The netbook market is shrinking, thanks to the rise of tablets and the lowering price of smaller 11.6in and 13.3in laptops, but netbooks still have their place. We'd much rather tap out an email on a keyboard than an iPad touchscreen, so devices like the Samsung NS310 make sense to us. It's a 10.1in screen netbook, the bog-standard size, but has a much bolder design than most. And, unlike almost every other netbook out there, it has a backlit keyboard.
The entire outside of the Samsung NS310's body is covered in a high-gloss, metallic finish. So intense it's almost sickly, this should appeal if you find black and silver computers endlessly boring. Two colours are available, an alluring dark red and a brighter blue. Our review sample had the more fetching red body. On the top of the lid is a large embossed Samsung logo. The NS310 wants you to know who made it.
Open the netbook up, though, and the styling calms right down. Vivid colour is traded-in for pure black - fingerprint-resistant matt black for the keyboard area and glossy black for the screen surround. Simple and smooth apart from a strip of indents by the speaker grilles above the keyboard, we can find little to dislike about the NS310's inner design. It is, of course, the outer bodywork that defines the look of the unit though, and some of you may be turned off beyond reparation already.
On-body connectivity is entirely unremarkable. There's a VGA output to connect to a monitor, three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, Kensington lock port and 3.5mm headphone/microphone jacks. There's also an SD card socket on the fron but lacks an HDMI output, and there are no USB 3.0 ports.
The only kind thing we can say about the NS310's sockets is that some netbooks offer fewer USB ports. Other than that, we're unimpressed, especially as it retails for over £300 from most retailers - enough to buy you a far more powerful 15.6in laptop. Part of the original attraction of netbooks was that they were cheap, but this one is not particularly budget-friendly.
For the money, you get above-average build quality. There is some creak and flex to the plastic bodywork, but it's otherwise a solid device. No case is included, and you'll want to grab yourself one unless it's going to spend its time in a dedicated laptop bag - that shiny outer finish won't look nearly as good once it picks up a few scratches and scrapes. And if you don't care at all about that finish, you should probably be looking at a cheaper, less intensely styled model. At just over 1kg in weight, it does have that all-important portability factor, though.