Samsung's history in netbooks is dominated by its very first entrant, the NC10. At the time it provided clarity to a market that was still searching for the perfect formula. It's a formula that hasn't changed a great deal, either. Had human evolution mirrored that of netbooks, we'd still be living in caves and thinking loin cloths were the height of fashion. Nonetheless Samsung, like everyone else, continues to plug away, the N210 being the latest entrant.
Like all the netbooks we've reviewed recently, such as the Asus Eee PC 1005PE, Packard Bell Dot S2 and Acer Aspire One 532h, the N210 is your standard 10.1in netbook but with the addition of Intel's latest Atom chipset known as Pine Trail. Aside from the admittedly useful ability to now play 720p video, however, Pine Trail doesn't offer a meaningful performance boost besides its even lower power draw. It's not as if the 720p video playback is faultless, either - it really pushes the system to the limit. A game changer Pine Trail isn't.
As ever, then, it's down to manufacturers to add value through design, usability and features. Luckily Samsung has typically been stronger in these departments than most and continues this trend in the N210. From a purely superficial point of view the N210 is a very smart looking machine. Its dark grey, block patterned lid lends a subtle air of sophistication, particularly as it transitions into a transparent rim that frames the screen. This is further enhanced by the sensible use of matt black inside. This is design that's both attractive and practical.
This pragmatic streak even extends to the screen. Unlike many manufacturers, Samsung has opted for a non-reflective, matt finish that instantly makes the N210 a more useful device when out and about. Samsung should be applauded given so many manufacturers find the lure of colourful, showroom-friendly images too much to resist.
Unsurprisingly the N210 does lack the richness and contrast exhibited by some netbooks, but in reality the difference is minor. Where the screen does excel is in its brightness, sharpness and, much to our surprise, its viewing angles. We can scarcely remember a netbook with such wide, generous horizontal viewing angles.
On the inside, of course, the N210 is little different to most competing models. It uses the Intel Atom N450 processor, which ticks along at a sedate 1.66GHz, backed by 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. Samsung is more generous in one respect, however, in offering both Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Aside from that particular highlight, however, it is business as usual on the hardware side of things.