The on-body connectivity of the Samsung NS310 doesn’t impress, and the internals are nothing to special at the £300 mark either. Wi-Fi n and Bluetooth 3.0 are on-board, but the core Atom N550 processor and 1GB of RAM are found in much cheaper netbooks, such as the Acer Aspire One D255 and Samsung’s own NC110.
There’s a 250GB hard drive inside, and the laptop runs Windows 7 Starter edition, a version of the OS designed for less powerful devices like netbooks. The NS310 needs a win, and it gets one thanks to its keyboard. Its chiclet design looks great within the sultry black interior, and while – like all netbook keyboards – it will feel a little small if you’re used to using a desktop PC, the action feels top notch. Definite and entirely non-spongy, it’s a joy to type away on once you get used to its various cut-size keys. This does take a while though – we found the tiny Shift and Tab keys particularly hard to swallow at first.
The Samsung NS310 is one of just a few netbooks to offer a keyboard backlight, further boosting its usefulness as a typing tool. This is controlled using the light sensor just above the keyboard. Short of putting your finger over this sensor, you can’t force the backlight to turn on, but F-key shortcuts let you turn its intensity up and down once enabled. If the NS310 has a star feature, this is probably it.
Trackpad performance is good too. There’s no odd-looking surface to it, as you see in so many laptops these days, but the lightly textured surface of the keyboard surround makes for a near-perfect pad material already. The mouse button is of the standard single-strip variety, but there’s only a very small dead zone in the middle between the left and right button pads. Standard multi-touch gestures are supported.
The 1024×600 pixel screen suffers from slight contrast shift when tilted backwards, but Samsung has cleverly limited the amount of tilt the screen hinge is capable of, so that it only just starts to set in once fully reclined. Providing a claimed 300nits of brightness, the LED backlight is powerful – enough to make using the NS310 outside on a sunny day possible regardless of the glossy finish, which is highly reflective. The battery spoils this somewhat, but more on that later.
Within the netbook subset, it’s a decent display, but the 117dpi pixel density afforded by the 1024×600 panel ensures it never looks great. It’s simply too pixel-poor for sumptuousness – but this is a problem with the wider netbook market as a whole, not just this model.