Samsung are late entrants into the crowded netbook market with their NC-10. Sharing its Intel Atom 1.6 GHz processor and 1 Gig of ram with almost all of its current generation peers, the NC-10 initially does little to set itself apart from the competition. It houses a 10.2 inch 1024×600 widescreen display, a 160 GB Hard Disk and adequate but by no means exceptional ports (3 x USB, monitor, Ethernet, multi-card reader). It is only in use that the Samsung shows potential to be the best offering in its class.
Design-wise, the chassis is sleek and streamlined on top with a rather chunky underbelly and battery compartment which can lead to less stability than I would like when balanced on the knees. The upside is that it houses a 6 cell battery and, with the promise of up to 7.5 hours of use, Samsung can be forgiven for less pleasing ergonomics. This aspirational figure is much lower in practise but, without exaggeration; with wireless on, some web browsing, several word documents open and even some light video/audio playing you could manage 5 hours out of the NC-10. This is genuinely impressive in a unit weighing just 1.33 kg.
The NC-10 has two main things going for it: its price (which I will return to) and its keyboard. At 93% of full size it is an absolute joy to type on, with none of the potentially RSI-inducing learning curve of models which compromise on keyboard size. Key action is satisfyingly solid and each key is generously separated from its neighbour. Perhaps backspace and right shift might have been a little larger but Samsung have really nailed the design here, and I hope other companies follow suit. More keyboard real estate means compromises elsewhere, and the touchpad suffers most in the reshuffling of the input devices. Initial impressions are that it is simply too small and that an external mouse is the only way to go but some work with the momentum settings and the excellent implementation of an Apple-clone multitouch gesture system on the pad means you rarely feel constrained by its size. Like with any laptop, a mouse is preferable but if you value portability, the NC-10’s touchpad is far more functional than it initially seems.
The best word I can think of to describe every aspect of the NC-10 is solid. From its functional aesthetics to its almost TARDIS-like keyboard it does everything just a little better than you expect it to and even manages to surprise from time to time (for example its impressive webcam and viewing angle). Provided you are realistic in your expectations, it will run practically anything you throw at it; from Photoshop to light gaming and even HD video. If you’ve ever had a passing interest in mobile Internet, typing on the train, even watching movies on something eminently portable but bigger than a matchbox, then there is really no reason not to own the Samsung NC-10.
And I’ve left the best part til last. With a little shopping around and perhaps taking advantage of the reeling Sterling exchange rate, the NC-10 can be yours for under € 350. ASUS may already dominate the affordable netbooks arena but Samsung have a real winner on their hands with this debut model and they deserve to make a splash in this highly competitive market.