Build quality isn’t quite as impressive as previous models, with a bit of give on the chassis and a little creak on the hinge. It doesn’t feel flimsy though, and the light construction helps to keep this larger machine’s weight down to 1.28kg compared to 1.33kg for the smaller NC10.
As for connectivity, nothing has changed since the NC10, so we’ve still got power and Ethernet jacks on the left, along with two USB ports. At the front resides the 3-in-1 card reader supporting SD, SDHC and MMC, and finally on the right are headphone and microphone sockets, a third USB port and VGA-out, in addition to a lock slot.
Getting onto usability, the full-size anti-bacterial keyboard is a pleasure to use, offering crisp if slightly shallow feedback and a nice feel. Personally I still prefer the excellent example found on the HP Compaq Mini 700, mainly because – contrary to every desktop keyboard – Samsung has placed the ” key to the right rather than the left. Since I am a right-shifter, this led me to repeatedly hit ” when I meant to capitalise a letter, though obviously it’s not an issue for many and something you get used to over time. Still, it’s not an issue on the US version, where the ” key is placed above the smaller Enter key.
Our only complaint with the otherwise decent touchpad is that the rocker switch doesn’t feel quite as solid as on previous Samsung netbooks. Aside from this it’s sensitive with a pleasant surface and large scroll zone. As on the N110, a series of indicators denoting drive, wireless and battery status to the left of the pad are easily visible with the machine closed.
Unfortunately Samsung didn’t apply the same anti-gloss philosophy to the N120’s screen as its lid, so with a dark background and any ambient lighting the 10.1in 1,024 x 600 display gets very reflective. On the positive side there’s little banding and almost no backlight bleed, while colours are bright and text is sharp. As usual for a TN display though, strong contrast shift affects its greyscale performance.
As one would hope, the 1.5W speakers and subwoofer are very impressive – at least by netbook standards. Getting decent bass out of something the size and price of a netbook is not likely to happen anytime soon, but nevertheless audio reaches relatively high volume levels without serious distortion, while SRS TruSurround XT and SRS WOW XT processing help give a bit of depth. In terms of audio production this is the best netbook we’ve reviewed, but that’s not saying too much and you’re still better off using a good pair of headphones.