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Once upon a time Samsung had just one netbook, the NC10. And it was good. In fact, it was the best. Now, however, clearly drunk on its success, Samsung has three different models. First there was the N110: a relatively minor NC10 refresh. This was followed by the N120: a larger system with an 'improved' keyboard and a largely superfluous 2.1 speaker system. Now, we have the N310: a funky soap bar-like effort that, aside from its design and price, is just like any other netbook.
Just in case you've been living under a rock this means an Intel Atom N270 processor running at 1.6GHz, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive - we've got all these details on copy paste these days. Other staples include the 1.3-megapixel webcam, Bluetooth and 802.11g Wi-Fi, not to mention the 1,024 x 600, 10.2in display. Beyond all this there's basically nothing to report aside from noting it uses Windows XP, which is hardly news these days.
Connectivity is also entirely unremarkable. There are headphone and microphone jacks, three USB ports, a memory card reader, a VGA out and an Ethernet port. Indeed, the only noteworthy point here is that the Ethernet port and VGA ports are both covered - the former with a flap, the latter with a rubber sheath.
This just leaves the design justifying that £375 or so asking price. This puts the N310 up against the likes of the Asus Eee PC 1008HA that, much against our prior expectations, we rather liked. However, while Asus went the thin and light route, Samsung has gone for something entirely different. It has made a bar of soap.
Yet, as wrong as this might sound, the N310 is a rather funky looking thing. Not something that'll appeal to everyone's taste's mind, but the striking blue finish of our version definitely catches the eye. And, if blue isn't to your taste, orange and black versions are available, too. We also rather like the shape of N310. Its symmetrical curves and uninterrupted lines are very pleasing and we even like the slightly idiosyncratic Samsung lettering on the lid.
Perhaps most likely to please, though, is the durability of this design. On the outside not an inch of glossy plastic is to be found, with the entirety of the casing made from a tactile soft-touch plastic that's exceedingly durable. It's all very reassuring, making this the ideal netbook for kids who like to treat their toys a little roughly.