Vikki Chowney: Samsung's NC10 netbook on O2

by Vikki Chowney on 26th April 2009

Samsung NC10Originally published on BitchBuzz.com, Vikki Chowney takes a look at Samsung’s smash-hit netbook.

I’ve been a fan of the very light, super-transportable netbook for some time, and in my last review back in December, I looked at Vodafone’s Dell Inspiron 9. It’s the perfect size for instant access when travelling and though I still use a different laptop at home for the sake of my eyes (as well as vastly superior usability), I’m still a big fan all the same.

I started playing with the Samsung NC10 (using O2′s own mobile broadband) a few weeks ago, and actually took it to the G20 summit to test ‘in the field’. I’d have definitely been up the creek if it hadn’t have worked, but luckily, wasn’t let down.

In fact, like so many other reviewers, I’m inclined to say that the NC10 has been worth the wait. Even though its release is behind the rest of the pack, I’m giving it full credit for my ‘lightbulb’ moment when it comes to video-blogging. It may seem like a bit of an obvious thing to say – that video is utterly engaging – but the inbuilt camera allowed me to capture immediate feedback and upload directly to Vimeo. The utter ease of having a one-click camera is just brilliant.

With a bigger, brighter LED screen (10.2 inches) and a far larger keyboard, the NC10 is definitely more comfortable to work with. It’s less cramped, and feels much more like a proper laptop rather than a netbook.

I’ve had my hands on the white version, which makes it look more than a touch inspired by Apple, but unfortunately doesn’t come with white wires. This might sound trivial, but it’s things like this that I notice. The casing is a rugged plastic, and the cover definitely has a sheen to it. If you’re lucky, you can also find the NC10 in red and blue (try Amazon), but the black edition – that I’ve seen being used by fellow BitchBuzz correspondent Michelle Tilley – looks really swish as well.

Regardless of colour, it has a very impressive five hours worth of battery life as standard. I can’t imagine that anyone would buy this machine for much else than surfing the net and writing Word documents, so the battery has no need to work too hard.

The six-cell pack that allows the NC10 to run for so long does make it a little unbalanced, which makes working with it on your lap a little awkward. However, when you put it on a table, it actually adds height to the screen, making it far easier. Swings and roundabouts really.

Spec-wise, it seems that the NC10 has cherry-picked all of the best features from existing netbooks – including an Intel Atom N270 processor, 1024MB of memory and 160GB hard drive – and rolled it into one compact model. With Windows XP running (no plans for a Linux release as I understand) and a very fast boot up, you can use it straight out of the box.

I do like the USB port split (two on the left, one of the right), simply because it’s easier to spread out the phones, iPods and dongles. Just in case you’re in that much of a rush to locate said port, the icons along either side of the keyboard allow you to do this without picking up the machine and turning it on its side. There’s also the usual VGA-out, ethernet port, microphone and headphone jacks.

So, it’s pretty obvious that I think the NC10 is the best model out there if you’re looking to buy a netbook. The real issue here for me is the comparison of Vodafone vs. O2 in regards to the connection that came with both netbooks I’ve now looked at. The O2 connection manager is really easy to use and every time I changed location, it found then matched whichever WiFi I’d preselected. This may sound like something you should expect from ANY machine, but I’m let down in this area by so many bigger, more ‘advanced’ laptops almost daily.

However, it’s simply not as reliable as the ‘connects 99% of the time’ Vodafone SIM that came embedded in the Dell. Now, it’s probably an unfair comparison, as it isn’t actually possible to just embed a SIM within the NC10. However, a friend mentioned that I should see how the Samsung performed with Vodafone connection, but in fact, I think it had more to do with the slightly dodgy connection that plugging in a dongle produces.  While I was sat stationary with the NC10 it was perfect for hours on end, but the moment I was on the move, it sometimes took up to half an hour to find the connection again. I compared this with friends around me browsing with their iPhones, and it did seem to be the dongle rather than the network.

In a perfect world, I’d be able to use the Samsung (available for a very reasonable £299 inc. VAT) with an embedded SIM card. However, nothing can be as we want it all of the time can it?

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