himself got me the jet black model. It has a high gloss lid which looks very sleek, but is the devil for showing every single mark - especially if you have slightly greasy hands or a wet dog's nose sniffing at it. It looks just like an ordinary laptop, but a rather Lilliputian version. The screen is embedded on the back of the glossy lid and the keyboard sits rather snugly underneath it. I did worry that I would find the keyboard a little too small and awkward to use, but the keys are spaced very nicely and touch typing is just as good and fast as with a stand alone PC keyboard for me. The trackpad is set at the bottom of the keyboard and is quick enough to respond to one's touch, if you like using a trackpad (which I don't, but more on that later).
The screen covers almost the entire surface of the back of the lid and is extremely clear and easy to read. Samsung claim you can use in direct sunlight, but I wouldn't really recommend it as I tend to find myself squinting to read it in sunshine....and squinting gives you even deeper wrinkles :o( I do find the screen easy enough to read, but I have to have it close to my eye-line or it becomes a little blurred. However, like most computers, it will allow you to change the zoom level on the screen up to a maximum of 400% so you can see something closer up. I tend to up mine to 125% if I'm having difficulty reading smaller fonts on some websites (i.e. DooYoo).
My netbook has all sorts of ports and buttons along the sides. This model has a headphone jack, a microphone jack, a monitor port, a security slot, 2 USB ports and the on/off power button on the right hand side. On the left it has a power connector slot, a wired LAN Port, a further USB slot and most importantly an HDMI port. The HDMI port is not available on some of the earlier Samsung netbooks, but himself was most insistent that this netbook had one. It's proved very useful in watching TV programmes we've missed. Obviously watching TV on the netbook is not really advised as the screen is far too small to be shared. However what you can do is fire up BBC iplayer, ITV player or even Dave on the netbook, and then feed an HDMI cable between our TV and the netbook so you can watch your missed programme on the big TV screen.
Finally to the front of the netbook is a tiny SD card slot which I haven't yet used, but is evidently a little fiddly to operate according to some user reviews. There are also a row of tiny lights showing if you're switched on/fired up, and whether the WiFi is working. There is a small camera embedded in the lid of the netbook too, which I had no idea was there for several months. I fired it up recently using the installed programme, Cyberlink YouCam, but was so appalled by the scary vision of my own face so close up I promptly shut it back down again. I suspect that it won't be a programme I'll be using all that often, but I would imagine it's rather useful if you like to Skype a lot or have live chats etc; The photos you can take with the programme are more than a little grainy in texture too, so not ideal.
~~ GETTING STARTED AND EVERYDAY USE ~~
Now I'm not the world's best IT geek, but I must say that setting up my netbook was simplicity itself and I had no problems whatsoever.
My netbook came packaged in a fairly large box. However, once you remove all the padding, plastic and bubblewrap, you'll find the netbook, the battery, a power adaptor and an additional power cable. There was also a plastic bag containing a Quick Start Guide, Warranty information and a System Recovery Media disc (not yet used... touchwood). The Quick Start Guide was simple and most easy to follow so by reading the instructions we got the netbook up and running very quickly.
First off you need to attach the enclosed battery and that snapped into place very easily and snugly. Next it was a case of plugging the enclosed power adaptor into the tiny AC socket on the left hand side of the netbook and the plug into the wall. Only then should you press the power button on the right hand side of the netbook. After that you open up the lid of the netbook and follow the on-screen instructions. From memory it took literally minutes to get the netbook up and running, and then I spent a good hour or so customising it so it was how I wanted it.
Like most new computers, your Samsung netbook will arrive with a lot of programmes you neither need nor want so I spent some time removing some of the "bloatware" programmes Samsung had added. In this instance I removed a 60 day free trial for Norton Antivirus, Skype and some of the Samsung software management programmes. These were all things I'm never going to use on my netbook and they will just clog up the memory and slow the system down. You do have to remember that there is no CD or DVD driver with this netbook, so you cannot load on any software that way. You need to either to purchase an external CD/DVD drive or do as I did and download any programmes you need from the net. I also copied some programmes onto a USB stick and then loaded them onto my netbook that way.
I immediately set about removing the Norton Antivirus trial included on the netbook and replaced it with a free Avast Antivirus programme which I downloaded off the net. The netbook comes with Windows 7 Starter addition which gives you the rather horrible Microsoft Office 2010. This basically gives you a rather dumbed down version of Excel and Word, which I hate as half the screen is taken up with Microsoft adverts to buy the full version. I therefore, copied my full versions of Microsoft Office Word and Excel 2003 onto a USB stick and then loaded them onto the netbook. They work like a dream and I can use them to my heart's content on my netbook without any of that annoying part-screen functionality than you get with Microsoft Office 2010.
As well as adding in these programmes, I also downloaded the Mozilla Firefox browser as this is so much better to use than Microsoft's Internet Explorer at times. When Ciao is being overzealous on their pop-up adverts, Firefox is the browser to use due to that handy free adblocker :o)
Other than those handy additions, I haven't added anything else to my netbook as I use it primarily for surfing the web, and don't tend to do much else on it. Although this netbook has a 160GB hard drive I don't tend to store any documents on it, I just use it for a little light web surfing and editing the odd document. If I need to edit a document using Word or Excel I tend to plug a USB stick into the side of the netbook and store the changes on that rather than saving the documents onto the netbook.
The netbook powers up very quickly. The only delay is caused by the Avast VirusChecker doing it's "thang" everytime you start up the netbook, but that's the price one pays for surfing safely nowadays and cannot be helped. Once the Avast programme is happy, the netbook is really quick to pick up any WiFi networks that are available to you for getting online.
Samsung claim that the battery should last over 10 hours on your netbook, but I suspect that it's something closer to around 8 hours before you need to recharge. You do get a warning if the power dips dangerously low, and then it's a simple case of plugging it into the nearest socket for some more juice. To be honest when I'm out and about with my netbook, I tend to leave the power adaptor and cable at home as I don't want to lug them around in my handbag as well. If you're out for the day, and you leave home with a fully charged netbook, chances are it will last you more than adequately throughout the day as long as you're not trying to download massive files or programmes. When you do need to recharge the netbook it's really quick and effortless.
~~ OUT AND ABOUT ~~
The wireless feature on my netbook is extremely reliable. Once we'd moved out of our rented barn and back into our newly refurbished house, my netbook recognised our BT Home Hub within seconds and once I'd keyed in the security code I was online in moments.
Similarly, connecting to the internet whilst you're out and about couldn't be simpler. When were stuck in our rental accommodation without a phone line or an internet connection, I was able to get online on my netbook more often than not by using the WiFi Hotspot Vodafone connection on my partner's smartphone, although it has to be said that the connection was a little shaky at times. However, this was not the fault of my netbook, more likely the fact that there was no phone connection for miles around and we were situated next door to a top secret MoD site using radar for communications.
I've used my netbook in various coffee shops such as Caffe Nero, Waterstones and local eateries without any problems whatsoever. I've sat in the car in one of the main streets of Chichester and managed to log onto a BT Fon Hotspot using my home broadband log-in details and within seconds I had a live internet connection. I also managed to find a free Stagecoach connection too, which was rather bizarre as I was nowhere near either a bus or a bus station at the time. I've used my netbook at work by logging into the network there too. The best thing is that the netbook remembers previous connections so you only have to key in the security code once and it automatically remembers the code next time you try and get online at the same location.
~~ ANY DIFFICULTIES OR DRAWBACKS? ~~
I do find the touchpad on my netbook rather fiddly to use. It works absolutely fine, but it's quite small and I'm not a huge fan of this touchpad. That said I'm not a huge fan of any touchpad (or touchscreen for that matter), but any other user may find it more than acceptable on this model. I invested in a small portable mouse almost immediately, and that works like a charm for me. The mouse plugs straight into one of the USB ports on the side of the netbook and works straightaway. When I've finished with the netbook, I unplug the mouse and the cord and USB connector fold back inside the bottom of the mouse so it neatly tucks inside the same bag as the netbook until the next time I use it. If you're looking for a similar mouse I got mine on Amazon for £5.99 and it's full and proper title is a Perixx Permice-210 Red Optical Mouse with retractable cable - USB - 800 dpi.
The netbook is fairly robust, but I do recommend that you buy a case for it if you are going to be lugging it around a lot. The outer case is very solid and durable, but it's a shiny black surface which will get very scratched if you don't encase it in something to absorb the shocks and jolts of daily life. I purchased a cheapie neoprene sleeve for mine from eBay at a cost of £6.99 and you can choose from a range of really great designs (mine has raindrops on it).
Although the screen is more than adequate at 10.1", I do struggle to see some websites that use smaller fonts (such as DooYoo), but you can up the zoom factor on the screen to 125% or more if you need to see something up close and personal.
The main problem with the netbook is that it can be rather slow, especially if you have more than one programme running at the same time. Heaven help you if your netbook is doing an Avast virus update or Windows has decided to do one of their Malicious Software sneaky updates. Any browsing you are trying to do online will grind almost to a halt whilst you wait for the updates to finish. However, if you want to have two or three different websites open at the same time then the netbook copes more than adequately with a little light surfing. In fact it's ideal for reading, rating and commenting on Ciao and DooYoo reviews as neither website is too taxing on its system. I haven't tried it, but I would imagine gaming would be rather disappointing on this netbook as it just wouldn't be fast enough to keep up. I suspect Solitaire or Minesweeper would be more up to its speed!
The netbook comes with Windows 7 Starter and it really is rather basic. It won't let you change much on the netbook display. I wanted to change the desktop background to something a little more interesting, such a photo of my dog, but the display cannot be changed. The Control Panel features on Windows 7 Starter are more than a little limiting and the tab for "Appearance" just allows you to alter the screen resolution and nothing else at all. This is a bit disappointing as I like to customise any PC I own with a personalised theme and desktop background. In the great scheme of things though, it's no biggie and I can live with it.
I must admit that despite having owned this netbook for a good few months now, I had not yet tested the speakers on it. However, for the purposes of this review I decided to check them out by visiting You Tube and listening to a few tracks. First off I listened to Gangnam Style which was a huge mistake as it sounded dreadfully tinny. Things did not improve when I tried some other tracks - the sound here is not that good for music, but it's reasonable for listening to voices and webcasts.
~~ RECOMMENDED? ~~
Oh yes, definitely. Call me a Luddite, but I'm still not convinced by tablets, phablets, ultrabooks, ultrabook convertibles or touchscreen laptops... but I'm definitely a convert to a netbook. Although the NC110-P can be a little sluggish if you give it too much to do, for a little light surfing or document editing it really comes into its own. It's incredibly portable and surprisingly light. For me it's proved ideal for popping into my handbag and using at those times I want to edit a document or get online but I don't want the limiting functions or small screen of a smartphone. This netbook is very reliable and extremely handy, not to mention incredibly easy to use.
I'm looking forward to taking it on holiday with me next time I go abroad or even stay in the UK. Providing there's WiFi access nearby, there will be no more smelly and dark internet cafes for me :o)
~~ RUN DOWN OF THE MAIN FEATURES ~~
* This netbook weighs in a lightweight 1.18kg so it's very portable indeed
* The size is a compact and bijou 25.9cm x 18cm with a width of only 2.5cm
* The screen size is 10.1 inches (which can make you squint at times I'm afraid)
* Intel Atom processor of 1.6GHz
* RAM size = 1 GB
* Hard drive size = 320GB
* Wireless Bluetooth
* 3 x USB ports, a VGA port and a SD memory card reader
* HDMI slot (which is very handy to catch up on TV programmes)
* Windows 7 Starter operating system (OK but rather limited)
* Battery life is purported to be 10.7 hours (but I think it's closer to about 8 hours....but on the plus side it recharges really quickly)
* Windows 7 Starter
* Samsung Support Centre
* Battery Life Extender
* Windows Live Essentials
* Cyberlink Youcam
* Easy File share
* Software Launcher
* Norton Online Backup (60 day trial)
* Easy Software Manager