Samsung NC10 Mini Review + The Rise of the Netbook Part II
Yesterday I caved in and bought a Samsung NC10. Whilst doing the actual purchase, though, I was amazed at just how many people congregated around the netbook area in the various stores I visited vs. all the other devices. It was the sort of attention typically reserved for the Apple section of stores.
What’s also amazing is that these little netbooks are really just low power laptops. Most of them run Windows XP because of the hardware requirements, but a few have Linux if you so desire. Microsoft has a hit on their hands in catering to the netbook market. I friend of mine has loaded Windows 7 on one of the current gen (Atom N270) netbooks, and apparently it runs well on it. I think the Windows 7 Netbook market is going to give premium-priced Apple computing products a run for their money not only at the mass-market level, but also at the luxury level. Apple, if you’re reading this, I highly encourage you to launch a netbook-priced Mac OS X product, and the iPhone doesn’t count.
Anyway, whilst doing my research on Netbooks, I narrowed down the things that I wanted in order to get the most out of it:
1) I wanted no less than a 10inch screen, beyond that, I found it too small to really get web use out of it, but this could function for you as a mobile calendar or something.
2) I wanted the option to be able to expand the memory from the stock 1GB to 2GB so that it would be ready for Windows 7 (due to higher memory demands to run multiple programs).
3) A brand/model that was highly used on by others so that when doing troubleshooting, I could find sufficient support online from others’ hacking efforts.
4) A price of no greater than £320 / $485
5) A hard drive large enough to deal with a new operating system > 16GB and/or a dual-boot system
6) Good battery life
This led me to the following short list (in no particular order):
- Acer Aspire One D150
- Dell Mini 10
- Lenovo S10
- Asus EEE PC 1000 series
- Samsung NC10
All of these, for the most part, had the same specs (Atom N270, a gig of ram, a sizeable hard drive, and ok battery life on 6-cell battery). However, what made the NC10 stand out for me was:
- I could get it at a local store in case I had issues with it (I’m spoiled by the Apple customer experience)
- The memory was upgradeable
- It came with a 6-cell battery standard, whereas many of the others came with the smaller 3-cell battery which only lasts 2-3 hours on average.
- and most importantly, it was highly recommended…
Not only did I see many people have the little machine in conferences, but also after firing off a Twitter poll on the above list, the response was overwhelmingly positive towards the NC10. The wisdom of crowds I guess.
So, what are my impressions so far? Well, for starters it isn’t loaded up with all the bloatware that is typically found in the larger laptops. I guess Samsung had more sense to do that on an underpowered machince. This made my ‘cleaning up’ process a lot easier, but even as of the writing of this post, I haven’t finished downloading all the stuff required to make XP usable such as the various plugins, codecs, players, Primo PDF writer, and replacing the stock security software with a less taxing variety. In other words, the starting experience isn’t as easy as a Mac, but then again, there is nothing in this space that Mac can offer, so I guess there is no choice.
By the way, I should add that I have played with just about every major Linux distro out there, but other than Ubuntu, the experience is still too harrowing for the mass-market to install after-the-fact. For some, the pre-loaded Linux distro will be good enough, but judging by the number of plugins and codecs you need to have on a modern day browser to see the internetz in all of its glory, you might find yourself in a frustrating position by going down that route unless you are Linux saavy. That said, I plan on installing Ubuntu as a dual-boot option 0n the NC10 as soon as bug 340014 (fail suspend/resume) on 9.04 gets resolved.
Anyway, so other than the OS, the NC10 has been quite charming. The screen is bright, clear, and easy on the eyes. The keyboard is small, but doesn’t feel cramped and now I’ve managed to get to the point of touch-typing. The mouse and mouse-buttons I’m not crazy about as they are too small and I miss them when using my thumb quite often, on the flip side, I’ve started to use the touchpad as a clicking device which aleviates this to some extent. The NC10 also has various USB ports, VGA out and the audio in/out ports, but only one SD card reader vs. some of the competing products’ 5-in-1 readers. Wish that had been better thought out.
Those hardware bits aside, what does the NC10 feel like in actual use? Well so far not that different than a real laptop, just smaller. I wouldn’t do any CPU intensive tasks on it such as ripping media, but for browsing, email, and the occasional video, it’s more than adequate. There is some lag with certain common things though, like when typing this post, or when scrolling flash-laden sites, but generally the experience is rather zippy. Frankly, I don’t feel hampered by the experience, and the battery life lets me zone out and think without having to worry about having to rush to plug it in.
Because this little Netbook is going to take a beating throughout its life, I will update you on the longevity. If you are considering a netbook, I think the NC10 is worth a look.
At this point I have installed Ubuntu and Windows 7RC on the NC10 in a triple boot configuration. I have also upgraded the memory to 2GB. I have not found the 2GB did a whole lot for any of the OSs as I generally don’t have tons of apps open. The biggest performance hit I take on the Windows installs are when the antivirus applications (I’ve tried several) fire up. They really slow it down. Ubuntu runs (Desktop edition) ok on it. I actually rather like it, but the display in very dimmed when on battery and there are issues with the sound in (Skype and others) as well as the ocassional glitch when suspending and resuming the OS (true as per the bug log). As expected HD video does not play well at all on any OS due the lack of graphics power. It lags big time. Battery life on XP is really where the money is though. This is mostly due to the optimizations that Samsung has made. I lose about 1:30 on Ubuntu and or Windows 7 (they’ll eventually get the drivers developed I hope, the ones that the communites are using right now belong to another model).
All in all, I still like the purchase, but don’t think that a netbook is all I will EVER need. There are times when I do have to use my other PC just to not deal with lag or screen cramp. The netbook feels like a nice travel companion, but not much else.
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