For months, I struggled to find the perfect netbook, researching on tech blogs and even bugging popular resident geeks like Lester, DK as well as a few of my techie colleagues for their opinions. (Thanks, guys!) And finally, the night before the IT fair, I drew up a “to consider” list based on their specs:
1) ASUS 1005 HA for its long battery life
2) MSI Wind U100 Plus for its affordable price tag.
3) Acer Aspire One D250 for having both Windows and Android OSes.
4) Toshiba Mini NB205 for its positive reviews.
5) HP Mini 311 for its ergonomic keyboard.
But when I arrived at the fair, I realized I made a grave mistake. Netbooks aren’t really about specs, they’re about usability. I was disappointed with my “to consider” list. Most of them just didn’t feel right. Some had difficult keyboards, others felt like over sized toys. I was very reluctant to part with my money… until I saw the Samsung N310.
It was love at first touch.
Why I Love the Samsung N310
Keyboard: The Samsung N310 has a Mac-like or chiclet keyboard. And as a Macbook user, I can type with my eyes closed and make no mistakes on the N310. I also really appreciate the full-sized “Tab” button because I fill in quite a bit of forms and like to change windows quickly.
Texture: The shell of the Samsung N310 is covered by this rubbery material reminiscent of those exorbitantly-priced Japanese mechanical pencils. I think they call those things soft grip. The soft grip just makes me want to molest the netbook. 😉
Design: It’s minimalistic and there’s something very Japanese about it… like my blog. (Yes, I’m aware Samsung is Korean.) Upon further research, I learned that the Samsung N310 is designed by Naoto Fukasawa – the dude who designed everything from indestructible paper bags to MUJI’s CD player. So perhaps that’s why there was that certain Japanese-ness to it.
Battery Life: Officially, the website says it’ll run 9 hours with a 6-cell 8850 mAh battery. It’s actually not too far from the truth. My N310 hasn’t gotten a chance to run out of juice yet so I can’t say for certain. However, I did run it for 4.5 hours on Normal battery mode with USB broadband on mobile modem on, iTunes playing, Google Chrome with 3 tabs running, Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger with 3 windows open – and my battery meter still read “48% battery life left; 3.8 hours left”!
Sound: The audio is crisp, clear and very, very loud. And I hate to admit this, but it’s louder than my Macbook’s speakers. 😯
But of course, no product is ever perfect. Over 2 weeks of use, I discovered a few things that annoyed me but nothing severe enough to make me regret my buy.
Why the Samsung N310 annoys me
Heat: It gets a little warm on the left side. Of course, it depends on the surface I place it on. On tables, it doesn’t seem to get that warm that quickly or easily – unless I’m doing something resource intensive. But on softer surfaces like beds, pillows or even on my lap, it does get warm fairly quickly.
Performance: Compared to my friend’s Toshiba NB205, the Samsung N310 on Normal battery mode performs much slower at multimedia tasks like Facebook flash games and webcam chats. (Our specs are the same, except that hers runs on Windows 7 Starter and mine on Windows XP.) But when the N310 runs on Max Performance mode, it was on par with the NB205.
Mouse Trackpad: The touchpad is less responsive than the Mac’s, so I have to tap a little harder to click. I’m also not a fan of the mouse button. Windows machines shouldn’t have one button. With right-click, it just doesn’t make sense.
Logo Design That is one seriously gigantic Samsung logo. Worst thing is, it’s embossed so I can’t cover it with a sticker. Besides, stickers will destroy its beautiful soft grip skin. Argh!
After some bargaining with a very knowledgeable salesperson, I bought the Samsung N310 for S$649 (approx USD $450) with a 2GB RAM upgrade (plus installation) and a laundry list of freebies including:
- External DVD writer
- 2-year extended warranty
- Antivirus software
- 4GB Sandisk Cruzer
- Laptop cooler
- Laptop cleaner
Tech Reviews of the Samsung N310
I’m only a poseur geek, so my review is probably not comprehensive enough for the true geeks. Just shimmy over to the real geeks’ reviews here if this isn’t what you’re looking for: