Despite its somewhat playful exterior, however, inside the N310 looks a mite more professional. Indeed, it oozes more class than 90 per cent of the netbooks that cross our paths – Eee PC 1008HA included. This is thanks to the combination of two increasingly popular elements: an edge-to-edge ‘frameless’ display and an isolation keyboard. These, coupled with the smooth matte black plastic, makes for a smart and very consistent appearance.
Best of all, though, is that keyboard. It has a near flawless layout – only the slightly small right-Shift key could be criticised – while the keys themselves have a very pleasant depth and response to them. It’s definitely up there with the best netbook keyboards available, only really bested by the HP Compaq Mini 700.
Glossy and inevitably reflective finish apart, the display is also a good one. It’s bright and sharp and the horizontal viewing angles are decent. Clearly it’ll never win any awards for colour fidelity, no netbook would, but there’s very little to complain about here.
Less positive things can be said of the speakers, though. Admittedly few netbooks can boast any prowess here either, but the N310 definitely ranks lower than most. They’re just about passable for the occasional video clip, but their output is too tinny and lacking in volume for anything else.
However, what really lets the N310 down is its battery life. Its four-cell, 4,000mAh battery managed around 2 hours and 40 minutes of video playback at 50 per cent brightness, with Internet browsing bringing this figure down to around two hours and 30 minutes. These aren’t terrible results and should be good enough for the average commute, but neither are they any better than the majority of netbooks costing £300 or less.
Indeed, if you’re less concerned with battery life and features, but more with usability and affordability, the HP Compaq Mini 700 can now be had for as little as £250. It offers similar performance, albeit with a smaller hard drive, and while it lacks the funkiness of the N310, it isn’t lacking in the style department. On the other side of the coin, the Asus Eee PC 1008HA has begun to sneak below the £370 level. Given it’s arguably as stylish, exceedingly slim and offers far superior battery life, the N310 begins to look like an expensive luxury.
While the unusual design of the N310 will win it friends, in most other respects it’s a decidedly average netbook with a relatively high price. If you fall in the love the look and don’t mind spending a few extra pennies then it’s still a nice machine, but there are plenty of cheaper or better alternatives.